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George W. Bush's daughter, Barbara, to headline Planned Parenthood fundraiser

Barbara Pierce Bush, the daughter of former President George W. Bush, will be the keynote speaker at a fundraising luncheon Wednesday for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas in Fort Worth.

Planned Parenthood has often been criticized by conservatives who seek to defund the organization, which provides women's health care services, including abortions.

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While her father has been an opponent of abortion, Barbara Pierce Bush has supported Planned Parenthood on a number of occasions. She also is the founder of Global Health Corps, which, according to its website, seeks to promote “global health equity by connecting outstanding young leaders worldwide with organizations working on the frontlines.”

The president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America is Cecile Richards, the daughter of Ann Richards, who was the democratic predecessor to George W. Bush as Texas governor. Barbara Pierce Bush and Richards sat down for a New York Times interview last summer in which they talked about the roles that they play, and Bush discussed the moment when she first publicly broke from her father’s stances–by publicly supporting gay marriage.

The 1976 Hyde Amendment prevents federal taxes from funding abortions. However, federal funds are used to cut the cost of women’s health care services such as cervical cancer screenings and STD prevention and medication.

4 Easy Ways to Assess Your Well-Being

You're committed to a healthy lifestyle. You hit the gym every day when they open their doors, ditch soda for water, and brought healthy fruits and vegetables back to the center of your plate. Then you step on the scale, only to find that you haven't lost a single pound after all your hard work. Is it even worth it? Of course, the answer is yes. Although weight loss can take time, there are other changes happening in your body—and mind—that you can't ignore. After just a few days of sticking with your healthy lifestyle plan, you might start to notice a difference in your energy level, stress level, quality of sleep and overall feelings about yourself. By tracking your progress in these areas, you can stay motivated and learn to appreciate all the little improvements you are seeing, regardless of what the scale tells you. Taking a daily stock of your energy level, stress level, sleep quality and self-esteem is important for everyone who is trying to live a healthier life. It will help you notice trends and patterns (you tend to eat more on high-stress days or sleep better when you exercise in the morning) so that you can tweak your plan for optimal results. And it can help you appreciate the small achievements—like feeling more confident when you exercise regularly. That's why we recommend recording these wellness measurements on a daily basis. Here are some tips for assessing your daily wellness in each of these four areas. Energy Level On a scale of 1-5 (5 being the highest), how is your energy level today? Do you feel full of vigor and ready to tackle the challenges of the day (5), as if you can barely drag yourself out of bed (1) or somewhere in between? Many factors can affect your energy: how much you slept the night before, how stressed you are, whether you're exercising too much or too little (both of which can zap energy), and the quality of your diet (too many sweets and not enough nutrient-rich foods can both be culprits). Serious health conditions like depression or anemia can also affect your energy levels, so talk to your doctor if you notice a long-term trend of tiredness. Stress Level On a scale of 1-5 (5 being the highest), how would you rate your stress level today? Do you feel like you're about to bite someone's head off (5), like everything just rolls off your back (1) or something in the middle? Stress affects more than your quality of life. It can contribute to high blood pressure and hinder your weight loss, making you want to eat more or causing you to eat as a way to relieve stress. There are many ways to reduce stress, from exercising and meditating to simply relaxing or practicing breathing exercises. Looking for some easy ways to reduce the stress in your life? If you notice a problem with stress, learn how to deal with it in a healthy way before it gets the best of you. Quality of Sleep On a scale of 1-5 (5 being the highest), how well did you sleep last night? Did you feel well-rested when you woke up this morning (5)? Did you toss and turn all night and feel terrible today because of it (1)? Something in the middle? Like stress, poor sleep can lead to a host of other health problems, from weight gain to a suppressed immune system. SparkPeople's Better Sleep Resources can help identify your sleep problems and suggest ways to improve the quality of your shut-eye. Self-Esteem On a scale of 1-5 (5 being the highest), how good do you feel about yourself today? Do you feel confident and self-assured like a rock star (5), like you don't matter and there's nothing good about you (1) or something in the middle? Your self-esteem goes hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle. If you don't think you're worthy of good nutrition, moderate exercise, and a better body, then you can lose your motivation to make the right choices. When you feel like you're worthwhile, you're more likely to make the best possible choices to care for yourself. It isn't easy to go from chronically low self-esteem to high confidence, but it is possible. Learn how you can use exercise, positive self-talk, and yoga to feel better about yourself and your body. It's easy to get caught up in the numbers—calories, pounds and pants size. But taking these daily wellness measurements is a good reminder that your overall feelings of health and well-being are just as important!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1358

Allergy-Proofing Your Home

Allergic reactions to everyday substance in the home can make life uncomfortable, no matter how much medication you take. Avoiding known allergens and making your home as allergen-free as possible can help minimize your symptoms and increase your quality of life. While no home can ever be 100% allergen-free, with the right steps you can reduce your exposure to common substances like dust mites, pet dander, mold and pollen. Reducing Dust Mites Dust mites are microscopic, eight-legged insects that are mainly found in bedding, curtains and carpeting. Dust mites are a significant cause of indoor allergies—up to 10% of the U.S. population is sensitive to these tiny organisms. An allergic reaction to dust mites can include itchy eyes, a runny or chronically-stuffy nose and other symptoms that often worsen during the night. The first step to reducing your exposure to dust mites is to remove the carpet from your home, especially in the bedroom. A hard surface such as hardwood is ideal, as it can be cleaned with a damp cloth or a sponge mop. If you can’t remove all the carpeting, you should vacuum daily and use special carpet treatments that inactivate the accumulated allergens and reduce the dust mite population. Frequent vacuuming is needed to remove surface allergens from carpets, however many vacuums simply blow allergens into the air. Replace your standard vacuum bag with a high filtration multi-layer bag and add a vacuum exhaust filter. To reduce the number of dust mites in your bedroom:

  • Use zippered covers on all mattresses, box springs, and pillows.
  • Wash all blankets, sheets, and pillowcases in hot water (set your water heater for one hundred and thirty degrees) at least every two weeks.
  • Replace down comforters and feather pillows with synthetic fibers.
  • Keep your bedroom as dry as possible by using an air conditioner during hot, humid weather. (Dust mites need humidity to thrive.)
Control Animal Dander Contrary to popular belief, it’s not animal fur itself that causes allergies, but a protein in the saliva, urine and skin flakes (dander) that remain on an animal's coat. To minimize your exposure to this protein:
  • Keep your pet out of the rooms you use most frequently, such as the bedroom and the living room.
  • Have other family members bathe and brush your pet as often as possible.
  • If you are severely allergic, you may have to keep your pet outside or separated from you more often.
Minimize Mold Mold spores thrive in warm, moist, and humid areas. Take the following steps to reduce the amount of mold in your home:
  • Remove and discard any curtains, carpeting, or wallpaper that show visible signs of mold.
  • Install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom and use them frequently.
  • Use dehumidifiers in damp areas like basements to remove water from the air. Keep the humidity in your home below 50% to prevent the growth of mold. Humidity gauges are available at any hardware store.
  • Clean shower curtains, tiles and grout regularly to prevent mold from building up.
  • Avoid storing clothing or other items in damp areas like the basement.
  • Don’t lay carpet in damp areas such as kitchens or bathrooms. Use ceramic tiles, vinyl flooring or laminates instead.
  • Use interior paints that contain an added mold inhibitor whenever you paint in a damp area, especially in the bathroom, kitchen and basement walls made of brick or cinderblock.
  • Place a chemical moisture-remover, such as calcium carbonate, in moist closets to prevent mold growth, or add it directly to damp shoes and boots.
  • Store firewood outside, as it is naturally covered in mold.
Mold can be removed from surfaces and walls by using a solution of one part bleach to 20 parts water. Dead mold can still cause an allergic reaction, but bleach has been found to reduce the severity of the reaction in susceptible people. Limit Pollen Even if you don’t have plants and flowers in your home, pollen can still be carried in from outdoors. The following steps will help to minimize the amount of pollen in your home:
  • Keep windows and doors closed as much as possible during pollen season and use an air conditioner to cool the indoors.
  • Install an air filtration system with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter to remove pollen from circulating air.
  • Bathe pets often to reduce the amount of pollen they carry into the home.
  • Dry your clothes and bedding in a dryer instead of using an outdoor line since pollen can cling to fabric and be transferred into your home.
Nearly all allergens thrive in moist, damp environments, so keep your home as cool and dry as possible. While it’s virtually impossible to completely remove all allergens, regular cleaning and taking preventative action will make your home as comfortable as possible for allergy sufferers.Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=843

6 Ways to Prevent Snoring

Snoring—that loud, hoarse breathing during sleep—is a nuisance, whether it affects you personally or the person you share a bed with. And that's a lot of people, since 37 million people are consistent snorers, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The sound originates in the very back of the mouth, where the soft tissues of many structures meet. When these tissues vibrate together, snoring occurs. This phenomenon is much more common in men than in women, and usually increases with age. Generally, snoring is not a cause for concern, unless it interferes with the sleep of others. But in some cases, it can be a sign of a serious medical condition called sleep apnea. In sleep apnea, people actually stop breathing for about 10 seconds at a time throughout the night, causing dangerous dips in blood-oxygen levels. According to the National Institutes of Health, this disorder may contribute to high blood pressure and even stroke. Anyone who snores on a regular basis should be medically evaluated to rule out this condition. If sleep apnea is not involved in your snoring, then there are lots of techniques to try that may help reduce or even eliminate snoring. Here are six simple suggestions that may help to reduce snoring: 1. Lose weight if you're overweight. Excess weight can contribute to a host of health problems, but it also narrows the airway, increasing the likelihood that those tissues will rub together. 2. Limit or avoid alcohol and other sedatives at bedtime. These substances relax the airway, leading to snoring. Limit yourself to less than one drink daily for women, or less than two drinks daily for men, and consume your last drink at least four hours before bedtime. 3. Avoid sleeping flat on your back. Back-sleepers are more prone to snoring since this position allows the flesh of your throat to relax and block the airway. If you are a habitual back-sleeper, try this method to retrain yourself: Stuff a tennis ball into a sock, and safety-pin the sock to the back of your pajamas. Each time you roll to your back during the night, you'll feel uncomfortable and turn back to your side. 4. Don't smoke. Besides contributing to other respiratory problems, smoking also leads to nasal and lung congestion, which can result in snoring. Take steps to quit today. 5. Avoid secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is just as harmful, and causes snoring in the same ways actual smoking does. Encourage your loved ones to quit, and avoid smoky restaurants and bars. 6. Improve your fitness level. When you have poor muscle tone, you're more likely to snore. Exercising tones and strengthens muscles all over the body, while also regulating your sleeping patterns. Aim for at least three cardio sessions and two strength training sessions each week. In most cases, snoring isn't caused by one single factor, but a combination of many. If these suggestions don’t work, see you doctor for more ideas. There are lots of products and procedures designed to reduce snoring, from removable plastic nasal dilators to nasal surgery. If you or your loved ones are suffering from snoring, a good night’s sleep may be just a doctor’s visit away.Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=853

Depression in Men: Why It's Different

For many years, mental health professionals viewed depression as primarily a women’s disease. Of the 11 million Americans diagnosed with clinical depression every year, less than 1 in 10 were men; and an even larger percentage of people actively seeking treatment for this problem were women. Likewise, the majority of reported suicide attempts were made by women. But there was one troubling statistic that made this stereotype of depression as a woman’s condition a little hard to swallow—that 80 percent of the people who actually died by suicide were men. As researchers began to dig a little deeper, trying to understand this apparent contradiction, it gradually became clear that depression is just as common among men, but men simply weren’t seeking or receiving treatment in proportion to their numbers. Many factors, including both cultural stereotypes and biological differences, made men less likely to report symptoms of depression, and their health professionals less likely to identify the problems they did report as symptoms of depression. This situation has changed quite a bit recently. Last year, more than six million men were diagnosed with depression. But many men (and the people around them) may still have trouble recognizing that their problems are caused by depression that needs to be treated. Here are some things you need to know to avoid this problem. Depression can look different in men. Most experts believe that although the basic symptoms of depression are very similar in men and women, men express them very differently. Here are the differences most often seen:

  • Depressed men are more likely to notice and report the physical symptoms of depression:
    • Tiredness
    • Sleep problems (trouble falling or staying asleep, insomnia, sleeping more)
    • Lack of energy
    • Changes in appetite (increased or decreased)
    • Chronic muscle tension  
  • Depressed men are less likely to exhibit and report the emotional symptoms of depression. This may be due mostly to cultural stereotypes that view the expression of certain emotions as “feminine." In some cases, men may be aware of their feelings of sadness, hopelessness and guilt, but feel compelled not to talk about them. In others, these feelings may be suppressed and go unrecognized. In either case, depression may go unrecognized because the tell-tale symptom of low mood appears to be missing.  
  • Depressed men are more likely to display behavioral signs that aren't easily recognized as signs of depression:
    • Unusual degrees of irritability, anger, and/or aggression
    • Blaming others for problems
    • Alcohol and drug abuse
    • Attempt to manage their moods by taking on more activities, like working overtime
    • Engaging in high-risk behaviors such as dangerous sports, gambling, or compulsive sexual activity  
  • Depressed men are less likely to display the behavioral signs that are commonly associated with depression, such as spontaneous crying, loss of interest in usual activities, and thoughts or talk of death or suicide.
These patterns are not rigid. Many men will experience the same basic symptoms common among women, just as women may experience the symptom patterns described above. And any given individual may experience a combination of “male” and “female” symptoms. If you or someone you know seems to be experiencing unusual or unexplained increases in the physical or behavioral problems mentioned above for two weeks or more, talk to your doctor. There’s a good chance that those problems are signs of depression, and effective treatments are available.Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=828

How to Tame Wedding Planning Stress

It's a gross understatement to say that planning a wedding is stressful. With all of the coordination, timing and numerous things to prepare for (not to mention family politics!), it's no wonder that nice, normal people turn into grumpy grooms and bridezillas. However, you don't have to become a stressed-out stereotype on your big day. In fact, it is possible to plan a wedding and keep your healthy cool—no matter the situation. 6 Common Wedding-Planning Stressors—and How To Remedy Them You and Your Fiancé Want Different Types of Weddings One of the biggest wedding stressors occurs when you and your fiancé have very different ideas of what your special day should be like. Traditional and in a church? Small and in your parent's backyard? A tropical destination wedding? The options are limitless, and couples are less bound by tradition now than ever before. But if the soon-to-be-wed couple can't agree on what kind of ceremony to have, or worse—one person wants a wedding and the other just wants to go to the courthouse—stress can be high from the get-go. How to de-stress: Before you plan any wedding details, sit down with your fiancé and make a list of the top three things that are important to each of you as far as the ceremony and reception are concerned. Then, calmly and patiently compare lists to see where you can compromise. If he wants a small wedding but you want a big one, you can always hold a small ceremony and then a big after-party. Or, if he wants a destination wedding and you want to be home, simply have the ceremony out of town and the reception in your hometown. Remember that this is the person you are agreeing to spend the rest of your life with, so take a few deep breaths and find a solution that you can both be happy with. Marriage is all about give and take! Overbearing Family Members or Friends Almost every bride and groom deals with at least one or two overbearing (yet well-meaning) family members or friends while planning a wedding. Whether it's a future in-law, your own parents or even a bossy friend, all seem to have an opinion on what you should and shouldn't do. How to de-stress: Remember that this is your wedding—not everyone else’s. It may be hard to tell your loved ones "no" or disagree with Aunt Millie about your bridesmaids wearing tangerine, but if you want your wedding day to be truly special and unique you must stand your ground. Politely, yet firmly state your decisions with the support of your partner. Think of it as if others are trying to derail or sabotage your diet—it's really none of their business! Fear that Your Dress Won't Fit Of course you want to feel confident and healthy on your wedding day, but don't spend the months before your wedding stressing about your size or what you look like—especially if you're trying to drop a few pounds before the big day. Remember that stress only hurts your weight-loss efforts. How to de-stress: First, make sure that you aren't being unrealistic about your body image on the big day. Make sure that any wedding weight-loss goals you have are realistic. After all, planning takes a lot of time and can be stressful, so you may not have as much time as you think you do to exercise and cook healthy foods. Second, be sure to drink enough water, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and get that beauty rest. These three things will really give you that wedding-day glow. Lastly, visualize yourself walking down the aisle with confidence on the big day. Picturing yourself in a positive light helps squash stress and can give you the energy to plan, plan, plan! Your Wedding Budget More money, more problems, right? Well, in the case of wedding budgets, less money and big expectations can equal more problems, too. On average, U.S. couples spend almost $20,000 on a wedding. And that number doesn't include a honeymoon or engagement ring. Unless you have a large budget already in place, or family members with deep pockets, keeping costs down can be challenging at best. How to de-stress: Remember to prioritize any and all expenses, and balance costs as you go if necessary. If you go over on catering, don't spring for those chair covers or pricey linens. If your bouquets cost more than you expected, trade out half of your centerpieces for less costly decorations. Ask yourself what you'll remember when you look back on this day. Will it be your beautiful dress or suit? Will it be the music and DJ? How about those expensive invitations? Determine your needs versus your wants and be realistic about them. You know what's more stressful than wedding planning? Coming back to wedding debt after your honeymoon. The Guest List I have yet to meet a couple who didn't have at least a few stressed-out moments due to their wedding guest list. From being afraid of offending others to your in-laws insisting that your fiancé's fourth and fifth cousins just have to be there, compiling a guest list can get tricky. How to de-stress: Sit down with your partner and agree on a guest policy together. Decide if children are or aren’t welcome and the maximum number of guests you want (and can afford). Consider dividing guest counts evenly between your two families and have the first and final say on who attends. If you have room and one family wants more guests to come, many couples have that side of the family fund the extra seats. No matter how you do it, agree on a policy and don't waiver from it. Sticking to rules helps you and your family members explain to others why Wally, your third-removed cousin, wasn't invited. You Want the "Perfect" Wedding—No Exceptions Of course you want your wedding day to be perfect. Who doesn't? But how realistic are your expectations, and what will happen if everything doesn't go perfectly? Will you consider the day to be ruined, after all of that planning and thought? How to de-stress: Vow to be easy going on your wedding day and take it all in stride. There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. You know the saying, "Don't sweat the small stuff"? Well, during the wedding planning process and the day itself, remember the big picture and take a deep breath. After all, no one will remember the lopsided cake or miss the parting gift that the reception staff forgot to put out. No one will know if you fudged your vows or forgot your earrings. They'll be too busy remembering what a great time they had sharing the start of your marriage with you! In any stressful wedding-planning event, remember to always take time to eat healthy foods, exercise, sleep well and practice stress busters like yoga, meditation or these other techniques. Making time for just a few minutes of stress reduction each day can go a long way now—and during your marriage, too! Sources: http://www.costofwedding.com/ Dealing With Wedding Stress, from Wednet.comArticle Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1582

5 Mind-Body Exercises for a Healthier Heart

There are a myriad of factors that affect heart health. From regular exercise to smoking cessation to eating a nutritious diet, there are a number of things you can do to strengthen your heart. But did you know that the mind-body connection can also be a strong ally in reducing your risk of heart disease? While many of us think of physical health when it comes to heart health, research shows that your mood, outlook, and stress levels strongly affect the body—and the heart. This means that heart disease prevention isn't just a matter of eating better or exercising; engaging in stress-reducing exercises and mind-body practices can significantly improve the health of your heart, too. As a bonus, these activities have other body and mind benefits, too, like boosting your mood, helping you focus, improving your fitness, and increasing your overall life satisfaction. Talk about a win-win! Here are five mind-body activities you can incorporate into your healthy lifestyle to help your mind, body—and heart! Yoga Yoga is probably best known for its flexibility benefits, along with its ability to help you sleep better, feel better about yourself and promote mindfulness. But, yoga has also been shown to be a powerful contributor of heart health. In fact, according to November 2009 research published in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics, those who practice yoga have higher heart rate variability (a sign of a healthy heart) than those who do not regularly practice yoga. In addition, the study found that regular yogis had stronger parasympathetic control, which indicates better autonomic control over heart rate—a sign of a healthier heart. Another recent study by Ohio State University researchers, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, found that women who routinely practiced yoga had lower levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood. IL-6 is part of the body's inflammatory response and has been correlated with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and a host of other age-related chronic diseases, making it a key marker in heart-health research. The women doing yoga also showed smaller increases in IL-6 in their blood after stressful experiences than women who were the same age and weight but who were not practicing yoga. Scientists believe that this indicates that yoga may also help people respond more calmly to stress in their everyday lives, which is a boon to heart health. Although researchers can't exactly pinpoint which part of yoga—the breathing, stretching, relaxation or meditation—is responsible for the positive results, it's encouraging to say the least! How to incorporate yoga in your life: Reap the heart-healthy benefits of yoga with just 20 minutes of yoga three times a week. Be sure to read our beginner's guide to yoga to get you started! Meditation There is ample research on how meditation can help reduce stress, which helps the heart stay healthy. But the most impressive study came from researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in collaboration with the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. After following about 200 patients for an average of five years, researchers found that high-risk patients who practiced Transcendental Meditation (where you sit quietly and silently repeat a mantra) cut their risk of heart attack, stroke and death from all causes almost in half compared to a group of similar patients who did not meditate. In addition, the group that meditated tended to remain disease-free longer, reduced their blood pressure and had lower stress levels. Researchers hypothesize that some of the benefits of meditation come from stress reduction, which causes a reduction of the stress hormone cortisol and dampens the inflammatory processes associated with atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries. How to incorporate meditation in your life: While the research focuses on Transcendental Meditation, there are a variety of ways to meditate including walking meditation, guided meditation via a CD or simply sitting and listening to the sounds around you. Starting out with just five minutes a day of quiet time with your thoughts can yield big results. For seven ways to get your zen on, click here. Pilates Pilates is a great form of exercise. Its mat-based moves have been shown to increase flexibility, build core strength, improve posture and alleviate lower-back pain. But did you also know that it can help prevent heart disease by improving the fitness of your heart? According to a 2005 report from the American College of Sports Medicine, a beginner Pilates workout counts as low- to moderate-intensity exercise, which is comparable to active stretching. Intermediate Pilates workouts are the cardio equivalent of working at a moderate-intensity level, such as speed walking at a rate of 4 to 4.5 mph on the treadmill. Advanced Pilates workouts provide the most cardiovascular benefit with a moderately high intensity, similar to basic stepping on a six-inch platform, according to the report. All Pilates workouts have also shown to improve circulation. In addition to improving the cardiovascular system, similar to yoga, Pilates also links movement to breath, enhancing your mind-body connection, and thereby reducing stress and lowering the heart rate. How to incorporate Pilates in your life: If you're ready to try Pilates, try this short lower body Pilates workout. You can add this on to the end of your usual cardio workout or do it first thing in the morning before heading to work. For best results, try to get in a short 10- to 20-minute Pilates workout three times a week. Tai Chi Also known as moving meditation, Tai Chi combines mental concentration with slow, controlled movements to focus the mind, challenge the body, and improve the flow of what the Chinese call "chi," or life energy. If you've ever seen someone doing Tai Chi, it looks like a slow and graceful low-impact dance. But Tai Chi isn't just slow dancing; it has serious health benefits, including improving heart function and decreasing blood pressure and stress reduction. In fact, a May 2010 systematic review in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Tai Chi was effective in reducing stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbance, and increasing self-esteem. How to incorporate Tai Chi in your life: Sign up at your local health club or community center for a series of Tai Chi classes with an experienced instructor. Practicing formally in class each week will give you the skills to practice Tai Chi on your own! Deep Breathing What do most of the above mind-body practices listed above have in common? That's right: deep, slow and controlled breathing! While not really an "exercise," the simple act of sitting and focusing on your breathing can do wonders for your heart. While there isn't much research on how deep breathing affects the heart, you can feel the results for yourself when you simply sit and take five big deep breaths, focusing on a deep inhale and exhale. You can almost instantaneously feel your body release stress and your mind calm down. Because it helps fuel your body and its cells with nutrient-rich oxygen, deep breathing has been shown to slow down the heart rate and lower blood pressure, making it the perfect heart-healthy activity when you're short on time and need a quick way to relieve some stress. How to incorporate deep breathing in your life: Try to take a few deep breaths at multiple times throughout the day. Making a habit to take three deep breaths upon waking, at lunch and when sitting in traffic can greatly benefit your heart health without disrupting your busy schedule. And, of course, when you're really feeling stressed, excuse yourself to the restroom for some deep breathing. They don't call it a "restroom" for nothing! Mind-body exercises are a powerful way to boost your heart health and keep your ticker ticking stronger and longer, so be sure to incorporate one or more of these mind-body exercises in your heart-healthy lifestyle. This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople fitness experts and certified personal trainers, Jen Mueller and Nicole Nichols. Sources: American College of Sports Medicine. "Pilates Research Offers New Information on Popular Technique," accessed March 2011. www.acsm.org. Associated Press. Breath Deep to Lower Blood Pressure, Doc Says," accessed March 2011. www.msnbc.msn.com. Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. "Effects of Stress Reduction on Clinical Events in African Americans With Coronary Heart Disease," accessed March 2011. www.circ.ahajournals.org. Cleveland Clinic. "Heart and Vascular Health Prevention: Pilates," accessed March 2011. www.my.clevelandclinic.org. Framson et al. Development and Validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2009; 109 (8): 1439 DOI: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.05.006 Sarnataro, Barbara Russi. "Tai Chi Exercises Both Mind and Body," accessed March 2011. www.webmd.com. Science Daily. "Tai Chi Gets Cautious Thumbs Up for Psychological Health," accessed March 2011. www.sciencedaily.com. ScienceDaily. "Yoga Boosts Heart Health, New Research Finds," accessed March 2011. www.sciencedaily.com. ScienceDaily. "Yoga Reduces Cytokine Levels Known to Promote Inflammation, Study Shows," accessed March 2011. www.sciencedaily.com. text Smith, Rebecca. "Meditation 'cuts risk of heart attack by half'," accessed March 2011. www.telegraph.co.uk.Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1613

Healthy Smile, Healthy Body

You probably don't think about your teeth that much unless you drink something icy cold or that little postcard reminding you to schedule your next dental appointment shows up in the mail. However, you should really give your pearly whites more attention. After all, your teeth are one of the first things people see when you smile and greet them, and your oral health can have a major impact on the health of not just your mouth, but your entire body. Cavities and gum disease may contribute to many serious conditions, including diabetes and respiratory diseases, and untreated cavities are not only be painful, but they can also lead to serious infections. While you may have been notoriously hard on their teeth as a kid and teenager (forgetting to brush and floss sometimes), most adults have it in their routine to brush at least twice a day. But what about flossing? Only 28% report doing it daily, even though most of us know better. And while you may also know better, Americans are also overconsuming junk food and sugar, which, when combined with a lack of flossing, is a recipe for oral health problems.  The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that 75 percent of Americans have some form of gum disease or gingivitis. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay affects one out of three adults. So how do your teeth have such an impact on your well-being, and how do you stay healthy by focusing on your mouth? Here's a guide to what you need to know about your oral health, and how to keep your mouth and teeth clean and beautiful! Gum Disease So just what is gum disease? Also called periodontal disease, it's an inflammation of the gums. Gum disease occurs when plaque, a sticky colorless film of bacteria, builds up on your teeth and hardens into a tartar that can cause infections in the gums. If it's not treated, gum disease can increase your risk of respiratory disease, as the bacteria in plaque can travel from the mouth to the lungs, causing infection or aggravating existing lung problems. Gum disease can also spread and affect the bones underneath the teeth, which eventually dissolve and no longer support the teeth in its place. (That's basically just a complicated way of saying that your teeth can fall out!) Research also shows a link between diabetes and gum disease. People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease than non-diabetics are, so if you have diabetes or it runs in your family, you definitely want to take care of your teeth. (More on prevention later!) The moral of the story? Gum disease is bad news. The symptoms of gum disease can vary from one person to the next, but one telltale sign is usually swollen, tender and red gums. If your gums bleed when brushing or flossing, that can be a warning sign, as can receding gums, bad breath that won't go away, loose teeth or a change in your jaw alignment. If you're having any of these symptoms, be sure to tell your dentist. A dentist or a periodontist can tell you if you have gum disease or gingivitis (a type of gum disease) with an exam and usually an x-ray. Treatment usually involves plaque removal, medication and, in the worst cases, surgery. Cavities You probably already know a little about cavities, and chances are, you may have even had one or two. Cavities are a sign of tooth decay, which is a breakdown of a tooth's structure. The decay can affect the enamel of the tooth and the inside of the tooth, and is caused when sugary and starchy foods like soda, breads, baked goods and candy are left on the teeth. Your dentist will be able to tell if you have a cavity during your regular exam, but in the advanced stages of a cavity, you may get a toothache, especially after having sweet, hot, or cold food or drinks. You may also be able to see pits or holes in your teeth. A cavity is treated by a dentist. He or she can remove the decayed portion and replacing it with a filling. If the tooth decay is advanced and the tooth structure is affected, your dentist may have to put in a crown. Another good reason to avoid sugary foods, right? Teeth Spacing You may think that the spacing of your teeth is just a cosmetic issue, but it affects the health of your mouth, too. Teeth that are spaced too tightly together can create gum problems, just as teeth that are spaced improperly can allow food to get stuck between the teeth, therefore increasing the risk of gum disease. An orthodontist can help straighten out your teeth (yep, even as an adult) with braces, invisible retainers, or other treatments for optimal oral health. Other Issues If that wasn't enough, poor oral health has also been shown to cause sleeping issues, hurt your self-esteem, and diminish your ability to chew and digest food properly. And if you smoke (hopefully you don't!), it can be horrible on your teeth. Tobacco smoke and chewing tobacco are both very harmful to your gums, and toxins within these drugs can cause oral cancer, damage the bones around your teeth and result in tooth loss. Tips to Keep Mouths Happy Now that you know how important your mouth is to your overall health, how do you keep it healthy? Here are some tips for a clean mouth!

  • Mom was right! Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. This keeps plaque at bay, improves breath and prevents stains. Plus, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that people who brushed twice a day were 30% less likely to develop heart disease compared to people who only brushed once. That's because, according to health experts, gum disease can lead to inflammation and can damage your arteries.
  • Don't eat junk food, and stay away from sweets. Eat those vegetables!
  • Make sure your toothpaste and mouth rinse include fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay.
  • If you wear braces, be sure to keep the space between your teeth and archwires clean by using floss threaders and orthodontic toothbrushes.
  • If you play contact sports, consider having a custom-made mouth guard fitted to protect those pearly whites.
  • Visit your dentist twice a year to make sure everything is in tip-top shape!
Having healthy teeth isn't just about looking great (although that's a nice perk!). Good oral health is really about your body's overall wellness. So brush right, brush often and take care of those teeth!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1528

60-Second Health and Fitness Boosters

When it comes to losing weight or making healthy choices, you probably think that it takes hours at a gym plus long nights preparing and planning nutritious meals. What you may not realize is that quick and easy changes can really improve your immediate health and wellness. So just how quick is quick? One minute—that’s it! Try any one of these 60-second activities to easily reap the healthy benefits. 1. Drink a tall glass of water. We all know the many health benefits of drinking water, but did you also know that even mild dehydration can cause fatigue? So, the next time you feel your energy waning, grab a glass of cold water and guzzle it down! 2. Twist it out. So many of us spend every weekday seated in front of a computer. Not only can sitting all day wreak havoc on your posture, but it can also compress your spine and exaggerate its curvature. Not fun. A simple twist can help undo this. As you sit in your desk chair, simply twist your upper-body to one side, hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side. If you have the space to sit on the floor, try this torso twist stretch. It’s guaranteed to make you feel better! 3. Take a deep breath. How often do you think about breathing? If you are like most people, you probably don’t think about it often enough. For a quick pick-me-up, simply take five deep breaths. Slowly inhale for at least five seconds and exhale for 10 seconds each time. Your body will thank you for the extra oxygen. 4. Do 20 jumping jacks. Research has shown that long periods of sitting can be detrimental to the body and our overall health. So get up out of that chair and jack it out! Just one minute of jumping jacks is an easy way to get your heart pumping and blood flowing. 5. Smile. Smiling can actually make you happier. So go ahead—smile! 6. Go outside. You’ve probably heard the health buzz about vitamin D lately. Preliminary research suggests that vitamin D helps regulate the immune system, supports heart health, can help normalize blood pressure and promotes healthy aging. Vitamin D has also been linked to improved mood. If you have a minute to spare, step out into the sunshine! 7. Put on a favorite song. There’s nothing quite like your favorite music to perk you up and get you feeling good. Listening to music has been shown to improve immunity and release endorphins. Bonus points if you dance along! 8. Sit up straighter. Did you know that bad posture can put unnecessary stress on your low back? Take a minute to focus on sitting up straight with your shoulders down and back. Don’t you feel better already? 9. Be grateful. Write down five things you’re grateful for, no matter how large or small (your hair, your family, your morning cup of Joe—whatever). Do you feel more thankful, generous and overall happier after? Funny how a little reminder of what we have can turn a frown into a smile. 10. Tell a joke. Awake your inner child and tell a silly joke—whether it’s a knock-knock joke or even a funny line from a movie. Anything that gets you laughing is enough to get your happy endorphins flowing! 11. Do 10 pushups. Being strong is important, but having functional strength is even more important because it makes everyday activities easier to accomplish. A push-up is a great, quick exercise for building functional strength. Drop down and give me 10—or as many as you can do in 1 minute. 12. Encourage someone. Isn’t it interesting how you always seem to feel better after helping someone else feel better? Whether you post a supportive comment on a SparkFriend’s page or write a few kind words in a card or an email, taking a minute out to help someone can quickly boost your mood. 13. Set a goal for the day. Fact: People who set goals have more success than people who don’t. So why not take a few seconds and write down what you want to do today? Then, just commit to making it happen! 14. Focus on one thing you love about yourself. At times, we put so much effort in focusing on what we don’t like about ourselves that we fail to see the good. Take 60 seconds to think about what you like about you. Is it your eyes? Your strong legs? Your giving nature? Thinking about how great you are will instantly increase self-confidence. 15. Wash your hands. It seems like cold and flu season is always in full force (or just around the corner).  One of the simplest and easiest ways to stay well year round is to wash your hands. All you need is warm water, soap and 20 seconds of rubbing to rid your hands of unwanted germs. 16. Compliment a stranger. What better way to make yourself feel good than to unexpectedly brighten someone else’s day? The next time you admire someone’s clothes, positive attitude or eyes—say so! 17. Try aromatherapy. A number of different smells can have a positive effect on your mind and body. For example, peppermint is known to calm the stomach while its smell can energize you through a workout. And the scent of jasmine has been shown to reduce anxiety. To benefit, grab some scented lotion and either take a whiff from the bottle or rub some on your hands. 18. Salute the sun. Sun salutations are a well-known set of yoga poses that are said to warm up the body and increase blood flow and flexibility. So grab your mat and do one or two sets—rain or shine! 19. Give yourself a mini-massage. Massage has a number of health benefits, including reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and speeding muscle repair. While you may not be able to spend the time or money getting one at a spa, pampering yourself with just 1 minute of self-massage by rubbing your own hands, feet or shoulders can do wonders. 20. Be absolutely present. When we are wrapped up with work, to-do lists, and just getting by, sometimes we can forget to focus on what we are doing in the here and now. Try spending a minute just being. Focus on sounds, smells and whatever else is going on around you; instead of thinking ahead to what you'll do next, think about what you're doing right now. You’ll be amazed at how peaceful you feel. Just be! See? In the quest to be healthier, you don't have to spend a lot of time. Even if all you have is a few spare seconds here and there, you can make a positive difference in your overall health! Sources: Clean Hands Save Lives, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fight Fatigue with Your Fork, from Psychology Today Here Comes the Sun, from Yoga Journal Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, from University of California, Davis Peppermint, from University of Maryland Medical Center Research Briefs: Did You Know? from NammFoundation.org Vitamin D Research, from National Fluid Milk Processor Education Board, GetYourD.comArticle Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1557

Chinae Alexander Proves Confidence Has Nothing to Do With Your Weight

Welcome to Behind the Confidence, a video series about the real, unfiltered journey to self-belief. We talked to four health and wellness pros who prove true confidence doesn't stem from a "like," nor does it magically happen overnight. It's about finding what makes you feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally.

When lifestyle blogger Chinae Alexander embarked on a journey to get healthier, she thought she had to slim down to build up her confidence. But after losing 70 pounds, Alexander felt more critical of herself than ever. "My worth became based on what other people thought of me," she says. Rather than drown in self-doubt, Alexander set out to regain her sense of self and take control of her confidence.

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