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Sprint To Find Zika Vaccine Could Hinge On Summer Outbreaks

As warmer temperatures herald the arrival of pesky mosquitoes, researchers are feverishly working on several promising vaccines against Zika, a virus notorious for infecting humans through this insect’s bite.

The speed and debilitating effects of last year’s Zika outbreak in the Western Hemisphere prompted a sprint to develop a vaccine. Just a little more than a year after the pandemic was declared a global health emergency, a handful of candidates are undergoing preliminary testing in humans.

But researchers say the uncertainty over whether the Zika epidemic will continue affects their ability to finish testing. They need locations with an active viral outbreak to conduct large-scale human trials and make sure the vaccine actually protects against disease.

“On one hand, you don’t want to see outbreaks of infection,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “But on the other hand, [without that testing] you might have to wait a long time to make sure that the vaccine works.”

All the vaccines currently being tested are in Phase I clinical trials, which means they are being tested for safety in a small number of people. According to a review paper published Tuesday in the journal Immunity, the vaccines represent a variety of scientific techniques to thwart the disease, ranging from inactivating the virus to manipulating its DNA.

The NIAID announced Tuesday it is launching yet another Phase I trial for a vaccine made out of proteins found in mosquito saliva. The product is intended to trigger a human immune system response to the mosquito’s saliva and any viruses mixed with it. If successful, the product could protect humans against a spectrum of mosquito-transmitted diseases, including Zika.

Col. Nelson Michael, director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and co-author of the paper, said he expects preliminary reports on the safety of some of the older vaccines in April. As of now, he said, it is impossible to guess which vaccine will prove most effective in providing immunity.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to predict which horse will win the race,” Michael said.

[caption id="attachment_702868" align="alignright" width="270"] The NIAID is launching a phase I trial for a vaccine made out of proteins found in mosquito saliva. (Courtesy of NIAID)[/caption]

Zika ― which is spread from infected people to others by mosquito bites or sexual contact, often infects people without showing symptoms. In some cases, it causes flu-like symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches and joint pain in adults ― and, in rare cases, Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis. But it is most notorious for causing some children to be born with microcephaly ― a birth defect in which a child’s head is smaller than the average size ― if their mothers were exposed to Zika.

The virus garnered international attention after hundreds of cases of disabled babies surfaced in Brazil. It quickly swept through South America and the Caribbean before stopping on the southern coast of the U.S.

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” on Feb. 1, 2016, then ended the alert on Nov. 18.

Vaccines that meet the safety standard in Phase I clinical trials undergo subsequent rounds of testing to gauge effectiveness. To measure this, researchers rely on the gold standard of administering the vaccine to large number of individuals already exposed to the virus. However, Zika’s recent arrival to the Western Hemisphere means researchers don’t know whether the virus will become a perennial threat, or a one-time explosion.

The uncertainty poses several implications for the surge in Zika vaccine development. A lull in the outbreak could cause significant delays in testing, pushing back the timetable for a commercially available product, Fauci said.

While researchers can use alternative methods to measure efficacy without large-scale testing, a decline in the circulation of the Zika virus could set progress back by years because the vaccine testing would be ineffective.

“If we don’t get a lot of infections this season in South America and Puerto Rico, it may take years to make sure the vaccine works,” he said.

Fauci expects to launch the next round of human trials for a DNA vaccine developed by the NIAID next month.

Michael also worries that a lag in the number of Zika cases could lead the private sector to pull funds from vaccine development. It takes millions of dollars to develop a drug or vaccine, and pharmaceutical companies play a critical role in making and manufacturing them, he said. But those companies have many competing interests, he noted, and if it is hard to test a vaccine this year, the public and private Zika prevention efforts may turn their attention elsewhere.

“This is a constant issue where you put your resources,” he said.

[caption id="attachment_702874" align="alignleft" width="370"] A transmission electron micrograph of Zika virus, which is a member of the family Flaviviridae, is shown. (Cynthia Goldsmith/CDC)[/caption]

So far, signs suggest that the climate could be ripe for Zika again this year. Warmer-than-usual temperatures are affecting areas across the Western Hemisphere, CBS reported, including hotbeds of the Zika outbreaks in Brazil. The higher temperatures increase the voracity of Zika’s main transmitter, the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

In the United States, areas with populations of the Aedes aegypti are closely monitoring their numbers. Last year, Texas and Florida dealt with locally acquired cases of Zika infection.

In Texas, public health officials have monitored mosquito populations throughout the winter to track their numbers and any presence of the virus. Despite unseasonably warm weather, said Chris Van Deusen, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, they have seen lower numbers of the Aedes aegypti and no cases of Zika.

Van Deusen said the state is also monitoring the outbreak in Mexico, since heavy traffic across the border increases the possibility of transmission. Officials are expecting another outbreak of locally transmitted cases of disease, Van Deusen said.

“There’s so many factors that go into it, it’s really impossible to make an ironclad prediction,” he said.

5 Mind-Body Exercises for a Healthier Heart

There are a myriad of factors that affect heart health. From regular exercise to smoking cessation to eating a nutritious diet, there are a number of things you can do to strengthen your heart. But did you know that the mind-body connection can also be a strong ally in reducing your risk of heart disease? While many of us think of physical health when it comes to heart health, research shows that your mood, outlook, and stress levels strongly affect the body—and the heart. This means that heart disease prevention isn't just a matter of eating better or exercising; engaging in stress-reducing exercises and mind-body practices can significantly improve the health of your heart, too. As a bonus, these activities have other body and mind benefits, too, like boosting your mood, helping you focus, improving your fitness, and increasing your overall life satisfaction. Talk about a win-win! Here are five mind-body activities you can incorporate into your healthy lifestyle to help your mind, body—and heart! Yoga Yoga is probably best known for its flexibility benefits, along with its ability to help you sleep better, feel better about yourself and promote mindfulness. But, yoga has also been shown to be a powerful contributor of heart health. In fact, according to November 2009 research published in the International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics, those who practice yoga have higher heart rate variability (a sign of a healthy heart) than those who do not regularly practice yoga. In addition, the study found that regular yogis had stronger parasympathetic control, which indicates better autonomic control over heart rate—a sign of a healthier heart. Another recent study by Ohio State University researchers, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, found that women who routinely practiced yoga had lower levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood. IL-6 is part of the body's inflammatory response and has been correlated with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and a host of other age-related chronic diseases, making it a key marker in heart-health research. The women doing yoga also showed smaller increases in IL-6 in their blood after stressful experiences than women who were the same age and weight but who were not practicing yoga. Scientists believe that this indicates that yoga may also help people respond more calmly to stress in their everyday lives, which is a boon to heart health. Although researchers can't exactly pinpoint which part of yoga—the breathing, stretching, relaxation or meditation—is responsible for the positive results, it's encouraging to say the least! How to incorporate yoga in your life: Reap the heart-healthy benefits of yoga with just 20 minutes of yoga three times a week. Be sure to read our beginner's guide to yoga to get you started! Meditation There is ample research on how meditation can help reduce stress, which helps the heart stay healthy. But the most impressive study came from researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in collaboration with the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. After following about 200 patients for an average of five years, researchers found that high-risk patients who practiced Transcendental Meditation (where you sit quietly and silently repeat a mantra) cut their risk of heart attack, stroke and death from all causes almost in half compared to a group of similar patients who did not meditate. In addition, the group that meditated tended to remain disease-free longer, reduced their blood pressure and had lower stress levels. Researchers hypothesize that some of the benefits of meditation come from stress reduction, which causes a reduction of the stress hormone cortisol and dampens the inflammatory processes associated with atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries. How to incorporate meditation in your life: While the research focuses on Transcendental Meditation, there are a variety of ways to meditate including walking meditation, guided meditation via a CD or simply sitting and listening to the sounds around you. Starting out with just five minutes a day of quiet time with your thoughts can yield big results. For seven ways to get your zen on, click here. Pilates Pilates is a great form of exercise. Its mat-based moves have been shown to increase flexibility, build core strength, improve posture and alleviate lower-back pain. But did you also know that it can help prevent heart disease by improving the fitness of your heart? According to a 2005 report from the American College of Sports Medicine, a beginner Pilates workout counts as low- to moderate-intensity exercise, which is comparable to active stretching. Intermediate Pilates workouts are the cardio equivalent of working at a moderate-intensity level, such as speed walking at a rate of 4 to 4.5 mph on the treadmill. Advanced Pilates workouts provide the most cardiovascular benefit with a moderately high intensity, similar to basic stepping on a six-inch platform, according to the report. All Pilates workouts have also shown to improve circulation. In addition to improving the cardiovascular system, similar to yoga, Pilates also links movement to breath, enhancing your mind-body connection, and thereby reducing stress and lowering the heart rate. How to incorporate Pilates in your life: If you're ready to try Pilates, try this short lower body Pilates workout. You can add this on to the end of your usual cardio workout or do it first thing in the morning before heading to work. For best results, try to get in a short 10- to 20-minute Pilates workout three times a week. Tai Chi Also known as moving meditation, Tai Chi combines mental concentration with slow, controlled movements to focus the mind, challenge the body, and improve the flow of what the Chinese call "chi," or life energy. If you've ever seen someone doing Tai Chi, it looks like a slow and graceful low-impact dance. But Tai Chi isn't just slow dancing; it has serious health benefits, including improving heart function and decreasing blood pressure and stress reduction. In fact, a May 2010 systematic review in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Tai Chi was effective in reducing stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbance, and increasing self-esteem. How to incorporate Tai Chi in your life: Sign up at your local health club or community center for a series of Tai Chi classes with an experienced instructor. Practicing formally in class each week will give you the skills to practice Tai Chi on your own! Deep Breathing What do most of the above mind-body practices listed above have in common? That's right: deep, slow and controlled breathing! While not really an "exercise," the simple act of sitting and focusing on your breathing can do wonders for your heart. While there isn't much research on how deep breathing affects the heart, you can feel the results for yourself when you simply sit and take five big deep breaths, focusing on a deep inhale and exhale. You can almost instantaneously feel your body release stress and your mind calm down. Because it helps fuel your body and its cells with nutrient-rich oxygen, deep breathing has been shown to slow down the heart rate and lower blood pressure, making it the perfect heart-healthy activity when you're short on time and need a quick way to relieve some stress. How to incorporate deep breathing in your life: Try to take a few deep breaths at multiple times throughout the day. Making a habit to take three deep breaths upon waking, at lunch and when sitting in traffic can greatly benefit your heart health without disrupting your busy schedule. And, of course, when you're really feeling stressed, excuse yourself to the restroom for some deep breathing. They don't call it a "restroom" for nothing! Mind-body exercises are a powerful way to boost your heart health and keep your ticker ticking stronger and longer, so be sure to incorporate one or more of these mind-body exercises in your heart-healthy lifestyle. This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople fitness experts and certified personal trainers, Jen Mueller and Nicole Nichols. Sources: American College of Sports Medicine. "Pilates Research Offers New Information on Popular Technique," accessed March 2011. www.acsm.org. Associated Press. Breath Deep to Lower Blood Pressure, Doc Says," accessed March 2011. www.msnbc.msn.com. Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. "Effects of Stress Reduction on Clinical Events in African Americans With Coronary Heart Disease," accessed March 2011. www.circ.ahajournals.org. Cleveland Clinic. "Heart and Vascular Health Prevention: Pilates," accessed March 2011. www.my.clevelandclinic.org. Framson et al. Development and Validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2009; 109 (8): 1439 DOI: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.05.006 Sarnataro, Barbara Russi. "Tai Chi Exercises Both Mind and Body," accessed March 2011. www.webmd.com. Science Daily. "Tai Chi Gets Cautious Thumbs Up for Psychological Health," accessed March 2011. www.sciencedaily.com. ScienceDaily. "Yoga Boosts Heart Health, New Research Finds," accessed March 2011. www.sciencedaily.com. ScienceDaily. "Yoga Reduces Cytokine Levels Known to Promote Inflammation, Study Shows," accessed March 2011. www.sciencedaily.com. text Smith, Rebecca. "Meditation 'cuts risk of heart attack by half'," accessed March 2011. www.telegraph.co.uk.Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1613

How to Tame Wedding Planning Stress

It's a gross understatement to say that planning a wedding is stressful. With all of the coordination, timing and numerous things to prepare for (not to mention family politics!), it's no wonder that nice, normal people turn into grumpy grooms and bridezillas. However, you don't have to become a stressed-out stereotype on your big day. In fact, it is possible to plan a wedding and keep your healthy cool—no matter the situation. 6 Common Wedding-Planning Stressors—and How To Remedy Them You and Your Fiancé Want Different Types of Weddings One of the biggest wedding stressors occurs when you and your fiancé have very different ideas of what your special day should be like. Traditional and in a church? Small and in your parent's backyard? A tropical destination wedding? The options are limitless, and couples are less bound by tradition now than ever before. But if the soon-to-be-wed couple can't agree on what kind of ceremony to have, or worse—one person wants a wedding and the other just wants to go to the courthouse—stress can be high from the get-go. How to de-stress: Before you plan any wedding details, sit down with your fiancé and make a list of the top three things that are important to each of you as far as the ceremony and reception are concerned. Then, calmly and patiently compare lists to see where you can compromise. If he wants a small wedding but you want a big one, you can always hold a small ceremony and then a big after-party. Or, if he wants a destination wedding and you want to be home, simply have the ceremony out of town and the reception in your hometown. Remember that this is the person you are agreeing to spend the rest of your life with, so take a few deep breaths and find a solution that you can both be happy with. Marriage is all about give and take! Overbearing Family Members or Friends Almost every bride and groom deals with at least one or two overbearing (yet well-meaning) family members or friends while planning a wedding. Whether it's a future in-law, your own parents or even a bossy friend, all seem to have an opinion on what you should and shouldn't do. How to de-stress: Remember that this is your wedding—not everyone else’s. It may be hard to tell your loved ones "no" or disagree with Aunt Millie about your bridesmaids wearing tangerine, but if you want your wedding day to be truly special and unique you must stand your ground. Politely, yet firmly state your decisions with the support of your partner. Think of it as if others are trying to derail or sabotage your diet—it's really none of their business! Fear that Your Dress Won't Fit Of course you want to feel confident and healthy on your wedding day, but don't spend the months before your wedding stressing about your size or what you look like—especially if you're trying to drop a few pounds before the big day. Remember that stress only hurts your weight-loss efforts. How to de-stress: First, make sure that you aren't being unrealistic about your body image on the big day. Make sure that any wedding weight-loss goals you have are realistic. After all, planning takes a lot of time and can be stressful, so you may not have as much time as you think you do to exercise and cook healthy foods. Second, be sure to drink enough water, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and get that beauty rest. These three things will really give you that wedding-day glow. Lastly, visualize yourself walking down the aisle with confidence on the big day. Picturing yourself in a positive light helps squash stress and can give you the energy to plan, plan, plan! Your Wedding Budget More money, more problems, right? Well, in the case of wedding budgets, less money and big expectations can equal more problems, too. On average, U.S. couples spend almost $20,000 on a wedding. And that number doesn't include a honeymoon or engagement ring. Unless you have a large budget already in place, or family members with deep pockets, keeping costs down can be challenging at best. How to de-stress: Remember to prioritize any and all expenses, and balance costs as you go if necessary. If you go over on catering, don't spring for those chair covers or pricey linens. If your bouquets cost more than you expected, trade out half of your centerpieces for less costly decorations. Ask yourself what you'll remember when you look back on this day. Will it be your beautiful dress or suit? Will it be the music and DJ? How about those expensive invitations? Determine your needs versus your wants and be realistic about them. You know what's more stressful than wedding planning? Coming back to wedding debt after your honeymoon. The Guest List I have yet to meet a couple who didn't have at least a few stressed-out moments due to their wedding guest list. From being afraid of offending others to your in-laws insisting that your fiancé's fourth and fifth cousins just have to be there, compiling a guest list can get tricky. How to de-stress: Sit down with your partner and agree on a guest policy together. Decide if children are or aren’t welcome and the maximum number of guests you want (and can afford). Consider dividing guest counts evenly between your two families and have the first and final say on who attends. If you have room and one family wants more guests to come, many couples have that side of the family fund the extra seats. No matter how you do it, agree on a policy and don't waiver from it. Sticking to rules helps you and your family members explain to others why Wally, your third-removed cousin, wasn't invited. You Want the "Perfect" Wedding—No Exceptions Of course you want your wedding day to be perfect. Who doesn't? But how realistic are your expectations, and what will happen if everything doesn't go perfectly? Will you consider the day to be ruined, after all of that planning and thought? How to de-stress: Vow to be easy going on your wedding day and take it all in stride. There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. You know the saying, "Don't sweat the small stuff"? Well, during the wedding planning process and the day itself, remember the big picture and take a deep breath. After all, no one will remember the lopsided cake or miss the parting gift that the reception staff forgot to put out. No one will know if you fudged your vows or forgot your earrings. They'll be too busy remembering what a great time they had sharing the start of your marriage with you! In any stressful wedding-planning event, remember to always take time to eat healthy foods, exercise, sleep well and practice stress busters like yoga, meditation or these other techniques. Making time for just a few minutes of stress reduction each day can go a long way now—and during your marriage, too! Sources: http://www.costofwedding.com/ Dealing With Wedding Stress, from Wednet.comArticle Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1582

Healthy Smile, Healthy Body

You probably don't think about your teeth that much unless you drink something icy cold or that little postcard reminding you to schedule your next dental appointment shows up in the mail. However, you should really give your pearly whites more attention. After all, your teeth are one of the first things people see when you smile and greet them, and your oral health can have a major impact on the health of not just your mouth, but your entire body. Cavities and gum disease may contribute to many serious conditions, including diabetes and respiratory diseases, and untreated cavities are not only be painful, but they can also lead to serious infections. While you may have been notoriously hard on their teeth as a kid and teenager (forgetting to brush and floss sometimes), most adults have it in their routine to brush at least twice a day. But what about flossing? Only 28% report doing it daily, even though most of us know better. And while you may also know better, Americans are also overconsuming junk food and sugar, which, when combined with a lack of flossing, is a recipe for oral health problems.  The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that 75 percent of Americans have some form of gum disease or gingivitis. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay affects one out of three adults. So how do your teeth have such an impact on your well-being, and how do you stay healthy by focusing on your mouth? Here's a guide to what you need to know about your oral health, and how to keep your mouth and teeth clean and beautiful! Gum Disease So just what is gum disease? Also called periodontal disease, it's an inflammation of the gums. Gum disease occurs when plaque, a sticky colorless film of bacteria, builds up on your teeth and hardens into a tartar that can cause infections in the gums. If it's not treated, gum disease can increase your risk of respiratory disease, as the bacteria in plaque can travel from the mouth to the lungs, causing infection or aggravating existing lung problems. Gum disease can also spread and affect the bones underneath the teeth, which eventually dissolve and no longer support the teeth in its place. (That's basically just a complicated way of saying that your teeth can fall out!) Research also shows a link between diabetes and gum disease. People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease than non-diabetics are, so if you have diabetes or it runs in your family, you definitely want to take care of your teeth. (More on prevention later!) The moral of the story? Gum disease is bad news. The symptoms of gum disease can vary from one person to the next, but one telltale sign is usually swollen, tender and red gums. If your gums bleed when brushing or flossing, that can be a warning sign, as can receding gums, bad breath that won't go away, loose teeth or a change in your jaw alignment. If you're having any of these symptoms, be sure to tell your dentist. A dentist or a periodontist can tell you if you have gum disease or gingivitis (a type of gum disease) with an exam and usually an x-ray. Treatment usually involves plaque removal, medication and, in the worst cases, surgery. Cavities You probably already know a little about cavities, and chances are, you may have even had one or two. Cavities are a sign of tooth decay, which is a breakdown of a tooth's structure. The decay can affect the enamel of the tooth and the inside of the tooth, and is caused when sugary and starchy foods like soda, breads, baked goods and candy are left on the teeth. Your dentist will be able to tell if you have a cavity during your regular exam, but in the advanced stages of a cavity, you may get a toothache, especially after having sweet, hot, or cold food or drinks. You may also be able to see pits or holes in your teeth. A cavity is treated by a dentist. He or she can remove the decayed portion and replacing it with a filling. If the tooth decay is advanced and the tooth structure is affected, your dentist may have to put in a crown. Another good reason to avoid sugary foods, right? Teeth Spacing You may think that the spacing of your teeth is just a cosmetic issue, but it affects the health of your mouth, too. Teeth that are spaced too tightly together can create gum problems, just as teeth that are spaced improperly can allow food to get stuck between the teeth, therefore increasing the risk of gum disease. An orthodontist can help straighten out your teeth (yep, even as an adult) with braces, invisible retainers, or other treatments for optimal oral health. Other Issues If that wasn't enough, poor oral health has also been shown to cause sleeping issues, hurt your self-esteem, and diminish your ability to chew and digest food properly. And if you smoke (hopefully you don't!), it can be horrible on your teeth. Tobacco smoke and chewing tobacco are both very harmful to your gums, and toxins within these drugs can cause oral cancer, damage the bones around your teeth and result in tooth loss. Tips to Keep Mouths Happy Now that you know how important your mouth is to your overall health, how do you keep it healthy? Here are some tips for a clean mouth!

  • Mom was right! Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. This keeps plaque at bay, improves breath and prevents stains. Plus, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that people who brushed twice a day were 30% less likely to develop heart disease compared to people who only brushed once. That's because, according to health experts, gum disease can lead to inflammation and can damage your arteries.
  • Don't eat junk food, and stay away from sweets. Eat those vegetables!
  • Make sure your toothpaste and mouth rinse include fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay.
  • If you wear braces, be sure to keep the space between your teeth and archwires clean by using floss threaders and orthodontic toothbrushes.
  • If you play contact sports, consider having a custom-made mouth guard fitted to protect those pearly whites.
  • Visit your dentist twice a year to make sure everything is in tip-top shape!
Having healthy teeth isn't just about looking great (although that's a nice perk!). Good oral health is really about your body's overall wellness. So brush right, brush often and take care of those teeth!Article Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1528

60-Second Health and Fitness Boosters

When it comes to losing weight or making healthy choices, you probably think that it takes hours at a gym plus long nights preparing and planning nutritious meals. What you may not realize is that quick and easy changes can really improve your immediate health and wellness. So just how quick is quick? One minute—that’s it! Try any one of these 60-second activities to easily reap the healthy benefits. 1. Drink a tall glass of water. We all know the many health benefits of drinking water, but did you also know that even mild dehydration can cause fatigue? So, the next time you feel your energy waning, grab a glass of cold water and guzzle it down! 2. Twist it out. So many of us spend every weekday seated in front of a computer. Not only can sitting all day wreak havoc on your posture, but it can also compress your spine and exaggerate its curvature. Not fun. A simple twist can help undo this. As you sit in your desk chair, simply twist your upper-body to one side, hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side. If you have the space to sit on the floor, try this torso twist stretch. It’s guaranteed to make you feel better! 3. Take a deep breath. How often do you think about breathing? If you are like most people, you probably don’t think about it often enough. For a quick pick-me-up, simply take five deep breaths. Slowly inhale for at least five seconds and exhale for 10 seconds each time. Your body will thank you for the extra oxygen. 4. Do 20 jumping jacks. Research has shown that long periods of sitting can be detrimental to the body and our overall health. So get up out of that chair and jack it out! Just one minute of jumping jacks is an easy way to get your heart pumping and blood flowing. 5. Smile. Smiling can actually make you happier. So go ahead—smile! 6. Go outside. You’ve probably heard the health buzz about vitamin D lately. Preliminary research suggests that vitamin D helps regulate the immune system, supports heart health, can help normalize blood pressure and promotes healthy aging. Vitamin D has also been linked to improved mood. If you have a minute to spare, step out into the sunshine! 7. Put on a favorite song. There’s nothing quite like your favorite music to perk you up and get you feeling good. Listening to music has been shown to improve immunity and release endorphins. Bonus points if you dance along! 8. Sit up straighter. Did you know that bad posture can put unnecessary stress on your low back? Take a minute to focus on sitting up straight with your shoulders down and back. Don’t you feel better already? 9. Be grateful. Write down five things you’re grateful for, no matter how large or small (your hair, your family, your morning cup of Joe—whatever). Do you feel more thankful, generous and overall happier after? Funny how a little reminder of what we have can turn a frown into a smile. 10. Tell a joke. Awake your inner child and tell a silly joke—whether it’s a knock-knock joke or even a funny line from a movie. Anything that gets you laughing is enough to get your happy endorphins flowing! 11. Do 10 pushups. Being strong is important, but having functional strength is even more important because it makes everyday activities easier to accomplish. A push-up is a great, quick exercise for building functional strength. Drop down and give me 10—or as many as you can do in 1 minute. 12. Encourage someone. Isn’t it interesting how you always seem to feel better after helping someone else feel better? Whether you post a supportive comment on a SparkFriend’s page or write a few kind words in a card or an email, taking a minute out to help someone can quickly boost your mood. 13. Set a goal for the day. Fact: People who set goals have more success than people who don’t. So why not take a few seconds and write down what you want to do today? Then, just commit to making it happen! 14. Focus on one thing you love about yourself. At times, we put so much effort in focusing on what we don’t like about ourselves that we fail to see the good. Take 60 seconds to think about what you like about you. Is it your eyes? Your strong legs? Your giving nature? Thinking about how great you are will instantly increase self-confidence. 15. Wash your hands. It seems like cold and flu season is always in full force (or just around the corner).  One of the simplest and easiest ways to stay well year round is to wash your hands. All you need is warm water, soap and 20 seconds of rubbing to rid your hands of unwanted germs. 16. Compliment a stranger. What better way to make yourself feel good than to unexpectedly brighten someone else’s day? The next time you admire someone’s clothes, positive attitude or eyes—say so! 17. Try aromatherapy. A number of different smells can have a positive effect on your mind and body. For example, peppermint is known to calm the stomach while its smell can energize you through a workout. And the scent of jasmine has been shown to reduce anxiety. To benefit, grab some scented lotion and either take a whiff from the bottle or rub some on your hands. 18. Salute the sun. Sun salutations are a well-known set of yoga poses that are said to warm up the body and increase blood flow and flexibility. So grab your mat and do one or two sets—rain or shine! 19. Give yourself a mini-massage. Massage has a number of health benefits, including reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and speeding muscle repair. While you may not be able to spend the time or money getting one at a spa, pampering yourself with just 1 minute of self-massage by rubbing your own hands, feet or shoulders can do wonders. 20. Be absolutely present. When we are wrapped up with work, to-do lists, and just getting by, sometimes we can forget to focus on what we are doing in the here and now. Try spending a minute just being. Focus on sounds, smells and whatever else is going on around you; instead of thinking ahead to what you'll do next, think about what you're doing right now. You’ll be amazed at how peaceful you feel. Just be! See? In the quest to be healthier, you don't have to spend a lot of time. Even if all you have is a few spare seconds here and there, you can make a positive difference in your overall health! Sources: Clean Hands Save Lives, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fight Fatigue with Your Fork, from Psychology Today Here Comes the Sun, from Yoga Journal Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, from University of California, Davis Peppermint, from University of Maryland Medical Center Research Briefs: Did You Know? from NammFoundation.org Vitamin D Research, from National Fluid Milk Processor Education Board, GetYourD.comArticle Source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1557

Popular Charity Heart Screenings For Teens May Cause More Problems Than They Solve

Dozens of not-for-profit organizations have formed in the past decade to promote free or low-cost heart screenings for teens. These groups often claim such tests save lives by finding abnormalities that might pose a risk of sudden cardiac death.

But the efforts are raising concerns. There’s no evidence that screening adolescents with electrocardiograms (ECG) prevents deaths. Sudden cardiac death is rare in young people, and some physicians worry screening kids with no symptoms or family history of disease could do more harm than good. The tests can set off false alarms that can lead to follow-up tests and risky interventions or force some kids to quit sports unnecessarily.

“There are harms that I don’t think a lot of people realize,” said Dr. Kristin Burns, who oversees a two-year-old registry at the National Institutes of Health of sudden deaths in people under 20. It’s one of several efforts aimed at gathering better data about cardiac abnormalities in kids.

Studies using limited data have found between one and four sudden cardiac deaths occur annually per 100,000 kids between ages 1 and 18. By comparison, 22 out of 100,000 U.S. teens are killed in accidents, including those involving motor vehicles, and nine out of 100,000 commit suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some screening advocates believe sudden cardiac deaths are underreported and not enough is being done to spare families from the fate of losing a child. “We have to acknowledge that every kid who drops dead, they’ve been failed by the current system,” said Darren Sudman, who founded Simon’s Fund, a screening effort in greater Philadelphia in memory of his infant son, who died of an arrhythmia.

Screening programs say they’re educating parents about the risks. “What we want to emphasize is, make sure your kid is heart-safe,” said Dr. Jonathan Drezner, a sports and family medicine specialist in Seattle at UW Medicine and medical director of the local Nick of Time Foundation.

Enthusiasm for ECGs, which measure the electrical activity in the heart to detect abnormalities, grew after a 2006 study showed they lowered death rates among athletes in Italy. But research in other countries has not yielded similar results, and the Italian researchers recently were accused of refusing to share their data so it could be evaluated independently.

Some 60,000 to 70,000 U.S. teens were screened in 2016, most by foundations created by families who lost a child to sudden cardiac death, said Darren Sudman, who runs an online directory, Screen Across America. It’s unclear whether high school athletes face higher risk than non-athletes, so screening programs usually invite everybody.

Screenings typically are held in high schools and overseen by volunteer cardiologists, with funding from individuals and businesses including hospitals. A handful of hospitals and for-profit companies also run screenings.

It may be presumptuous to claim ECGs save lives, but parents often believe they do, said Sudman. “If I find a heart condition, I promise you there are parents who are thanking me for savings their kid’s life.”

That perception is stoked by tragic stories in the media of children who died suddenly after never reporting a symptom. Meanwhile, the drawbacks of ECGs are seldom depicted. As many as 1 in 10 ECGs detects a potential abnormality, and the emotional and financial toll of such a finding can be significant — especially when they turn out to be wrong.

Following a screening ECG and echocardiogram last fall, Daniel Garza, 16, a talented sophomore basketball player in San Antonio, was told he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle and the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young people. He was advised to quit all exercise, at least temporarily.

“We were shocked, just shocked,” said his mother, Denise. She said her son became depressed when he couldn’t play the sport he enjoyed and excelled at. “He came home and cried himself to sleep. He said, ‘Mom, why did God give me this gift to take it away?’”

The Garzas traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where further tests indicated his enlarged heart was a benign condition known as athletic heart, a result of intense training. His mother estimates that correcting the misdiagnosis cost more than $20,000, including medical costs, travel and lost work.

Daniel has returned to the basketball court. Still, Denise Garza said the emotional toll was rough. “It was one of the hardest things my family has ever endured.”

Several cardiologists said they often see cases like this or worse. Even after follow-up testing, it can be unclear which cases are life-threatening, so kids with low risk could be restricted from exercise or given life-altering interventions such as implantable defibrillators, surgery or anti-arrhythmic medications.

Medical groups have wrestled with the issue. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommended in 2014 against mass ECG screening, noting that sudden cardiac death is rare in teens and false positives generate “excessive and costly second-tier testing.” ECGs also miss at least 1 in 10 cases of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and more than 9 in 10 cases of congenital anomalies, the second-most-common cause.

But their expert panel accepted voluntary screening “in relatively small cohorts” if there’s physician involvement, quality control and a recognition of unreliable results and ancillary costs.

By contrast, there’s broad support for automated external defibrillators, which have been shown to prevent deaths at schools and other public places. Some foundations focus their efforts on disseminating the defibrillators.

One problem with ECGs is a lack of good data.

“There’s no evidence we have that ECG screening saves lives,” said Dr. Jonathan Kaltman of the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “There’s never been a controlled clinical trial, which is the only way to answer that question.”

Efforts are underway to improve the accuracy of the screening programs. Some are adding echocardiograms, which use ultrasound to produce images of the heart, to verify potential abnormalities. Advocates say false positives have dropped as a result of better interpretation guidelines, known as the Seattle Criteria, which are expected to soon be endorsed by cardiology societies in revised form.

But the criteria are not perfect, and there’s a “giant gap” in training cardiologists to use them, said Drezner, one of the developers. He’s also a medical adviser for Parent Heart Watch, a consortium of foundations. “If I was a parent, I’d want to know about the experience of the (cardiologists) and what they’re going to do to help my kid if they have a positive screen.”

At the urging of screening advocates, the NIH partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to rigorously track cardiac deaths as part of a Sudden Death in the Young Case Registry. So far a handful of states and counties have joined the effort, which helps local health departments collect better data. The goal is to standardize death investigations and get a firm handle on how often kids die from heart abnormalities as well as the role of factors such as genetics. Initial findings are expected to be available in about two years. The NIH is also funding three university-based research groups to answer key questions about sudden cardiac death in the young.

Some screening organizations are getting behind a nascent initiative with the Cardiac Safety Research Consortium to harness their own screening data for research. It would require standardizing their practices and tracking outcomes, which organizations aren’t now equipped to do.

“Screening is happening. We can’t avoid that,” said Dr. Salim Idriss, director of pediatric electrophysiology at Duke University and co-chair of the initiative. “We have a really good opportunity to get the data we need to make it better.”

Separately, the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas recently began a four-year pilot study involving athletes and band members at eight high schools to determine the feasibility of a full-scale randomized controlled trial.

A valid finding on the overarching question of whether ECG screening saves lives could require at least 800,000 participants and a cost of $15 million, said Dr. Benjamin Levine, a cardiologist and the lead researcher.

The pilot is partly a response to legislation that would mandate ECGs for student athletes in Texas. A similar bill was also introduced in South Carolina. Both bills failed, but it’s expected there will be more attempts to mandate ECGs, leaving state legislators looking for better guidance.

“We’re not going to solve this by having more debates, but by having more data,” Levine said.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

7 Dessert Recipes With Zero Added Sugar (Seriously, Not Even Honey)

By now we know that most of the world consumes way too much sugar. But it’s not like our sweet tooth cares—when a dessert craving hits, it hits bad. Many turn to alternative ways to satisfy it, using less-refined sugars like agave, honey, and coconut sugar, but we’re going a step further this time, with treats that use no added sweeteners whatsoever. From tarts to mousse, these sugar-free recipes still manage to make dessert even sweeter.

1. 2-Ingredient Homemade Peach Ice Cream Photo: Yuriel Kaim This fruity treat doesn’t just come without added sugar, it also uses a simple food processor instead of a fancy ice cream maker. If that wasn’t enough, there are only two ingredients in here (neither of which involves dairy), and it takes a mere five minutes to whip up. It doesn’t get much better than that. 2. Sugar-Free Apple Tart Photo: 52 New Foods Want to impress guests without stressing yourself out? This apple tart should do the trick; it looks fancy, but a premade pastry crust, a simple layering pattern, and unsweetened applesauce make it super simple to put together. 3. Healthy Extra Moist Chocolate Cake Photo: Del's Cooking Twist Chocolate cake without sugar? When puréed dates and unsweetened baking chocolate are involved, it’s possible. Mixed with eggs and coconut oil, these naturally sweet ingredients make for fudgy results that taste anything but sugar free. 4. Gluten-Free Date Bars Photo: Vitamin Sunshine There’s a reason dates are called “nature’s candy”—they lend so much sweetness without any added sugar. These gooey bars make the most out of the chewy fruits, using them for both the crust and the top layer, while a touch of sea salt adds a slightly savory element, and walnuts provide a complementary crunch. 5. Creamsicle Chia Pudding Photo: Fed and Fit While regular creamsicles are almost too sweet, this thick and fluffy pudding goes for a much more subtle flavor. The rich coconut milk and the clementine segments add just enough natural sugar. 6. Chocolate Avocado Mousse Au Chocolove Photo: Blissful Basil Who needs heavy cream and sugar when dates and avocados can do just as good a job of producing a killer chocolate mousse? With zero added sweeteners and a good amount of healthy fat, this isn’t just a perfect dessert, it could pass off as a filling breakfast too. 7. No Added Sugar Cinnamon Spice Raisin Cookies Photo: Avocado a Day Nutrition Make sure your raisins and nut butter have no added sugar to make these cookies totally free of sweeteners. Almond meal keeps them gluten-free, while coconut oil instead of butter and eggs means they’re completely vegan too.

I've Spent 10 Years Helping People Lose Weight… Here Are My Best Tips

For 10 years, I’ve been the force behind MyBodyTutor.com, which simplifies the weight-loss process into practical, sustainable behaviors that help you lose weight and actually keep it off. It hasn’t always been easy, but I believed enough in my program to quit my comfortable job for it. I’ve since made a career out of working with clients who have "tried everything" but just haven’t managed to keep the weight off. One client had attempted 16 different programs before finding success with me.

The truth is, you can lose weight with almost any program, but sustaining that weight loss is a different story altogether. My program has been a success because clients can fly the nest after acquiring the necessary skills—I don’t want anyone to come back as repeat business. Here the top weight-loss strategies that make my clients so successful.

1. Schedule fun for yourself.

Tension relief is one of the top reasons we overeat and make poor food choices. When something causes us to feel tense, we seek to alleviate that feeling… often with overly indulgent food and drinks. As we get older, we make less time for fun, which leads to burnout.

What defines fun for you? Consider signing up for art classes, salsa lessons, volunteering, board games, meditation, yoga, even cooking healthier spins on your favorite foods. Focusing on fun might sound trite, but there's a good reason my most successful clients create time for it: The more fun we have, the less we'll rely on food and drink to create it for us.

2. Learn that food isn’t what you’re really craving...

...what you’re craving is avoidance. When we indulge, we’re after the experience of eating—the escape and distraction. So when you want to eat an entire pint of ice cream, what you’re really after is that sense of reward. But food won’t give you what you're truly looking for, so when you’re craving something that will hamper your goals, ask yourself: "If I could use a magic button to change something in my life right now, what would I use it for?" This will help you identify what’s really bothering you. For example, if you’re unhappy with your career, or you’re seeking a better relationship with your partner, identifying these issues will help you map out a plan of action instead of covering up a desire with temporary relief in the form of dessert.

3. Understand that 80 percent of weight loss is diet.

You know how some people can work their butts off in the gym—even with a trainer—and they don’t end up looking any different? You can't out-exercise a poor diet; what you do between exercise matters most. While exercise is the key to energy and a better mood, diet is the key to weight loss.

4. Plan and prepare meals ahead of time.

We often have to battle between our short-term, irrational mind and our long-term, rational mind. When we’re hungry, stressed, or tired, it’s harder to make good choices. Besides, when was the last time you were "in the mood" for grilled chicken and vegetables when you felt ravenous? Sure, you might not always follow through with your healthy-eating plans, but the chances you’ll do so increase dramatically when you actually have a plan in the first place. You don’t get any bonus points for using heroic willpower rather than simple planning, so why not make it easier on yourself? My most successful clients always have healthy food ready to go in the fridge—this just makes good choices easier.

You might also like {{displayTitle}} READ 5. Choose a truly sustainable path.

This might sound like common sense, but it’s not common practice. You can’t expect to stick with a plan that won’t work in the long run, but people keep attempting absurd fad diets. Forget about them! You can only follow a cookie, shake, grapefruit, cabbage, no-carb, and no-fun diet for so long—and my most successful clients avoid these diets. Before you start any weight-loss program, ask yourself, "Can I see myself eating like this in five years from now?" If the answer is no, then the diet you’re thinking about starting isn’t going to work. Give yourself a chance to succeed from the start.

6. Determine if you’re actually hungry before you eat.

One of the top reasons people are overweight is because they eat when they're emotionally hungry, not physically hungry. Physical hunger comes on gradually and can be satisfied with any food. It passes what I call the "Broccoli Test."

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. It feels urgent and is marked by specific food cravings. You can have snack after snack, and nothing hits the spot. This is because you're not hungry for food—you're hungry for something else. So when you’re about to eat, pause and ask yourself, "Am I hungry or am I eating to change the way I feel?" This will allow you to catch yourself if you're about to eat for emotional reasons, not out of true hunger.

7. Plan your indulgences.

I’ll never forget when a client told me that before starting one of her many failed diet attempts, she was told to sign a contract stating she’d never indulge in any of her favorite desserts again. If only it were that easy—that’s like saying "Don’t be sad" to someone who’s depressed. It’s ridiculous. Never indulging again isn’t sustainable... or even desirable.

You should eat treats when they’re special to you. My rule is that your special indulgence should pass the "Will I remember this in two weeks?" test. Most of the indulgences we eat aren’t remarkable—they’re bags of chips or boxes of stale-tasting cookies from a convenience store. The idea is to make the most of routine meals and indulge when it’s truly worth your while. Wait for a memorable treat like a high-quality pastry from your favorite shop.

The real secret to sustainable weight loss is that there is no secret. It's about eating well, exercising… and doing these consistently. Understanding what gets in the way of consistency—and how to be more steady in your efforts—is the only way to stick with a plan and get the results you really want.

Adam Gilbert is the founder of MyBodyTutor.com, an online program that solves the lack of consistency faced by chronic dieters. You can follow Adam on his blog, Instagram, and Twitter.

23 Healthier Ways to Get Your Cookie Dough Fix

When it comes to cookie dough, most traditional versions come with a “look but don’t touch” warning, thanks to the raw egg and flour posing a pretty scary salmonella risk.

So for those of us who used to relish (or be deprived of) licking the batter bowl as kids, the search for edible cookie dough remains real. Sure, sticking a spoon into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked is a possibility, but that kind of sugar intake isn’t exactly an everyday solution to our cravings.

We’ve rounded up 23 healthier and safer ways to enjoy the chewy, gooey deliciousness of unbaked cookies. From dips and bars to cupcakes and smoothies, these recipes let you have your cookie dough and eat it too.

Dips, Doughs, and Balls 1. Pumpkin Pie Cookie Dough Energy Balls Photo: With Salt and Wit There’s always one more thing to pumpkin spice-ify! Give your healthy cookie dough some festive flair by adding some of the canned veggie into the mix, with vanilla protein powder for more staying power. We’re thinking this could work great as a pre- or post-workout snack, even when the holidays have long passed. 2. Sugar Cookie Dough Dip Photo: Living Well Kitchen Dates and chickpeas aren’t your average snickerdoodle ingredients, but thanks to these unconventional healthy swaps, you can enjoy sugar cookie flavor without butter, flour, or any actual sugar. 3. Vegan Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls Photo: Yummy Mummy Kitchen Once they’re out of the oven, gluten-free cookies can run the risk of tasting like cardboard. Solution? Just don’t bake 'em! This recipe uses almond flour, flax, and peanut butter to give you all the chewiness of a good cookie, without the health hazards of raw egg. 4. Skinny Red Velvet Cookie Dough Dip Photo: With Salt and Wit Turn heads with this dip variation of a classic cake. With nut butter instead of oil, maple syrup instead of sugar, and a hint of dark cocoa powder, it may not be your traditional red velvet recipe, but it takes a fraction of the time to make, and it’s healthy enough to eat every day. Good enough for us! 5. Chocolate Chip Funfetti Cookie Dough Bites Photo: Amy's Healthy Baking Using smaller amounts of refined flour, butter, and brown sugar, this recipe is all about that authentic cookie dough flavor, but the bite-size packaging makes it easier to stick to portion sizes. It’s the perfect way to indulge in moderation when “healthified” variations won’t cut it. 6. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles Photo: 24 Carrot Kitchen Make cookie dough even more irresistible by dunking balls of it into melted chocolate. Once chilled, you’ll have a crispy outer shell and a perfect, chewy center. Nobody needs to know that the inside is made up entirely of heart-healthy cashews! 7. Greek Yogurt Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Photo: Hungry Healthy Happy Trying to find a way to warm up to the tang of Greek yogurt? Turning it into cookie dough should help. Almond butter, honey, and dark chocolate cut the tartness, add even more protein, and can be eaten as dessert for breakfast or breakfast for dessert. 8. Healthy Gingerbread Cookie Dough Dip Photo: Sinful Nutrition Who says you can only indulge your gingerbread cravings during the holidays? Healthier than your average homemade cookie and so much better than the store-bought snaps, these richly spiced bites come with many classic ingredients like molasses and nutmeg, but the chickpea and peanut butter base (plus the dash of chili powder!) makes them extra special. Brownies and Bars 9. Vegan Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars Photo: Le Petite Eats Cookie dough and cheesecake in a single dessert sounds anything but light, and while these bars are plenty rich, the nut-based crust, coconut oil, and maple syrup makes them much healthier as far as ingredients are concerned. As a bonus, there’s no baking involved—just chill the mixture until it’s set enough to be sliced into. 10. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bars Photo: Feasting on Fruit You’re getting two recipes in one with these bars; one version uses regular peanut butter, while the other opts for peanut flour to cut down on the fat while maintaining that nutty flavor. The one thing that’s not negotiable? Chocolate chips. Skimp at your own risk. 11. Vegan Cookie Dough Brownies Photo: Vegan Richa If you thought chickpeas were a nontraditional dessert ingredient, your jaw may drop further at the idea of using red lentils to fulfill your cookie dough craving. But the high-protein legumes are actually key players in these brownie-bottomed bars. You’ll want to make this recipe just to believe it! 12. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Snack Bars Photo: Laura Fuentes Calling for fewer than five healthy ingredients and no baking time, these make getting your cookie dough fix a breeze. The hardest part is waiting for them to set before you can cut them into bars—we don’t blame you if you polish off half the dough long before it’s ready. 13. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies Photo: Rosanna Davison Nutrition You’ll need a few special items like brown rice flour and gluten-free baking powder to whip up these squares, but the ooey-gooey results are totally worth it. In fact, it might be useful to have those ingredients on hand all the time, since it’s likely you’ll be making these very often once you’ve tasted them. Cookies, Muffins and Pies 14. Vegan Cookie Dough Pie Photo: Vegan Richa A no-bake, gluten-free cookie dough crust. A homemade, dairy-free ice cream. Lots of chocolate shavings on top. This frozen dessert will make even healthy dessert skeptics drool. 15. Vegan Cookie Dough Muffins Photo: Upbeet and Kaleing It While grabbing a handful of actual cookie dough isn’t an option, you can always reach for one of these muffins instead. Slightly doughy in the center and crisp around the edges, these gluten-free babies are cookie dough perfection. 16. Healthy Chocolate Mousse Pie With Chocolate Cookie Dough Crust Photo: B Sweet Dreaming Added cocoa powder gives the crust a welcome hint of chocolate, which goes perfectly with the chocolaty, tofu-based filling. With all that chocolate going on, you won’t believe that each slice of this silky mousse has only seven grams of sugar. 17. Chocolate Egg Muffins Stuffed With Cookie Dough Photo: Food Faith Fitness This blogger describes this recipe as cookie dough “hugged” inside chocolate muffins. Given that they have six grams of protein per serving, a peanut butter drizzle, and plenty of chocolate chips, we want to hug her for creating it. 18. Vegan Chocolate Cookie Dough Cupcakes Photo: Beaming Banana If chickpeas can be used to make cookie dough dip, chickpea flour works just as well to make cookie dough cupcakes. Both the whole bean and its pulverized version are used in these fudgy treats, where cookie dough dip is stuffed inside the baked muffin and slathered on top. Other Goodies 19. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Nice Cream Photo: Rawberry Fields Banana “ice cream” has been a thing for a while now. But add some peanut butter to the mix and cram it with chunks of homemade, peanut buttery, chickpea-based cookie dough, and you’ll have a whole new appreciation for how amazing it can be. 20. Healthy Cookie Dough Milkshake Photo: Sprouted Routes You can use any milk you prefer for this recipe, but we recommend going with coconut for the proper milkshake experience. Almond butter and vanilla give it that distinct cookie dough flavor, while cacao nibs (or chocolate chips) add a sweet crunch to every sip. 21. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Smoothie Photo: The Seasoned Mom Refueling post workout with cookie dough sounds almost too good to be true, but this smoothie makes it possible. Packed with protein, plus healthy carbs from the oats, it’s the most delicious way to re-energize and treat yourself. 22. Healthy Cookie Dough Cheesecake Photo: The Pancake Princess Greek yogurt replaces half the cream cheese and adds the perfect amount of tang to offset the sugar in this super-smooth cake, while oat flour and ground flax make up the base of the cookie dough that’s hidden throughout the batter. If this is what a healthier dessert looks like, it’s easy to eat well. 23. Oatmeal Cookie Dough Smoothie Photo: In It 4 the Long Run Instead of putting yourself through the work (and the potential mess) of baking cookies from scratch, just throw your ingredients into a blender and call it a day. The oats, almond butter, and protein powder make this smoothie super thick and filling, while bananas and dates add sweetness without sugar.

A New Diagnosis: ‘Post-Election Stress Disorder’

Wally Pfingsten has always been a news junkie. But since President Donald Trump was elected, he’s been so anxious about the political tumult that even just having the TV news on in the background at home is unbearable.

“It’s been crippling,” said the 35-year-old San Mateo, Calif., resident and political moderate who has supported both Democratic and Republican candidates in the past. “I feel angry, really, really angry, far more angry than I expected to be.”

He’s tried hard to quell his anxiety. First, he shut down his Facebook page to limit his exposure to the daily soaking of news from Washington. But not knowing the goings-on made him anxious, too. He found himself sneaking onto the Facebook account he made for his dog. “I felt like I was cheating,” he said.

Pfingsten is not alone in his politics-induced anxiety — it’s so common it’s been given an unofficial name: Post-Election Stress Disorder. Mental health professionals around the country, especially those working in Democratic strongholds, report a stream of patients coming in with anxiety and depression related to — or worsened by — the blast of daily news on the new administration.

In the past, therapists say it’s been fairly uncommon for patients to bring up politics on the couch. “It is big money to talk about politics with me ― that is not what we do!” said Maria Lymberis, a psychiatrist in Santa Monica, Calif.

But that was before “fake news,” “alternative facts,” “repeal and replace,” contested confirmations, travel bans, protests and suits over travel bans, suspicions about Russian influence and the departures of the acting attorney general and the new national security adviser. Among other things.

Requests for therapy appointments to Talkspace, an online therapy portal based in New York City, tripled immediately following the election and have remained high through January, according to the company. In particular, Talkspace has seen a steady increase in requests from minorities, including Muslim-Americans, African-Americans, Jews, gays and lesbians.

“In my 28 years in practice, I’ve never seen anything like this level of stress,” said Nancy Molitor, a psychologist in the Chicago suburbs. She says the vast majority of her patients — from millennials to those in their 80s — are bringing up politics in their therapy sessions. “What we’re seeing now after the inauguration is a huge uptick in anxiety.”

Many of her patients say they are having trouble sleeping and focusing at work or are fighting more with family members, she said.

[caption id="attachment_225567" align="alignright" width="370"] Mental health professionals around the country, especially in Democratic strongholds, report a stream of patients coming in with anxiety and depression. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)[/caption]

“I have people who’ve told me they’re in mourning, that they’ve lost their libido,” Molitor said. “I have people saying the anxiety is causing them to be so distracted that they’re blowing through stop signs or getting into fender benders.”

The anxiety appears to be widespread. Fifty-seven percent of Americans report that the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, and 40 percent say the same about the outcome of the election, according to an online survey of 1,019 adults conducted by the American Psychological Association after the inauguration. Between August 2016 and January 2017, the overall average stress level increased significantly for the first time since the Stress in America survey began 10 years ago.

And it’s not Democrats: a quarter of Republicans report that the outcome of election is a significant source of stress for them.

“I’m seeing lot of anxiety and anger on both sides,” says Elaine DuCharme, a psychologist in Glastonbury, Conn. “People who are Republicans are afraid to tell anyone. They’re afraid that everybody thinks that every Republican thinks exactly as Trump does, and support every single thing he does.”

She says some of her patients are particularly concerned about maintaining civil relationships with friends and loved ones who have different political opinions. “People are walking on eggshells,” DuCharme said.

Karri King, 56, who lives in Buckeye, Ariz., and voted for Trump, says her experiences on social media have left her feeling sad and hopeless. “There’s so much negative from all these stupid Facebook posts acting like the world is going to end. And it’s false. And I can’t do a thing about it.”

King said she’s tried to engage civilly with people online who disagree with her, but “every time [Republicans] turn around, we’re bashed.”

When you say “a bunch of idiots” voted Trump in, “you’re talking about half of all Americans! We were hopeful at first, and now we’re angry and tired of being blamed,” said King. “Nobody wants to listen anymore, and that’s where my sadness comes from.”

Of course, in some parts of the country, especially those that are overwhelmingly Republican and outside big cities, people seem relieved if not uplifted by the new president’s flurry of executive orders and appointments.

Kristin Addison-Brown, a psychologist in rural Jonesboro, Ark., says before the election, some of her patients were voicing concerns about a possible Clinton victory. But since then, “it’s pretty much been crickets for my patients. They got their guy, so they’re not stressed anymore.”

Nancy Cottle, a Trump supporter in Mesa, Ariz., has been riding high since the election. “We got to go to the inauguration, and, oh, it was a wonderful experience! We got to go to the Trump hotel and have breakfast and then lunch there, and it was just great. The inauguration itself was very inspiring.”

Cottle, 64, has been struggling to understand the public outcry about Trump. “It’s like the sky is falling ― but a lot of that is just drama,” she said. “I feel encouraged, I feel hopeful. I can’t wait to wake up and see what the day’s going to bring and what else is going to happen.”

That same daily dose of news ― and the uncertainty of what will happen next ― rattles many Trump opponents.  But, like Pfingsten, they can’t seem to quit their news consumption cold turkey.

“Part of the brain wants to know what’s going on, and you’re drawn to watching CNN or reading the news. And then the other part of you is saying no, no, this isn’t good for me!” says Molitor, the Chicago psychologist. “It’s unfortunately like driving by a car accident ― they know it’s not good for them [to gawk], but it’s hard to stop.”

Molitor recommends patients stay engaged but limit the time they spend on Facebook or watching the news. Focus instead on other things you enjoy, she advises ― calling a friend, taking a walk or reading a book.

“I never read the Harry Potter books, so I’m reading Harry Potter,” says Matthew Leal, a 34-year-old San Francisco resident who found himself sinking into a depression after the election. “Someone could see this and say I’m being totally escapist right now, but I feel like it’s kind of what I need.”

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