How to Buy the Best Blender for Your Kitchen

Whether you need a basic blender for morning smoothies or a high-powered model that whips up soups and nut butters with ease, we’ve got you covered. Here are our top picks for the very best blenders on the market right now.
Source: Health Levitra

After Recovering From Leukemia, She's Racing Marathons for a Cure

Heather Krasnov, 54, was always active, but she didn’t make the jump from 5K to marathon until she faced a major life event: recovering from leukemia. In August 2001, at age 40, she was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, and doctors estimated that she had less than a 2 percent chance of surviving. Miraculously, after a month of treatment, she went into remission. “I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of person,” says Heather, “so when doctors gave me the worst-case scenario, I looked on the bright side. And I think that’s what helped me survive.”

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Wanting to give back, Heather signed up with Team In Training, the fundraising arm of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, to walk the 2004 Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. “Having gone through treatment, all I could think about was children with leukemia,” explains Heather. “As an adult, you have an awareness of what’s happening to your body that kids don’t. We have to find a cure for them.”

After months of training, Heather was packed and ready to fly out for the marathon, but she stopped at the doctor’s office for a blood test. Then, in San Francisco, she completed a joyous first marathon. “It was really exciting! Once you get to mile 21, you’re like, ‘I’ve got this.'”

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But she and her husband returned home to six messages on her answering machine informing her that the leukemia was back. She needed immediate treatment. “I just said, ‘OK. I’ve got to do it. Here we go again,'” recalls Heather. “I’m not one to break down.”

With each relapse, Heather’s chances of reaching remission shrank dramatically. Fortunately, in November 2005, she had a lifesaving bone marrow transplant from her cousin Lynn; she’s been cancer-free since.

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After her recovery, Heather spent six years coaching for her local Team In Training chapter in Wilmington, N.C., and raised more than $26,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In November, she ran her 11th half marathon to celebrate 10 years of remission. “It’s a high, the entire race, every race,” she says. “When you start to hit the wall, you just think of the people lying in bed, going through treatment. It brings you back to why you’re doing it, and you just go.” The Canyon Ranch 35th Annual Inspiration Awards went to 70 people recognized for the inspiration they provide to others.

Source: Health Levitra

A Smart Guide To Scary Chemicals

“Scientists issue warning over chemicals in carpets, coats, cookware.” “chemicals in pizza boxes may be health risk.”

Headlines like these make you want to curl up on the sofa and never leave the house—except that couch! Chances are it’s loaded with toxic chemicals, too. As a savvy, health-conscious (and, OK, slightly worry-prone) woman, how are you supposed to function in a world where everything from the dust bunnies in your home to your ATM receipt could be poisoning you?

First, some perspective: Yes, chemicals are everywhere, and some are undoubtedly harmful. But linking a health issue, whether it’s breast cancer or premature births, to specific substances is difficult. “We’re exposed to so many chemicals—some potentially hazardous, some not—and often health problems take months or years to develop. That makes it tricky to identify the culprit,” explains Tracey Woodruff, PhD, director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Moreover, the average person’s exposure to any one toxin is relatively low, as is her individual health risk. The potential peril of, say, eating microwave popcorn pales in comparison to smoking, which is directly responsible for 30 percent of cancer deaths, says Margaret Kripke, PhD, professor emerita at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and co-author of the President’s Cancer Panel report on environmental cancer risk.

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That said, developing fetuses, infants and children are more vulnerable to chemicals’ effects. In fact, this fall, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics issued a report sounding an alarm about the serious health effects of exposure to toxic chemicals during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Whether you have little ones or not, it’s smart to understand the science behind the most buzzed-about chemicals. We talked to top scientists and analyzed the research to find out what you should really be concerned about and how you can protect yourself and the planet.

Flame retardants (including polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PDBEs)

What are they?
In the 1970s, California instituted strict flammability standards for upholstered furniture sold in the state, leading manufacturers to add flame-retardant chemicals to the foam used in furniture sold throughout the U.S. Today these chemicals—designed to inhibit the spread of fire—are in chairs, sofas, cars, commercial airplanes and infant car seats. A typical sofa contains three or more pounds of treated foam.

What’s the worry?
Because the flame retardants are sprayed on rather than chemically bonded to the product, the molecules migrate out of the products and collect in household dust, where they get on our hands and, inevitably, into our mouths and bodies, says Philip Landrigan, MD, a pediatrician and dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Studies have linked different formulations to a variety of health problems, but the most worrisome issue is the effects on infants’ brain development. “PBDEs are fat-soluble and can easily enter the brain,” says Dr. Landrigan. “When that happens to babies in the womb and during infancy, it can result in reduced IQ and a shorter attention span.”

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Flame-retardant chemicals build up in body fat and, as a result, have been found in breast milk, infant cord blood and children’s blood. Children are also more exposed than adults because they crawl or play on the floor, where they come into contact with chemical-laden dust, says Ted Schettler, MD, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network.
Several types of flame retardants have already been phased out due to safety concerns, but other (and possibly dangerous) ones have taken their place—and the old versions will likely remain in the environment for years, since they’re designed to be durable.

Reduce your risk
It’s not realistic to buy all new furniture, but old sofas with crumbling foam should be a priority because they release the most chemicals, says Marya G. Zlatnik, MD, professor of maternal-fetal medicine at UCSF.

The great news: In early 2014, California revised its flammability regulations, enabling furniture makers to meet the standards without flame-retardant chemicals. Many companies, including Ashley Furniture, Crate & Barrel, Ikea, La-Z-Boy and Walmart, now sell upholstered products without the chemicals. (Go to for more details on how to find furniture without flame retardants.)

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New couch not in the budget? You may be able to update just the cushions with flame retardant–free foam at a local upholstery shop. In the meantime, dust and vacuum (vacuums with HEPA filters are best at removing small particles) several times a week to rid your home of dust that contains the chemicals, advises Dr. Zlatnik, and wash your hands (and your kids’) before eating.


What is it?
This pungent, flammable chemical is found in the wood glue used in furniture and flooring (especially laminate) and many manufactured wood products, like particle board, medium-density fiberboard and hardwood plywood. The chemical grabbed national attention after Hurricane Katrina, when people who were put up in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency started suffering from respiratory problems, headaches and nosebleeds linked to high concentrations of formaldehyde in the air. It made headlines again this year when 60 Minutes reported that Chinese-made laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators emitted formaldehyde at levels exceeding California standards. (The company has stopped selling the product, though its own testing program showed that the vast majority of customers’ homes were within safe levels.)

RELATED: 10 Ways to Keep Air Clean at Home

What’s the worry?
Inhaling formaldehyde can cause nose, throat and eye irritation and trigger asthma attacks—probably the biggest risk for most people, says David Krause, PhD, a toxicologist in Tallahassee, Fla. Although the National Toxicology Program said formaldehyde is “known to be a human carcinogen” in 2011, after studies linked it to cancers of the nose and myeloid leukemia, that research looked at manufacturing and funeral industry workers, who are exposed to higher levels of the substance than the general population, explains Laura Beane Freeman, PhD, an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute. However, the Environmental Protection Agency is concerned enough about the chemical that it is finalizing new national rules that will set limits on formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products.

Other formaldehyde-related concerns, like getting Brazilian blowouts, are likely overhyped, says Krause. “I’d be more worried about hairdressers who are exposed to those chemicals routinely than a woman who gets the treatment a few times a year,” he says.

Reduce your risk
If solid wood isn’t an option, the next best thing is to buy wood products that comply with the formaldehyde regulations set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB)—they’re the most stringent to date. (Look for a label indicating CARB phase 2 compliance, or ask the manufacturer directly if the product meets those standards.) Put products in the garage or a spare bedroom to allow the chemical to off-gas for a few days to a few weeks—or until they don’t smell, which is a good sign that a large portion has off-gassed, says Krause. If you don’t have that kind of time, keep your windows open as much as you can for the first few months after a new wood product is in your home.

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PFASs (poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances; also known as perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs)

What are they?
These compounds make products more resistant to stains, grease and water; they’re found in such items as sofas, carpets, pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags and waterproof clothing. They’re also in some nonstick cookware.

What’s the worry?
PFASs can accumulate in the body (including the brain, liver, lungs, bones and kidneys) and remain for as long as a decade. Studies have shown links to kidney cancer, high cholesterol, obesity, abnormal thyroid function, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and low-birth-weight infants. Most of the research has been done on folks with very high exposures, including those who lived near chemical plants in West Virginia and Ohio, where drinking water had become contaminated. But even low levels are a concern, says Simona Balan, PhD, senior scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute in Berkeley, Calif.

And almost everyone has traces of PFASs in their blood, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Released from factories and consumer products, they accumulate in the environment (some versions won’t degrade for thousands of years), ending up in water, fish and livestock. In May, a group of more than 200 researchers and scientists from all over the world signed the Madrid Statement, asking for a limit to production and use of these chemicals.

Reduce your risk
You probably can’t completely avoid eating and drinking PFASs, but you can wash your hands often to remove those you pick up around the house (they may collect in household dust), and replace your nonstick cookware with ceramic-coated pans, advises Linda S. Birnbaum, PhD, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program. Make popcorn on the stove instead of in the microwave, and don’t get stain-resistant finishes on new cars or furniture.

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You can also help reduce the amount of these chemicals that get into the environment by opting for clothing that hasn’t been treated with PFASs. Brands that have committed to phasing out the substances include Adidas, Puma and Zara. (Scientists don’t know enough about whether PFASs are absorbed through the skin, so it’s unclear if clothing treated with them poses a direct health risk, says Birnbaum.)

BPA (bisphenol A)

What is it?
BPA is used to make hard polycarbonate plastics (like those used for water bottles and food-storage containers) and epoxy resins, found in the lining of many food cans. There was a big news splash about the fact that it’s in the thermal receipt paper you might get at the ATM and grocery store—but food and drink are the primary way most of us are exposed, according to the National Institutes of Health.

What’s the worry?
BPA is considered an endocrine-disrupting chemical, which means it may act like a hormone in the body and affect the functioning of natural hormones, like estrogen. “It can potentially have a negative impact on fetal development, including brain development,” says Dr. Schettler. In 2014, researchers from nine institutions, including the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Michigan, concluded that BPA is a “reproductive toxicant,” based on studies showing that it reduced egg quality in women undergoing in vitro fertilization—and said there’s strong evidence that it’s toxic to the uterus as well. “It could disrupt women’s ability to get pregnant,” says Woodruff.

There’s also preliminary evidence that it may be linked to obesity. Several years ago, Harvard researchers reported that people who had higher BPA concentrations in their urine were more likely to be obese; in May, Canadian researchers reported that the body seems to break down BPA into a compound that might spur the growth of fat cells.

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Reduce your risk Eat fresh or frozen food instead of canned, or choose brands sold in BPA-free cans. Researchers from Harvard and the CDC found that people who consumed a 12-ounce serving of canned soup every day for five days had a twelvefold increase in BPA levels in their urine compared with those who ate fresh soup—a temporary blip, since the body gets rid of BPA quickly, but potentially worrisome if you eat canned food regularly or have other exposures. Store food in glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers. And avoid microwaving in plastic, because heating the containers allows the chemicals they contain (whether BPA or other compounds) to leach into food, says Birnbaum.

Pesticides (including organophosphates)

What are they?
Poisons formulated to kill, harm or repel pests. Farmers may apply them on fields, and they’re in many lawn, garden and home products.

What’s the worry?
They can damage your nervous system, irritate your skin or eyes, affect your hormones or even cause cancer. The biggest risk by far is to farm workers and those who live near farms, who are exposed to higher levels than the rest of us, says Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD, a pesticide researcher at the UC Davis MIND Institute.

For starters, farmers and other agricultural workers appear to have higher rates of certain cancers. In March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, raised new concerns about a link between glyphosate, the active ingredient in weed killers such as Roundup, and cancer risk. (Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, disputes the IARC’s findings.) But pesticides in the home also pose a potential danger. A new review published in Pediatrics connected indoor pesticide exposure to a significantly higher risk of childhood leukemia and lymphoma.

Researchers are also studying the relationship between pesticides and neurodevelopmental disorders. A study of an agricultural region of California found that evidence of pesticide exposure in pregnant women was linked to a higher risk of attention problems in their young children. And last year, researchers at the MIND Institute reported that pregnant women who lived near fields where chemical pesticides were used had a roughly two-thirds higher risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder, and an even higher risk of having one with other developmental delays.
What about pesticide residues in nonorganic food? The American Cancer Society says there’s no evidence at present that they increase the risk of cancer. However, research by Hertz-Picciotto and her colleagues has shown that there may be a risk to kids’ neurological health.

Reduce your risk Go organic. “That alone can reduce exposure to pesticides by 90 percent,” says Dr. Landrigan. When researchers at Emory University and the University of Washington substituted organic food for children’s conventional diets for five days, the metabolites for two types of organophosphate pesticides all but disappeared from the kids’ urine. Can’t afford all-organic? Choose fruits and veggies with lower pesticide residues (see the Environmental Working Group’s guide at and scrub them with water to reduce surface chemicals further.

And, of course, minimize or eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides in and around your home—and remove shoes at the door to prevent tracking in chemicals, says Dr. Zlatnik.

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What are they?
These chemicals make plastic flexible (think vinyl shower curtains, food packaging and soft plastic food containers, garden hoses, medical tubing, kids’ toys). They’re also in products like shampoo, hairspray and nail polish; if you see “parfum” or “fragrance” on a label, it could contain phthalates.

What’s the worry?
Phthalates, which decrease testosterone and may also mimic estrogen, have been linked to increased breast cancer risk. “I’m particularly concerned about the effects during pregnancy,” says Shanna Swan, PhD, professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She and her colleagues have found that exposure to phthalates in the womb might affect baby boys’ sexual development. “Fetal development is to a large extent determined by hormones, so phthalates may be having other subtle effects as well,” she says.

Those at elevated risk include women exposed to high levels through jobs in the automotive industry, rubber hose manufacturing facilities and nail salons, but as with other endocrine-disrupting chemicals, scientists are concerned that low doses might be harmful, too.

Reduce your risk The main source of exposure to one of the most concerning phthalates, DEHP, is food, says Swan, so avoid microwaving in plastic, and if you eat, drink or store food in plastic, steer clear of those labeled #3. Also, buy low-fat dairy products and eat leaner cuts of meat, says Sheela Sathyanarayana, MD, associate professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Washington. In 2014, she and colleagues reported that dairy (particularly cream) and meat can contain high levels of a certain type of phthalate, possibly from animal feed or because the chemicals leach into the food from plastics used in processing and packaging.

Congress has already banned several phthalates in toys and in teething and feeding products, but since plastics contain a concoction of chemicals, it’s best to avoid plastic toys until your child outgrows the tendency to mouth them, advises Woodruff.

Phthalates can be inhaled and absorbed through the skin as well, which means personal-care products may pose a slight risk. “Choose products that contain few ingredients and are unscented—which means they probably don’t contain phthalates,” says Woodruff.

As scientists continue to sift through the concerns over chemicals, new scares are likely to keep making headlines. But instead of fretting, let Congress know where you stand. And try to put the risks in perspective, suggests Woodruff: “The sanest approach is to make a few changes to the food and products you buy and adopt some simple habits that reduce your exposure—then enjoy your life.

What about parabens?

These preservatives (found in products like makeup, moisturizers and hair care) have been in use since the 1930s and have long been deemed safe. Parabens are considered to be weak estrogen mimics—10,000 to 100,000 times less active than the estrogen in your body, according to one 1998 study. While they could theoretically increase breast cancer risk, at this point the risk is just that—theoretical—”and based on animal and other lab studies,” says Janet Gray, PhD, director of science, technology and society at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who researches environmental impacts on breast cancer. Bottom line: There’s no need to panic about parabens, but it’s always wise to limit your exposure to any chemicals that may act like hormones—in this case, by opting for paraben-free personal-care products.

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Additives that only sound dangerous

Just because these ingredients have hard-to-pronounce names doesn’t make them evil. Don’t freak if you see them on the side of a package; they’re safe.

Azodicarbonamide is added to flour as a whitening agent and to help bread dough rise. It caused an uproar when it was revealed that it’s also used to make yoga mats and a variety of other products you wouldn’t want to eat. The World Health Organization has said it can be potentially dangerous when inhaled, possibly triggering asthma in workers who are heavily exposed during the manufacturing process. But as a food additive, it is used in tiny amounts—a maximum of 0.0045 percent of the treated flour, points out Alissa Rumsey, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Xanthan gum is a sugarlike substance made from fermentation, feeding cornstarch to bacteria. It’s used as a thickener and emulsifier—it helps keep oil and water from separating in products—and increases shelf life. It’s in salad dressings and sauces and is what gives most gluten-free breads and baked goods a texture similar to that of wheat-based breads. Some people are allergic to xanthan gum, but if you don’t have an allergy, it’s harmless, says Rumsey.

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Ascorbyl palmitate is a fat-soluble form of vitamin C. It helps increase the shelf life of foods and makes food color last longer. When you consume it, it breaks down into vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and palmitate, a kind of fat, explains Rumsey. “Vitamins often have worrisome-sounding names, but this one is actually an antioxidant, so it’s good for you,” says Robert Gravani, PhD, professor of food science at Cornell University.

Lecithin is a type of fat usually derived from egg yolks or soybeans. It’s used as an emulsifier in salad dressing and as a stabilizer in bread. “It’s a fat that’s essential to most cells in our bodies,” notes Gravani. Unless you have a soy or egg allergy, lecithin is safe to consume, says Rumsey.

Calcium propionate is added to breads and bakery products to prevent mold and bacteria growth. It has been studied extensively for toxicity, and findings were negative, says Rumsey. “Some people may get migraines triggered by foods with this preservative,” she notes, “but there hasn’t been much research to back this up.”

Take action

It’s natural to assume that the government has safety checks in place for environmental chemicals, but that’s not the case. In 1976, when Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), there were roughly 62,000 substances already in use in the U.S.—all of which were grandfathered in by Congress and presumed to be safe, without testing. Since then, another 20,000 chemicals have come on the market, and very few have been tested, thanks to weak regulation, says Philip Landrigan, MD, dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

You can help make a difference in the fight to keep toxic chemicals out of our bodies and our environment. Voice your support for chemical safety reform, which Congress is currently debating: Write your members of Congress to say you’re in favor of reforming the TSCA; learn more and join the movement at

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3 things you don’t have to worry about

Dyeing your hair.
Though ingredients in older (pre-1980) hair- dye formulas were shown to cause cancer in lab animals, those ingredients are no longer in use; newer studies haven’t found a cancer link. Hairdressers exposed to dyes at work may have a slightly higher risk of bladder cancer, but the IARC says there’s not enough evidence to link personal hair-dye use and cancer.

Keeping your mercury fillings
“I have no qualms about using them to treat my patients,” says Hadie Rifai, DDS, a dentist with the Cleveland Clinic, and everyone from the Mayo Clinic to the FDA and American Dental Association agrees they’re safe.

Eating sushi once a week.
“It’s safe to eat two servings of fish a week. Just go for a variety of types,” says Emily Oken, MD, associate professor in the department of population medicine at the Harvard School of Public Health. “That way, you get the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and, as long as you’re not pregnant, you don’t need to worry about mercury exposure.”

Source: Health Levitra

7 Subtle Signs You're Burned-Out

When Tess Kearns and her husband started an all-natural catering company in Chicago last year, the responsibilities of running a new business and raising two kids were super-consuming. “I found myself with a late mortgage and not enough business and racing to learn new skills to keep it all going,” says Tess. “But I didn’t feel like I was worn-out. I just felt like I had a heavy load to carry.”

Then her memory began to slip. “I’d meet someone for a second or third time and not recognize them,” she says. “I needed to write to-do lists so I wouldn’t forget tasks, but then I’d lose the lists. I was in my 40s, and I was afraid I had early-stage Alzheimer’s.”

Tess didn’t have dementia: She was careening toward burnout. Memory blips are just one of the body’s clues that it’s stressed to the max. But we’re often operating at such a fast pace that we don’t even notice the signs. “Our bodies try to tell us to slow down, and we just don’t listen,” says Alice Domar, PhD, founder of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Waltham, Mass. “If you ignore the distress signals for too long, they can turn into health problems.” Watch out for these biological tip-offs that it’s time for a breather.

RELATED: 17 Surprising Reasons You’re Stressed Out

You keep drawing blanks
When you’re under stress, your adrenal gland pumps out cortisol, and research has shown that this fight-or-flight hormone can hinder your powers of recall, making it tougher to access stored facts (including so-and-so’s name and where you left your phone).

Add late nights or insomnia to the mix and your recollection may get even slipperier. “During sleep, your brain replays whatever you learned that day and moves it into long-term storage,” explains Sandra Ackermann, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in biopsychology at the University of Zurich. If you don’t get enough shut-eye or you go to bed with your cortisol levels still spiking, that process of encoding details is disturbed.

Tess finally connected her spaciness to burnout at a networking event, where a Reiki therapist spoke about how stress can make the body go haywire. “I went in for a session, and while I was there I felt peace and calm,” says Tess. “It may sound ‘woo woo,’ but I got my focus back. Shortly after that, we had our best business month yet.”

RELATED: 17 Ways to Age-Proof Your Brain

Your cuts take forever to heal
Whether you graze your knuckle with a vegetable peeler or develop a nasty blister on a long-distance run, expect to wear a Band-Aid for a while if you’re overtaxed. “When you get an injury, your immune system engages right away, sending signals to produce collagen, form a blood clot and recruit cells to protect against germs,” explains William Huang, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. “But when you’re stressed, your body has higher levels of chemicals called glucocorticoids, which suppress your immune system and make healing slower.” Researchers from Ohio State University studied this effect in the caregivers of dementia patients: They found that people shouldering such responsibility healed 24 percent more slowly than those in a control group.

Your cramps are lethal
You already know that stress can make your period late. That’s because when the hypothalamus, the regulatory center of the brain, senses that your body is running on empty, it can delay the release of an egg, shifting your whole cycle offtrack.

But for some women, feeling frazzled may make PMS worse as well. In a National Institutes of Health study, researchers followed 259 women for more than a month and quizzed them on how often they felt, for example, nervous or not in control of their lives. Those who reported more stress early in their cycle were more likely than relaxed women to have moderate to severe symptoms before and during their period. (Because killer cramps are just what you need right now.)

RELATED: 9 Best Workouts to Do When You Have Your Period

Your GI tract protests like whoa
Christa Reed, from Park Ridge, Ill., had always had a stomach of steel. But about nine months into a TV news gig that required her to be on-site by 3 a.m., she was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Her doctor prescribed a modified diet and more sleep. Six months later, the pain was worse. “Instead of carrying lip gloss and gum in my purse, I had Tums and Pepto Bismol,” says Christa, who was then 27. “My doctor told me that if I didn’t get more rest, I’d end up with esophageal cancer.” So she decided to quit her job, and within two weeks, the reflux was gone.

Christa’s story is far from unusual. “Stress can alter gut secretions and slow or speed up digestion, causing problems like reflux, nausea, constipation or diarrhea,” says Michael Gershon, MD, professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University and author of The Second Brain.

There may be farther-reaching consequences as well: “When anxiety disrupts digestive processes, the gut’s microbiome may begin to change,” explains Dr. Gershon. “The presence or absence of different bacteria can influence the strength of your entire immune system, your weight, even your mood.” The good news: A little R & R can help restore the balance of bugs in your belly.

You can’t stop scratching
In response to any sort of trauma or pathogen, the skin’s nerve endings release chemical signals called neuropeptides that communicate “Houston, we have a problem” to the brain. Weirdly, a looming deadline or crammed social calendar can activate the same messengers—resulting in inflammation that makes you feel itchy. “The skin is a dynamic organ, and skin and stress have a complicated interplay,” says Dr. Huang.

Your dreams are downright wacky
If your sleep scenes play out like Dancing with the Stars-meets-The Walking Dead fan fiction, you may need a lot more shut-eye. People who are sleep-deprived tend to have more intense dreams, though experts aren’t entirely sure why.

One possible explanation: When you’re not getting enough rest, your brain prioritizes REM sleep—the most restorative stage, which also happens to be when dreams occur. “Typically, REM sleep doesn’t begin until about 90 minutes after you fall asleep,” says Joyce Walsleben, PhD, associate professor at the Sleep Disorders Center at NYU School of Medicine. “But if you’re exhausted, the brain can get there in as few as 10 minutes.” Throughout the night, it will cycle quickly through the other two stages of sleep to make up for the deficit in REM, which means more time for creative nocturnal imaginings to unfold.

Plus, if you’re stressed-out and sleeping fitfully, you’re more likely to wake up middream, or just after one, and remember the details vividly—especially if it involved, say, flamenco-dancing zombies.

RELATED: 7 Tips for the Best Sleep Ever

Your head pounds on Saturdays
After a brutal week at the office, the weekend feels like a gift from the gods. You sleep in, enjoy a leisurely brunch and then…develop throbbing pressure in your skull? “We’re not exactly sure why, but migraines are sometimes triggered by the letdown after a period of stress rather than the stress itself,” explains Peter Goadsby, PhD, a neurologist who specializes in headache disorders at Kings College London. The effect might be the result of a sharp drop in cortisol. Who knew?

RELATED: 10 Foods That May Trigger a Migraine

Your brain and body are screaming for z’s—but stress is keeping you up at night. Help! This simple yoga series from celebrity instructor Mandy Ingber can help relax your mind for better rest.

1. Easy seated pose with alternate-nostril breathing
Sit on the floor, legs crossed. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril. At the top of the inhale, close your left nostril with your right ring finger and release right nostril. Exhale and inhale through your right nostril. Close right nostril again and exhale through left nostril. Repeat the sequence 16 times.

2. Reclining Pigeon Pose
Lie on your back, knees bent and soles of feet on the floor. Cross right ankle over left knee. Clasp your hands behind left hamstring and draw thigh toward your torso. Hold for up to two minutes, breathing deeply. Switch sides.

3. Legs-up-the-wall pose
Sit by a wall with right hip and shoulder touching it, knees bent. Roll onto your back and extend legs up the wall. Stay here for 5 to 10 minutes. “This mellow inversion reverses blood flow, encourages lymphatic drainage and brings renewed blood to your heart,” says Ingber.

RELATED: 3 Stress-Busting Yoga Poses


“I’ve created little cues to remind myself to take breaks. Now, whenever I’m stopped at a red light, or whenever I glance at the clock at work, I practice diaphragmatic breathing.” —Alice Domar, PhD

“Some whole foods can actually help you handle stress better. Berries, red bell peppers and kale are all good sources of vitamin C, which helps regulate cortisol. And avocados contain loads of potassium, which helps keep your blood pressure healthy.”—Wendy Bazilian, RD

“For the best sleep, you have to find a way to separate the day from the night. That might mean taking a quick shower before bed or starting a new bedtime routine, like writing in a journal or doing some yoga.”—Joyce Walsleben, PhD

Source: Health Levitra

4 Ways Your Pet Makes Your Life Better

Just as human friends can make you happy in the deepest ways, so too can the furry variety, research shows. “One of my earliest studies found that dog owners are as emotionally close to their dogs as they are to their closest family member,” says Sandra Barker, PhD, professor of psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University and director of the university’s Center for Human-Animal Interaction. While your sister might not be pleased to hear that, it’s good to know that pet ownership has many benefits—like the ones here.

RELATED: The Best Pets For Your Health

1. They keep your stress in check
When your dog starts wagging his tail, it’s hard to obsess about that pile of work you just left on your desk. In fact, in one of Barker’s studies, her team had people complete a stressful task, then measured their brain waves, blood pressure, heart rate, salivary cortisol and self-reported stress after 30 minutes with their own dog or a therapy dog. “We saw a consistent pattern of stress reduction across all measures,” says Barker. “Other researchers have found reduced stress in owners interacting with their dogs after stressful tasks, compared with interacting with friends and spouses.”

2. They get you moving
Especially if you have a pup. “Dogs require at least 30 minutes of exercise a day,” says Ernie Ward, DVM, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity and Prevention, “and that just so happens to be about how many minutes humans need, too.” Dog owners are 34 percent more likely to meet federal guidelines for exercise, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. And exercise is a proven mood booster: In a Norwegian study, people who exercised had better mental health than those who were sedentary. Another study suggested that walking briskly for 30 minutes could have a significant impact on mild to moderate depression symptoms.

RELATED: 13 Fun Ways to Work Out With Your Dog

3. They combat loneliness
In the age of FOMO, having a pet to keep you company can prevent that “Am I the only one who doesn’t have plans tonight?” feeling. “Researchers have found a reduction in loneliness in pet-owning women living alone, while others have seen reduced loneliness in nursing home residents after animal-assisted activities,” says Barker. But then, if you’re an animal lover, you don’t need us to tell you about that comfort you get when you’re working late into the night and your cat cozies up by your side, or when your dog gleefully greets you after a long, solitary commute.

4. They boost your confidence
Sure, getting a promotion at work can give your self-image a lift—but so can owning a dog. According to one study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, dog owners scored higher in certain well-being categories, including self-esteem, than nonowners. “Because pets can decrease loneliness, anxiety and depression, there’s a good chance dog owners will feel more self-assured,” explains Barker. The same authors also found that when faced with social rejection, dog owners were better able to stay upbeat—and keep negative feelings at bay.

RELATED: 12 Ways Pets Improve Your Health

Not a cat or dog person? You can still get happiness perks by owning a fish (or three). Scientists at the National Marine Aquarium in England discovered that looking at an aquarium improved people’s moods—and that the more fish they added, the more those folks’ heart rates fell.

Source: Health Levitra