Friday, September 21, 2012
(Health.com) -- Women who gain weight after giving birth for the first time dramatically increase their risk of developing pregnancy-related diabetes during their second pregnancy, a new study suggests.
Compared with women of similar height who maintain their weight, a 5-foot-4 woman who gains roughly 12 to 17 pounds after giving birth more than doubles her odds of developing diabetes during her second pregnancy, the study found. If she gains 18 pounds or more, she more than triples her odds.
(The study used body mass index, a ratio of height to weight, so problematic weight gain will vary according to a woman's height.)
Diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy, known as gestational diabetes, is influenced by hormonal changes and normal weight gain and usually goes away after the baby is born.
It can lead to birth complications, however, and it also increases a woman's risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. In addition, it makes the baby more prone to diabetes and obesity as he grows up.
Health.com: Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes
The findings underscore how important it is for women to lose their baby weight and keep postpartum weight gain to a minimum, the researchers say. This applies especially to those who are overweight or obese at the start of their first pregnancy.
The overweight women in the study who lost weight post-birth substantially lowered their risk of gestational diabetes compared with those who maintained their weight.
"We acknowledge that this is not an easy thing to do," says the lead author of the study, Samantha F. Ehrlich, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente, in Oakland, California. "It's quite common for women to gain weight."
The study, which appears in the June issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, included 22,351 ethnically diverse women who were members of the Kaiser Permanente health plan in Northern California. The overall rate of gestational diabetes during the women's first pregnancy was 4.6%, and during the second it was 5.2%.
Less than 10% of the women in the study lost weight between pregnancies, which isn't surprising given the new stresses and responsibilities that come with a newborn.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Ever heard someone say "I don't require a lot of sleep"? Well, they should want to get as much as they can. As for those who want to get more, check out this article to help you get the sleep you most deserve.
While some slip between the sheets and easily fall into a sound slumber, many of us fail to get enough of those coveted zzz's. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30 percent of American workers—about 40.6 million of us—average no more than six hours of sleep a day. The recommended amount of sleep is about seven to nine hours per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation, which says that any less than that is linked to increased risk of diabetes, heart problems, depression, and substance abuse. Lack of sleep can also increase appetite and the risk for future weight gain or obesity.
In fact, the findings of two small, unpublished studies presented at a recent meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggest that sleep deprivation could affect diet by increasing a preference for less healthy food and by dampening decision-making ability—especially in the face of fatty, caloric options.
Despite these serious consequences, why do so many Americans skimp on sleep? Many of us stay up (or out) late to socialize with friends, watch ball games, or catch up on favorite TV shows. But we also sleep less to meet important work deadlines or family obligations such as caring for our family members. (Incidentally, on the morning I had planned to submit this article, our 10-year-old climbed into our bed at 4 a.m. after a bad dream; since I couldn't fall back asleep, I used that "bonus time" to edit this blog post and catch up on other work!)
Before you shell out a portion of the billions of dollars Americans are expected to spend this year on pills, drinks, or medical devices that promise slumber, consider a few do-it-yourself remedies. Along with prioritizing your sleep and keeping your bedroom cool and distraction-free, make time to eat well and stay active, both key to helping you get the sleep you need. Toward that end, here are some of my "Stressipes"—food, fitness, and lifestyle strategies—to help you get back on track. If your problems persist, see your physician or a health professional.
• Be active. Exercise not only keeps your muscles, bones, and heart strong, but it may help you sleep. A recent article published in the Journal of Physiotherapy concluded that participating in an exercise training program had moderately positive effects on sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults. Althea Zanecosky, a fellow dietician of Lafayette Hill, Penn., credits her good sleep to frequent morning and after-dinner walks. Robin Plotkin, another dietician from Dallas, Tex., agrees that exercise is key to her sleeping success. "If I don't exercise for several days, I find it takes me longer to fall asleep," she says. Because the post-exercise body needs a few hours to cool down—and a cool body sleeps better—it's best to be active earlier in the day.
• Say yes to carbs. A steady dose of carbohydrate-rich foods can energize you by day, and hit your sweet spot by night. Tryptophan, an amino acid found in eggs, chickpeas, and turkey creates serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps you settle down. It's the carbohydrate, however, that carries tryptophan to the brain to work its magic. Aim for half of your daily calories to come from carbohydrates, and choose mainly oatmeal and other whole grains, fruits, vegetables (including potatoes), legumes, and low-fat dairy foods. (Keep dinners and bedtime snacks small, since large, late meals can adversely affect sleep.)
• Be careful with caffeine. A stimulant of the central nervous system, caffeine is known to delay sleepiness and cause sleep disturbances. It also inhibits some sleep-promoting hormones. Because caffeine stays in the body for several hours, it's wise to abstain at least several hours before you hit the sack.
• Nix the nightcap. Alcohol seems to encourage excess food intake. And while it may also help you fall asleep, studies suggest it promotes a restless sleep and increases daytime fatigue. Current dietary guidelines allow for one drink a day for women, and two for men (one drink equals 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits). But if it's a good sleep you're after, drink earlier in the day (that is, if your boss lets you!) or rethink that drink altogether.
-Article by Elsa Zeid of Zeid Health Communications.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Spices do more than jazz up the taste of food -- they can also contribute significant health benefits. Here are a couple good ones for you.
Cinnamon is a nutritional powerhouse, with antioxidant properties that keep cells safe from oxidative stress and dangerous free radicals. Antioxidants help fight such diseases as cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and Parkinson's.
What's more, cinnamon is a powerful weapon against cardiovascular problems. Cinnamon helps the hormone insulin work better, which reduces blood sugar levels. That's great news for the one in ten North Americans with type 2 diabetes and the millions more with prediabetes. Keeping blood sugar low can help treat diabetes or even stop it before it starts.
Cinnamon may also help prevent Alzheimer's. A study in 2011 found that an extract from cinnamon bark inhibited the formation of amyloid plaques in mice with Alzheimer's. It even helped restore cognitive levels and correct movement problems in the animals.
How much: Cinnamon's health benefits make it worth adding to your daily diet -- and cinnamon's sweet, warming flavor makes it easy. Aim for a quarter to half a teaspoon most days of the week.
Serving suggestions: Sprinkle a little on fresh fruit, a steaming bowl of oatmeal, or a scoop of peanut butter, or add to fish, chicken, or lamb dishes -- especially with cumin and chili powder -- for a Middle Eastern slant on your normal fare. No time to cook? Sprinkle some cinnamon on your morning coffee or tea for a nice antioxidant boost.
Tip: You know that stuff in your cinnamon jar? It's probably cassia, not cinnamon. True cinnamon, often labeled "Ceylon cinnamon," has higher levels of antioxidants, so seek it out if you can.
It's hard to imagine continental cuisine without the aromatic addition of thyme. But its antimicrobial properties are what get researchers excited.
If you've used Listerine or a similar mouthwash -- or even some green household cleaners -- chances are it contained thymol, a volatile oil component of thyme. A 2004 study showed that thyme oil was able to decontaminate lettuce with Shigella, a particularly nasty type of food poisoning, and other studies suggest it's also effective against staph and E. coli.
Thyme is also a good digestion aid, helping to reduce gas and other discomfort, says Duke's Beth Reardon, and it's good for the scalp and hair.
How much: Use a teaspoon of fresh thyme or quarter to half a teaspoon of dried thyme about three times a week.
Serving suggestions: Thyme is sort of the savory version of cinnamon -- you can pretty much put it on anything. It's great with chicken, fish, and root vegetables. It also goes well with lemon, including in summery cocktails.
Tip: Fresh thyme should keep about a week in your refrigerator's vegetable drawer, especially if wrapped in a damp paper towel inside an open plastic bag.
Ginger has been used in both ancient and modern medicine for its stomach-settling properties. In a series of human and animal studies, ginger has been shown to help quiet nausea, speed food through the digestive tract, and protect against gastric ulcers.
Small studies have also shown that ginger can help with pain, including menstrual cramps, muscle pain, and migraines. Ginger is also a powerful COX inhibitor, Reardon says, so it's a great choice for anyone with osteoarthritis or other chronic inflammatory conditions.
It's best to check with your doctor before ingesting large quantities of ginger, though, since it can cause heartburn and gas, worsening of gallstone issues -- and it may interact with some medications, including warfarin.
How much: If your doctor approves it, it's best to use ginger daily.
Serving suggestions: Ginger's strong, bright taste is an essential component of most Asian and Indian cooking. Try a pinch of ginger in milky black tea, along with cinnamon and cardamom, for a heady chai-like beverage, or dice it and add to a zesty Thai soup. It's also great in baked goods, from gingerbread to gingersnaps. Try adding chunks of candied ginger to pear or apple muffins for an extra zing.
Tip: Like turmeric, it's best if you can use fresh ginger instead of powdered. If the big-name supermarket near you doesn't stock fresh ginger, try an Asian market
Monday, September 10, 2012
It's the great debate among men and women alike. Is it better to strengthen and tone your muscles from head to toe hoisting dumbbells, heaving barbells, and relying on other types of weight-training machines? Or, is it wiser to build a better body trying to master a series of yoga poses? Even though both types of exercise are great for getting in shape, if you only have room for one in your life, here's a quick goal-specific way to decide which may be best for you:
Goal: Body Awareness and Coordination
Although there are a variety of weight-training exercises you can do that are more dynamic — and specific pieces of equipment, such askettlebells and medicine balls, which offer certain exercises that can improve how well your muscles work with one another — for the most part, most weight-training moves are linear in motion. That means they only teach your body to work—or have your muscles raise or lower a weight — in one specific direction.
However, most yoga moves train your body to work through a variety of directions that relate to the movements you do in everyday life. In addition, having to hold some yoga poses for minutes at a time helps your body establish a greater mind-muscle connection to boot.
Goal: Fat loss
Winner: Weight training (if you do it right)
You may break a sweat with yoga, but it's not as effective as a fat-burning cardiovascular workout and it's not as effective when compared to circuit training with free weights. Depending on what style of yoga you use (more passive or active), the average person can expect to burn between 100 and 550 (or more) calories an hour. Circuit training, on the other hand, burns an average of 10 calories a minute, raising the bar to at least 600 calories an hour.
In order to weight train, you obviously need weights. But with yoga, if you already know how to perform poses (called asanas), you have 24/7 access to the most efficient piece of equipment you can own — yourself. That's because most yoga positions use nothing more than your own bodyweight as resistance, allowing you to exercise anywhere, at any time.
Goal: Save Money
Winner: Depends entirely on you
Yoga may require little equipment, but how serious you are about yoga or weight training can affect what type of a beating your wallet might take. There are a variety of accessories that can add to your yoga practice, including mats, blocks, straps, wedges, clothing — even yoga socks! And that's not including the classes, DVDs and personal instruction you may need to stay motivated.
On the other hand, most people assume that investing in free weights is always a costly venture. However, that tab can vary, depending on whether you need to join a gym or how much equipment you need to buy for your home. To perform hundreds of exercises, the average person only needs to invest in a pair of adjustable dumbbells (which can range from thereasonable to the expensive) and a simple weight bench — so keep it simple if you want to save a buck.
The problem with many weight-training exercises is that they tend to tighten muscles as they strengthen them. That's not anything that can't be rectified with a few stretches after your workout routine, but that means you'll have to spend time stretching when you're most likely ready to leave the gym. In contrast, many yoga moves strengthen and stretch muscles simultaneously, giving you a two-for-one, time-saving workout every time. These same postures can also improve your mobility by bringing fluid back into stiffening joints while helping to loosen up any taut ligaments that might be holding you back.
Goal: Staying safe (less risk of injury)
While it's true that yoga's slow, graceful movements can be less jarring on your joints than training with weights, certain intermediate or advanced yoga poses could place you at an equal risk of injury if your body isn't ready to perform them.
Yoga's tranquil demeanor can also cause some exercisers to let their guard down and assume they can't get hurt, even though it's still possible to overstretch and strain your muscles if you're not careful. The best way to lower your risk of injury in either activity is simple: Warm up your muscles first, use proper form with every exercise or pose, and above all else, don't push your body beyond what it's capable of doing in an effort to see faster results.
Goal: Muscle Strengthening
Winner: Weight training
Your muscles only become stronger when they're challenged beyond their limits to lift or handle heavier amounts of weight than they're used to. Since your bodyweight is the only resistance that's typically used in yoga, your muscles are limited to how much they can grow. What can make matters worse is that as you lose weight from performing regular exercise, your body becomes lighter, which means when doing yoga you're placing even less resistance on your muscles.
Weight training allows you to choose the right amount of weight to overload your muscles, plus, many exercises allow you to specifically target individual muscles more easily. Yoga poses tend to work several muscles together, making it much harder to isolate specific problem zones.
Goal: Stress Relief
Winner: Yoga and weight training
Although yoga is typically expected to win this category, it's really hard to say which is better generally for every type of person. Meaning, what may relax you and/or clear your mind may not necessarily relax someone else. Also, both yoga and weight training can trigger your pituitary gland to release endorphins — the hormones that cause "runner's high" produce feelings of happiness and well-being — so either activity can help strip away your worries
Article courtesy of MSN.