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10 Doctor-Recommended Health Tips for the New Year

Four in 10 adults in the U.S. have two or more chronic diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While certain conditions and risk factors are beyond one’s control, the new year is the perfect time to consider the many lifestyle choices you can make for improved health.

“With too many holiday sweets and not enough exercise likely in the rearview mirror, now is the perfect time to consider your personal goals and how you can make positive health choices in the coming year,” says American Medical Association (AMA) President Patrice A. Harris, M.D. “The good news is that there are a few easy steps you can take that will set you on the right track for a healthier 2020.”

To get you started, the AMA is offering 10 wellness tips for the new year:

1. Steps you take now can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Learn your risk by taking the self-screening test at DoIHavePrediabetes.org.

2. Be more physically active. Adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity.

3. Visit LowerYourHBP.org to better understand blood pressure numbers and take necessary steps to get high blood pressure – also known as hypertension — under control. Doing so will reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.

4. Reduce your intake of processed foods, especially those with added sodium and sugar. Eat less red meat and processed meats, and add more plant-based foods, such as olive oil, nuts and seeds to your diet. Also reduce your consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and drink more water instead. Drinking sugary beverages — even 100% fruit juices — is associated with a higher all-cause mortality risk, a new study published in JAMA Network Open suggests.

5. If your health care professional determines that you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Antibiotic resistance is a serious public health problem and antibiotics will not make you feel better if you have a virus, such as a cold or flu.

6. If consuming alcohol, do so in moderation as defined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans — up to one drink daily for women and two drinks daily for men, and only by adults of legal drinking age.

7. Talk with your doctor about tobacco and e-cigarette use (or vaping) and how to quit. Declare your home and car smoke- and aerosol-free to eliminate secondhand exposure.

8. Pain medication is personal. If you’re taking prescription opioids or other medications, follow your doctor’s instructions. Store them safely to prevent misuse and properly dispose of any leftover medication.

9. Make sure your family is up-to-date on vaccines, including the annual influenza vaccine for everyone age six months or older. If you’re pregnant, you can receive the flu vaccine during any trimester, but should receive the Tdap vaccine early in the third trimester to protect yourself against flu and whooping cough.

10. Manage stress. A good diet, sufficient sleep (at least 7.5 hours per night), daily exercise and wellness activities, like yoga and meditation, are key ingredients to maintaining and improving your mental health, but don’t hesitate to ask for help from a mental health professional when you need it.

Try New Experiences by Starting a Club

Shared interests are often the foundation of lasting relationships. Clubs can be a great way for people of all ages to connect with those who share their passions. Clubs are organizations that are dedicated to a particular interest or activity. Clubs can be academic-based, hobby-based, faith-based, or rooted in any subject that people share a passion for. While clubs are often associated with school-aged children, they’re also widely accessible and positive outlets for adults.

Adults interested in clubs can see if there are any in or around where they live, work or go to school. If nothing seems to fit the bill, adults can start a club. In fact, for people who resolve to try new activities and interests or meet new people, beginning a club can be an ideal outlet. Here’s how to get the ball rolling.

Pick an interest

Interests can include anything from sports to culinary arts to reading. Even activities that people do on their own, like reading, can be turned into activities for clubs. For example, book clubs encourage discussing a book together as opposed to reading the book together.

Encourage others to join

Adding members to a club can be a multitiered process. Post flyers and information in places where potential club members are likely to see it. If you’re interested in starting a cycling club, post flyers near popular trails and/or at bike shops. Turning to social media also can be a great way to get the word out. The bigger the reach, the more potential members you can attract.

Consider a sponsor

Campus-based clubs may require supervision of a faculty member. Sponsors also can be a good idea for private clubs, and they may provide a meeting space. Reach out to local businesses or houses of worship to see if they can sponsor a potential club.

Establish a mission statement

Put your goals for the club in writing. The mission statement needn’t be lengthy, but it can help set the tone for the club. For example, book clubs may aim to read and analyze one book per month. A club’s mission statement also can be as simple as having fun.

Grow the club

Once the club is established, encourage members to bring friends. This will help with recruitment and can further spread the word about your club.

Clubs are ideal places to make friends, pursue interests and have a good time with similarly minded people.

6 Ideas for a New You in the New Year

The new year is the perfect time to hit the reset button and get a fresh start. Here are six resolution ideas, plus tools and strategies for accomplishing each:

Read More: Want to read more but never seem to have an opportunity to curl up with a good book? Downloading audiobooks and listening to them during commutes and workouts can be the perfect way to “read” when you don’t have dedicated time in your day.

Get Fit: Working out more is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions people make. To get this one to stick, consider tools that will make reaching your goals more fun. The latest additions to the G-SHOCK Women’s lineup of sports watches are a good example of how wearable tech can support fitness goals. The GMAB800 Pro Trainer Watch connects to a phone app, which provides access to a number of health and fitness functions, including a three-axis accelerometer that keeps track of step counts, a timer that lets you create up to 20 combinations of five timers each, memory for up to 200 lap records and more.

Control Spending: It’s all too easy to spend more than one has or should in any given day, week or month. Use digital apps to create a budget and stick to it. Find one that will actually send you push notifications when you’ve exceeded your limits.

Make Music: Whether learning to play for the first time or resolving to create your own compositions, new tools can support your efforts. The CT-S300 keyboard from Casio not only connects to an app offering lessons in how to play your favorite songs, but the instrument’s dance music mode lets you create and remix electronic dance music tracks, as well as use the keys to trigger drum loops, basslines, synth parts, effects, transitions and more. Bonus benefits: learning to play keyboard will improve hand-eye coordination and stimulate cognitive brain activity.

Declutter: The act of decluttering your home is important, however it can seem daunting, making this one resolution that many people make but don’t keep. Rather than assume you need to dedicate an entire day or weekend to tidy up, block out just five to 10 minutes a day to clear out small areas. Before you know it, you’ll start to see some major improvements. You can even make it fun by putting on music and cleaning for three-song segments at a time.

Hone Your Math Skills: Whether you’re in school and looking to boost your grades or your formal math education is well behind you, it’s never too late to hone your skills. And a great calculator, such as the fx-9860 from Casio, can help you not only become a more efficient mathematician, but one who really understands the concepts behind his or her calculations.

This New Year, don’t get caught in a rut. New tools and fun strategies can help motivate you to try new hobbies, sharpen your skills and improve your life.

3 Strategies That Can Help You Achieve Your Goals in the Year Ahead

When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, many people are living it up and toasting the dawn of a new year. Come the afternoon of January 1, those same people might have shifted their focus to the year ahead.

January is a great time to set professional and personal goals. Setting goals can have a greater impact than people may know. Studies examining the importance of setting goals are few and far between, and some have even been revealed as fallacies after being accepted as authentic for years. But a 1979 study that asked newly minted Harvard MBA graduates about setting goals found that 13 percent had set goals. When interviewers followed up with survey participants a decade later, they found that the 13 percent who had set goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent of participants who had set no specific goals at all.

While there’s no universal formula for success, successful people often cite the importance of setting goals and how doing so was integral to their success. The following are some strategies that may help people achieve their goals in the years ahead.

1. Make it a group effort.

A 2013 study from a University of Connecticut researcher found that there is a high level of correlation between users’ exercise activities and their participation in these digital health communities. Such communities served as motivating factors for people aiming to live healthier lives. Relying on others for support, insight and motivation can be a great way to achieve your goals, no matter what those goals are.

2. Set goals big and small.

No goal is too small, and no big goal should be considered beyond reach. In fact, achieving small goals can provide motivation and inspiration along the way to realizing your larger goals. Devise a one-month plan, a six-month plan and a 12-month plan for the year ahead. The one-year plan can serve as your big goal, while the one- and six-month plans can serve as small motivators and great ways to track your progress en route to achieving your larger goal.

3. Write down why you’re setting goals.

People set goals for various reasons, and writing down the reasons they’re pursuing their goals can serve as inspiration when challenges arise. For example, if you aspire to change careers to spend more time with your family, writing that down can provide motivation to keep looking for opportunities when a job search stalls or feels fruitless.

A new year is a great time to set goals. A handful of strategies can help people set their goals and keep them on track toward achieving them.

Celebrate Safely This New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is a time to celebrate. But for hundreds of people each year, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day proves fatal. According to fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over the last five years an average of 300 people died in drunk driving fatalities between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Holiday celebrations, and New Year’s Eve festivities in particular, tend to include alcohol, raising the stakes during this festive yet too often fatal time of year.

The sobering statistics provided by the NHTSA don’t have to prevent people from toasting a new year. In fact, there are many ways to have fun this New Year’s Eve without putting yourself in harm’s way.

• Don’t overindulge in alcohol. For many people, overindulging in alcohol is part and parcel during New Year’s Eve celebrations. Such behavior puts everyone at risk, even people who don’t drive. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, conservative estimates suggest that roughly one-half of sexual assaults on American women involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim or both. While alcohol and its relationship to traffic fatalities draw the bulk of the attention on New Year’s Eve, even people who don’t intend to drive should recognize the dangers of overindulging in alcohol and drink responsibly.

• Arrange for transportation. If you need a car to get around on New Year’s Eve and plan to drink alcohol, arrange for someone else to do your driving for you. Groups of friends should choose someone to be their designated driver or pool their money and hire a taxi or bus service for the night so no one who’s been drinking gets behind the wheel. The NHTSA even offers a free app called SaferRide that is compatible with Apple and Android devices and enables users to call a taxi or a friend to be picked up.

• Host responsibly. Even people who don’t intend to leave their homes can take steps to make New Year’s Eve safer for everyone. If you’re hosting a party at home, do so responsibly, making sure none of your guests overindulge and making the party less about drinking and more about having fun. Shift the focus from toasting drinks to games and activities that don’t include alcohol. Make sure to have plenty of food and nonalcoholic beverages on hand and encourage people who are drinking to eat full meals and drink water throughout the night. People who fill up on food and water during the party may feel full, which may discourage them from having extra drinks. While many people will expect to drink alcohol on New Year’s Eve, don’t stock up on too much alcohol, the availability of which may encourage guests to overindulge. Hosts also should keep the phone numbers of local taxi services handy just in case some guests cannot drive themselves home safely.

New Year’s Eve should be as festive as possible. Celebrating responsibly can ensure everyone has a fun and safe time.

Tips for Baking Better Christmas Cookies

Cookies and other baked treats are everywhere come the holiday season. It’s not uncommon to give cookies as gifts or arrive at holiday gatherings with cakes and other decadent desserts. Cookies are a classic holiday treat, and some families even build entire traditions around baking Christmas cookies.

Novice bakers making cookies for the first time may be a little overwhelmed when perusing recipes. Baking is a science, and sometimes it takes practice to get the results just right. However, there are some tips that can help yield better, buttery bounties.

Handle butter with care

Butter can make or break a cookie recipe, as butter is often the glue that holds the cookie together. Therefore, it is key to follow the directions carefully regarding how to handle butter. Smithsonian.com says to leave butter at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes to properly soften it. This takes patience, but fiddling with butter too much can damage its delectable integrity. While purists may say butter is best, margarine may be acceptable if it has a high fat content; otherwise, cookies may spread out and flatten. When it comes time to cream the butter with sugar, be sure to do so thoroughly to incorporate air into the butter and remove the grainy texture of the sugar.

Measure flour properly

Measuring flour the right way can ensure cookies come out right. The Cooking Channel says to spoon the flour lightly into a dry measuring cup, then level it off with a knife. Do not dip the measuring cup into the flour or tap the knife against the cup. This will pack too much flour into the measuring cup and result in dry, tough cookies.

Slow down the eggs

Add eggs one at a time to make sure each will emulsify properly with the fat in the butter. Adding eggs en masse may cause the emulsification to fail.

Chill out

Follow recipes that call for chilling cookie dough carefully. This process is important for making sliced and shaped cookies. By chilling, the dough becomes more malleable for rolling and even slicing.

Use a bottom rack

Too much heat may compromise cookie integrity. The food experts at Delish say to try moving cookies onto a lower rack in the oven if they aren’t retaining their shape when baked. Put an empty cookie sheet on the top rack. That will block the cookies from the most intense heat that rises to the top of the oven.

Mastering cookies takes a little patience and some trial and error. Once bakers get their feet wet, Christmas-cookie-baking becomes even more special.

Holiday Hosting in Small Spaces

Gatherings of family and friends are a big part of the holiday season. Hosting such gatherings can be a great way to show loved ones how much you appreciate them, and hosting also saves hosts the trouble of traveling during one of the most hectic travel seasons of the year.

When hosting a large crowd at home, space can be a difficult hurdle to clear. However, a few helpful strategies can help space-starved hosts pull off a holiday soiree where everyone is comfortable.

Pare down the menu. Holiday feasts don’t have to resemble medieval banquets with excessive amounts of food and drink. Hosts with small kitchens and tiny dining quarters can pare down the menu, limiting offerings to just a single entree and a few simple side dishes, so everyone feels comfortable at the table and has ample room to eat. A small menu also gives hosts more time to spend with their loved ones during the festivities.

Don’t overdo it on drinks, either. When planning the drinks menu, avoid offering cocktails, which take time to prepare and often require guests to visit the kitchen for refrigerated ingredients. Limit drinks to wine, beer, water, and soft drinks, storing cold beverages in a cooler kept outside on a front or back porch or in an area outside the kitchen so cooks can work without interruption.

Move some furniture. If your main living space is small, consider moving some bulky furniture into a bedroom or office where guests won’t be spending time. Then make better use of the open living space by placing folding chairs or other accommodations to ensure there’s ample seating for everyone. A single recliner can only be enjoyed by one person, but removing it from a room may create enough space for as many as three folding chairs.

Go small on decorations. If you know you’ll be hosting in advance of the holiday season, decorate with guests in mind. That might mean skipping a six-foot Christmas tree in favor of one that takes up less space. Avoid leaving any fragile decorations out, as adults or overexcited kids may knock them over as they try to navigate a cramped space.

Holiday hosting can be fun, even in small spaces. A few simple tricks can make even the smallest spaces accommodating.

5 Tips for a Merry Holiday Home

A merry holiday season starts at home. Here are some nice ways to add cheer to the rooms and spaces where people gather.

Light a Fire: It may be the most primitive technology in existence but lighting a fire is still one of the best ways to create a rich holiday atmosphere. Bonus: use aromatic firewood such as pine, fir or cedar.

Project a Movie: Decorating for the holiday season can be as easy as setting up a projector and playing seasonal movies on a loop. From classics like “Miracle on 34th Street” to contemporary favorites like “Elf,” these films provide the perfect backdrop to the holiday season. With the ability to run all day, the LampFree Projectors in Casio’s Slim Series are ideal for this purpose.

Bake Cookies: Make the whole house smell amazing (and become everyone’s favorite person) by popping cookies and other desserts in the oven that include spices evocative of the season, like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla. For a lighter option, you can get the same effect by brewing tea with these same ingredients.

Host a Sing-a-Long: Securing yourself a digital piano with an authentic concert grand sound may just be the best gift you give your family this holiday season. The Casio GP-500 reproduces the three-dimensional sound field generated by an acoustic grand to fill a room with rich, complex sound, making it a great place to gather for holiday sing-a-longs. The piano itself can also be a decoration destination — think garlands and candles. Be sure to set out sheet music and other instruments like tambourines or bells so that guests can join in the fun.

Add Flora: Spruce up your living spaces – literally. Holly, Christmas cactus, poinsettias and spruce add color and vibrancy to mantels, staircases, coffee tables and other nooks and crannies. What’s more, many of these plants will continue to thrive long after the lights and tinsel come down.

The holidays come but once a year. Make the most of the season by turning your home into a winter wonderland.

The History of Black Friday

Black Friday marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Come Black Friday, shoppers strive to get the lowest prices on gifts for their loved ones. Much of the focus of Black Friday is on finding the best deals, but it can be interesting to take a breath and learn how this phenomenon developed and how it has evolved over the years.

“Black Friday”

The term “Black Friday” was originally associated with gold prices and manipulation on the part of speculators Jay Gould and James Fisk. This scandal occurred in September 1869. Commodity prices plummeted 50 percent as a result, and the term “Black Friday” was coined to refer to that drop. The phrase “Black Friday” also became famous for all the wrong reasons in 1966. Philadelphia police used it to refer to the Friday traffic jams and crowding in downtown stores from tourists and shoppers who flooded into the city in advance of the Army-Navy football game held the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year. Bigger crowds and rowdiness contributed to long hours and stressful shifts for local police.

Black Friday Reinvented

The retail industry started using the term “Black Friday” in the late 1980s. Spin doctors turned previously negative connotations into positive ones by associating the phrase with stores turning a profit and moving accounting ledgers from “red to black” thanks to big year-end sales. Retailers and consumers rallied around low-cost “doorbusters” and other discounted prices. Interestingly enough, according to the National Retail Federation, Black Friday really hasn’t been the most lucrative day for retailers over the years. In fact, greater profits and larger crowds are often seen on the last Saturday preceding Christmas.

Shopping Weekend Evolves

While Black Friday may have been the catalyst, in recent years shoppers have made the entire weekend of Black Friday a lucrative one for retailers. Many stores now open on Thanksgiving and extend sales through the entire weekend. Small Business Saturday and Sunday promote patronizing mom-and-pop stores. Cyber Monday emerged when online shopping became a popular way to grab deals, and it marks the close of the opening weekend of the holiday shopping season. In 2017, Black Friday weekend attracted 174 million shoppers who spent an average of $335.47, according to the NRF.

Thanksgiving Quiche Puts Sweet Potatoes Front and Center

Sweet potatoes are a favorite side dish at Thanksgiving dinner tables. Packed with vitamins, nutrients, fiber, and delectable flavor, sweet potatoes have earned their place on holiday dinner tables. While many holiday hosts bake, fry or mash their sweet potatoes, these beloved tubers can be prepared in other ways as well.

If you want to put a new twist on this Thanksgiving staple, whip up this recipe for “Sweet Potato Quiche,” courtesy of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. Submitted to the NC State Fair Tailgate Recipe Contest by Kristen Frybort, this recipe marries sweet tubers with decadent cheese, rich cream and savory spices.

 
 

Sweet Potato Quiche

Makes 8 servings

2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes

3⁄4 cup yellow onion, diced

21⁄2 tablespoons olive oil

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Black pepper to taste

Egg mixture:

4 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1⁄2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

1⁄2 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

11⁄2 teaspoons salt

1⁄4 teaspoon pepper

3 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded

Pre-baked deep dish pie crust

Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix together the first five ingredients and place on baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. While sweet potatoes and onions are roasting, shred cheese and set aside. Whisk the egg mixture and set aside. Once potatoes and onions have finished roasting, spoon them into the pre-baked pie shell. Next, layer the shredded cheese on top of the sweet potatoes. Reduce oven to 375 F. Pour egg mixture over the cheese and potatoes. Place quiche in the oven on a center rack. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until eggs are set.