Category: Advice

Resolve to Read More and Reap the Benefits

It may be tempting to curl up on the couch and turn on the television to unwind, but research indicates that reading is one of the best workouts for the brain. The World Health Organization says that doctors diagnose nearly 10 million new cases of dementia each year. With so many people understandably concerned about any and all cognitive issues related to aging, the search is continually on to find ways to strengthen the mind’s muscle. It may be as simple as picking up a book.

People make New Year’s resolutions to improve their lives, and reading more can be a great way to do just that. According to the online health and wellness resource The Healthy (www.thehealthy.com), reading has been associated with language reception in the left temporal cortex of the brain. When this part of the brain processes written material, neurons begin working hard to transmit information. Research conducted by Stanford University indicated that MRI scans of people who are deep into a Jane Austen novel showed an increase in blood flowing to areas of the brain that control both cognitive and executive function.

When the brain is working efficiently, it may be less prone to some of the issues that can cause a decline in memory and brain function. Research published in the journal Neurology found frequent brain exercise through reading lowered mental decline by 32 percent. Of course, the benefits of reading extend beyond the physical. Literary fiction can help people be more empathetic. Getting lost in a book and the characters’ stories makes others more relatable. Reading has the potential to help a person understand what people are thinking, offers research published in the journal Science.

Picking up a good book also can help a person gain knowledge of new cultures, ideas and history and even improve vocabulary. Picking up a newspaper or magazine, joining a book club or reading with children are just a few of the many ways to improve the mind through reading.

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.

Learn How to Carve a Better Pumpkin

Toothy grins and a mesmerizing orange glow help make jack-o’-lanterns captivating sights come Halloween. Pumpkin carving is an autumn tradition and runs the gamut of simple designs to more intricate artwork worthy of any medium. Although anyone can grab a pumpkin and get started, when done correctly, jack-o’-lantern designs can last for several days.

• Start with a fresh pumpkin. Look for pumpkins that have a thick, green stem. These usually are fresh and haven’t been handled much. A thick stem also may indicate fleshier pumpkin walls that can be carved more easily. Avoid pumpkins that are soft or full of blemishes, or those that have dried, shriveled stems.

• Cut a hole in the back. Rather than impeding the structural integrity of the pumpkin by cutting off the top and the stem for interior access, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin. This will still make it easy to reach inside and clean out the pumpkin.

• Scoop out the pulp and seeds. Be sure to thoroughly clean the inside of the pumpkin. Leaving the pulpy, stringy matter and seeds inside can cause the pumpkin to rot that much faster and produce a foul odor. Scoopers, spoons and even hand shovels can help.

• Keep it cool. Heat can adversely affect carved pumpkins, so work in a cool area and store the pumpkin in a cold garage or refrigerator if you need a few extra days before displaying it. Also, carving experts suggest using an electric light inside rather than a candle; by using a candle, you’re essentially cooking the pumpkin from the inside.

• Work in your lap. When carving faces or intricate designs, looking down onto the pumpkin provides more control.

• Don’t cut all the way through. Many pumpkin designers end up shaving or scraping off the outer rind of the pumpkin, but leave a delicate orange film underneath. Light can still shine through, but the design will not collapse on itself as easily if you were to cut straight through the pumpkin wall. Experiment with different tools to achieve the desired look.

• Maintain the freshness. Rubbing exposed areas of the pumpkin flesh with petroleum jelly may help keep the pumpkin moist. Some designs will last for a few days. However, since pumpkins are highly perishable, it’s wise to wait to carve until a day or two before putting a pumpkin on display.

How to Store Fresh Apples

Apples are a popular fruit that are grown in different places around the world. Come autumn, apples can be seen filling farm stands and supermarkets all over North America. Apples are available year-round, but many apple lovers insist there’s nothing better than plucking an apple directly off the tree in the fall. Apple orchards and pick-your-own farms are visited each autumn by apple lovers anxious for apples’ tart and juicy taste. Many people pick more apples than they can eat in a few days, so it pays to learn how to store apples properly so none of them go to waste.

Start by picking a variety of apple that won’t go bad too quickly. Apple growers can make suggestions, but Jonathan, Rome, Fuji, and Granny Smith varieties tend to last longer than other varieties. Choose apples that are free of blemishes or soft spots. The adage that “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch” bears some truth. Apples give off ethylene gas as they decay, and a rotting apple can quickly affect nearby apples.

A good place to store apples in the short-term is in the refrigerator where it is cool. Put the apples in the crisper drawer. Do not store them with vegetables, as the apples may cause the veggies to ripen or rot prematurely. If you plan on long-term storage, a few extra steps are necessary. Apples need to be individually wrapped so they will not come in contact with other apples. Newsprint works great; just be sure to pick the pages that are done in black ink because colored ink may contain heavy metals. Once wrapped, place each apple in a container padded with more newspaper. Store this container in a cool place, such as a garage, root cellar or screened-in porch. Apples can last a couple of months if stored in this manner. Keep apples away from potatoes, as potatoes can cause the fruit to prematurely decay.

Another way to store apples is to turn them into preserves or apple sauce. By boiling the apples and sealing them shut in canning jars, that fresh apple taste can be enjoyed long after the apples are picked. Consult with a canning expert about the right way to begin the process. Fruits are generally canned using a boiling-water canner. However, some fruits, like apples, can be canned with a pressure canner. Because apples tend to discolor when the flesh meets the air, use a little lemon juice to prevent this while canning. Turning apples into candied apples also can help them keep longer. Apples can be dipped into a sugary coating, caramel or toffee to be enjoyed later on. Of course, you always can bake apples into a pie as well, then freeze the pie for another day.

Autumn would be incomplete without apples. Get ready for apple season by developing a storage plan before you visit the orchard.

Tips for Grabbing the Best Deals on School Clothes

Children and parents often look forward to the dawn of a new school year. But before the first homeroom session can take place, parents may need to take their students clothes shopping.

According to a 2018 survey by Deloitte, parents spend an average of $510 per household on apparel, school supplies, electronic gadgets, and other items for their kids’ return to school. The back-to-school season runs from July through September, during which American households alone spend $27.6 billion, which is second only to the holiday season in regard to the most lucrative times for retailers.

Apparel is a large part of back-to-school shopping. Many parents find they need to outfit their kids with a new wardrobes each year. Jeans and leggings that fit like a glove in June may only reach mid-calf by Labor Day. To make the shopping process less harried and more productive, parents can employ these strategies.

Take inventory

Go through kids’ wardrobes and see what can be salvaged and what might need to go. This is the perfect opportunity to put aside gently used, outgrown items that may be passed on to someone else who can use them. Be sure to make a list of any items that the school requires, particularly in regard to uniforms or dress codes. By knowing what’s in stock in the closet, you’ll have a clear idea of what you need to buy.

Check for tax-free discounts

Some states or cities offer tax-free or discount shopping incentives, which can add up to considerable savings. It may be well worth the effort to stock up on necessities during these times.

Sign up for loyalty programs

If yours is a child who prefers certain brands, sign up early in the year for such brands’ loyalty clubs. For example, the popular retailer Hollister has Club Cali that, with each purchase, grants points toward discounts. Plus, you may be privy to sale advertisements before the general public.

Get enough to get by

While certain clothing sales happen between July and August, oftentimes the real savings begin in October, according to the budgeting resource Money Crashers. Wait until that time to buy the bulk of kids’ school clothes. After all, the first weeks of school are usually warm, and summer clothing will still suffice with a few new items thrown in to freshen up wardrobes.

Invest in quality shoes

Sneakers and other shoes can be expensive. However, investing in quality brands can help you avoid having to buy shoes frequently. Watch for shoe sales and stock up on coupons. Many stores offer “buy-one, get-one half off” during the back-to-school season. In addition to these tips, save more by shopping overstock stores or warehouse clubs for name-brand items at lower prices.

How to Easily Maximize Coupon Savings

Many items, including food and clothing, can strain a budget. As a result, many shoppers make it their mission to save money on their purchases, and coupons can be a great way to do just that.

According to a 2014 survey from the discount coupon site RetailMeNot, 96 percent of respondents regularly use coupons. In fact, Hawk Incentives, another deal resource, found that 40 percent of coupon users feel smarter when taking advantage of a deal. While there are some people who use coupons periodically, an entirely different type of shopper has mastered the art of maximizing coupon savings. Learning how to follow such shoppers’ lead can save consumers substantial sums of money.

• Look for deals in your local newspaper. Begin by perusing newspaper inserts from local papers and match up the circulars to the stores you frequently visit. Pick the best deals you can find for products you actually use. You will not be saving money if you clip and utilize coupons but end up buying items that you don’t need and/or won’t use.

• See if you can stack coupons. Some stores will enable you to use both a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon at the same time. This is called stacking. Shop at stores that allow stacking to get better deals, particularly on food.

• Use discount code sites. Regularly check sites and apps like RetailMeNot for codes for favorite retailers. This is easily done before you head to the check-out line. Popular stores frequently run deals, and you may not realize there is a discount even if you’re in the store already. Oftentimes codes can be scanned directly from your phone. Other apps and resources enable you to load offers directly to a store rewards card. Investigate these possibilities for more savings.

• Automatically update your shopping cart. When making purchases online, utilize a plug-in site like Honey, which automatically scans its database of usable discount codes for the retailer you’re using. See if there are any applicable codes that can earn you a discount on the spot. If not, Honey will tell you that you have the best price.

• Sign up for mailing lists. While you may not want to inundate your inbox with spam, retailer newsletters and mailing lists will inform you about discounts and sales others may not know about. If you’re concerned about your email program getting flooded, designate a filter that will group these promotions into a separate folder.

• Keep coupons close. Coupons are only good if they’re available for use. Have a holder for print coupons or store digital coupons in a folder on your phone that can be easily accessed.

With these strategies in mind, consumers can increase their coupon savings considerably.

Sunglasses Buyers’ Guide

Blue skies and ample sunshine help makes summer special. Come summer, many people spend more time enjoying recreational pursuits and everything seems a bit more laid back. Even though people may take a more relaxed attitude in summer, the National Eye Institute says people should wear sunglasses that block UV radiation whenever they head outdoors in daylight hours. This is essential for men, women and children. Sunglasses are necessary during the times of day when the sun’s rays are at their strongest, but wearing them anytime the sun is out can protect one’s vision.

Sunglasses present a great defense against UV rays that can cause short- and long-term eye damage, states the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Diseases such as cataracts, cancer and growths on the eye all can result from prolonged exposure to UV rays, which can damage the eye’s surface tissues as well as the cornea and lens. Prolonged exposure to UV rays also may affect retinal cells. When purchasing sunglasses to protect the eyes, consumers should consider these important factors.

• Ultimate protection: The American Optometric Association says that sunglasses should offer 100 percent protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Some glasses will simply list a numerical indicator. In such instances, sunglasses that offer protection against UV 400, which will encompass the wavelengths for both UVA and UVB rays, are best.

• Buy from a reputable retailer. Not all sunglasses live up to their claims. Sunglasses sold at doctors’ offices, department stores and sunglass speciality shops often meet the standards for protection, advises The Vision Council, a trade organization for the optical industry.

• Choose tint for activity. Tint will not affect UV protection, but it can make certain activities more enjoyable. Darker lenses may help at the beach, where there is more reflective light. Orange or yellow lenses increase contrast while driving or fishing. On cloudy days, amber or rose lenses can help improve contrast. Customers should choose a tint that makes them feel comfortable.

• Polarized lenses help fight glare. Polarized lenses and those with anti-reflective coatings can alleviate glare. Such lenses work by only letting in specific amounts of light at certain angles, which helps to reduce the brightness of that light, says the Discovery Eye Foundation.

• Go big. Bigger frames or wrap-around designs can further block UV light from different angles, particularly the side of the eye. Consumers should consider various factors when shopping for their next pair of sunglasses.

For more eye safety tips for the summer , visit www.aao.org.