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1. Switch up your snacks. "First of all, watch mindless snacking," says Emily Banes, RD, clinical dietitian at the Houston Northwest Medical Center in Houston, Texas. "[Those calories] really add up." Instead of grazing on the baked goodies in the break room, have a plan for healthy snacks that combines a little bit of fat, protein, and crunch, such as apple slices smeared with peanut butter. If you are counting calories, doing the math may help: a pound is the equivalent of 3,500 calories, so if you can cut 100 calories out of your day, you will lose a pound in just over a month.
2. Cut out high-calorie condiments and sugars. "Instead of getting a coffee with sugar, try Splenda," says Banes. Likewise, try mustard on your burger or sandwich instead of mayonnaise, and order your salad dressing on the side so that you can control the amount you eat.
3. Hoof it. "Exercise is key," says Banes. People who manage at least 150 minutes of activity a week are more successful with weight loss. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park a bit farther from your destination so you have to walk. This will add extra exercise — and burn more calories.
4. Anticipate temptation. If you know you can’t resist freshly baked brownies, don’t keep a mix in your pantry. Also, if you are going somewhere with friends and family and know you’ll have a hard time controlling yourself, make a decision before you get there about what you will eat — and stick to it.
5. Try the veggie-loaded plate method. Banes recommends using your plate to guide your food selection and portion sizes. One half of the plate should be vegetables. The other side can be split between protein and starchy carbohydrates. If you decide to get a second plate, says Banes, it had better be all vegetables. People who eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day are more successful with weight loss.
6. Skip the fast food. A study of 1,713 adults who have been successful with weight loss demonstrated that people who eat at fast-food restaurants less than twice a week have greater success with their weight loss. “If you do eat fast foods, don’t supersize it,” says Banes, and try to opt for a salad, small portions, or “get baked, not fried.”
7. Limit the calories you drink. While most people understand sugary sodas add calories, Banes sees a misconception when it comes to sweet tea and juices. Sweetened tea is no less calorie-dense than soda, and you’d be better off eating the fruit than drinking the juice, advises Banes.
8. Be accountable. Whether you have a diet buddy you check in with, a support group, or a food diary, keeping track of your daily food choices takes only a few minutes, but can double your weight-loss success.
9. Order smaller portions. Data suggests that people who order smaller portions or share a plate at restaurants are more successful with weight loss. Banes recommends ordering the lunch portion, an appetizer, or a children’s meal — or put up to half your meal into a doggy bag before you begin eating.
10. Acknowledge your success. People who believe they can succeed with weight loss actually do lose weight more successfully. How do you gain this confidence? Take a moment to pat yourself on the back when you make healthy choices and achieve your short-term goals.
That’s the conclusion of controversial new research linking the supplements to increased risk of heart disease, a finding that has many of the 61 percent of older women who regularly take them worried. Calcium supplement use has more than doubled over the last two decades, according to the latest government data. Their popularity has grown along with awareness of osteoporosis, which affects 10 million Americans, 80 percent of them women, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Women who took calcium supplements — at any dose — had a 13 to 22 percent greater risk of heart attack and stroke than those who didn’t take the tablets, according to a new look at one of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) trials, the government studies that tracked the health of thousands of menopausal women. According to the analysis, published in BMJ, for every 1,000 women who took calcium supplements to ward off osteoporosis, there were six extra heart attacks or strokes and three fewer fractures over five years.
More alarming, when the data was combined with results from eight other studies, there was a 25 to 30 percent greater risk of heart attack and a 15 to 20 percent higher risk of stroke with calcium supplement use.
“Calcium supplements may well cause more heart attacks and strokes than it prevents fractures, so therefore the use of calcium as a preventative and as part of a treatment regimen for osteoporosis should be markedly scrutinized,” said Ian Reid, MD, professor of medicine and endocrinology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the study’s lead author.
But other experts are quick to point out a few caveats. When the WHI data was initially studied, it found no effect — good or bad — of calcium supplements on the heart. And neither the WHI nor the other studies Reid reviewed directly tested a link between calcium supplements and heart problems; instead, they were designed to look at the relationship between bone health and calcium, and collected additional information about their participants, including their heart health. That makes it difficult to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between calcium supplements and heart problems, said Michael McClung, MD, founding director of the Oregon Osteoporosis Center.
It’s unknown why calcium supplements may pose a heart risk. Because they’re a concentrated form of the mineral, they may cause a spike in calcium levels in the blood that contributes to hardening of the arteries, Reid said. Or the calcium spike may increase clotting that could lead to stroke.
Food sources of calcium — in milk, yogurt, cheese, dark green vegetables and sardines, to name a few — aren’t associated with heart problems, possibly because the mineral is absorbed gradually, says Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the women’s heart program at NYU Langone Medical Center. She recommends that women get as much of their calcium from food as possible.
Before you pop supplements, first tally how much calcium you get from your typical diet, and then use supplements to make up the difference of what you’re missing from food, McClung says. So, for example, if you have about two dairy servings a day (300 mg of calcium each), you only need to take one 600-milligram calcium supplement instead of two.
It’s also important to get enough vitamin D (a minimum of 600 international units, or IUs, daily) along with your calcium because the vitamin helps you absorb it. If you take calcium supplements, look for pills that also contain vitamin D. Top food sources of vitamin D include fish, such as salmon (450 IUs per three-ounce serving) and fortified milk (about 120 IU per cup).
Depending on your age, family history, and other factors, your doctor may recommend that you get a bone density and other tests to evaluate your risk of fractures to decide whether to increase your calcium/D consumption or take prescription bone-building drugs.
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