Mustaches call attention to wildly successful Movember campaign to raise awareness for an increased focus on men’s health.

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Come November, you may to notice more mustaches, especially on young men. It’s not a way to prepare for a cold winter; it’s the signature style and tool of Movember. The Movembe rmovement is sleek and hip movement in its efforts to to change the face of men’s health – literally. Movember asks men to grow a mustache (and use it to call attention to the movement) in the month of November.

For “Mo Bros”, the men who participate by growing a mustache, the goal is to “Use the power of the mustache to create conversations about men’s health and to raise funds for prostate cancer, testicular, cancer and mental health.” We’ve long known that men aren’t talking openly about their health. The same culture that encourages men to “man up” and ignore minor illnesses creates a culture of silence that surrounds major illnesses and diseases.

Movember has been wildly successful. What began as a contest between 30 friends in Australia is now an international event. So far, more than four million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas have taken part. They’ve raised $559,000,000 since 2003. The money they’ve raised has gone towards testicular cancer, prostate cancer and mental health programs. As proud as the leaders of Movember are of the money they’ve raised, they’re equally enthusiastic about the conversations the mustaches have started.

When Robin Williams died earlier this year, there was a cry for conversation. Mental illness is stigmatizing for both genders. It can be hard for men to open up about depression and other mental health concerns, especially to other men. Since 2003, Movember has asked participants to donate their upper lip to men’s health. A large part of that fight is opening the floor for conversation. Movember hopes that conversation will lead to greater awareness and understanding of men’s health issues. With destigmatized conversation, Movember hopes men will take action to improve their health.

When it comes to mental health, we certainly need to talk. Mental health carries a stigma that keeps us silent, yet one in four people experience mental health issues worldwide. (This excellent TED article, “How Should We Talk About Mental Health?” is an informative starting point.) Men in the United States die by suicide far more often than women do. In 2010, men were 79 percent of all deaths by suicide. These are statistics that can change.

So, are you ready to lay down your razor and grow a ‘stache for a good cause? Or become a Mo Sista and participate without the mo? You’ve still got time to sign up, raise funds, and get others involved. Visit the Movember site and participate in the conversation about men’s health.

Movember: The Signs and Symptoms of Testicular Cancer

Movember’s History

Men’s Health – Why Married Men Live Longer Than Single Men

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Will an app or a wearable make you healthier?

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

A slew of new, wearable technology promises to track our every move. No, this isn’t a sinister government program I’m talking about, it’s voluntary health monitors. I wrote about Sense, the high-tech, unobtrusive sleep monitor in July. The monitor raised more than $2,000,000 on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site. Sense will make its debut on shelves in December. You may be asking: Is it worth all the hype?

The App Store is filled with programs designed to help you keep track of your health. Some, like Fooducate, hope to help you make better food choices. There are apps to keep track of menstrual cycles, and apps to help couples conceive. You can also plan, monitor, and track every last workout done and ounce of water consumed.

Google, Amazon, and Samsung are all investing significant time and resources into creating and marketing wearable health technology. Apple wasted no time featuring their new Health app in ads for the iPhone 6. In short, if you want to track something about your health, you can. But do we need wearables and health trackers?

The utility is clear for a person with pre-diabetes. In the US, there are millions of people who are in danger of developing Type 2 diabetes. For those people, increasing exercise and changing their diet is essential. Most wearables, in addition to tracking activity, ping or send a reminder to the user’s smartphone when they don’t get enough movement within a certain time period. The Jawbone (a wearable bracelet) can be set to vibrate when the user has stayed sedentary for an hour.

For people with chronic health conditions, doctors may recommend tracking one or more health indicators. The apps designed to track health through user-generated and entered input are indispensable. A smartphone is a computer in your pocket. Apps that update to the Cloud will save your information, even if you lose the device. They can also spit out reports for your physician. Apps are a more clever pen-and-paper system. It’s a bonus that many of them can prompt you to input data, or remind you to drink more water.

Unfortunately, many (possibly most) of us casual users will sport a wearable enthusiastically for a few weeks, and then forget about them. A wearable may help us create a new habit as it wakes us up to our own apathy for exercise. This biggest difference between apps and wearables is the price: most wearables cost upwards of $100. Apps, on the other hand, usually cost less than $10.

Americans spent around $290 million on health trackers in 2013. The market is expected to grow. So, should you buy into the trend and start sporting a Fitbit Flex or a Nike Fuelband, or gift yourself a Sense come December? There’s no right or wrong, here. Deciding to use a wearable is entirely up to you. It really depends on your preferences, personality, and health needs. The most important thing is to keep moving, or get moving, wearable or not!

If you do want to buy and use a wearable, the New York Times has a detailed roundup and review I suggest checking out. It covers everything from the Jawbone to the Fitbit.

There’s also one man’s account of wearing a variety of trackers for months. It’s worth a read.

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Breast cancer devastates 1 in 8 American women; but there is some good news and cause for hope during this Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as you probably already know. Black and orange Halloween decorations are almost overshadowed by pink products as companies join the cause of raising awareness. Like pink products on the shelves in October, breast cancer is pervasive in the lives of women. Almost 1 in 8 American women will develop breast cancer in the course of their lifetime. It’s expected that breast cancer will claim the lives of 40,000 women by the end of 2014.

Stark statistics are part of the fuel that keeps advocates for breast cancer going, but there’s a good deal of positive movement to report, too. For women, breast cancer is not the stigmatized illness it once was. Women are encouraged to talk openly with their support network about their diagnosis, during treatment and in remission.

Earlier this year, a French study that followed four million women around the world from 1987 to 2013 found that exercise cuts breast cancer risk for all women. The study found that it didn’t matter what kind of exercise they did, how old they were, how much they weighed or when they get started, exercise cut the risk of breast cancer. (The women who were the most active, doing an hour of vigorous exercise a day, decreased their breast cancer risk by 12 percent.)

In 2010, the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) launched the Breast Cancer Deadline 2020. The goal? Know how to put an end to breast cancer by 2020. In 2011, the NBCC began the Artemis Project, a collaboration between breast cancer advocates and leading scientists studying breast cancer. The NBCC hopes the Artemis Project will coordinate scientific research, with the end goal of curing breast cancer. The NBCCs approach is novel and has its critics. Please read more about the new approach here. If the NBCCs model works, it will impact far more than those diagnosed with breast cancer.

VeinInnovations was incredibly proud to help sponsor last month’s Power of Pink Casino Night and Survivor Fashion Show, presented by North Fulton Hospital. The festive event brought some 300 revelers together at the Marriott in Alpharetta for a night of gaming, dancing, and dining to celebrate survivors. The survivor fashion show was inspiring. A reminder of why we had all come together, the VeinInnovations staff was awed by the candor and stories of recovery. In one night, the Power of Pink benefit raised more than $65,000 for Susan G. Komen of Greater Atlanta.

So this October, we’ll remember that we’re building upon the dedication and work of years past, of coming from a place where breast cancer was not even mentioned. At the same time, we won’t forget the devastating toll of breast cancer: the 40,000 women, this year alone, who will not survive. Nor will we forget the better future we’re working towards.

With these thoughts in mind, have you done your monthly self-exam for October, and are you working exercise into your daily routine?

For photos of The Power Pink visit www.facebook.com/Veininnovations

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Improving Health Literacy Could Improve Healthcare; Save an Estimated $73 Billion A Year.

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

In October, pink starts to appear on shelves and in the media. Breast Cancer Awareness Month (sometimes dubbed “Pinktober”) is an incredibly successful campaign. But it’s not the only public health initiative in October. This month is also Health Literacy Month, a less well known but vitally important campaign and concept.

Health Literacy for Patients

It’s still a relatively new concept, but in brief, health literacy is the idea that both health and literacy are essential resources for everyday living. It is defined as “the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.” In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) outlined three basic levels of health literacy: functional, conceptual, and empowerment.

Functional health literacy is the ability to read. If you’re reading this article, you’re also able to read medical consent forms, appointment schedules, doctors’ notes, and the labels and instructions on medicine. Count yourself lucky – 32 million American adults cannot read. That’s 14 percent of our population. An additional 21 percent of American adults read below a 5th grade level, leaving them woefully underprepared for sometimes complex written instructions from doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.

Conceptual literacy refers to the skills developed over our lifetime to seek out, understand, evaluate, and use health information and concepts. Conceptual literacy helps us enjoy a better quality of life, make informed choices about our healthcare, and reduce health risks.

Health literacy empowers individuals to understand their rights as patients and navigate the healthcare system at large. Health literate people are informed consumers with regard to the health risks of products and services. They understand options offered by health care providers. A group of educated, health literate people can come together to improve health for all through political action, advocacy, or social movements.

Also included in health literacy? Numeracy skills. Just choosing a health plan requires math to calculate premiums, copays, and deductibles, and to factor all three into your budget. Understanding a nutrition label requires math skills, as do calculating cholesterol levels and measuring medication. For people with diabetes, math is a factor each time they use insulin as they take into account their current blood sugar and/or the carbohydrates they’ve ingested.

Improving Health Literacy

According to the Institute of Medicine, 90 million Americans lack proper health literacy skills. At a time when healthcare costs are still rising, it’s estimated that a health literate society could save $73 billion in excess spending. The health benefits on an individual level could be astonishing.

For starters, we must work as a nation to improve our literacy rate – we have not improved in ten years. But there are organizations, like the American Library Association, working towards greater literacy. Learn more about their work here.

Providers play a vital role in improving health literacy as well. First providers must learn communication techniques, such as plain speech (providing the most important information first, breaking down complex information into smaller, understandable pieces, using the active voice, and generally foregoing technical terms in favor of simple language, and explaining technical terms when necessary.)

Cultural competence is part of provider literacy, too. Cultural beliefs, values, attitudes, and traditions all play a role in a patient’s feelings about healthcare and treatments. Understanding a patient’s culture can help providers create better health outcomes.

Next week, I’ll dive into October’s important cause-celebre, Breast Cancer Awareness. But I do hope that you’ll spare some time to learn about the foundation of good health, health literacy. It’s what allows us to make good use of this month’s awareness information! You can learn more about health literacy and ways to improve your own skills in the links below.

CDC: Learn About Health Literacy

Institute of Medicine: Health Literacy

For a deep dive into health literacy, look over this WHO white paper. It was prepared for a global conference, but illuminates the benefits and challenges to health literacy.

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Avoid “New Year’s Regrets” by adding a healthy habit or two now!

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Eating is an elemental physical and social urge. Food is almost always shared; mealtimes are an opportunity to come together. Food and family are inseparable. Surprising our spouse with dinner on a Monday night or preparing our kids’ school lunches are small but significant ways we show our love. Cooking a meal and providing nourishment for our loved ones is a profound way to show affection and altruism, a way to share and nourish one another. When gather during Thanksgiving and Christmas, cooking is a way we show our love for family we may not see the rest of the year. It’s a special occasion and we treat ourselves to rich, sweet dishes.

On average, Americans gain one to two pounds every holiday season. It doesn’t sound so bad until you realize that most of us don’t lose the weight, we just add to it the next year. If you’re starting the September Pledge or just hoping to avoid the traditional weight gain, here are a few tips for staying healthy while enjoying food with family this year.

Avoid Overeating During the Holidays

  • Add at least one healthy habit to your life before the holidays hit. Try adding twice-weekly walks at the park, start carrying a water bottle and stay hydrated, or cut sodas out of your diet. Carry healthy snacks, like nuts, apple slices, or carrot sticks to work and snack regularly so you don’t binge on carb and starch heavy meals at lunch. In the push and pull of the holidays, we forget to tend to our health. Incorporating a good habit now makes it more likely you’ll continue when the holidays hit.
  • Don’t bring home Halloween Candy to early; plan to purge the house of candy on November 1st. No one wants to run out of candy when trick-or-treaters come knocking, but don’t buy candy so early that you end up having to buy it again, because your family got into it. And don’t hang onto extra sweets after All Hallow’s Eve. You don’t need it and if you have it in the house, chances are you’ll eat it. Pick a few favorites out of the pile and donate the rest. (This advice is for people without trick-or-treaters of their own. If your kid comes home with a pillowcase full of sweets, here are a few tricksfor parents. Good luck!)
  • Plan your “splurges.” Thanksgiving and Christmas are modern feast days and it is fine to indulge if you’re lucky enough to be able to. In the end, Thanksgiving is just one day. Don’t feel guilty about your third helping of stuffing and the generous amount of gravy with which you’ve covered it. But before the feast, eat right. “It’s Thanksgiving, so I can eat what I want,” should only apply to one day, not the week before or after. Stock the pantry with healthy fruits and veggies for meals before Turkey Day and to enjoy with leftovers on Black Friday. (Same goes for the end of December!)
  • Pick your favorite sweets and steer clear of filler. If your uncle’s pumpkin pie is the best part of Thanksgiving, help yourself to a big slice with whipped cream. If your aunt is still valiantly bringing her rock-like cookies to the Christmas Eve celebration, ignore them. Eat what you love and don’t waste calories on mediocre sweets you don’t particularly care for. Skipping the filler means you’ve got room to fill up on the good stuff later.
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Men: Find a medical home base early on. (Pass this along to male twenty-somethings.)

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Let’s spend this week talking about assets. With proper maintenance and care, a car can last a decade, or more.  Our investments, when carefully managed, will grow and provide for us when we retire. How can we treat material possessions so conscientiously, yet fail to look after our bodies with the same diligence?

 

Men are the guiltier party when it comes to neglecting self-care. An alarming number of men stop going to the doctor after they age out of pediatric care at 18. Men typically don’t go back to the doctor until their 40s. Objectively, this is a terrible idea. (But I’m sure there are a few men reading this who will agree, while still falling into the category.)

 

Men are almost 20 percent less likely than women to have seen a doctor in the last year. But men are at greater risk of developing cancer (one-in-two) than women, and have higher death rates in all 10 leading causes of death. The causes include cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. On average, men die six years earlier than women. So why do men shy away from the doctor?

 

Men are more likely to ignore health problems when they do arise, putting off a visit to the doctor even when they are sick. When they feel fine, men skip the doctor all together. But feeling fine and being healthy are two different things.

 

From 18 to 39, the CDC recommends a preventative check up every two years. Sound excessive? Think about the benefits. At every age, we’ve got health concerns to discuss and preventative measures worth taking. One of the best ways to prevent future illness or catch it early is to establish a “medical home base.” Establishing a good relationship with a primary care doctor and visiting them on a regular basis is the cornerstone of preventative care. Find a primary care doctor you like, and with whom you feel comfortable discussing your health. Preventative care is key: we can head off many major health problems before they start. After all, it is usually easier tot illnesses sooner, when they’re easier to cure, than later, when they are likely to have become painful and more costly.

 

Preventative Care Before Age 40 

 

In your late teens, your doctor will provide an HPV and meningitis vaccination and a tetanus booster shot. Other vaccines may be recommended – you’ll have to chat with your doctor to find out what you need.

 

As soon as (and hopefully before) you’re sexually active, your doctor should discuss sexual health with you. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded of best practices and you may have questions for a medical professional. Further, you may need regular screening for STDs. Your doctor will be able to recommend what’s best for you.

 

Also starting in your late teens, you’ll need blood pressure checks. High blood pressure doesn’t just happen to out of shape guys in their 40s. It’s important to keep an eye on your blood pressure, because high blood pressure can damage your body for years before symptoms show up.

 

Starting in your 20s, your doctor will check your cholesterol. High cholesterol is one of many controllable preventable risks for heart disease, stroke, and heart attack. In addition to the tests your doctor performs, they’ll be engaging in a frank discussion of your health and behaviors.

 

For way too many men, the trip to the doctor is the only time we engage in a meaningful conversation about our health. Go to the doctor. Let your primary care provider help cheer on and guide you to a longer, healthier life.

If you are in your 20s, take note! And if you know a young man in his 20s, you’ll be doing him – and his future significant other – a favor by passing this article along.

 

 

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Drilling Down on the September Pledge Idea: Tackling Diet

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Last week, I wrote about an idea called the September Pledge: a personal commitment to healthy habits in the advent of the holiday season. Habits take more than 60 days to form. If you want a new, healthy habit established before the onslaught of holiday cookies, now is the time to start. This week, I’d like to focus on diet.

Diet is a dreaded word for good reason. For centuries (maybe longer) we’ve fretted over just what to eat, how to eat it, when, how much… the list goes on. An entire industry is devoted to selling you a diet. Diets are big business, too. Annually, the weight-loss industry makes $20 billion. But what are they selling? The science to support one diet over another is scant. A study published in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, found little to no difference between once-trendy diets including The Zone, Weight Watchers, and Atkins.

The JAMA study also found that most studies of diets didn’t test rigorously enough. Since 1966, there have been less than 50 blinded trials (in a blinded trial, participants do not know what treatment they are receiving and thus are not affected by the placebo effect.) There were less than 8,000 participants in all the studies from 1966 to 2014. The trial for each diet study usually lasted only 24 weeks and included around 100 people.

Are diets a load of bunk? Here’s the short answer: probably. Long answer: trend diets that promise the moon usually can’t back up their claims. (The JAMA study found that diet trials weren’t able to determine whether a particular diet lowered the risk of disease.) In a sea of lose-it-quick schemes, it’s easy to get discouraged. The key to a healthy diet is moderation and simplicity, not the obsessive calorie counting, juicing, cleansing, all-meat, no-meat, raw food foolishness.

Lots of people “fail” their diets because they overcommit, find their new restrictions oppressive, and then break down and give up. It’s not you; it’s your diet. A rigid plan that restricts a lot of foods is bound to fail. The best plan to succeed? Long-term goals that are slowly integrated into your daily life .

If you want to improve your diet, (what you generally eat) start in increments. Spend a week keeping a food journal. Write down what you ate and when, and if you can, add in why. Did you eat a frozen pizza on Tuesdaybecause you got home late and couldn’t bear to cook? Put it in the journal. At the end of the week, look for patterns. How often did you treat yourself to something sweet? So many times that “treat” has been rendered meaningless? (You’re in good company if you have.) How much of what you ate was processed? Looking back, did you get enough fruits and vegetables? Did you eat meat every single day? Did you have an alcoholic beverage every evening after dinner?

Here’s the secret to the best diet: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” Ideally, our diet consists of whole, unprocessed ingredients and includes a large variety or brightly colored vegetables. In an ideal diet, our meat intake is around 2.5 ounces a day and includes chicken and fish in addition to beef. If you decide your diet isn’t up to snuff and want to change it, start small. Identify one habit you’d like to change, and make a concerted effort to modify your habit.

Remember: one habit at a time! As an example, say you’re eating too many processed frozen meals during the week. Find a healthy recipe you like that can be doubled easily, like a soup or stew. Gather your ingredients and spend a couple hours in the kitchen on Sunday. Have the soup on hand during the week so you won’t need to rely on frozen pizza as often. Buy some no-prep or low-prep sides like apples, romaine lettuce for a salad, or some good, crusty bread.

By the time the holidays roll around, you may even have perfected a new dish worthy of the Thanksgiving table.

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Now is the best time for resolutions; take your September Pledge!

 

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

 

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to deck the halls, lay out some stockings, and start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions – wait. Unless you’re living your life by K-Mart’s insane timetable, you’re not thinking about the holidays yet. But should you be?

 

The holiday season seems to be ever expanding as retailers race to collect as many consumer dollars as they can. It’s frustrating (and downright disturbing) to see Christmas advertised in sunny September. Still, there are a few good reasons to consider the holidays this early in the year. (Despite what K-Mart would have you believe, it has nothing to do with putting gifts on layaway.)

 

The average American puts on 1 to 2 pounds a year during the holidays. It may seem like a small amount, but for most of us the weight hangs around long after we’ve put the Christmas decorations away. Even when we don’t gain weight, we eat and drink more calories than at any other time of year. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, we celebrate with beloved family members, cherishing time spent together. The allure of family, a cup of eggnog, and the frightful weather outside means we also exercise less than at any time of year.

 

Regardless, we have New Year’s Resolutions to atone for whatever minor gluttony we’ve indulged in. But our resolutions tend to fade quickly. Expansive lists and overly ambitious goals cause 92 percent of us to give up on our resolutions before spring. Before 2015 puts this year out to pasture, it’s time to kick start our well-being with healthy goals we can complete. Are you ready to sign on for the September Pledge?

 

September is a great month to restart incorporating vigorous healthy habits into your lifestyle. The weather is cooling down, routines are back to normal, and we’re well ahead of the holidays. Part of the reason New Year’s Resolutions fail to transform into habits is that we anticipate rapid change. Habits take a while to form – some recent research suggests it takes around 66 days.

 

So start working towards your goals slowly. Pick a (reasonable and small) healthy habit or two you’d like to incorporate into your life. A few recommendations: a walk after dinner, drinking 64 ounces of water a day, having one to three vegetarian dinners a week, or setting an end-of-screentime and start-of-bedtime ritual. (A cornucopia of flavorful and nutrient rich veggies are back in season this month, so vegetarian dinners might be the most doable!)

 

If you start making positive changes now, your good habits should be cemented by the holiday season. You might even be able to convince family to take a long walk after Thanksgiving dinner!

 

 

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Married men live longer than their single counterparts. Men in general can take health for granted, need “medical home base.”

David Martin

Martin Report

September 1, 2014

Married men live longer than their single counterparts. Men in general can take health for granted, need “medical home base.”

For all that they do for us, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the function of our bodies. Consider everything we ask of our bodies on a daily basis. We expect that our bodies will do all that we require without much complaint. What do we do on behalf of our bodies? Often, we skip nutritious meals in favor of something quick and easy. We brush off aches and pains, when we really ought to give our bodies a break by taking it easy. At one time or another, most of us are guilty of expecting good health to continue without putting in the requisite effort. We need to be proactive about our health instead of reacting when we stop feeling well.

Men and women alike are guilty of not caring for ourselves as well as we should. But on average, women do a better job of recognizing and reporting ill health. Men, on the other hand, are much more likely to ignore possible warning signs and symptoms. Odd aches, pains, or irregularities are filed under ‘probably nothing’ and promptly forgotten. In part, we are all defined by our health – confined as we are to our bodies. Why, then are men so prone to make little of their health?

Men tend to skip preventative care, opting instead to go to the doctor only when they were already sick. According to one survey, even when men do get sick, 92 percent of men will only head to the doctor’s office after they’ve taken a few days to see if they’d get better on their own. If all you’re suffering is a case of allergies or a cold, this isn’t a terrible strategy. The only downside may be your own prolonged misery while waiting on prescription allergy medication. But for more serious symptoms or illnesses, the longer you wait, the harder it is to treat what’s ailing you.

Men skip the doctor for a variety of reasons, including high cost and busy schedules. Another culprit is good old-fashioned stoicism. One way to combat reluctance to go the doctor is to find a primary care physician you like. Do a few consults and get a sense of which doctor makes you feel comfortable and is easy for you to communicate with. In all stages of life, having a ‘medical home base’ makes getting good medical care easier, but it’s especially important as we age. A doctor who knows you is more likely to notice subtle changes and help you keep track of changing health needs. (Make sure you can get to your doctor easily. If they’re not readily accessible to you, they’re not going to be of much use.)

The health outcomes for single and married men provide a bit of insight about men’s health, too. Various studies have found that married men may live longer than their single counterparts. That’s probably because married men are more likely to exercise, eat better and go to the doctor. Married men are also less likely to suffer from depression, smoke, drink in excess or engage in risky behaviors. If you’re single, don’t despair. The reasons married men are (potentially) prone to outlive the unhitched stem from community. Health is a partnership, not just between you and your doctor. Listen to your friends and family. Don’t put off a visit to the doctor; take care of your health.

Ready to become proactive about your health? The CDC’s website is a good starting place. Another great resource? The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Their list of preventative screenings for men is a must read and a good way to start your health checklist. So get going! Take charge of your health and encourage other men to do the same. And the next time you feel sick, spare yourself an extra day of discomfort and call the doctor’s office pronto.

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As Sneaky Sugar Invades the Food Supply, We’re Eating More With Not-So-Sweet Consequences

As Sneaky Sugar Invades the Food Supply, We’re Eating More With Not-So-Sweet Consequences

By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations

Over the years, I’ve written many Thought Leadership articles addressing nutrition. I’ve discussed superfoods (and the marketing behind them.) I’ve covered fat, good and bad, and I’ve touched on sugar consumption. In the past, I’ve written that moderation is key and it is. So is knowing the enemy.

Sugar has been insidiously invading our food supply for years. If you’re not eating a diet of fruits, vegetables, and grain-fed meat, it’s almost impossible to stay away from the stuff. So plentiful is sugar, that worldwide consumption is about 500 calories a day. The average American eats about three pounds of sugar a week. The “recommended amount” is six teaspoons per day.

At holidays and celebratory occasions we commune over indulgent foods. When we suffer a setback at work or go through a breakup, we fall back on treats for comfort. We treat sugar as a special occasion food, but consume vast quantities of it on a daily basis. The stuff is nearly impossible to get away from.

If you drink one regular Coca-Cola a day, you’ve already consumed 50 percent more sugar than you should in a single day. (One Coke contains 9.3 teaspoons of sugar.) You expect your Coke to contain a large amount of sugar. But do you expect sugar to show up in yogurt, canned soup, low-fat products, frozen pizza and mayo? The list of processed foods containing sugar goes on… and on.

Why did sugar encroach into foods we’d never think to look for it in? Because we can’t get enough of it. Our brains love sugar and consuming it lights up our reward centers. We’re addicted to it – truly. The video below quickly explains how our brains react when we consume sugar and why it’s so enjoyable.

http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-sugar-affects-the-brain-nicole-avena#watch

The companies that make processed foods study what makes us tick, from a flavor perspective. Market research is, in large part, the dedicated science of learning what tempts our tongues and makes our brain ask for more. (Sugar, Salt, Fat by Michael Moss is an excellent break down of the industry.) The bad news is that processed food relies on ingredients that taste good, but aren’t good for us, to keep us coming back for more. Sugar in all its many forms does a lot of the heavy lifting.

Unfortunately, sugar consumption is at least partly to blame for a host of health problems. Studies have linked sugar consumption to heart disease and obesity and all the ills that go along with those two killers (including diabetes.) Study after study finds new links between sugar and our health, finding relationships between overeating, depression, dementia, and problems with forming new memories. Sugar also contributes to kidney and liver damage. For a food that’s so ubiquitous and over consumed, one would think the threats would be more widely known. And that action would be taken by a reduction of sugar in foods.

We can’t expect our food system to change overnight. We can’t expect labels to shout ‘Sugar!’ on the side of the box. And we shouldn’t expect ourselves to cut out processed foods entirely. (Not in one quick campaign, anyway. Cleaning up our pantries and our diets is a process and it can take a long time.) Get to know the names sugar takes – it gets sneaked into food under many different names – and take extra time at the grocery store to notice the amount of sugar in the foods you’re buying. It’s time to be critical of the nutrition facts, and to buy and consume accordingly.

  • Glucose
  • Dextrose
  • Invert Sugar
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Crystalline Fructose
  • Maltose
  • Raw Sugar
  • Malt Syrup
  • Cane Crystals
  • Fructose
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