Get This: Exercise Can Help You De-Stress

Check out the list of links that should be on your radar today:

Feeling like a giant stress ball? New research provides even more evidence that working out can help. [NYT]

Every time you buy vitamins or supplements at Whole Foods this month, the company will donate 25 cents to Vitamin Angels, an organization that donates Vitamin A to women and children in developing countries. [The Gourmet Retailer]

The App Store turns five tomorrow. To celebrate, Apple is giving away some of its most popular apps for free. [USA Today]

Seventy-five percent of Americans—that’s three out of four people—suffer from severe dehydration, according to a new study. Five reasons to hydrate, stat[Medical Daily]

There’s some crappy news about what’s in your cat’s business. [NPR]

The Princeton alumnae who told undergrad women to find husbands is now publishing a self-help book called SMARTEN UP! Words of Wisdom from the Princeton Mom. Just what we needed! [Gawker]

Rumor has it that a fitness marketing company is suing former Biggest Loser contestant Tara Costa for gaining back some of the weight she lost on the show. At least no one will threaten a lawsuit if you put on a few pounds. [Medical Daily]

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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Short Walks After Meals Can Help Fend Off Diabetes

After dinner, you probably just want to kick off your shoes, curl up on the couch, and fire up your DVR—but here’s why you shouldn’t: Taking a 15-minute post-meal walk can help regulate your blood sugar level and reduce your risk of type-2 diabetes, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS).

In the study, 10 healthy seniors spent three 48-hour spans in a lab. During each session, participants ate the same foods and followed one of three exercise routines: They either walked at an easy-to-moderate pace on a treadmill for 15 minutes after each meal, walked 45 minutes in the morning, or walked 45 minutes in the afternoon. In each of the three scenarios, researchers continuously monitored participants’ blood sugar levels. What they found: The short post-meal walks were more effective at regulating blood sugar levels for up to 24 hours.

Why this is so key: Typically, your body can handle the normal blood sugar fluctuations that occur about 30 minutes after you eat: Your pancreas releases insulin, which sends the sugar to your liver, where it’s stored as fuel. But as you get older (or if you’re inactive throughout the day), your body doesn’t react as efficiently, which leads to prolonged high blood sugar levels, says lead study author Loretta DiPietro, PhD, MPH, chair of the department of exercise science at SPHHS. Over time, this can damage the walls of your cardiovascular system, heighten your risk of getting type 2 diabetes and heart disease, affect brain functioning, and even lead to blindness, she says.

Luckily, exercise triggers muscle contractions that work like insulin. Why are post-meal walks more effective than a single 45-minute stroll at another time? They jump-start this process exactly when your body needs it: When sugar enters the blood stream, says DiPietro.

Can’t swing a walk after every meal? Focus on moving more about 30 minutes after you eat your largest meal of the day or after you eat carbohydrate-rich dishes (like pasta or rice) or super-sweet foods (like donuts and sugary drinks). All of these cause your blood sugar to spike faster and hit higher levels, says DiPietro. Bonus: She says that walking can also help you sidestep that post-meal energy zap—so you’ll actually be able to stay awake when you do sit down to catch up on those DVR’d shows.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from WH:
What Your Blood Test Results Mean
Why Fit People Get Diabetes
The Right Way to Walk

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Get This: You Can Help Feed the Hungry By Running

Check out the list of links that should be on your radar today:

Registration for Women’s Health’s second annual Run 10 Feed 10 event is now open. Sign up to ensure 10 hungry people get meals! [Run 10 Feed 10]

Speaking of which, volunteering regularly can cut your risk of high blood pressure by up to 40 percent. [Mail Online]

Have you heard? Avril Haines just became the first woman to be named CIA Deputy Director. [Newser]

More dads have the option to go on paternity leave—but hardly any are taking advantage of it. [WSJ]

The FDA inspected a Tennessee pharmacy tied to a recent outbreak of fungal infections—and the results weren’t pretty. [NBC]

Young girls who are exposed to high levels of BPA may be more likely to become obese, according to a new study. [CBS News]

A new app called LuLu lets women rate men based on how good they are in bed, Yelp-style. So wrong. [Jezebel]

This guy spent $ 5,000 on plastic surgery to look as much like Ryan Gosling as possible. We think he’s hot, too, but that’s a little extreme. [Huffington Post]

One man refused to pay a $ 70 restaurant bill—and ended up being sentenced to three years in prison. Because that sounds reasonable. [Grub Street New York]

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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How Yoga Can Help You On the Job

Every time you speak up in front of your boss, your mind zeros in on all the ways you might mess up. Sound familiar? There’s a simple way to keep your cool: Practicing 20 minutes of Hatha yoga before a big presentation can reduce anxiety and help you focus, according to a new study published in Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

For the study, researchers conducted two experiments with 30 undergraduate women. In the first experiment, participants were shown a series of arrows on a screen and asked to press the button that corresponded with the direction the arrow pointed. On the first day of this test, the participants did no physical activity beforehand. On the second, they did a 20-minute treadmill workout, and on the third they did 20 minutes of Hatha yoga, a broad term used to describe any kind of yoga that incorporates physical postures and deep breathing (Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and Iyengar are all considered forms of Hatha yoga). In the second experiment, participants were asked to look at a series of shapes and use a keypad to indicate whether they’d seen the shape before. In both tasks, participants performed significantly better after doing yoga than they did after doing aerobic exercise or no exercise.

“Yoga is a mind-body activity,” says study author Neha Gothe, PhD, kinesiology professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. “The mental exercises in yoga reduce anxiety and stress, and that in itself can lead to better cognitive performance.” What’s more, when you do yoga correctly, you focus on your breath and movements and suppress distracting thoughts, which teaches you to become more present in the moment, she says.

Previous research has shown that regular aerobic exercise—even walking—can boost your brain’s performance. But unlike the benefits of aerobic exercise, which take a while to kick in, yoga has a pretty immediate effect on your mind—so you’ll feel it just 30 minutes after you say “Namaste,” says Gothe.

The next time you’re facing a stressful event, try the 20-minute yoga sequence used in the study: You should aim to do it about 30 to 40 minutes before the stressful event to reduce anxiety and improve your focus. Perform the first eight poses in a sequence, holding each position for about 30 seconds. Then repeat the sequence on the other side before you progress to the final resting pose.

1. Standing Forward Bend
a. Stand up straight with your big toes touching in mountain pose. Bring your hands to prayer position in front of your chest.
b. Then inhale and lift your chest, arms, and gaze up. As you exhale, fold forward from your hips, keeping your spine straight and your hips directly over your ankles.
c. Bring your palms to the floor if possible, lining your fingers up with your toes.
d. Inhale as you come up onto your fingertips, lift your chest, lengthen the front of your spine, and gaze slightly forward. Then exhale as you place your palms back on the floor and lower your chest back toward your thighs and head toward your knees. Hold for three to five breaths.
e. Inhale, come onto your fingertips, lift your chest, and gaze forward. Then place your hands on your hips and return to mountain pose, keeping your spine straight as you come up. Bring your hands to prayer position.

2. Tree Pose

a. Begin in mountain pose.
b. Lift your right foot off the floor, turn your right knee out to side and place sole of your right foot on your inner left thigh anywhere between your knee (not on it, above it) and your groin. Gently press your foot into your leg and your leg into your foot as you reach your left foot into the floor. Hold for three to five breaths.
c. Extend your arms overhead if you like. Trying various arm positions can test your balance further. Or close your eyes. Hold for another three to five breaths.
d. When you’re ready to come out of the pose, release your right foot from your left leg, turn your right knee to point straight in front of you, and lower your feet and hands.

3. Triangle Pose

a. Begin in mountain pose.
b. Step your legs about 4 feet apart. Turn your right toes out 90 degrees. Lift your arms out to the sides at shoulder height, parallel to the floor, palms facing down.
c. Extend your right arm way out to the right and tilt your hips so your tailbone points toward your left heel. Then keeping the right side of your torso long, reach your right hand to the floor outside your ankle or calf.
d. Extend your left arm up in line with your right arm and turn your head to look at your left thumb. Hold for three to five breaths. Rotate your right glute under as you open your left hip more toward the ceiling. With each inhale extend your spine longer, and with each exhale rotate your chest open toward the ceiling. Keep your collarbones broad and your shoulders away from your ears.
e. To come out of the pose, engage your abs to lift your torso upright, keeping your arms extended. Turn your right foot back to parallel to your left foot and step or jump your feet together. Lower your arms.

4. Reverse Triangle Pose

a. Begin in mountain pose.
b. Step your legs about 4 feet apart. Turn your right toes out 90 degrees. Lift your arms out to the sides to shoulder height, parallel to the floor, palms facing down.
c. Extend your right arm way out to the right and rotate your hips so they are parallel with the front of your mat. Then bend at the waist and reach your left hand to the floor outside your ankle or calf.
d. Extend your right arm up in line with your left arm and turn your head to look at your right thumb. Hold for three to five breaths. With each inhale extend your spine longer, and with each exhale rotate your chest open toward the wall behind you. Keeping your collarbones broad and your shoulders away from your ears.
e. To release the twist, engage your abs to lift your torso upright, keeping your arms extended. Turn your right foot back to parallel to your left foot and step or jump your feet together. Lower your arms.

5. Downward Facing Dog

a. Begin in a pushup position with your arms and legs fully extended (wrists directly under shoulders) contract your core and abdominal muscles.
b. Slowly exhale and shift your weight backward by pushing your hips up and back. Continue moving until your body forms an inverted V, allowing your head to hang loosely between your shoulders. Keep your arms and legs extended, and be sure to maintain a neutral (flat) spine.

6. Easy Camel Pose

a. Begin by kneeling. Stack your hips directly above your knees, your shoulders above your hips, and your ears over your shoulders. Curl your toes under.
b. Place your palms on the small of your back, fingertips facing up. If that’s uncomfortable, turn your fingertips toward the floor.
c. As you inhale, lengthen your spine, expand your chest, and let your breastbone and ribcage float up away from your waist.
d. Lift your upper back and imagine you’re bending back over a beach ball. Reach one hand at a time for your heels (or blocks placed next to your ankles).
e. Now arch your upper back to its maximum bend. Keep your hips aligned over your ankles by pushing your pelvis forward and tilting your hipbones up, as you reach your big toes back. Take five full breaths here, letting your head drop back; if that strains your neck, tuck your chin toward your chest and relax your face.
f. To come out of the pose, bring both hands to your lower back and on an inhale use your core to lift your body back up.

7. Hare Pose
a. Sitting on your heels with your toes pointed behind you, sit up straight and relax your upper body.
b. Inhale and raise both arms straight up above your head.
c. Keeping your back straight, and butt on your heels, exhale as you bend forward from the waist until your arms and forehead touch the floor.
d. Relax the whole body, especially the shoulders, neck and back.
e. Inhale and raise the upper body and arms back to the starting position

8. Sun Salutation
Begin in mountain pose with your back straight, legs and feet together, and arms to your sides
a. Inhale as you raise your arms straight up overhead and bring your palms together.
b. Exhale as you extend from your hips to fold your torso forward and move your hands down to the floor
c. Inhale, keep your hands down, but raise your head and chest slightly and gaze forward
d. Exhale, and step back into Plank pose with your arms and legs straight, your hands on the floor beneath your shoulders, your core engaged, and your back straight
e. Bend your elbows and lower toward the floor into a pushup position, keeping your elbows tucked close to your body
f. Inhale as you roll over your toes and, using your arms, press away from the floor and lift your chest into Upward-Facing Dog
g. Exhale as you roll your toes back over and lift and press your hips back into Downward-Facing Dog
h. Take five breaths in Downward-Facing Dog. Inhale and gaze forward as you lengthen back into your legs and bend your knees. Exhale as you step or jump your feet forward to meet your hands. Inhale as you extend your gaze and chest. Exhale as you fold forward over your legs
i. Inhale as you extend your arms wide to the sides, lift your chest, come all the way up to standing, and press your palms overhead. Exhale as you release your arms and return to mountain pose.

9. Deep Breathing in Lotus Pose (4 minutes)
a. Sitting with your legs out stretched in front of you and your back straight, take your right foot and place it up on the left thigh, draw your right heel toward your left hip joint with your sole facing up.
b. Bring your left foot on top of your right thigh, and draw your left heel toward your right hip joint, so your left sole is facing up.
c. Press both ankles firmly down into the thighs and lengthen your spine.
d. Keep your hands on your knees or touch your thumbs to your index fingers, extending the other fingers.


photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from WH:
The Best Yoga Moves for Women
4 Slimming Yoga Poses
The Right Kind of Yoga For You


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Get This: Grapefruits May Help Cure Cancer

Check out the list of links that should be on your radar today:

Nanoparticles from grapefruits may help treat cancer, according to new research. [The Daily Meal]

Soon, high-tech medicine bottles might be able to help you remember to take your Rx as directed. [WSJ]

You’ve got to check out the Obama prom pictures that recently surfaced. [TIME]

New research finds that stressful days are also your not-hot days. [Fox News]

People on cholesterol-lowering statins may not reap the same benefits from exercise that people not on the medication do. [NYT]

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting three to six major hurricanes this season. [Yahoo News]

A disturbing new study suggests that you need to be an office bully to get ahead. [TIME]

If you’re looking for a new job, good news: Soulja Boy needs a social media intern. [Jezebel]

A dress with the face of Jason Alexander (aka George Costanza from Seinfeld) on it is surprisingly popular. [The Daily Beast]

Photo: iStockphoto/ThinkStock

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Eating Peppers Might Help Prevent Parkinson’s

What if keeping your nervous system healthy—and functioning properly—was as easy as tweaking your lunch? A new study suggests that this might be the case: Eating more peppers may lower your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study published in the journal Annals of Neurology.

Parkinson’s disease, which affects as many as one million people in the U.S., is a movement disorder that is often hard to diagnose and gets worse over time. The actual cause is unknown, but Parkinson’s develops when neurons in your brain that are responsible for producing dopamine, a hormone that helps regulate movement in your body, malfunction and die. Symptoms include tremors, slowed movement, stiffness, and instability. Pretty scary stuff—especially since there’s no known cure.

Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle asked 490 newly-diagnosed participants and 644 participants without the disease (who were used as controls) to share their dietary habits and tobacco use. The more participants filled up on foods from the Solanaceae plant family—which includes peppers, tomatoes, tomato juice, and potatoes—the lower their risk for Parkinson’s. Peppers in particular seemed to be the most effective: Eating them two to four times or more per week was associated with about a 30 percent reduced risk of developing the disease.

So why the focus on this particular plant? Past research suggests that the nicotine in cigarettes—which is derived from the same plant family that produces peppers—can help reduce your risk of Parkinson’s. The obvious problem with that is the host of other health issues that cigarette smoking can cause. Luckily, edible nicotine seems to thwart the disease—without compromising your health in other ways. It’s also worth noting that, in this study, the reduced risk associated with eating these foods occurred mostly in men and women who reported never having smoked tobacco or only did so for a short period of time.

For a delicious way to pump up your pepper intake, whip up these recipes.

Red Pepper and Feta Turkey Burger

Photo: Levi Brown

 Roasted Pepper-Corn Pasta Salad

Photo: Con Poulos

Lemon Shrimp with Roasted Peppers

Photo: Con Poulos

Rip-Roarin’ Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

Photo: Kenji Toa

Pepper Steak Soup

Photo: Mitch Mandel

Balsamic Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Salad

Photo: Kurt Wilson
Photo (top): iStockphoto/Thinkstock
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New Guidelines Issued to Help Assault Victims

Huge news for victims of rape and sexual assault: The U.S. Department of Justice just released a new set of guidelines for how medical personnel should respond to assaults. The provisions, updated for the first time since 2004, give detailed advice on how to administer a sexual assault forensic exam (used by hospitals to provide medical care to the victim and collect evidence). The guidelines seek to address the latest research on the full psychological and physical consequences of sexual assault, as well as incorporate the latest advances in forensic science and medical care.

Keep in mind that these are just guidelines, though—hospitals don’t have to adopt them. But they do serve as an important reference for states, hospitals, and other facilities that help rape victims. “I do think it will be used to improve care, and people will look to it as a model,” says Barbara Sheaffer, medical advocacy coordinator for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. “I think there will be a lot of follow-through on it,” agrees Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

So what are the major changes to the guidelines? Here’s what you need to know:

If you’re admitted to the hospital after being raped, your safety and wellbeing should take precedence over evidence collection. This is the biggest difference from the original guidelines established in 2004, which focused more on helping the justice department prosecute the perpetrator. This is a win-win for victims and law enforcement: Prioritizing the victim’s needs actually increases the odds that he or she will cooperate with police later. The hope is that a gentler, more victim-centric approach will make it easier to nab offenders and promote the healing of victims.

If you’re unsure whether you want to report the crime to police, you shouldn’t be pressured to do so. The new guidelines state that victims should call the shots about reporting, unless the victim is a minor (in which case many states are required to report the crime). No matter what you decide, you will be encouraged to have a forensic medical exam anyway. The exam will check you for injuries, provide protection against possible STDs and pregnancy, and collect evidence in case you choose to report the crime later.

During the exam, you should be offered emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy. It may sound like a no-brainer, but this is actually new advice: The 2004 guidelines were less explicit about telling hospitals to do this. If your health care provider has moral or religious objections to giving you the morning-after pill, he or she should at least tell you where you can get access to it ASAP. (Keep in mind: Plan B is most effective if taken within 120 hours of an assault.)

Use of alcohol or drugs should not mean that your assault is taken any less seriously. You know that rape is rape, regardless of whether you were drunk at the time, but it’s encouraging that it’s been added to the guidelines. Medical personnel should treat you with the same urgency and care, regardless of the circumstances surrounding your assault.

Hospitals should be sensitive to the unique needs of members of different groups. The new guidelines take care to describe the circumstances of certain populations so that hospital staff can better tailor their response to each victim—whether they’re older, disabled, American Indian or Alaska Native, or LGBT. “It’s acknowledging that violence cuts across all people, all groups,” says Shaeffer.

photo: Fuse/Thinkstock

More From Women’s Health:
How to Support Women—and Yourself
Is Your Partner Emotionally Abusive?
Slutwalk Heads to DC to “End Rape Culture”

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The Dinner That Could Help You Live Longer

As if you really needed convincing, here’s one more reason to order that salmon avocado roll: Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and death in adults over age 65, according to a new study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Most observational studies on the topic have relied on self-reported fish consumption. But for this long-term observational study, researchers examined the blood levels of three kinds of omega-3s in about 2,700 participants aged 65 and older. The study tracked those participants for 16 years, and the participants with the highest omega-3 levels in their blood lived, on average, 2.2 years longer than those with the lowest levels.

The people with the highest blood omega-3 levels also had a 27 percent lower risk of dying from all causes when compared to the people with the lowest blood omega-3 levels. The risk of death from coronary heart disease in particular was significantly lower.

While this study followed older adults, the findings are relevant to younger people, as well, says lead study researcher Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, doctor of public health and an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “If you start at a young age and eat fish your whole life, the benefits could be even greater,” he says.

That’s particularly true since the good news about seafood keeps rolling in: In a study presented today at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting, omega-3 were shown to considerably slow or even stop the proliferation of triple-negative breast cancer cells. Another new animal study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggests that fish oil has immune-boosting benefits and may be good for people with a compromised immune system.

So how much fish should you eat if you want to reap its health benefits? Try for an average of 400 milligrams per day, which you can get if you have fish twice per week, says Mozaffarian. (The omega-3s get into your tissues and last for several days, so you don’t have to eat it every single day.) Keep in mind that omega-3 content varies among the different fish species; fatty types like salmon, herring, anchovies, bass, trout, white tuna, and swordfish pack the most.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
A Healthy Diet Contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Do You Really Need an Omega-3 Supplement?
WH Ranks the Most Healthy Fish and Seafood

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