And the Most Obese City Is...

04/10/2014

Obesity-sex-lives-676477-Even though individual states and the nation as a whole have made strides in fighting obesity, 35 percent of adults over 20 are obese. And as you can see on shows like My 600-lb Life, the issue is real and heartbreaking.

Obesity rates vary from region-to-region and even state-to-state, and Gallup and Healthways began measuring obesity rates by city in 2008. This year, their list included the following cities as the slimmest and stoutest in the country:

Least Obese Cities:

  • Boulder, CO: 12.4%
  • Naples-Marco Island, Florida 16.5%
  • Fort Collins-Loveland, CO 18.2%
  • Charlottesville, VA 18.7%
  • Bellingham, WA 18.7%
  • San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos 19.3%
  • Denver-Aurora, CO 19.3%
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 19.5%
  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 19.6%
  • Barnstable Town, MA 19.6%

Most Obese Cities:

  • Rockford, IL: 33%
  • Green Bay, WI: 33%
  • Jackson, MS: 33.8%
  • Clarksville, TN: 33.8%
  • Toledo, OH: 34.6%
  • Charleston, WV: 34.6%
  • Little Rock, AR: 35.1%
  • Yakima, WA: 35.7%
  • Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV: 36.7%
  • McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX: 38.3%
  • Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH: 39.5%

Boulder, Colorado, a notoriously fit city, had the lowest rates of obesity while Huntington, West Virginia, was ranked the most obese city. Did these results surprise you?

Studies show that there are many factors in a city that can affect obesity rates including, but not limited to: dependence on motorized transportation, lack of access to public parks and recreational facilities, lack of access to healthy restaurants and produce. Average income and poverty levels may also play a role.

-- Mara Betsch

More on Healthy Cities:

The 25 Greenest Towns

Top 10 Fittiest Cities

The Healthiest Cities for Women

What Your Bedtime Says About Your Sex Life

04/04/2014

Sleep-basics-242x242We've definitely touched on some of the differences between night owls, those who stay up late and sleep in late, and morning larks, those who go to sleep early and are up with the sunrise. Morning larks are typically introverted, cooperative and logical while night owls are more creative, impulsive and willing to take risks. And a new study is adding yet another difference to this list: their sexual behavior.

A recent University of Chicago found certain similarities between men and women night owls, namely that they are risk-takers and are less likely to be in serious, long-term relationships.

They also discovered that night-owl women had increased levels of the hormone cortisol, which is a stress hormone that stimulates your body's natural alarm system. Men usually have higher levels than women, but the women who burned the midnight oil had similar levels. This may be the reason why night owls tend to stay up late and be more adventurous.

The researchers concluded that night owls have more sex, yet morning larks are more likely to be in lasting relationships.

This difference could also be explained by evolution: the later you stay up, the more time you have to get busy. “Being active in the evening hours increased the opportunities to engage in social and mating activities, when adults were less burdened by work or child-rearing,” lead author Dario Maestripieri told UChicagoNews.

What do you think? Do you agree with these findings?

By Mara Betsch

More on Sleep:

Are You a Night Owl or a Morning Lark?

How Sleep Detoxes Your Brain

Do These 6 Things to Sleep Well Tonight

The 10 Worst Cities for Allergies

04/01/2014

03-allergy-drlWarmer weather is great, but the allergies that come with spring are no picnic! Unfortunately for the 45 million allergy sufferers out there, your city may be worse than others when it comes to allergens.

Taking into account a city's pollen score, allergy medicine usage and the number of board-certified allergists, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) releases an annual Spring Allergy Capitals report, ranking the 100 worst cities for allergies. Below are the top 10:

  1. Louisville, Kentucky
  2. Memphis, Tennessee
  3. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  4. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  5. Jackson, Mississippi
  6. Chattanooga, Tennessee
  7. Dallas, Texas
  8. Richmond, Virginia
  9. Birmingham, Alabama
  10. McAllen, Texas

You'll notice that the south and southeast make up many of the top spots. Tree pollen peaks in the spring, which affects southern states the most, while weed pollen dominates in the fall, making the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions more prone to sneezing and sniffling.

Spring can also be particular brutal when changing temperatures and increased participation can cause a rise mold and tree pollination.

Want to see where your city falls on the list? Here are the full rankings.

But here's the bad news for allergy sufferers: Even though Colorado Springs falls last on this list, it's still not an ideal place for people with allergies. And even cities that don't fall on this list may be difficult for allergy sufferers depending on what they are allergic to.

Your best bet for avoiding allergies is to first figure out what you're allergic to, and then work with an allergist to create an action plan that's specific to you and your lifestyle. Happy spring!

-- Mara Betsch

More on Allergies:

Allergies Versus Asthma

Is It Really Allergies?

How to Survive Allergy Season

 

In Honor of National Proposal Day: 5 Proposals That Will Make You Tear Up

03/19/2014

What were proposals like before the advent of flash mobs, lip-dubs and other tried-and-true viral video tricks? Though some of these tactics are getting to be clichéd, these five videos will melt even the coldest heart. Since March 20 is National Proposal Day, we suggest you indulge in these incredibly sweet and thoughtful proposals. You may want to grab a box of Kleenex first, though!

Lip-Dub Proposal: Watch a bride get serenaded from the back of a Honda CRV (it's way more romantic than it sounds!)

Surprise Ellen Proposal (AKA Further Proof That Ellen Makes Everything Better)

This Sweet Southern Boy Makes a Tissue-Worthy Movie Trailer

Perfect Puppy Marriage Proposal

The Ultimate Marriage Proposal: We're pretty sure this proposal is what girls dream about. It avoids being too cheesy with the perfect amount of humor and a speech straight from the heart.

And don't miss more wedding wonderfulness every Friday on Say Yes To The Dress, starting at 9/8 c.

-- By Mara Betsch

More on Proposals:

A Lip-Dub Performance with 80 of the Bride's BFFs

Surprising Music Video Proposal

Fake Arrest...or Marriage Proposal?

 

Tequila Holds the Secret to Weight Loss?!?

Cocktail-party-on-budget-1Tequila (or any type of alcohol) is not usually part of the most popular diet plans, but the plant that we use to make tequila may actually be the answer to weight loss. That's right, the same agave plant that is used to make hangover-inducing tequila is also used to make helpful natural sugars called agavins. Research presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society found some exciting and interesting results surrounding this sugar.

The scientists who presented shared the results of a study where they fed mice a normal diet except agavins were added to their water. The mice that were fed agavins ate less overall and had lower blood sugar levels. They also began producing a hormone that both satiates you and makes insulin. Even when compared to artificial sweeteners, agavins provided the most impressive results.

So what makes agavins so helpful? Their makeup allows them to act like dietary fiber. You've probably familiar with fiber and its digestive benefits, but it is also a proven blood sugar regulator. Agavins may be able to reduce glucose levels while also boosting insulin in the body. The hormone they trigger may also may help people fill satiated and eat less at meals.

Because the study was performed on rats, there is still more research needed before we make a conclusion, but the results are exciting for diabetics and dieters alike.

Just don't confuse agavins with the sweeter agave nectar, which is altered to be more like high-fructose corn syrup. And, sadly, tequila doesn't contain any agavins, so it won't become a diet miracle worker anytime soon.

-- Mara Betsch

More on Weight Loss:

5 Delicious Juicing Recipes

12 Celebs Who Lost Weight the Healthy Way

Tried-and-True Weight Loss Lessons

10 Deliciously Healthy Green Foods

03/14/2014

Shamrock-plate-668x375Though it's tempting to drink green beer and down a half-dozen sugar cookies topped with green sprinkles, why not consider some healthier fare this St. Patrick's Day. It's no less festive, but it is infinitely healthier! Try these 10 foods that are as nutritious as they are delicious.

Kale: Found on menus everywhere, this healthy veggie is Mother Nature's golden child. Most leafy greens are rich in vitamins K and C, and kale is no exception. These important nutrients have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. Try sautéing this green with olive oil, garlic and a pinch of salt

Avocados: Here's your excuse to load up on guacamole. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, which are proven to improve heart health and may even flatten your tummy. Add these creamy vegetables to sandwiches, salads and even eggs.

Kiwi: This small but mighty fruit has 85 percent of your vitamin C needs and well as generous amounts of fiber. Slice this on top of your cereal for a kick in the morning.

Soybeans: These legumes can be found on the menu of any Japanese menu, and with good reason. They're a great vegetarian source of protein, iron, and fiber – not to mention potassium! Toss them in your stir-fries or steam them in a pod for a healthy snack.

Brussels Sprouts: Lately these green veggies are having a renaissance. They're served as side dishes as restaurants roasted, toasted and with some bacon. With off-the-charts numbers for vitamins K and studies show that they main contain cancer-preventing properties. Roast these suckers with olive oil, salt and pepper for a treat.

Pistachios: Not everything on this list is a vegetable! These nuts make an especially delicious snack, and studies have shown that their high levels of antioxidants may help lower cholesterol

Spinach: Just like kale, this popular salad component is one of the most nutritious on the planet. Along with tons of vitamins A and K, spinach is also a great source of folate, which is an especially important nutrient for pregnant women.

Broccoli: Containing a variety of vitamins, broccoli is also a good source of fiber, which can improve heart health and help you stay slim. Eat it steamed if you can – you get more nutrients that way.

Granny Smith Apples: Apples are good sources of fiber and vitamin C, and they're particular important for weight control. A recent study found that healthy adults who ate a medium-sized apple approximately 15 minutes before a meal ate 15 percent fewer calories at that meal.

Limes: Though you won't have these as a snack, add lime juice to drinks, marinades and more. Rich in vitamin C, some studies show they have antibacterial and immune-boosting properties.

Eat up!

By Mara Betsch

More on Healthy Eating:

Why Eating Veggies May Make You Happier

How to "Trick" Your Kids into Eating Well

Ways Ways to Choose Light Meals at Restaurants

 

The Handy Dandy Tool That May Help You Eat Less

03/13/2014

HAPIfork-Lady
Photo courtesy of HAPIfork


You've probably heard that you should take your time with meals, savoring every bite. But with 8,000 things on your to-do list and family and professional obligations, you rarely get 30 minutes to enjoy your meal. We bet you're more likely to shovel food in your mouth between meetings or bedtimes.

Studies tell us that eating slowly, thoroughly chewing food, and pausing between bites can actually make us less hungry. The idea is that taking time to eat allows your stomach to tell your brain that it's full. Though it's unclear if feeling satiated actually leads to consuming fewer calories, it's a good start to weight maintenance.

If you're like me, and lack the self-control to monitor your fork-to-mouth movements, there is a techy fix. The HAPIFork ($99), a Bluetooth-enabled device, keeps you in check by vibrating and flashing a red light if you aren't pausing long enough between bites (about 10 seconds). You can then download data to see which meals you took your time with and which ones you may have eaten a bit faster. Though it requires willpower to actually listen to what the fork is telling you, it may be a simple way to be more present at meals.

A New York Times writer recently tried it, so watch this video to see how someone would use this tool in real life.

Think this is something you'd try? Or would you rather monitor your eating habits yourself?

By Mara Betsch

More on Weight Loss:

3 Weight Loss Mantras to Live By

Get Your Partner to Help with Dieting

Weight-Loss Jargon That Means ABSOLUTELY Nothing

Are You a Night Owl or Morning Lark?

03/10/2014

Sleep-basics-242x242Daylight Savings occurred early Sunday morning, stealing an hour of sleep, and probably leaving you a little groggy this morning.

But for some night owls, those people who are more alert at night, mornings are always difficult, regardless of the season.

Recent research shows us that there are some fundamental differences between Night Owls and Morning Larks, the term for those who are more alert in the morning. Part of what makes us one or the other depends on our circadian rhythms, or our biological clocks, but we can also choose to override our natural cycles.

In his book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute, Richard Wiseman analyzes results for more than 350 questionnaires and found that Morning Larks and Night Owls often have very different characteristics:

Morning Larks …

  • Are often Introverted and self-controlled
  • Value concrete facts and logic
  • Try to make a good impression
  • Are cooperative
  • Report higher levels of happiness

Night Owls …

  • Are creative and independent
  • Can be impulsive
  • Take more risks
  • Have higher intelligence scores
  • See more success with the opposite sex (at least males do)

Think these traits fit you?

Either way, you can do little things to help with the effects of Daylight Savings Time. Here are three ways to improve your sleep:

Turn of Technology: Unlpug from the TV, your cell phone, your tablet and anything else that will stimulate you before you go to bed

Get Some Sun: Try to sit by a window when you sip your morning coffee to get some helpful rays. Exposure to the sun may help your body better adjust to the time change.

Get Moving: Exercise during the day will help you tire your body, making it easier to snooze at night. Just be sure to allow a few hours between your workout and your bedtime – pushing them too close together may actually disrupt your sleep.

By Mara Betsch

Quiz: Are You a Morning Lark or Night Owl?

Why Morning People Are Happier

8 Ways to Be a Morning Person

8 Stealth Sources of Sugar

03/07/2014

Sugar-mound-1Dieters and healthy eaters alike know that eating too much sugar is a recipe for a wider waistline. Unfortunately, its disadvantages don't stop there.

Sugar has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, and cutting back on the white stuff can seriously help your health.

Because of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) released guidelines saying that less than 10 percent of your calories should come from sugar. And slashing it to 5 percent is even better, preventing several chronic conditions. Unfortunately, the average American consumes about 15 percent of their calories (about 300 on a 2,000-calorie diet) from sugar.

You can pass up desserts and try sipping your lattes sans sugar, but there are several sneaky sources of sweeteners that you may be unknowingly consuming.

Avoid these eight items to stick to your 5 percent goal (100 calories, or six teaspoons of sugar a day) and curb your intake:

Yogurt

Yes, yogurt can be a superfood, but certain types, especially the ones with "fruit at the bottom," often contain sugar or high fructose corn syrup in addition to real fruit. A six-ounce container can have more than 30 grams of sugar, which is approximately the newly suggested intake!

Canned Fruit

The natural sugars from fruit don't wreak nearly as much havoc as processed sugars. Avoid any extra sweeteners by passing up fruit with "light syrup." The term light is misleading, because many of these cans contain upwards of 20 grams of sugar per serving.

Muffins

Even the whole-grain, oat-topped variety of these baked good can be super sugary. Some mixes average about 15 grams of sugar per muffin, and the ones in coffee shops can be even worse!

Granola and Cereal Bars

These popular snacks are OK in a pinch, but eating them every day may cause a sugar overload. For example, Quaker Oatmeal to Go bars contain up to 19 grams of sugar. You are better off eating bars that don't add any sugar, like Larabars, and get their sweet taste from real fruit.

Spaghetti Sauce

You may be surprised to see this savory sauce on the list. But many companies try to balance the acidity in tomatoes with something sweeter…and sometimes they can go overboard. Chew on this: Ragu's Garden Combination contains 10 grams of sugar in each half cup. If you have a cup of sauce, you are well on your way to your sugar limit.

Barbecue Sauce

Sugar is often added to these to complement savory meats. Some sauces contain between 12-14 tablespoons for just two tablespoons -- the same as if you ate a small handful of jelly beans!

Juices and "Healthy" drinks

We all know sodas are laden with sweeteners, but lots of juices, and other seemingly health drinks hide serious sugar counts behind their health halos. V8 Spash drinks, which combine fruits and veggies, contains an average of 17 grams of sugar per eight-ounce serving. The same goes for sports drinks – the sugars in Gatorade and other drinks marketed to athletes can cause big issues if you're not regularly engaging in strenuous activity.

By Mara Betsch

More on Sugar:

Is Sugar Toxic?

7 Ways to Stop Your Sweetener Addiction

The Health Dangers of Sugar

Doing This for 3 Minutes Will Stop Food Cravings

03/05/2014

Playing-testris-stops-food-cravings-250x150-140214-1Don't you wish there was a simple way to stop cravings before they start? New research suggests there may be an easy answer. A recent study showed that playing the game Tetris can decrease yearnings for cigarettes, alcohol and food.

The study involved 119 people, and the researchers started by having participants report their cravings before either letting them play Tetris for three minutes or waiting for Tetris to load (which it never did) on a computer.  After their time was up, the researchers had participants reassess their cravings.

It turns out the game provided an important distraction: Those who played Tetris cut their cravings by 24 percent when compared to the control group.

The results confirm what is called the Elaborated Intrusion Theory (EI), which hypothesizes that images, and your brain''s ability to create images, may generate cravings, and that Tetris (or another visual exercise) might be a useful way to distract you and reduce your appetite for unhealthy items.

“Episodes of craving normally only last a few minutes, during which time an individual is visualizing what they want and the reward it will bring. Often those feelings result in the person giving in and consuming the very thing they are trying to resist. But by playing Tetris, just in short bursts, you are preventing your brain creating those enticing images and without them the craving fades,” professor Jackie Andrade, the study author, told Spring.org.

If you hate Tetris, another visually stimulating game may also do the trick. The takeaway is that providing an engaging distraction may help you break bad habits.

By Mara Betsch

More on Mental Health:

A Surprising Way to Stop Cravings

The Best Diet for Brain Health

Is Pain All in Your Mind?

Why Coffee Really Does Perk You Up

 


The Discovery Fit and Health team brings you the latest (and most interesting) health news as well as exclusive interviews, video clips, and other juicy tidbits from your favorite shows.
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