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4 common mistakes keeping you from a good night’s sleep

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Do you wake up in the morning feeling tired, even if you went to bed early? Do you struggle to feel well rested? Is it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep all night? You’re not alone.

Healthy adults generally need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, although sleep quality is just as important as sleep quantity. If your sleep is frequently interrupted, you’re not getting quality sleep. This can have a tremendous effect on your mental and physical health.

To get a good night’s rest, there are many things that often get overlooked. Mayo Clinic health experts weigh in on four of the most common mistakes that keep people from a good night’s rest.

1. Ignoring sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to your sleep lifestyle and the choices you make that either facilitate or restrict quality rest. Common lifestyle mistakes that often inhibit sleep include eating heavy meals before bed or drinking caffeine too late in the day. Additionally, establishing a sleep routine is essential for telling your mind and body it’s time to rest. This includes going to bed at the same time each night and minimizing exposure to light at bedtime, especially the glow coming off your favorite technology. Turn off media 30 minutes to an hour before bed so you can wind down and settle in.

2. Causes of insomnia

Insomnia is defined as having problems getting to sleep or staying asleep three nights a week or more for at least three months. Some insomnia is due to medical issues, such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. Once medical causes are ruled out, it’s important to look at habits that might be facilitating insomnia. One common mistake is people spend too much time doing things other than sleep in the bedroom. If you get into bed and don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and go to another room. When your eyes get heavy and your head starts to bob, get back into bed. This trains your brain to associate bed with sleep.

3. Overusing sleep aids

Many people reach for sleep aids to get a good night’s rest, but doing so regularly is not recommended. Most over-the-counter sleep aids contain antihistamines, and people often build a tolerance to them. That means they lose their effectiveness the longer you take them. What’s more, OTC sleep aids often leave you feeling groggy in the morning as your body attempts to wake from the sleep hangover. They do not provide the feeling of restorative sleep that most people want to achieve.

4. Taking naps

If you don’t sleep well, you may decide to take an afternoon nap. Chance are, you don’t sleep well again and do the same thing the next day. It can be an endless cycle. Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you choose to nap, limit yourself to up to 30 minutes and avoid doing so late in the day (try right after lunch, for example). Instead of napping, do some physical activity. It can help energize your body and will tire you for later in the day. The only consideration is to avoid exercising too late in the day as it can wake your body and make it difficult to fall asleep.

These four common mistakes can easily be corrected at home, but if you continue to have trouble with sleep, consider requesting an appointment with a Mayo Clinic specialist at www.mayoclinic.org/appointments.

Health & Fitness

Your summertime prescription: Sweet cherries

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This summer, don’t be surprised if dietitians point you to one of Mother Nature’s sweetest treats to remedy a variety of ailments: sweet cherries. These bright, glossy orbs are in season for only a short time, so don’t pass them up while they’re at their freshest and, arguably, most flavorful. Not only do they make a refreshing snack that beats the heat when eaten chilled, but they pack a mighty nutritional punch for their compact size.

Containing high concentrations of nutrients and bioactive components — such as fiber, polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamin C and potassium — sweet cherries have long been touted for certain health benefits. A new review of nearly 30 published studies confirms that this small stone fruit can help tackle some big wellness issues. Read on to learn how sweet cherries can play a part in improving five common concerns.

1. Oxidative stress

Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals and antioxidants are out of balance in your body. Under normal conditions, free radicals help the body by fighting off pathogens that can lead to infection or disease. But when antioxidants are far outnumbered, free radicals can go rogue and attack the body’s fatty tissue, protein or even DNA. Once compromised, the body becomes more susceptible to various diseases over time, such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, to name a few.

Sweet cherries are rich in polyphenols and vitamin C, which have powerful antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that eating sweet cherries can increase antioxidant capacity and reduce oxidative stress, bringing the body back into a healthy balance.

2. Inflammation

If you’re among the 54 million Americans who suffer from arthritis or another rheumatic disease, sweet cherries may be able to provide some relief. Research shows that the anti-inflammatory properties of cherries can have the same effect as ibuprofen. “While fresh sweet cherries are hard to beat, frozen or dried cherries are a great alternative for incorporating the health benefits of sweet cherries year-round. They retain the sweet cherry nutrients and are a beautiful addition to everything from salads to cocktails!” said Mia Syn, registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN).

3. Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis, and sufferers tend to experience severe pain, redness and tenderness in their joints. The condition is associated with elevated levels of uric acid in the blood, levels that have been reduced with a diet incorporating sweet cherries. A recent study with gout patients found a 35 percent lower risk of gout attacks among those who consumed sweet cherry products over two days. When eating sweet cherries was combined with their prescribed medicine, specifically allopurinol, the risk of a gout attack was 75 percent lower.

4. Sleep

A good night’s sleep is essential to functioning at top form during the day. With sweet cherries, you have a reliable source of tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin. Tryptophan is necessary to the development of serotonin, which, in turn, plays an important role in regulating sleep as well as mood and appetite. Adequate levels of serotonin can contribute to feelings of well-being, while depression has been linked to low measures. Additionally, melatonin helps maintain your body’s internal clock, regulating your sleep and wakefulness patterns.

Studies have shown that the consumption of sweet cherries enhances sleep quality and quantity, and mood and anxiety also show improvement. What’s the best time to eat sweet cherries to get this boost? Researchers say enjoying the fruit about an hour before bedtime can help stabilize your sleep cycle.

5. Blood pressure

Finally, studies point to a link between the consumption of sweet cherries and a lowering of blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic measures. Prolonged consumption of cherries is connected with a decrease in a potent vasoconstrictor, a compound that narrows blood vessels and restricts blood flow. Sweet cherries have also been shown to increase the effectiveness of vasodilators, which help widen blood vessels and bring blood pressure down.

Small steps toward big pay-offs

Making small dietary and lifestyle changes can result in big health pay-offs. Adding sweet cherries to your diet can make a near-term impact on common complaints, and it can reduce risks for other illnesses — such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes — down the road. Best of all, sweet cherries add color, flavor and nutrition to your life without adding guilt.

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Health & Fitness

5 fantastic energy-boosting snacks for fitness success

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As marathon season approaches, many people are focused on training. Building up endurance is key, but you can’t do that without the fuel your body needs. Wholesome energy-boosting snacks are essential for keeping up the pace, whether you’re focused on a 5K or full marathon.

There are a variety of runs across the country to suit every type of runner. Fun runs vary in size and can be found in communities from coast to coast. Themed runs are also plentiful.

Whether you’re a new or experienced runner, completing your goal will make you feel accomplished. To help your body feel and perform at its best, you need to give it the right foods. These smart, tasty snacks will help give you sustained energy with loads of nutrients important to any fitness practice.

Bananas: The cheerful color and built-in packaging are just the start. Bananas are a good source of potassium, which helps prevent cramping. Plus, they are a wonderful source of natural sugars (the good kind) and carbohydrates, which help provide sustained energy. It’s a common misconception that bananas aren’t as healthy due to the higher sugar content; however, the natural sugars in bananas come with fiber, which slows digestion and gives the body time to use it as fuel instead of storing it as fat. Grab a bunch of Chiquita bananas at the store and you have a convenient pre-workout snack or perfect addition to your recovery shake.

Cottage cheese: Scoop up some of this white wonder and enjoy with your favorite fruit or a sprinkle of your preferred herbs. You can also add a satisfying crunch by sprinkling in omega-rich cashews or almonds. Cottage cheese is packed with protein, so it helps you feel full longer, essential for long runs (or simply long days full of to-dos). For fitness folks, this protein helps assist in rebuilding and repair of muscles during training periods.

Smoothies: Refreshing, energizing and perfectly customizable, smoothies feel more like a treat than a healthy snack. Yet these cold concoctions are perfect as pre- or post-workout foods or even as a meal replacement when on the go. You can use milk or juice as a liquid base and then add in fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables as desired. For a lip-smacking smoothie with just four ingredients, follow this recipe:

Quick Protein Power Chiquita Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

1 whole Chiquita Banana, sliced
1.5 ounces low-fat Greek yogurt
1/8 cup fresh pineapple juice
1/4 cup orange juice

Directions: Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Makes one serving.

Edamame: More than just a delicious appetizer at your favorite sushi joint, edamame is an ideal workout snack. The tasty green soybeans you pluck from the pod are a good source of protein, iron and B vitamins. What’s more, the heart-healthy isoflavones support bone health. So dig in and enjoy with a dash of sea salt and a big glass of water. It’s perfect when you’re craving a salty snack so you can avoid the junk.

Chocolate milk: If you don’t run, you probably think chocolate milk is just for kids. In reality, chocolate milk has almost a cult-like following in the endurance sports world. It’s rich in calcium to keep bones strong, particularly important for runners. Plus it has protein and carbohydrates to keep you fueled. Reward yourself with this sweet treat after a run and you’ll feel satisfied all around.

With these snacking tips top of mind, you’ll be fueled and feeling your best to start aiming for your personal records!

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Health & Fitness

5 tips for busy women to take charge of their health

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If you’re an American woman today, chances are your busy lifestyle is preventing you from seeking out the regular check-ups and screenings so important to maintaining your health. And that’s true regardless of your economic status or whether you live in a rural, urban or suburban area.

So reports a recent HealthiHer survey showing that only 66 percent of U.S. women ages 30 to 60 feel “somewhat in control” of their own health, although 83 percent are happily managing the health of their families. The study, co-sponsored by Redbook magazine, HealthyWomen and GCI Health, found that a full 77 percent of women in that age group say that their job schedules prevent them from attending regular check-ups.

“Women today wear many hats — they’re wives, mothers, caregivers, employees, business leaders and breadwinners, often at the same time,” says Wendy Lund, CEO of leading communications agency, GCI Health. “Even when it feels like there are not enough hours in the day, we somehow manage to integrate everything in our lives to ‘make it work’ and accomplish insurmountable tasks. And this constant juggling can come at the cost of our own health.”

The good news? The survey also reveals that 79 percent of respondents see positive change as achievable. The HealthiHer movement aims to give women the tools they need to make such changes at home, at work or in their communities. If you’re among those struggling to take good care of yourself because of other obligations, consider how these suggestions might help.

* Truth: You can’t help others without caring for yourself. Why do emergency airline instructions tell you to attach your own oxygen mask first? Because you could otherwise pass out before helping others. That same principle applies to your general health; you must maintain your own energy and well-being so you can stay around to be an effective mom, wife, daughter, sister and/or friend.

* Take stress seriously. While not all stress is bad, long-term unrelieved stress can have major adverse effects on your health, reducing the effectiveness of your immune, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems. Recognize the risks, plan methods for fighting stress and carve out time for exercise, sleep, meditation, yoga and/or other remedies.

* Try online resources. An annual in-person physical is always recommended, but health issues in between check-ups can often be taken care of through online sites that diagnose issues through questionnaires or video chats — then prescribe medicine or other therapies without need of an office visit.

* Make exercise a no-brainer. As the saying goes, sitting is the new smoking. If you don’t make daily movement of some sort a priority in your life (doctors recommend at least 150 minutes of brisk exercise per week) you’re putting your physical and emotional health at substantial risk. Among other benefits, exercise can help prevent diabetes and heart disease while reducing stress, back pain, arthritis, asthma and other common ailments.

* Set health care appointments well ahead. To secure the slots that work best with your schedule, call or go online way ahead of time so you have a wider range of options. Some clinics now offer evening or weekend hours to help those with demanding daytime jobs or roles. Planning ahead, and writing each appointment in ink on your family calendar, helps ensure you’ll make your own care a priority even if your schedule ramps up.

“It isn’t selfish to put ourselves first, but in all honesty, we know that will never happen, our kids will always come first,” says HealthyWomen CEO Beth Battaglino. “However, can we shoot for second? This is an investment in both our health and the health of our families. Women who don’t take care of themselves are not going to be around or it will affect their ability to care for their loved ones, and this survey revealed that those who don’t make time to get their health screenings, like mammograms, pap tests, eye exams, blood pressure, etc., actually had more health concerns.”

More women’s health tips related to the HealthiHer Movement can be found at HealthyWomen.org or Facebook. Participate in the movement by posting a photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram depicting you taking charge of your health (Use the hashtag #BeHealthiHer).

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