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In the News
January 27, 2023

Data Privacy Day: How to protect your data

4 minutes

Did you know that there are easy steps you can take to protect your privacy in today’s digital world? Check out these tips to help keep your data safe.

Let's shine the light on privacy in celebration of International Data Privacy Day!

Data Privacy Day has been celebrated in Europe on January 28th since 2006, when it was established to commemorate the January 28, 1981 signing of Convention 108, the first legally binding international treaty dealing with individual privacy and data protection. The U.S. and Canada started celebrating the day in 2008. 

More recently, and given the prevalence of data in our increasingly digital world, Privacy Day has been extended to a full week. The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) has set the theme for Data Privacy Week 2023 to be part of its global online safety, security, and privacy campaign called ‘STOP. THINK. CONNECT.’ You can learn more about the NCSA's Data Privacy Week initiative here

Evidation's commitment to data privacy is a cornerstone of our business and reputation. As part of that commitment, we will not share your health information without your permission. We also make sure you have the tools you need to exercise control over your data. Our Privacy Notice can give you more insight into our privacy principles and how we collect, handle, and protect your personal information and data. 

Recently, a number of states have enacted new consumer privacy laws intended to ensure that individuals are able to protect their privacy and the data they share with companies. These laws require companies to (among other things) inform individuals about the personal data they collect, why they collect it, how and with whom they share the data, and to enable certain rights for individuals with respect to their own information. 

While these laws can help to ensure that individuals have control over their data, the protection and privacy of your information is actually a partnership between you and the companies to which you entrust your personal information.

What you can do to keep your data and identity safe

We’re honored to be a partner on your health and wellness journey and are committed to protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your information.  But it's important to recognize that, as individuals, we owe ourselves a similar commitment to our own privacy and personal information. Just like the new year is an opportunity for many folks to make changes to improve their lifestyle and health choices, Data Privacy Day can be the inspiration we each need to prioritize understanding (and exercising control over) who has our data and why, and ensuring our personal information is secure. So, be sure to take some time for yourself on this year's Data Privacy Day.

4 tips to protect your identity and data:

  1. Know. You are likely giving your personal data to every app, online account, platform, etc. that you join, even if it's not needed. Know what data you're allowing to be accessed, by who, and why, and consider either limiting the access or not using the app. Does your recipe app really need your geolocation? Does your music app really need access to your contacts? Likely not. If you're not sure what data you've permissioned, try looking in your settings or, if you're able, submit an access request  to the company. 
  2. Get cleaning. Get rid of apps and accounts that you're not using or no longer need. This can include reward programs (like at grocery or retail stores). As part of this clean up, (if you're able) submit a deletion request. 
  3. Control. Check and update your privacy and security settings. Most apps and accounts allow you to do this in “settings” either in the app or on your device. And be sure to check your internet browser and "cookie" settings as well. You can find additional information about managing cookies here
  4. Secure it. Here's how you can better secure your information:
  • Use strong, unique passwords and consider a password manager.
  • Turn on multi-factor / two-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Don't be hooked - be able to spot and avoid phishing attempts (including via text or phone).
  • Freeze or put blocks on your credit (as well as those of your dependents), and  consider credit monitoring services.
  • Manage your "cookies" on your internet browsers and on webpages.
  • Know what other tools your mobile devices or other services offer that can provide additional privacy or security options (e.g., on iOS, gmail and others you can "hide" your name and email address)

And remember to celebrate your favorite privacy professionals and enthusiasts on January 28th. 

Evidation Highlights
January 25, 2023

Community Results: Daily Mood and Sleep Quality Check-Ins

3 minutes

Curious to see how the holidays affected Evidation Members’ mood and sleep quality? What’s the connection between step count and mood? Check out our latest community results post to see a summary from our Daily Check-In offers.

Last June, Evidation Members started seeing a new kind of offer in the Evidation app—the Daily Check-In. These Check-Ins provided what proved to be a much-needed opportunity to pause for a moment of reflection.

Inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to the Daily Check-In offer, in December we created the Daily Mood and Daily Sleep Quality Check-Ins. Look familiar?

Since launch, over 4 million of these new check-ins have been completed! 

Today, we’re sharing some insightful and intriguing findings based on the responses, from changes in mood during the holiday season to the connection between sleep quality and mood. 

Mood and Sleep During the Holidays

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the festive spirit has a positive impact on our mood, but Christmas Day (December 25th) proved to be the day with the highest mood reported since we launched the Daily Mood Check-In on December 7th.

More specifically, on Christmas Day:

  • 31% of people reported they were in an excellent mood, which is 8% higher than the average.
  • 78% of people reported they were in a good or excellent mood, which is over 6% higher than the average. 

Christmas wasn’t the only holiday where we saw a spike in good cheer. People also reported better moods than average on New Year’s Eve. 74% of people reported they were in a good or excellent mood, which is over 2% higher than the average.

What about sleep? It appears people had better sleep quality than usual on the first night of 2023. 77% reported good or very good sleep that night, which is over 3% higher than the average. 

Perhaps after staying up until midnight (or later) the night before, members needed a chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep. We can’t be sure, but let’s call it a reasonable hunch!

In Other Sleep News…

Since launching the Daily Sleep Quality Check-In, we’ve found that Evidation Members generally report good sleep quality. 74% report good or very good sleep, to be exact.

Our last Community Results post shared which days of the week people felt best. But which day of the week comes out on top when it comes to sleep quality? 

Based on the Daily Sleep Quality Check-In, we’ve found members report:

  • The highest sleep quality on Friday nights, with 76% of members reporting good or very good sleep quality.
  • The lowest sleep quality on Monday nights, with 73% of members reporting good or very good sleep quality. 

You may be wondering about the connection between sleep quality and the amount of sleep members get. Fortunately, since many of our Evidation Members have a connected app such as Fitbit or Oura, we’re able to see if there’s a connection. 

When members reported good or very good sleep, they slept an average of 7 hours and 11 minutes a night. That’s 11% more than when members reported poor or very poor sleep. See the chart below for more details. 

Mood, Steps, and Sleep Quality

The results are in, and we see an undeniable connection between more steps and an improved mood.

Since launching the Daily Mood Check-Ins, we’ve found that Evidation Members who said they were in an excellent mood walked an average of 8,600 steps a day. That’s 19% more than members who said they were in a bad mood.

When it comes to mood and sleep quality, 96% of members reported they were in a good or excellent mood on days following a night of very good sleep. 

Stay tuned for our next round of findings in the coming weeks, and don’t forget to fill out your Daily Mood and Daily Sleep Quality Check-Ins to participate and contribute!

Lifestyle & Wellness
January 18, 2023

Boost your mental health this winter with these tips

4 minutes

As the short days and long nights of winter progress, our body and mind can be more susceptible to increased stress responses and even seasonal depression. Here are some suggestions on ways to boost your mental health and thrive this winter.

As the short days and long nights of winter progress, our body and mind can be more susceptible to increased stress responses and even seasonal depression. So it’s important to take care of yourself; not only physically, but mentally this season. That’s easier said than done, but taking the following tips into consideration can help boost your mental health this winter.

Enjoy the outdoors when you can

You’d be amazed how spending some time outdoors each day can help mentally. Mental health self-care is especially important this time of year when the days are often gloomy. Take advantage of sunny days by going outside—bundle up and brave the cold if need be. Going for a walk every morning can drastically reduce stress and change your mood overall.

If there’s snow nearby, many people take on winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing—all of which are great ways to increase your daily exercise and improve your mental health. Consider joining a club that meets weekly for outdoor activities to help motivate you to get outside and move. 

Have you heard of the healing power of nature? It’s real. Research shows immersing yourself in nature gives both short and long-term mental health benefits. Make going outside a daily priority and you’ll feel improvements in your mood in no time.

Create a safe space

When you’re done enjoying the outdoors, it’s nice to come home to a cozy spot to relax. Having a safe space in your home, somewhere away from other people, noises, and distractions can be great for your well-being. 

Consider creating a calm space for yourself in a spare room you may have, or make a corner of a room your own. If you own your home, you might evaluate whether you’d like to do a renovation to add more space. Although renovations are pricey, you may be able to use your home’s equity to fund a project like this.  

Fill your new safe space with things you enjoy. Print your favorite pictures, write positive affirmations and hang them on the wall, add plants, and make a cozy spot to sit. If you enjoy reading you might create a small reading nook, or make space for a yoga mat where you can meditate or stretch. Once your calm space is finished, sit back, relax, and enjoy the positive effects on your mental well-being.

Spend time with friends and family

Humans rely on social support to be fulfilled. Leaning on your friends and family can even provide health benefits. Prioritize seeing friends or family you enjoy being around—you’ll find it has a positive impact on your life.

Lean on loved ones to help talk through challenges or support with daily tasks that may be hard for just one person to handle. Have a puzzle or game night, or just plan to run errands together.

While not everyone has a close relationship with their family, good friends can fill the same role. Surround yourself with friends that you can both have fun with and rely on—and who make positive life choices you respect. Friends like this can motivate you to do the same.

Prioritize exercise

Just like going outdoors, prioritizing exercise can positively boost your mental health. If you don’t love the idea of going outdoors every day, try to push yourself to do some sort of exercise indoors every day. The more you move your body the better you will feel mentally. 

You don’t need a home gym to exercise inside. Yoga is a great way to get your workout in and it offers many health benefits—both physical and mental. Yoga can help alleviate stress, improve balance, and boost sleep quality. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, yoga is a great way to ease the weight of both.

If yoga isn’t your style, you can do other at-home exercises. Try following a YouTube workout video, walking up and down stairs, or lifting dumbbell weights in your living room. Pushing yourself to do any form of exercise will have a positive effect on your mind. 

Final thoughts

These are just a few of the many ways you can support your mental well-being. Put a few to the test and see what works best for you this season. Winter can be a great time to reset, but it may also bring extra challenges and stressors—like the holidays or the marathon of short, cold days. Check in on yourself and make a plan to support your mental well-being to thrive all the way to spring. 

Your Health
January 11, 2023

6 winter eye health tips

5 minutes

Optical health is always important, but it’s even more crucial to focus on it during the winter season. Check out these tips to keep your eyes healthy this winter.

Winter is a fun and exciting season. Between holidays, family gatherings, and outdoor fun, it’s essential to take care of yourself and your general wellness. However, one of the most important health factors we often tend to overlook is our eye health. 

Optical health is always important, but it’s even more crucial to focus on during the winter season. With colder and drier weather, our eyes can react differently and experience irritation. This can not only cause distractions but impair your vision as well. 

Next time you get ready to spend an extended period of time outdoors or have a social gathering, consider these essentials to help better your eye health. 

Utilize Eye Drops

Eye drops can be a lifesaver during colder weather. Unfortunately, during this time of the year, eyes can become red and dry. When your eyes experience this kind of irritation, it can be a huge inconvenience and can even cause difficulty with your vision. 

Having eye drops available in your purse, pocket, or work bag can be a game changer. Especially when you factor in the irritation that your eyes can get from looking at digital screens, eye moisturizing is crucial. 

Depending on the level of irritation or impairment you experience, eye drops may help. Some have extra hydrating qualities to help make the effects last longer, whereas others focus specifically on combating redness and itchiness or enhancing clarity. 

Prioritize Sleep

It may sound self-explanatory, but getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your eye health and overall wellness in general. Many may struggle with getting enough sleep, especially during this time of year. However, it’s important to get enough rest in order to keep yourself in good health. 

Maintaining a good sleep schedule is key to both maintaining and improving your health. Your eyes need just as much rest as the other parts of your body.

Being properly rested can help reduce some of the day-to-day irritations your eyes may experience. For example, eye twitching or redness can occur due to lack of sleep. Although it may be difficult during the busy winter season, your body will thank you for prioritizing rest and relaxation.

Use Anti-Fog Lens Spray

If you usually wear eyewear, you know that foggy lenses are all too common this time of year. Additionally, wearing a mask can add an additional cloudiness to your glasses. Trying to prevent your lenses from fogging up can be a challenge, but luckily there are ways to help keep your vision clear and crisp. 

Anti-fog lens spray is a great item to keep on you this time of year. Whether you experience fogging from a change in temperature or from wearing a mask with your glasses, this essential can help minimize any distractions that may be caused by your lenses blurring up.

It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing eyeglasses or sunglasses, it’s important to take precautions to keep glasses from fogging if and when wearing a mask. Consider investing in an anti-fog protectant as this can benefit both your sight and extend the life of your lenses. This handy essential also helps to prevent any blurs or spots on your eyewear, ensuring that your vision is crystal clear. 

Be Conscious of Pre-Existing Conditions

When you already have trouble with your vision or are visually impaired, winter can be a trying time for optimizing your eye health. With the additional dryness and irritation you can experience during this season, it's crucial to keep your eyes both healthy and hydrated.

Our eyes can often play tricks on us when they face different conditions, which is why it's important to be conscious and aware of your surroundings. Using contrasting colors to help with definition can make a huge difference in noticing and searching for objects.

Additionally, having a magnifying glass or labeling items with a larger font can be a huge help for you during this time of year. Many everyday objects often contain small and hard-to-read lettering on their labels, so having one of these solutions handy and available to use can be a lifesaver whether you're at home or in a grocery store.

Incorporate a Healthy Diet

Having a healthy diet can play a huge role in benefitting your eye health. Your eyes give you the opportunity to witness amazing things, so you want to make sure you’re taking good care of them. Luckily, there are many seasonal fruits and vegetables you can incorporate into your diet to help improve your eye health. 

Foods such as carrots, salmon, and kale all have nutritious properties that benefit your eye health directly. For example, carrots contain ingredients that help boost the Vitamin A in our bodies, which positively impacts vision. 

Salmon is another great option to help benefit your eye health. Many fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are extremely beneficial when it comes to maintaining healthy eyes. 

Wash Your Hands

It’s almost impossible not to hear about the importance of keeping clean hands, especially during the winter. Unfortunately, viruses, such as the common cold and flu, are much more prevalent during this season – and it’s often hard to avoid coming in contact with someone who’s experiencing symptoms. Especially if you’re in a school, office, or public setting. 

All too often, we touch the areas around our eyes—most of the time without even realizing we’re doing it. For many, it’s just a habit. However, the eyes are an entryway into the body, and germs can be transmitted simply by touching or rubbing your eyes with dirty hands. 

Remember to wash your hands frequently throughout the day, especially if you’re going to touch your face. With the dry weather, you may also want to look into a nice hand lotion to pair with this ritual. This will assure your skin is clean and hydrated during the cold weather. 

For many, winter is an extremely fun season, and you want to experience it in the best way possible. Although the weather may not be kind to your eye health, there are many preventative measures you can take to help. 

Taking time to remember to wash your hands, rest, eat healthily, and keep extra preventative gear on hand can help make these moments much brighter and clearer for you to remember. 

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your friends and family!

Fitness & Exercise
January 4, 2023

8 tips to restart healthy habits after the holidays

5 minutes

During the holidays, many people celebrate, indulge, and leave healthy habits behind. Kickstart the new year and restore a healthy lifestyle with these practical tips.

Happy New Year! However you celebrate over the holidays, there’s often lots of preparations and get-togethers filled with mouthwatering foods and drinks on the table. For some, that means leaving behind healthy eating and physical fitness. 

In fact, about 50% of Americans have broken a diet due to holiday food temptation and about 90% planned to enjoy the holidays without worrying about maintaining a healthy diet. 

So, how do those of us who indulged this season get back on track? We commit to getting back into healthy habits, or building new ones, in the new year!

That’s easier said than done, however. So we’re sharing these tips on how you can get back on track and rebuild those healthy habits after the holidays.

Keep on reading to find out how.

How to reset from the holidays and restore healthy habits

1. Recommit to a healthy diet

Holidays often mean overindulging. Many of us eat foods we don’t normally eat. And once the festivities are over, and it's time to return to a healthy diet, it can be challenging. Taking small steps, like introducing more fruits and vegetables, whole foods, and lean meats can help. Whether on a specialty diet like keto or paleo or a standard diet, choose foods rich in vitamins and minerals.

Brian Nagele, the CEO of Restaurant Click, provides food lovers with various options while eating out. “We encourage clients to reserve restaurant seats for the upcoming holidays. But we always promote healthy eating habits by choosing whole fruits, green leafy vegetables, and lean meat. We also advise limiting salt, sugar, and fat intake and avoiding processed foods.”

2. Stay hydrated

During the holidays you may have enjoyed more sugary beverages and alcoholic drinks than normal. To get back on track, make an effort to stay hydrated. 

How much water your body needs depends on a variety of factors—like your activity levels, health factors, and where you live—but generally speaking, for healthy individuals, the Mayo Clinic recommends:

  • 3.7 liters per day for men (15.5 cups)
  • 2.7 liters per day for women (11.5 cups)

3. Get enough sleep

Now that the parties are over, and the preparations and travel are behind you, give yourself time to rest. More importantly, prioritize getting restful and restorative sleep. The CDC recommends at least 7 hours for most adults.

 As a personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), Matt Scarfo emphasizes the importance of rest and sleep to his clients. According to Scarfo, a resident training and nutrition expert at Lift Vault, which offers free workout plans, sleep is when our bodies recover and repair muscle. 

4. Get regular exercise

It’s easy to forget about your fitness routines during the holidays. With the disruption in routines, many people aren’t able to exercise as consistently as they usually might. But as we turn over a new leaf, include regular workouts in your new year’s plans and resolutions.  

John Gardner, Co-Founder & CEO of Kickoff, believes consistency is the key to fitness success. “We encourage our clients to hit the gym at least three times each week. But if they have less time, we suggest being physically active, such as walking for at least 30 minutes daily. That will make a difference in their overall health.” Try working activity into your daily routine to build consistency. If choosing to walk instead of drive to the grocery store isn’t an option, try making choices like parking in the furthest parking spot while running errands. The extra steps can add up. 

5. Practice meditation and mindfulness

Holidays can be stressful, which may increase feelings of depression and anxiety in some. Preparing for celebrations and buying gifts can cause financial stress; and you may feel lonely if you’re unable to be with your loved ones. If you’re feeling stressed—or even just a little deflated following the holidays, try supporting your mental well-being by practicing meditation and mindfulness. 

Tory McBroom, Chief Editor at Yoga Answered, recommends trying yoga. “It’s a mind-and-body exercise that promotes physical and mental wellness. While poses keep your body fit and flexible, breathing with meditation calms your mind.” 

6. Pursue your hobbies and interests

If you spent a lot of time over the holidays without much time for yourself, try to create time for yourself in the new year to relax and pursue your hobbies and interests.

Love reading? Find some new books and nourish this hobby. Or put your favorite music on and sing or dance along. Want something more active? Call some friends to play sports, or travel somewhere new. Ultimately, pursuing your passions is good for your mental health.

7. Check in on others who might need support

You might think of the holidays as a time when people come together. However, many seniors cite it as the loneliest time of the year. If you have friends, family, or neighbors who may be lonely or isolated, consider checking in to see if they need any support. It could make a huge difference for their mental and physical well-being. 

8. Practice self-care

If you tend to lose yourself during the holidays, you’re not the only one. After the festivities are over, take some time to focus on yourself.  

Self-care is the foundation for physical health and mental well-being. In addition to staying hydrated, eating healthy, sleeping well, and exercising regularly, here are some ways to take care of yourself:

  • Separate professional and personal life
  • Socialize with people
  • Have 'me time'
  • Pursue your passion
  • Motivate yourself
  • Celebrate small joys

Promoting health and well-being after the holidays

The end-of-year holidays can be a wonderful time, celebrating with family, friends, colleagues, and loved ones. Or maybe you just enjoy the fresh start of a new year.

Whether or not you monitored what you ate, or stuck with your workout routines over the holidays, now is a great time to reset and restore or renew healthy habits. Consider the eight recommendations above to help promote your overall health and well-being in the new year and beyond.

Evidation Highlights
December 28, 2022

Evidation Year in Review: 2022

3 minutes

How many steps did Evidation Members log in 2022? How many points did they earn? Before we get too far down the line on our 2023 plans, it’s important to pause and reflect on what went well in the last year. Tap to see highlights of one of Evidation’s best years yet!

Whether you’re working on resolutions like doubling your average daily step count, or dreaming up epic spring break travel plans, the beginning of the new year is a great time to gear up for what’s to come.

But before we get too far down the line on our future plans, it’s important to pause and reflect on what went well in 2022. For the Evidation community, 2022 was full of exciting programs, interesting health insights, and a wide variety of opportunities to earn points for everyday actions. 

For example, last year Evidation Members…

  • Earned 8 billion points
  • Completed 45 million offers
  • Redeemed millions of dollars in rewards

What came out on top in terms of time of year, where new members hail from, and more? 

We’ve analyzed the stats, and found that in 2022: 

  • Members were most active in May, and least active in January. 
  • California emerged as the state with the most new Evidation Members.
  • Overall, Fitbit is the app that most members have connected to Evidation, but in 2022 more members connected Apple Health than any other app.

Speaking of connected apps, in 2022 members like you logged a total of…

  • 952 billion steps. That’s like the equivalent of walking around the earth 18,000 times!
  • Climbed 929 million floors. That’s like walking up the Empire State Building over 9 million times!
  • 2 billion minutes of exercise
  • 349 million hours of sleep
  • Aside from walking, biking and swimming were the most commonly-tracked exercise activities. 
  • Swimming and breathwork were the fastest-growing types of tracked exercise compared to last year.

All Things New in 2022

Evidation rolled out new features and programs in 2022, including…

Personalized Insights: How did your average daily steps compare to the average for other Evidation Members in your state? What’s your sleep chronotype? In 2022 we helped you make sense of your activity data with personalized insights. 

Screenshot of offer in the Evidation app showing shart with a member's average hours of sleep per night by day of week

Daily Check-Ins: Many of us know that our mood is easily influenced by things like sleep and exercise. However, in 2022 we took a deeper dive to see exactly how our members’ mood relates to other aspects of their day-to-day life. 

We began asking members about how they felt on a daily basis with a Daily Check-In offer, and were able to share personalized insights back with members. Recently, we added in additional daily check-ins, such as the Daily Sleep Quality Check-In. Since launching our first check-in back in June, we’ve received over 15 million responses!

Screenshot of an offer in the Evidation app asking member s to rate their mood

FluSmart: After the success of the Flu Monitoring program over the last two years, we launched year three of the program—this time with a shiny new name: FluSmart! The program looks for changes in your activity data from wearable devices, and alerts you when a change suggests you may be feeling under the weather. 

screenshot of an offer within the Evidation app asking members if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms

Coming Up in 2023

2022 was a great year for Evidation, and we suspect 2023 will continue to bring new and exciting things for our members. Here are a few things you can look forward to in the new year on Evidation:

More Personalized Insights 

Using Daily Check-Ins, connected apps, and more, we’ll continue to share new personalized insights. These insights provide an opportunity for members like you to reflect on changes to your physical and mental health, and figure out what might be causing trends in your mood, sleep, and more. 

For example, maybe you figure out that your mood is best on certain days of the week, or your sleep quality is influenced by your daily step count. Whatever it may be, it’s always helpful to learn more about your everyday activity in order to improve your health!

Refreshed Homescreen: You can expect to see an improved layout and new features in the home screen this year, including: 

  • Easier navigation, with offer cards sorted by importance and relevance. 
  • An improved view into how you’ve earned your points—and how close you are to reaching your 10,000 point goal!

From everyone here at Evidation, thank you for making 2022 one of our best years yet, and cheers to 2023!

*Note: Data shared in this post represents totals from January 1, 2022 to December 21, 2022. 

Your Health
December 21, 2022

3 tips to improve cardiovascular health

5 minutes

Every cell in the body needs a healthy cardiovascular system to run smoothly. Small and large lifestyle changes can make a big difference in heart health. Learn tips to start today to build a foundation of healthy behaviors your heart will thank you for.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) cause 17 million deaths globally every year, making it the leading cause of death around the world. 

The cardiovascular system—which includes your heart and blood vessels—distributes oxygen through the body and removes waste. Every cell in the body depends on this process to run smoothly. 

Your cardiovascular system plays a key role in your overall health and longevity. In today’s article, we’ll share three tips to improve your cardiovascular health

Diet

Why is diet important?

Certain nutrients, foods, and minerals can affect how well the cardiovascular system functions.

Excess sodium can cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease. One study showed that eating a diet high in sodium may cause water retention—straining the heart as it works harder to move extra fluid through the body. It’s recommended most adults limit their intake to 1,500 mg of sodium a day. 

Consuming too many unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats) can cause high cholesterol, which increases the chance of coronary artery disease. When cholesterol is too high, plaque can build up in the arteries—putting you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. 

Try avoiding too many unhealthy fats like fatty meats, dairy, and fried foods. Instead, do your best to eat good fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds.

So what foods and nutrients support cardiovascular health?

High-fiber diets have many benefits, like:

  • Controlling blood sugar levels
  • Reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) 
  • Maintaining and achieving a healthy weight
  • Lowering total blood cholesterol levels by lowering “bad” cholesterol levels.

Whole grains—or grains that haven’t been refined to remove their bran and germ—are a good source of fiber and other nutrients that help regulate blood pressure and boost heart health. Foods like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and whole-grain pasta are great options. Or choose whole grains like barley, quinoa, buckwheat, and brown rice instead of refined grains like white rice or things made with white flour.

Vegetables and fruits are both low in calories and rich in fiber—and have other nutrients that may help prevent CVD. Load up on red, yellow, and orange produce like carrots, red peppers, and tomatoes; they contain carotenoids and vitamins that can nourish heart health. Berries are full of heart-healthy phytonutrients—try throwing some in a smoothie or your morning oatmeal. 

Exercise

Your heart is a muscle just like your biceps and calves—exercise can strengthen it. 

The benefits of exercise include:

  • Lower blood pressure. Exercising can help lower blood pressure and slow your resting heart rate.
  • Reduced inflammation. As bodily systems are activated through exercise, the body adapts and reduces chronic inflammation. 
  • Healthy weight. Being overweight can put stress on the heart and cause buildup in arteries, increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke. Exercise, when paired with a healthy diet, can help to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Strengthened muscles and bodily systems. A combination of aerobic exercise and strength training is recommended to improve your muscles' ability to draw oxygen from the blood. This reduces the need for your heart to work harder to pump more blood to muscles.
  • Reduced stress hormones. Exercise reduces stress hormones, which put a burden on the heart. Many studies also suggest that people who exercise consistently are less likely to suffer from a sudden heart attack. 

If you’re looking to exercise more, a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training has been shown to be best for heart health.

Aerobic exercise, also fittingly called “cardio,” relies on breathing to fuel the activation of large muscle groups for a sustained period of time. Aerobic literally means “with oxygen.” It improves circulation to lower blood pressure and heart rate. It can also help your heart pump stronger. Ideally, for healthy individuals, a routine of 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week is best. But beginners should take their time and work their way up. If you are managing health conditions or haven’t exercised in a while, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about what exercise program is right for you. Aerobic exercises include:

  • Cycling
  • Running
  • Jump rope
  • Swimming
  • Brisk walking

Resistance training, also known as strength training, has a more direct effect on body composition. Resistance training grows and strengthens muscle mass while reducing body fat. One study found that one hour per week of resistance training also reduced a specific type of fat around the heart, potentially reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Some examples of resistance training include: 

  • Weight machines
  • Resistance bands
  • Free weight workouts (dumbbells and barbells)
  • Body weight exercises (pushups, chin-ups, squats)

Exercise is a powerful practice to support cardiovascular health—especially in combination with a healthy diet. If possible, make a plan to get moving this week.

Healthy habits

Habits can also play a big role in the health of your heart.

Higher stress levels may cause higher blood pressure—amplifying your risk of heart attack and stroke. 

To reduce stress, find time for hobbies that help you relax. Practices like meditation can also help reduce stress. Or try reaching out to a loved one to talk and catch up.

Don’t skip out on regular checkups. Finding potential health issues early can help you get the right treatment quickly and avoid any unnecessary complications. 

What are habits to avoid?

Alcohol and smoking can lead to poor heart health. 

According to the CDC, smoking causes around 1 in 4 deaths from CVD. Chemicals found in tobacco smoke cause cells that line blood vessels to become swollen and inflamed. This narrows the blood vessels—leading to cardiovascular conditions.

Excessive drinking can lead to heart failure, high blood pressure, or stroke. It can also contribute to cardiomyopathy—a disorder that affects the heart muscle. Alcohol is high in calories too. Excessive drinking can lead to weight gain and becoming overweight, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Conclusion: 3 tips to improve your cardiovascular health

Maintaining and improving cardiovascular health starts with your lifestyle. If you can eat better, exercise regularly, and avoid bad habits you may begin to build a more robust cardiovascular system. Adopting a new lifestyle can be challenging, but making small changes on a daily basis can help you establish healthy habits to improve your overall health and well-being. By taking things one day at a time, you can gradually build a foundation of healthy behaviors that will benefit you in the long run.

If you learned anything new, share this with a friend or family member who could benefit from learning about these tips for better cardiovascular health.

Lifestyle & Wellness
December 14, 2022

What Are Toxins and How Do They Impact Your Health?

6 minutes

Toxins are everywhere—from the air we breathe and the food we eat, to the water we drink and the products we use. Learn more about common toxins and how to protect yourself and your loved ones in our latest post.

Toxins are everywhere—from the air we breathe and the food we eat, to the water we drink and the products we use.

But what are toxins exactly? A toxin is a naturally occurring substance that can act as a poison to living things. While small doses may not trigger a reaction, large amounts or exposure over an extended period of time can be detrimental to your health.

  • But what are toxins?
  • How do they impact your health?
  • Can you be exposed at home?
  • Can you be exposed at work?

Read on to learn more about these common toxins, as well as how you can limit exposures at home and at work.

What are common toxins?

Mercury

Mercury is a naturally occurring element in the Earth's crust. In the past, mercury was mostly used in thermometers and electrical devices, but now it can be found elsewhere. Mercury is commonly found in seafood, especially swordfish, shark, and marlin among other species of fish. Why seafood? Past and current industrialization has increased the amount of naturally occurring mercury in the environment. It makes its way into soil and water sources, eventually ending up in the bodies of fish and widely eaten marine life. 

Asbestos

Asbestos is a natural silicate mineral that forms tiny, long-lasting, and heat-resistant fibers. Asbestos has been used in a multitude of building materials—including ceiling and flooring tiles, roofing shingles, and insulation. 

What are the main concerns with asbestos?

  1. Small amounts of asbestos are still used in thousands of everyday products. If a product contains less than 1% of asbestos, manufacturers do not have to disclose it on the packaging. 
  2. Buildings and structures constructed before the 1980s are likely to still contain higher amounts of asbestos in the building materials. If the asbestos is disturbed, the fibers can become airborne and expose those in near proximity. 

Lead

Lead is a soft and malleable metal also found in the Earth’s crust. It was often used in pipes, as well as paint, but most commonly used in car batteries. While banned for commercial use in 1979, industrial use of lead can still be found throughout the automotive and construction industries.

How do they impact your health?

Mercury

Toxic to humans, mercury poisoning often occurs with blood mercury levels above 100 ng/mL. Mercury is known to specifically attack the brain, kidneys, and lungs. Symptoms of this poisoning can include tremors, memory loss, body numbness, and the loss of motor functions. Another common early warning sign is a metallic taste in the mouth.

Is it curable?

Mercury can stay in your body for years, and mercury poisoning is not technically curable. There are ways to treat it, however, like chelation therapy. When the drug is injected into the body, it binds the metal in the blood and allows it to pass through the kidneys and leave the body through urine. 

Asbestos

Leading up to the 1980s, asbestos’ strength and heat-resistant characteristics made it a popular additive in many household products. Although it’s known to contribute to serious and terminal health conditions like asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer, it’s still not fully banned in the United States. Signs and symptoms of these illnesses are shortness of breath, chest pains, constant cough, and fatigue. 

Is it curable?

Unfortunately, the damage asbestos does to the lungs cannot be reversed or cured. The strong fibers that made asbestos so desirable are now known to cause irreparable damage when inside the lungs. The foreign fibers irritate the lung tissue causing scarring; as the scarring progresses and fibers stiffen, the lungs cannot expand and contract at a livable rate. Common treatments to combat mesothelioma and lung cancers are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Lead 

High exposure to or ingestion of lead can cause a multitude of health problems, including kidney damage, brain damage, and anemia. Young children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning. In fact, 1 in 40 children under the age of 5 has unsafe blood lead levels. Signs of this can include constant irritability, developmental delays, and loss of appetite. 

Is it curable?

Similar to mercury poisoning, the effects of lead poisoning are irreversible. However, there are treatments that can get the level of lead in the blood back to normal, including chelation therapy. Also, determining the source of lead and removing it from your space or routine can help limit further exposure.

Where can you be exposed at home?

Some exposures are easier to avoid than others, however, educating yourself is the first step in possible prevention. 

First off, be conscious of your food choices. As we previously mentioned, certain kinds of seafood like swordfish carry high levels of mercury. Avoid eating these foods or only eat them on rare occasions to reduce the amount of mercury you're knowingly consuming. 

Aside from asbestos in the materials of the home itself, you may also be bringing it home in the products you buy. For example, talc and asbestos have been known to form together while mined, and consumers claim to be unknowingly exposing themselves and their families to these toxins. 

On a similar note, paint on both walls and on items can pose a threat if it contains lead. Lead paint was often used before the 1980s, and peeling or cracking of lead paint can release the toxins into the air. Although lead paint has been banned in the U.S., it’s still widely used in other countries. Both antique U.S.-made toys and toys from other countries pose the risk of lead-containing paint.

Where can you be exposed at work?

In the same way you can be exposed at home, there are certain professions that pose a higher risk of toxin exposure at work. 

School

For those who work in education, it’s important to note that a stunning one-third of U.S. schools contain asbestos. Especially for schools built before 1980, there is a high chance it’s somewhere on the property. If no renovations or remodels have taken place, asbestos was likely not removed and replaced. When disturbed, exposure can come from loose tiles, disturbed drywall or insulation, or roofing shingles. Over the past few years, multiple schools have also discovered that old synthetic flooring gives off mercury vapors as it breaks down, which can contaminate an entire building. 

Trades

Trade professionals in welding, auto mechanics, or construction are actually among those with the highest risk of toxic exposure. Lead pipes are still widely found across the U.S., and welders have a high risk of lead poisoning if proper protection isn’t used. Auto mechanics can be exposed to asbestos on car parts like brake pads, and construction workers likely come into contact with asbestos and lead anytime they do work on a house built before 1980. 

Military

In recent years, it's been found that many military bases had toxic exposures which ultimately caused veterans to become terminally ill. From Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in North Carolina, and hundreds in between, groundwater contamination has exposed millions of military personnel to a multitude of toxins. Many of these chemicals made their way into the groundwater through the use of toxic firefighting foams, which have now been banned in certain states. Outside of bases, concentrated amounts of lead were used in indoor firing ranges, and mercury was used in batteries and other tactical gear.

Conclusion

While toxins may not be completely avoidable, the more you know about them the better. 

Be sure to educate yourself on your home, environment, and workplace. And make smart purchasing decisions to avoid any unnecessary exposures to you and your family.

Early detection is key, so if you feel you’ve been exposed to toxins or are experiencing some of the mentioned side effects, contact a medical professional right away. Building experts are also available to test for toxins around the home— to give you peace of mind and reduce future exposures.

If you found this helpful, please share it with others to help keep your neighbors and your friends safe!

Lifestyle & Wellness
December 7, 2022

Managing emotional wellness during the holidays

4 minutes

The holidays are a time for joy—but they can also include stress. Learn tips to support your emotional wellness so you can better cope with any challenges, better show up for yourself and your loved ones, and enjoy the holiday season.

As the holidays begin, families and friends come together to celebrate. There’s much to be grateful for during this time, but the holidays can also bring up feelings of stress for many people. 

An important way to take care of yourself is to manage emotional wellness—not only to improve your overall health but to help you better enjoy the end of year festivities.

Today we’ll answer:

  • What’s emotional wellness?
  • And how can you manage it? 

What is emotional wellness?

Emotional wellness is a person’s ability to manage emotions and handle life challenges. 

When emotional wellness suffers, your relationships, mental health, and ability to do day-to-day activities can also suffer. 

Struggling to maintain emotional wellness may even impact physical health, with issues that can look like the classic effects of stress—including high blood pressure and digestive issues. 

Managing emotions, handling life’s stresses, and coping with difficulties in a healthy way—especially during potentially stressful times like the holidays—is a powerful tool for better overall health. 

6 tips to help manage emotional wellness during the holidays

Exercise

Evidence suggests physically active people have lower rates of depression and anxiety than people who don’t exercise frequently. 

This could be for a variety of reasons—though recent research suggests regular exercise has an “antidepressive effect.” 

How does it work? 

According to John Hopkins Medicine, it blunts the brain's response to emotional and physical stress. 

Physical activities like walking, biking, or even dancing can help:

  • Improve sleep
  • Increase energy levels
  • Reduce feelings of stress
  • Enhance mood and emotional well-being

If you have time, try to go for walks or runs during the holidays to help blow off some steam and improve your mood. It’s a healthy habit that can support your well-being well after the holidays are over too. 

Socialize

The holidays are a great time to socialize as family and friends get together. 

Socializing can help:

  • Improve feelings of loneliness
  • Sharpen memory and cognitive skills
  • Increase happiness and well-being

Sometimes social gatherings and responsibilities can challenge our emotional well-being. But seeking positive social connection—whether with romantic partners, friends, family, or neighbors—can have a healthy impact on emotional well-being. 

Reduce stress

While characterized as a time of joy and cheer, the holidays bring increased stress for many people. You may have to plan family gatherings, buy gifts, or travel during some of the busiest travel days of the year.

Here are a few tips to help reduce stress during the holidays:

  • Plan ahead. Set aside time, or even days dedicated to cooking, packing for travel, or shopping.
  • Consider minimizing or eliminating gift giving with your family or friend group. Instead of swapping presents, many people choose to donate to charities, share food, write letters, or plan an activity or outing together. 
  • Stick to a budget. Decide how much money you’d like to, and can afford to, spend before you shop. 
  • Keep up with healthy habits. Do your best to stay physically active, get enough sleep, and take time for yourself for relaxing practices and hobbies of your own.

Get your sleep

Poor sleep can decrease positive emotions and increase negative emotional responses to stressors. 

To improve sleep during the holidays, do your best to:

  • Exercise daily
  • Avoid naps close to bedtime
  • Avoid electronics, alcohol, and big meals before bedtime
  • Sleep in a dark, quiet, and comfortable sleeping environment
  • Keep a routine—go to bed at the same time every night

Practice mindfulness

Developing mindfulness practices can help you face stressful situations with more ease. Practicing mindfulness is about allowing yourself to be fully present—and not operating on autopilot, in a reactionary state. 

Two common mindfulness techniques include:

  1. Deep breathing, which can help supply more oxygen to the brain and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system—promoting a sense of calmness.
  2. Body scans may also help you cope with challenges and stress. In one study, researchers found participants had reduced levels of stress after doing a body scan meditation. Body scans can be done in as little as five minutes and consist of being still and focusing on how various parts of your body feel, while breathing deeply and relaxing each body part.

Going for a stroll on your own can also be a great moment to practice mindfulness while getting exercise too.

Spend time with your hobbies

A hobby is any activity done regularly for leisure and enjoyment—like writing or painting, gardening, or athletic activities like sports or working out. 

Your hobbies are unique to you. Spending time on them can help:

  • Reduce stress. One study showed cortisol (the stress hormone) dropped by 75% after participants made art. 
  • Enhance well-being. In another study, researchers found people experienced a better mood after spending the day doing creative activities.

Conclusion

It’s important to take time for your emotional wellness during the holidays—it allows you to show up better for yourself, your relationships, and daily activities.

Whether it’s exercise, getting enough sleep, or spending time on a hobby—there are plenty of ways to take control of your emotional wellness.

We hope you learned something new to make the holiday season a little more joyful. 

Happy holidays!