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belly-fatObesity continues to be one of the greatest health challenges in the United States. More than a third of all adults are overweight or obese, and roughly the same goes for our children and teens. If we keep heading in the same direction the impact on our national health could be devastating, which is why experts continue to examine the cause and effect of carrying excess weight in the hope of finding a solution. Here are two new obesity studies making headlines:

Obesity Shortens Life Expectancy
Scientists in Canada recently determined that being obese can take years off your life—and the younger you are obese, the worse off you may be. Using data gathered from national health survey results, a team of researchers developed a computer model to project disease outcomes in overweight and obese adults (compared with those of normal weight) between the ages of 20 and 79.

They focused in particular on heart disease and diabetes and found that obesity is associated with a higher risk of both, which significantly reduces not just life expectancy but the years of “healthy life” an individual should have. Those who were overweight (with a BMI of 25) lost between 0 to 3 years, while obese people (BMI 30+) lost 1 to 6 years and the severely obese (BMI 35+) saw their life expectancy decreased by 1 to 8 years. Not only that, but the long-term effects were more severe in younger overweight and obese people.

Experts Urge Policies to Reduce Childhood Obesity
Focusing on childhood obesity in particular, results of a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine offer specific interventions for reducing obesity among children and adolescents. Of the 26 recommended policies examined, three were chosen based on projected effectiveness: after-school activity programs; an excise tax on sodas and sugary beverages (which, in turn, would channel money toward obesity prevention programs); and a ban on fast food ads aimed at children. Experts determined that all three policies, if put into action, would reduce childhood obesity prevalence in America by 2032.

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holiday-headacheIs your December all booked up with parties and travel plans? So often the holiday season can leave us feeling drained—both physically and mentally—which is why it helps to remember that the most important gift we can give ourselves is the gift of good health. Take a moment today to remember these simple tips for a healthier, happier holiday.

  1. Eat Well, Feel Well. Your body and your well-being benefit from certain foods, while others can contribute to a cycle of poor health, digestive imbalance and weight gain. Remember to fill your plate with plenty of protein (at least 12 portions a day will help keep you satisfied and reduce cravings); non-starchy veggies and low-sugar fruits; healthy fats like those founds in fish (Omega-3), olive oil (Omega-9) and walnuts (Omega-3); and living and fermented foods. Do your best to eliminate sugar, refined carbohydrates and grains, and reduce your intake of unhealthy Omega-6 fats (mostly vegetable oil).
  2. Get Plenty of Sleep. It may seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, but cutting into your sleep time is not the answer. Not only has sleep deprivation been linked to depression, irritability and poor concentration, but too little sleep can actually pack on the pounds. According to Harvard professor Dr. Lawrence Epstein, people who sleep less tend to be heavier over time—and even a short-term reduction in sleep can make a big difference, causing the body to release hormones that prompt eating and weight gain.
  3. Wash Your Hands Often. You have enough to worry about this season without adding the sniffles and sneezes. According to experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. As often as possible, wash your hands (rubbing them together) with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds each time. If you feel a cough or a sneeze coming on, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. If you’re out of tissues, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
  4. Stay Active Even in Winter. This time of year the darker nights and colder temperatures make it difficult to get motivated, but regular exercise (at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week) plays a key role in disease prevention and vibrant health. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that exercise may be as effective, or even more effective, as drug treatment for common health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. In addition, exercise is critical for a balanced gut—which not only promotes optimal digestion but can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
  5. Lift Your Mood with a Little Sunlight
    Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects roughly 500,000 Americans every year, and according to the Mayo Clinic three out of every four SAD sufferers are women. Sunlight is our primary source of vitamin D, which has been shown to help ease depressive symptoms and improve mood, so try to spend time outdoors or near a window each day. Better yet, take a walk! A recent study found depressive symptoms were greatly reduced just by walking outdoors.

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