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It's been a long day, a long week…heck, the whole month seems to be moving at a snail's pace. If you need a pick-me-up, how about some good food, relaxation, and maybe a little laughter. We've got 15 great ideas for affordable, healthy indulgences that will recharge your energy and spirit.
Nibble a Piece of Dark Chocolate
Sweet, rich, with a luscious taste that lingers, few things feel as indulgent as eating dark chocolate. And the charms of this treat go beyond its silky smoothness. The "prescription": Nibble an ounce of dark chocolate each day. The healthy possibilities: lower blood pressure, increased blood flow, and improved "good" cholesterol. Now that's a luxury worth lingering over.
Scent a Room With Lavender
People have been smitten with aromatic herbs for centuries, filling pillows and pockets with them. Now research hints at what we've always suspected: Aromatherapy seems to be good for you. It may may not provide all the health benefits some essential oils makers would like you to believe, but studies show that breathing in natural perfumed scents can lift mood. So, indulge in some aromatherapy. Spritz lavender water on your pillow tonight. Pleasant dreams!
Indulge in a Kiss
You dash in the door late from work, say hello to your mate, then run off to a child's soccer practice or your book club. Wait! Stop a minute -- yes, a whole minute -- and give your spouse a really big kiss. Not only will giving your sweetheart a little sugar burn calories, but that kiss reduces stress, benefits your immune system, and boosts your bond with your spouse.
Splurge on a Fresh Tuna Steak
Give the can opener a rest and slice into a succulent tuna steak tonight. You'll not only delight tired taste buds, but you'll also give your body omega-3 fatty acids, super fats that are important to heart health and storing energy. And who doesn't need more opportunities for healthy eating? Dig in!
Get a Manicure
Those hands of yours are like busy bees. They fly over a computer keyboard, wield hammer and nails, tuck in the kids, hug your honey, scrub, brush, floss...Whew. Indulge these dedicated workers with a manicure. Like massage, a manicure involves contact with another person through touch, which not only makes you feel pampered, it may even improve self-esteem. Now that's a stress reliever.
Rent a Funny Movie
Go ahead, laugh it up -- it's good for you! Studies show that a good belly laugh takes the zap out of stress, pumps up your immunity, improves blood flow, and stabilizes blood pressure. A good chuckle may even help keep blood sugar levels down and aid digestion. Just anticipating laughter seems to reduce stress. You may start to feel better just watching the opening credits roll.
Put the Kettle On
Even in this coffee-besotted nation, the average American sips more than 9 gallons of tea a year. Part of the appeal may be tea's tension-taming powers. Research shows that folks who enjoyed four cups of black tea a day for six weeks released fewer stress hormones after a tense task than those who drank a caffeinated fruit drink. Green tea has similar benefits. So put that kettle on, pull out your favorite mug, and steep a pot of your favorite tea today.
Enjoy a Little After-Work Delight
You've sat through meetings, raced through deadlines, and after work you just want to crash. Forget the TV. Forget making dinner. Instead, try the ultimate stress reliever. Sex. Yes, sex. Studies show a little nookie lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity, and even raises self-esteem. Making love -- a perfect way to cap a stressful day.
Get a Chair Massage
A massage may feel like an expensive indulgence, but here's one luxury that's good for your physical and mental health. When you get a massage, your body releases endorphins, natural painkillers. A massage also reduces stress hormones, lowers anxiety, and raises your immunity. A chair massage usually costs about $1 a minute. You can get a chair massage at some malls, fairs, or office buildings. It's a quick way to shut out the surrounding chaos and let some wellness into your day.
Take Time to Streeeeetch
The day got away from you, and you missed your usual workout. Not to worry. While you indulge in watching your favorite TV program after work, give your body a boost with a little stretching. Not only will stretching help ease tired muscles and increase flexibility, it improves your range of motion and circulation, and soothes away stress, too. Take it slow and hold each pose for ten seconds…then feel the relief!
Want to enhance your serenity and indulge a little introspection? Get outside to hunt for a few seasonal "firsts." Perhaps it's the first birds returning in spring, autumn's first turning leaves, or the first bright crocus pushing through the snow. Get in touch with nature and your neighborhood. It lets you feel connected to something greater, giving you a healthy sense of peace and well-being.
Pick Some Exotic Fruit
Take home those unique choices from the produce department: star-shaped fruits, tiny purple berries, and what look like prickly little lemons. Whether you eat star fruit, acai berries, or "horned" cucumbers, indulging in tropical fruits gives your taste buds an exciting change. It also gives you a bumper crop of health benefits. Antioxidants and other nutrients in these foods help reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Call a Good Friend
Good friends are good for you -- it's as simple as that. Whether you see them every day or once in a while, friends foster a sense of belonging, purpose, and self-worth. Friendship even keeps you on a mental even keel. So grab the phone, stretch out on the couch, and give your best buddy a call.
Sleep, Baby, Sleep
Between a busy day of working, working out, and running errands, who has time to indulge in a good night's sleep? You do. Sleeping well tonight is not only important to ward off fatigue, it will also help you learn and make memories. The pros say most adults need seven to eight hours every night. So rest easy tonight -- your body will love you for it.
Move It, Move It, Move It!
What if you had a magic elixir that could lift your mood, help you sleep, increase energy, and even spark your sex life? You don't need a mystic brew for all that. You just need to get moving! Don't call it exercise. Just call it a walk around the neighborhood, a tussle on the lawn with the kids, or digging in the garden. Ten minutes of each could even lead to fewer colds and a boost in brain power. So get moving!
Kale! Seaweed! Goji berries! When you hear aboout a food that curbs this disease or that condition, you might want to dive right in. If some is good, more must be better, right? Not so fast. The right amount of the right types of foods is great for you. But if you overdo it or choose the wrong kinds, it can backfire. Since every good-for-you-food has its limits, focus on the big picture.
Too Many Brazil Nuts
Selenium is a nutrient that you need -- but only about 55 micrograms (mcg) of selenium a day. Just one Brazil nut has 68-91 mcg. That's more than a day’s worth!
Too much selenium can cause problems including diarrhea, nausea, skin rashes, hair loss, and even serious effects like trouble breathing, heart and kidney failure, and heart attacks. Adults shouldn’t get more than 400 mcg per day. That’s no more than four or five Brazil nuts, if you don't get selenium from anything else.
Picking Your Own Mushrooms
These wild and wooly fungi are tasty, loaded with nutrients, low in calories, and may even lower your risk of cancer. But before you forage in your local forest, keep in mind that eating the wrong kind of mushroom can lead to anything from an upset stomach to death. So only hunt for them if you’re an expert or are with one. Otherwise, get them from your grocery store to be safe.
Grapefruit Plus Certain Meds
This splashy citrus could cause problems if you have some prescriptions, like statins for your cholesterol. Grapefruit can make your body absorb more of the medicine than normal, which could lead to side effects. It may be more likely with some statins than others. And the same thing could happen with some drugs that treat other conditions. So if you’re gaga for grapefruit, ask your doctor if it will affect your prescriptions.
Greens and Kidney Stones?
Just about everyone needs to eat more veggies. Dark, leafy greens like spinach are some of the best. But if you tend to get kidney stones, you’ll want to watch how much you eat.
These greens have a lot of oxalate, which can cause kidney stones. If you’re at risk, your doctor may recommend no more than 40-50 milligrams (mg) of oxalate a day. And half a cup of greens can have close to 10 mg of it. So you can have a couple of servings, but don’t pack huge amounts into your green smoothies.
Too Much of the Wrong Fish
Fish are rich in protein, low in saturated fats, and high in good fats your body needs. The catch? They absorb mercury. That’s a problem for anyone, but especially pregnant women because it can harm the baby’s nervous system.
Each week, you can eat 12 ounces -- about two meals -- of low-mercury fish like shrimp, canned light tuna, or salmon. Avoid high-mercury fish like:
Can You Get Too Much Water?
Most days, you likely don’t drink enough of it. It's not easy to get too much. There are two main exceptions. One is a mental health condition where you compulsively drink water. The other is when you do a lot of hard exercise, like marathons, and you down too much water instead of a sports drink.
Coconut Oil Overload
More and more people have started to cook with coconut oil. But many nutritionists are still skeptical. Why? While coconut oil does have fats that boost your good cholesterol, it’s also bursting with saturated fat. Your best bet? Limit yourself. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 13 grams of saturated fat a day. Just 1 tablespoon of coconut oil gives you 11 of those.
Olive Oil: Drip, Don’t Drown
Olive oil may actually be good for your heart. But even the best fats are loaded with calories. So limit yourself to 2 tablespoons a day or less, including what's in your food. If you overdo it, you could gain weight, and that could offset the good you thought you were doing.
Potatoes: Don’t Go Green
Potatoes naturally have solanine, a substance that can make you sick if you eat too much. It’s highest in the eyes, sprouts, skin, and any green parts of the potato. Still, you’d have to eat a lot of potatoes before you had a problem. A person who weighs 100 pounds would need to eat 1 pound of completely green potatoes before getting sick. But don’t forget to remove the eyes, sprouts, and green parts, just to be on the safe side.
Nightshades and Joint Pain
Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are all nightshades. They’ve gotten a bad rap because of solanine. Some say it causes joint pain, but there’s no research to back that up. In fact, yellow and purple potatoes may help with swelling, which could ease pain. Still, you know your body best. You may be sensitive to some vegetables, so if they bother you, avoid them.
Maxed Out on Chocolate
It tastes great and has antioxidants and flavonoids, which can help lower your blood pressure and protect your arteries. But there are limits:
Go gourmet. Lower-quality chocolate usually won’t have the flavonoids.
Limit yourself to 1 ounce each day. Check the label of your bar to see how big it is.
Stick to dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao to avoid too much sugar and fat.
Overdoing the Red Wine
It may be good for your heart in small amounts. There are still questions, though, and health risks. It may be that eating grapes is just as good for you, with none of alcohol's side effects. So if you don’t drink, experts don't recommend that you start. If you do, women and men over 65 can have one small glass -- that’s 5 ounces a day -- and no other alcohol. Men under 65 can have two glasses.
A Better Way
Make it simple. Instead of obsessing over a single food:
Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. Split the other half between proteins and whole grains.
Limit how much sugar, salt, and saturated fat you eat.
Mix it up. When you eat a variety of good-for-you foods, you meet your needs and avoid overdoing it on any one thing.
It’s said a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. Sooner or later, that crown will start to gray. You now face a decision. Banish gray hair with dye, or rock a silver mane? Whichever you pick, know the facts about your gray strands to keep your hair looking and feeling its best.
Science of Grays
Your hair follicles have pigment cells that make melanin, a chemical that gives your hair its color. As you age, these cells start to die. Without pigment, new hair strands grow in lighter and take on various shades of gray, silver, and eventually white. Once a follicle stops making melanin, it won’t make colored strands again.
When and Why It Happens
You might blame your stressful job or your unruly teens for your grays. But it’s mostly your genes that dictate how early and how quickly it happens. So if either of your parents had a full head of gray hair in their 30s, there’s a good chance you will, too.
How Race Plays a Role
On average, white people start to gray in their mid-30s. Asians start in their late 30s. And African-Americans usually don’t see color changes until their mid-40s.
What’s Premature Gray?
Some people go gray 10 or more years earlier than the average person does. It’s premature if you’re gray before:
20 if you’re white
25 if you’re Asian
30 if you’re African-American
Do Health Problems Turn Hair Gray?
They could. These conditions include:
Lack of vitamin B12
Certain rare, inherited tumor conditions
Vitiligo, a condition that destroys pigment-making cells in the scalp
Alopecia areata causes patches of hair (usually ones with color) to fall out. This can look like sudden graying because the hair that’s left is gray or white. When your hair regrows, it could be gray, white, or your normal color.
Does Stress Make You Go Gray?
Not directly. But it can cause a condition that causes your hair to shed about 3 times faster than normal. It’s possible that when your hair grows back, it’s gray instead of your original color.
The Smoking Link
Lighting up affects your body from head to toe. That includes the hair on your head. One study showed that smokers are 2 1/2 times more likely to gray before age 30 than nonsmokers. It also can make silver gray look yellow.
To Pluck or Not to Pluck …
There’s an old wives’ tale that says if you pluck a gray, three will grow back. That doesn’t happen. Still, don’t pluck. You’re just delaying the inevitable -- another gray strand will replace it. Besides, pulling hair out can damage follicles so much, they no longer grow hair. This can make your mane look thin over time.
Do Grays Feel Different?
Gray hair is thinner than hair with natural color because its cuticle is thinner. Your hair needs that natural protection from water, ultraviolet rays from the sun, humidity, chemicals, and heat styling. Without that barrier, your hair loses water. So your gray will feel dry, fragile, and coarse.
Tame Those Tresses
Moisture treatment and hair oils can fight dull, dry grays. Anti-frizz products can help, too. Heat and light from lamps or the sun can “bleach” gray hair and make it look yellow. Ask your stylist how to prevent this. A purple-toned shampoo can help keep your tresses a vibrant silver.
If you’re sporting just a few gray hairs, you can hide them if you get creative. Wear a pretty headband. Or switch up your hairstyle -- part it where there is less gray. If you have long hair, wear an up-do to hide gray roots.
Or, Just Dye It!
You can do it yourself with a box from the drugstore. Look for products designed for gray hair. Permanent dye will better cover stubborn roots than semipermanent color. If you can afford it, opt for a color treatment at your local salon. If some of your grays won’t take in the color, try using a lighter shade that will blend in with the grays.
Go Au Naturel
If you’re ready to ditch the dye, you can go gray gracefully while it grows out. Ask your stylist how much gray you actually have. If it’s a lot, you can go lighter through highlights to minimize grow-out. Or, you can switch from a permanent color to less opaque demi color, which can make your gray strands mimic highlights and blend in better with the rest of your hair.
Get the Right Cut
Rock a great cut with lots of style and texture, and get a trim every 6-8 weeks. Women who are 100% gray often wear their hair short. But consider long layers. They can be beautiful and add movement to healthy, bouncy hair.
Like any other part of your body, your brain can have a tumor, which happens when cells grow out of control and form a solid mass. Because your brain has many types of cells, it can get many kinds of tumors. Some are cancer, and others aren't. Some grow quickly, others slowly. But because your brain is your body's control center, you have to take all of them seriously.
Your skull is hard, your brain is soft, and there's really no room in your head for anything else. As a tumor grows, it presses on your brain because it has nowhere to go. That can affect how you think, see, act, and feel. So with brain tumors, whether it's cancer or not, what matters is where it's located, how quickly and easily it can grow or spread, and if your doctor can take it out.
Secondary Brain Cancer
Most people who have brain cancer (about 100,000 each year) have this kind, which means cancer in some other part of your body has spread to your brain. About half of all brain cancers start as lung cancer. Other cancers that can spread to your brain include:
Melanoma (skin cancer)
Primary Brain Tumors
In adults, the most common tumors that start in the brain are meningiomas and gliomas.
Meningiomas make up more than 35% of all primary brain tumors. They don't grow from brain tissue itself, but from cells in the brain's covering. Their non-cancerous location and growth make them serious.
The most common cancerous brain tumors -- almost 1 in 5 -- are glioblastomas. They're a type of glioma, tumors that start in your glial cells. They spread quickly and are often fatal.
Overall, there's an increase in people being diagnosed with brain tumors. That may be in part because technology makes them easier to see. But researchers are also looking into other possible causes, such as things in the environment.
The different kinds of primary brain tumors are all named after where in your brain they start. Besides gliomas, they include adenomas (in your pituitary gland), chordomas (skull and spine), medulloblastomas (cerebellum), and sarcomas (brain tissue), among others.
Doctors label brain tumors with a grade from 1 to 4. Low-grade tumors (grade 1) aren't cancer. They grow slowly and don't usually spread. They can usually be cured if your doctor can take them out with surgery. At the other end, high-grade tumors (grade 4) are cancer. They grow fast, spread quickly, and typically can't be cured. Grades 2 and 3 fall in between. Usually, grade 2 isn't cancer and grade 3 is.
These depend on the kind of tumor you have and where it is, but you may:
Act in ways you normally wouldn't
Feel sleepy throughout the day
Find it hard to express yourself, like you can't find the right words or feel confused
Get bad headaches often, especially in the morning
Have problems seeing, like blurred or doubled vision
Lose your balance easily or have problems walking
Risk Factors: Radiation
It's usually not clear what puts you at risk for a primary brain tumor -- one that starts in your brain. But one known cause is radiation directed at your head to treat another medical condition, like leukemia. In most of these cases, the benefit of radiation outweighs the risk that it might cause cancer in the future.
Risk Factors: Age
You can get a brain tumor at any age, but children and adults tend to get different types. They're much more common in adults over 50 than in younger people and children.
Risk Factors: Other Health Problems
You may be more likely to get a brain tumor if you have a weak immune system, like if you have AIDS, or you've had an organ transplant. The same is true if brain tumors run in your family or you have one of these conditions caused by problem genes:
Neurofibromatosis type 1 or 2
Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome
Turcot syndrome type 1 or 2
Von Hippel-Lindau disease
Do Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer?
This has been a hot topic in recent years, but research hasn't shown any clear link between cell phones and brain tumors. There aren't many long-term studies on cell phone use, though, and scientists are still studying it. Until we know more, using earbuds or another hands-free device can keep your phone away from your head and lower your exposure.
How It's Found
Doctors generally don't do routine checks for brain cancer like they do for some other kinds. You usually find out about it when you go to your doctor with symptoms and she does tests. Your treatment options and how well they might work tend to depend more on the tumor's type, size, and location, and your age than when you find it.
Your doctor probably will start by giving you a neurological exam. This checks your nervous system -- things like your vision, balance, and reflexes -- to get an idea of where the tumor might be. You also may need a scan to gives him a more detailed look at the tumor. This might be an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT (computerized tomography), or PET (positron emission tomography) scan. And he probably will recommend a biopsy, where he'll take a sample of the tumor to learn more about it.
Treatment: Watchful Waiting
Every treatment has side effects, so if you have a tumor that's growing slowly and isn't causing any problems, you may not need treatment at first. You'll get regular tests to keep an eye on the tumor and make sure it's not getting bigger or starting to cause new problems.
If your doctor can get to the tumor, this is a likely first step. The best case is a tumor that's small enough to come out completely. But some parts of the brain are very delicate, and removing the whole tumor may hurt them. Still, taking out even part of a tumor may often help with your symptoms.
This uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells, or at least slow them down. You can get it in several ways, including pills or shots, or it might be put directly into your bloodstream with a small needle and tube (called an intravenous, or IV, drip). With some types of brain cancer, you get it in a wafer that's placed in your brain after surgery. The wafer slowly dissolves and directs the drugs right at the tumor, killing any cancer cells left behind.
Treatment: Radiation Therapy
Radiation uses beams of high energy from X-rays or other sources to kill the tumor. Sometimes, it's used along with chemotherapy to help kill more cancer cells or to protect your brain. Newer types of radiation, like proton therapy and focused radiation, target the tumor very closely so they don't hurt other parts of your brain.
Treatment: Targeted Therapy
Cancer cells work differently than normal cells. Doctors can sometimes take advantage of these differences with targeted therapy, which uses drugs to block cancer cells from doing what they need to survive. It kills the cancer but leaves your normal cells alone. For example, a targeted drug can keep a tumor from making the blood vessels that help it grow.
You'll probably see your doctor regularly for tests to make sure the cancer hasn't come back. And because your brain affects pretty much everything you do, you may need help with everyday tasks, even if your treatment worked well:
Occupational therapy to get back to normal daily and work activities
Physical therapy to regain your full movement and strength
Speech therapy to help with swallowing and speaking