Diagnosing Arthritis: Do You Already Have It?

Arthritis is a chronic condition resulting from the wearing away of cartilage or inflammation in the joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, one in every five Americans over 18 has arthritis in a minimum of one joint.

The condition causes an impairment of the natural cushion in the joint, which can cause pain and swelling. Both symptoms of arthritis make it difficult to walk or handle simple everyday tasks, such as opening jars.

Not all joint pain and swelling point to arthritis. Sometimes, injuries can result in similar symptoms. However, along with stiffness and difficulty moving a joint, swelling and pain are common warning signs of the condition.

Learning More About the 4 Primary Arthritis Warning Signs

Arthritis pain is hard to define. The condition can cause constant pain or bouts of discomfort that come and go. The pain also doesn't discriminate between resting or moving, and it may occur in one place or in multiple joints throughout the body.

Swelling resulting from arthritis typically affects the skin over a joint. The skin often becomes red and warm to the touch. Depending on the severity of the condition, swollen skin might be tender to the touch. Medical experts warn that people experiencing localized swelling for three days or more should see their doctor.

Stiffness is a classic arthritis symptom that typically occurs after sitting or resting for extended periods. For example, someone's knees or hips might become stiff after riding in a car for more than an hour. It is common for people with arthritis to experience stiffness; some experiences last about an hour.

People without arthritis can easily lift themselves out of a chair while those people with arthritis of the knees, hips, hands, feet, etc., will often struggle with such seemingly simple tasks because they have difficulty moving their joints.

Dealing With a Suspected Diagnosis

Experiencing arthritis symptoms is not a definitive diagnosis. For an official diagnosis, you will need to go to a doctor. However, before you make an appointment, many experts suggest recording your symptoms for several weeks to help your doctor determine the type of arthritis you may have.

In your journal, record when and where you experience swelling and stiffness. Also, please note how long symptoms last and what eases them. You should also note symptoms that don't seem related, like a rash, fatigue, or fever. If you experience a fever, you should seek medical attention immediately.

If your physician suspects arthritis, they may perform different range of motion tests. Any pain you experience during these tests is another sign of arthritis.

A family history of arthritis can also indicate a diagnosis. Your primary doctor may refer you to a specialist for an official diagnosis.

Arthritis is a common condition. Four main symptoms are associated with a diagnosis: pain, swelling, stiffness and difficulty moving a joint. While the combination of the symptoms provides a safe assumption of a diagnosis, you will need to seek a medical opinion for an official diagnosis, especially if you need help with pain management.

Vertigo: What You Need To Know If You Live With This Dizzying Condition

Vertigo is the sensation that the environment around you is spinning. Though many people refer to it as a condition, the truth is that it is a symptom of another underlying condition. Vertigo can be disconcerting, as it can make you feel dizzy and off balance. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, vertigo may make it difficult for you to complete daily tasks.

If you live with vertigo, you may wish to learn more about the condition. Here you can find out everything from why it occurs to how long it lasts to what you can do to achieve relief both on your own and with medical help.

Common Causes of Vertigo

One thing that many people who live with vertigo want to know is, why does it happen? Is it hereditary?

Vertigo is not hereditary, but several conditions that are hereditary can trigger it, such as the following:

  • Labyrinthitis
  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
  • Vestibular neuronitis
  • Cholesteatoma
  • Meniere’s disease

Vertigo can have numerous other causes. Among others, those include migraines, stroke, diabetes, head injuries, shingles near or on the ear, ear surgery, arrhythmia, prolonged bed rest, hyperventilation, ataxia, low blood pressure and syphilis. Certain medications can also trigger vertigo.

The Two Types of Vertigo

There are two types of vertigo: central vertigo and peripheral vertigo. Knowing the differences between the types and which you have can inform you as to the severity of the underlying condition. For instance, peripheral vertigo is the result of a problem within the ear. Central vertigo, however, may be indicative of a brain tumor, infection, traumatic brain injury or impending stroke.

The Length of Vertigo Attacks

In most cases, vertigo attacks last for just a few seconds to a few minutes. However, some people experience vertigo for days, weeks or even months. The length of an attack is often indicative of the severity of the underlying cause.

Signs You Have Vertigo

Many people experience vertigo but chalk it up to bouts of dizziness. If you ever feel dizzy or off-center, you may want to familiarize yourself with the signs of vertigo, as you may be living with an untreated medical condition:

  • Feelings of being motion sick
  • Rocking feeling
  • Tilting feeling
  • Spinning
  • Unbalance

If you experience any of these sensations — particularly when you walk or change positions — there is a strong likelihood that what you are experiencing is vertigo.

Vertigo Is Not a Fear of Heights

It is a long-standing myth that vertigo occurs at heightened elevations and in people who live with a fear of heights. The scientific term for a fear of heights is “acrophobia.” Acrophobia is characterized by dizziness, but said dizziness is triggered when a person looks down from a high place.

How To Get Relief From Vertigo

Depending on the underlying cause, you may be able to achieve relief with a bit of self-care. Some steps you can take are as follows:

  • Sit or stand slowly
  • Engage in simple exercises
  • Avoid bending to pick up items
  • Avoid extending your neck
  • Sleep with your head in a raised position
  • Avoid exercises that trigger your symptoms
  • Avoid moving your head quickly

If these simple self-care tricks don’t work, try herbal remedies, such as cayenne, ginger, turmeric and Ginkgo biloba. If the condition still does not resolve, talk to your doctor, who may prescribe an antibiotic to treat an infection or a medication to treat an underlying condition. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to relieve the symptoms of motion sickness.

Vertigo can be a disconcerting feeling. If you live with it, consult with your doctor about ruling out any underlying conditions.

5 Tips for Healthier Nails

Healthy fingernails are a sign of wellness and beauty. There are several ways to get healthier fingernails.

1. Try a Biotin Supplement

Most people who eat a varied, healthy, and balanced diet do not need dietary supplements to ensure healthy nails. However, some people naturally have weak nails, or they lack proper nutrition, which contributes to fragility.

Vitamin B7, biotin, is an essential nutrient in milk, eggs, bananas, and other foods. The vitamin is crucial to hair and nail health. If a person has a deficiency, their hair may thin, and their nails might become brittle and weak.

A biotin supplement can help people with a deficiency, but it may also help those with naturally weak nails. Some studies suggest biotin helps promote nail growth and health.

2. Take a Break From Manicures and Polish

Many people enjoy manicures and dressing their nails up with polish. While healthy nails can often handle the abuse and coverage, it is still a good idea to let them breathe every so often.

Overworking your nails can cause damage, and it may weaken their integrity. There is nothing wrong with having an occasional manicure, but when a manicurist shapes and works your nails too much, you can open yourself up to greater infection risks.

Also, choose an acetone-free nail polish remover, and avoid acrylic nails. Using harsh chemicals or applying false nails can weaken the nail's structure and lead to infections.

3. Moisturize Your Cuticles

People often underestimate the importance of nail cuticles. Cuticles work like caulk around a shower; they keep damaging bacteria and other elements away from the nail bed.

Many people trim their cuticles or push them down. Being too aggressive with your cuticles can damage them. Damaging a cuticle can open your nails and fingers up to infection. Signs of infection include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Pus

Also, do not believe that visiting a professional manicurist to have your cuticles trimmed eliminates the risk of infection. Even professionals can make mistakes.

4. Practice Good Nail Hygiene

If you want healthy and strong nails, it is best to maintain good nail hygiene. Keep nails trimmed and clean.

In the past, long nails were fashionable. Unfortunately, long nails are also more prone to breakage and infection than shorter nails.

Today, shorter, more natural nails are in fashion, which is better for your health. Keeping your nails trimmed reduces the risks of snagging or breaking. It also helps keep the underside of the nail cleaner.

A nail brush allows you to clean between the nail and nail bed without aggressively opening or widening the gap. You do not need to scrub vigorously. Gently scrubbing back and forth with the brush will clean your nails without an increased risk of injury or infection.

5. Wear Gloves and Take Infections Seriously

Whenever you are working with your hands, wear gloves. Gloves protect against the elements and guard against dirt, grime, and accompanying bacteria. However, even the most diligent individual might experience an infection.

If you get a nail infection, seek treatment. Nail infections can spread if not corrected. Also, some people are at a greater risk of severe infections because of medications or health conditions.

Nail hygiene matters to overall well-being. For more advice on healthy nails, contact a local dermatologist.

BRCA Genes Affect More Than Your Breast Cancer Risk

BRCA gene tests have been prominent on the news lately. Do you need to get tested? This helpful guide can answer all of your questions about BRCA genes, including what they do and why they matter.

What Are BRCA Genes?

BRCA genes are an important part of your DNA. Everyone should have two healthy copies of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Both of these genes are designed to prevent cancer from appearing or growing. That’s why BRCA genes are sometimes called tumor suppressor genes.

The name BRCA (for BReast CAncer) is kind of misleading because these genes are connected to much more than breast cancer. They also help prevent ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, melanomas and some rarer forms of leukemia.

What Is DNA?

DNA is the blueprint for your body. It gives your cells instructions on how to work properly. It helps your body build everything from strong muscles to smooth skin.

What Does This Have To Do With You?

Cancer is something both women and men should take seriously. Over 10% of women experience problems with breast cancer. In 2022, over 3.8 million women had been treated for breast cancer in the United States.

One of the biggest cancer risks for men is prostate cancer. Experts predict almost 270,000 new cases of prostate cancer in 2022. About 12.5% of men will develop prostate cancer at some point.

Why Are BRCA Genes Important?

BRCA genes protect your health in several ways:

  • Creating tumor suppressor proteins
  • Repairing DNA damage
  • Controlling cell multiplication
  • Keeping cell growth within healthy levels

BRCA genes are like factory managers making sure production equipment operates smoothly. Without supervision and maintenance, the machinery could go crazy. Similarly, cancer happens when cell growth goes out of control. That’s what tumors are.

What Things Trigger DNA Damage?

Many everyday things put your DNA in harm’s way, especially with today’s world so filled with environmental problems:

  • UV rays: Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can cause deep DNA damage. Health experts recommend wearing sunblock and sunglasses every time you go outside.
  • Toxic chemicals: From microplastics in the water to industrial chemicals in city air, many types of contamination can negatively affect your health. These dangers specifically hurt DNA.
  • Genetic malfunctions: Some people inherit defective copies of BRCA genes from their parents. These genetic errors can lead to mistakes with cell growth and healing.

What Are the Risks of BRCA Gene Mutations?

People who have defective BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are at a much higher risk for certain types of cancers. It’s like having a defective security alarm for your home. It makes your body much more vulnerable to DNA damage.

Anywhere from 45%–72% of women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations get breast cancer, compared to 13% in general. BRCA1 increases the risk of ovarian cancer from 1.2% to a whopping 39%. Men with defective BRCA2 genes have a 20% risk of prostate cancer.

Who Should Test for BRCA Gene Problems?

Before you rush out and get tested for BRCA malfunctions, you should know that the chance you have a problem is pretty small. Most people only have a 1 in 400 chance, or 0.2%. Your doctor may recommend a test if you have a family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer or similar cancers.

5 Exercises To Help With Sciatica

People with sciatica often avoid exercising because they don't want to aggravate the condition. Unfortunately, avoidance makes the problem worse. Physical therapists recommend trying at least five exercises to improve mobility and reduce pain.

1. Pelvic Tilt

To perform the pelvic tilt, lie on your back. Bend your legs, bringing your feet toward your butt, and put your arms flat by your sides.

Before lifting your hips off the floor, tighten your core muscles. Putting pressure on your bike like you were pressing it into the floor, lift the pelvis and hips slightly and hold, remembering to breathe.

After a few seconds, release the hold, lowering your hips back to the floor. Repeat the exercise eight to 12 times.

2. Knee-to-Chest

The knee-to-chest exercise targets the upper thigh and lower buttocks. Again, lie on your back, legs bent and feet flat. Keeping one foot flat on the floor, lift the other, bringing the knee to your chest.

Your back should remain flat against the floor. Continue to hold the knee to your chest for about 30 seconds. After you release, do the same with the opposite leg. Repeat the exercise two to four times on each side.

You can increase the difficulty level by keeping one leg stretched and flat on the floor while lifting the other. Another version of the exercise requires lifting both knees to the chest simultaneously.

3. Glute Bridges

Glute muscles play a significant role in managing sciatic pain. If the muscles are too tight, they can press on the nerve. Glute bridges help to stretch and loosen the muscles.

Lie on the floor on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet about shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms at your sides, relaxed. Pushing into your heels, lift your hips. Your body should make a straight line from the knees to the shoulders. Hold the position for a few seconds before slowly lowering your hips to the floor. Do two to three sets with eight to 10 reps, and focus on form.

4. Standing Hamstring Stretch

Changing things up, you will need to stand for the hamstring stretch. Also, hold on to something to ensure balance and safety. This exercise is best used with a designated raised platform, like a stair step.

Stand tall with one foot on the step and the other on the floor. The toes on the step should point upward. Keep your back straight and lean forward slightly. You should feel tension or pulling in the hamstring area. Hold the position for 30 seconds.

Swap legs and repeat the exercise. Perform a minimum of two to three reps with each leg.

5. Deep Gluteal Stretch

The deep gluteal stretch might be a little challenging for those with limited flexibility. Like other exercises for sciatica, you will start on the floor with your legs bent. Raise your left ankle and rest it on your right knee.

With hands together and fingers laced behind your right thigh, pull the thigh toward your upper body. Your head and back should remain on the floor. Hold the position for 30 seconds before releasing and repeating on the opposite side. Perform two or three reps per side.

If you have sciatica, give any of the above exercises a try. However, talk to your doctor first.

Food Labels: How To Read Them Without Being Tricked

As a health-conscious consumer, you may rely on food labels to inform you of what you put into your body. While it’s good practice to always read food labels, it may discourage you to learn that labels aren’t always transparent. Many labels are purposely complex — and spare — so as to hide the true nutritional value (or lack thereof) of the products within the packaging. So that you don’t fall victim to misrepresentations, it may be worth your while to learn how to interpret food labels accurately. Below are a few tips to help you out.  

Always Check the Serving Size

If you rely on food labels to tell you how much of any given ingredient is in a certain product, it’s crucial that you don’t rely on the numbers alone. First, check out the serving size information.

Most packaged foods contain more than one serving. For instance, a can of soup typically contains two servings. A box of Cheez-Its contains 12 servings. You can generally find both the serving size and the number of servings per container at the top of the food label. The nutritional values listed next to each ingredient apply to each serving, not the entire container. So, if a serving size of soup is half a can and you eat the whole can, you consume twice the amount of calories, fat and nutrients listed on the label.

Double Check the Calorie Count

In addition to highlighting serving size, most food labels like to draw attention to calorie counts. Because calories provide a measure of energy you gain from a serving of food — and because they directly contribute to weight goals — many health-conscious consumers strive to control the number of calories they consume on a daily basis. If you’re one such consumer, compare the advertised calorie count with the serving size. If a package asserts that the contents within contain 120 calories but the container contains 4 servings, the actual calorie count is 480.

Calculate % Daily Value

The % daily value refers to the percentage of the daily value of nutrients that each serving contains. More specifically, these values tell you how much a food or beverage contributes to your daily diet. The DVs are merely recommendations for how much of a particular ingredient you should consume or not exceed each day and are based on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet. For example, if a food contains 3% cholesterol, it provides 3% of the total amount of cholesterol a person who needs 2,000 calories a day should consume.

The DV percentages can help you assess just how nutritional or non-nutritional a food or beverage is. DVs of 5% or less are low in nutrients. DVs of 20% or more, on other hand, have a high nutrient count per serving. That said, whether a food is good for you depends on which ingredients have high DVs. Foods with high % daily values of vitamin D, iron, calcium, fiber and potassium are nutritious. Foods that are high in sodium, saturated fats and added sugars, however, are not.

Ignore Front-of-Box Labels

If you take anything away from this article, let it be this: Ignore all the claims and assertions on front-of-box labels. Front labels are not regulated and often use misleading — and sometimes downright false — health claims to lure health-conscious consumers into making impulse purchases. If you think you are above falling for these tactics, know that research indicates that front-of-box health claims convince an overwhelming majority of people to purchase a product.

Manufacturers are tricky with their food labels. If you are serious about building and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you need to outsmart them by learning how to read labels accurately.

6 Reasons To Consider Adding Hemp Seeds to Your Diet

Hemp seeds may not seem like a popular nutritional addition to your diet, but they are full of healthy protein, fats, and other vitamins and minerals. The seeds come from the Cannabis sativa plant, which is the same hemp plant that produces marijuana.

While hemp seeds contain trace amounts of THC, they do not have enough of the compound to induce psychoactive properties. Therefore, many professionals consider hemp seeds safe and beneficial.

Not convinced? Nutritionists point to at least six health benefits of hemp seeds as reasons to try adding them to your diet.

1. Nutritional Value

Hemp seeds are members of the nut family. Often called hemp hearts, the seeds have a mild, nutty flavor. Over 30% of the seed is fat, with much of that content being two essential fatty acids — linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. Also, the seeds contain a fair amount of gamma-linolenic acid.

Besides a healthy fat content, over 25% of hemp seed calories come from protein. The high-quality protein source is richer than comparable chia seeds and flaxseeds.

Finally, the seeds are an excellent source of other vitamins and minerals. Some of the nutrients in hemp seeds include:

  • Vitamin E
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Sulfur
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorous

2. Skin Condition Relief

As a resource of polyunsaturated fats and essential fatty acids, hemp seeds provide a good balance between omega-6 and omega-3. The balance between these essential fatty acids can affect the immune system.

Inflammation is an immune system response that can aggravate certain skin conditions, such as eczema. Hemp seeds can reduce symptoms of such conditions because it provides an optimum ratio of fatty acids. Also, some research indicates hemp seed oil can reduce the need for skin medication, relieve dry skin, and reduce itchiness.

3. Plant-Based Protein

As a complete protein source, hemp seeds provide all essential amino acids. They are also excellent protein options for people on plant-based diets. Researchers suggest hemp seeds provide protein amounts similar to beef and lamb by weight. For example, two or three tablespoons of hemp seeds are equivalent to about 11 grams of protein.

4. Digestive Health

Whole hemp seeds provide soluble and insoluble fiber, 20% and 80%, respectively. Fiber is crucial to a healthy diet. Unfortunately, shelling hemp seeds eliminates nearly all fiber benefits.

5. PMS and Menopause Relief

PMS and menopause can cause physical and emotional symptoms in up to 80% of women. Prolactin is likely responsible for many adverse PMS symptoms. Hemp seeds contain gamma-linolenic acid, which produces prostaglandin E1. Prostaglandin E1 can help reduce the effect of the hormone, easing menstrual symptoms. Also, some studies indicate GLA can help with menopause, but it is not yet clear how this works.

6. Heart Health

According to the CDC, in the U.S., one person dies every 34 seconds from cardiovascular disease. Hemp seeds can reduce the chances of heart problems with the amino acid arginine. The amino acid produces nitric oxide. The gas molecule forces blood vessels to dilate, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart issues.

Hemp seeds are excellent sources of fiber, protein, and other essential nutrients. Try adding a couple of spoonfuls to recipes every week. Talk to your doctor before adding any new food to your diet.

Health Benefits of Getting a Pet

Pets can make life more enjoyable and fulfilling, but they’re also a lot of work. When you’re a little more “mature” like I am, you may wonder if you have the energy to look after an energetic little animal. If you’re on the fence about whether to go adopt a furry family member, science says the investment of your time and money is well worth it. I have learned that there are so many health benefits you can enjoy when you have a pet in your life. Here are some of my favorites.

Reduced Stress Levels

Stress is just a regular part of life for many people, but too much stress can cause a lot of health problems. Here are just a few of the dangerous health conditions linked to chronic stress:

  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle pain and tension
  • Headaches
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Memory and concentration issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease

Yikes! That’s a pretty ugly list if you ask me. It can be hard to reduce your stress naturally, but science shows that owning a pet lowers stress and improves heart health. If you have any doubt about that, all you need to do is snuggle with a cuddly puppy or play with a mischievous kitten and notice how your stress seems to melt away.

Increased Physical Activity

When you own pets, you’re responsible for making sure they get enough exercise for good health. This means that you’ll need to get out and exercise, too! Walking a dog is a great way to boost your physical health and make sure your cardiovascular system is always being tested and improved.

Even if you have a cat and you don’t take it for walks, you can still get in some exercise by playing with it. Try pulling a string around the house for your cat to chase. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can work up a sweat just trying to keep the string out of your cat’s reach!

Improved Mental Health

Poor mental health is a growing problem these days. Anxiety and depression rates are skyrocketing, and it’s easy to become the next statistic. But having a pet can help reduce your likelihood of developing a mental health disorder. If you already have a mental health disorder, a pet may help you manage it.

Being around pets can lower stress hormones that contribute to anxiety. Research shows that veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder often feel an improved sense of well-being and better mental health when they have a service dog by their side.

Dogs have a sixth sense and know when you’re feeling down. That’s why they often come up and lick your face or curl up next to you when you’re sad or worried about something. If you want to have the longest, happiest life possible, the key may be to add a furry family member to the mix.

Decreased Loneliness

Many older adults live alone. A life of solitude can become very lonely. A loving pet provides an important sense of companionship. Pets are extremely loyal and make excellent companions for those who have lost a spouse or who have never married. Even empty nesters who have each other but no longer have children in the home can benefit from the companionship of one or more pets.

Having a pet can also make it easier to make friends with other pet owners in the neighborhood. Try taking your dog to local dog parks to become acquainted with other people in your area.

It’s easy to see why so many people choose to welcome pets into their homes. Even though they require time and money to care for, pets give back so much more to us.

How To Assess Outdoor Air Quality — and Why You Should

Before heading outside for a workout or enjoying the fresh air, you may take several steps to prepare for the outing. From checking the weather to putting on sunscreen to donning appropriate attire, there are several measures you may go through to ensure your comfort and safety while away. Yet, like so many others, you may overlook one crucial factor: air quality.

Most people automatically assume they enter a world of “fresh air" when they step outside. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Several regions throughout the U.S. are affected by high pollution levels, which drastically reduce air quality. Air quality can still be poor in places not traditionally affected by pollution when certain environmental factors are present. Regardless of where you live, it’s important to know the air quality level in your region that day, as polluted air can adversely affect your health.

How Outdoor Air Quality Affects Your Health

Outdoor air — which is the air that flows from the ground level to miles above the earth’s surface — is a valuable commodity that provides life-sustaining gases and shields the earth from harmful radiation. However, when pollutants contaminate the air, they interfere with those essential gases and hinder its ability to protect the planet and its occupants. As a result, instead of breathing in healthy gases, humans and animals in polluted areas breathe in pollutants. These pollutants can compromise not just environmental health but also human health.

The effects of polluted air on human and environmental health are well documented. Below are just a few examples of how air pollution affects life on earth:

  • It has been linked to several human health effects, including asthma attacks, heart attacks, bronchitis, restricted activity days, respiratory symptoms, missed work and school days, and premature mortality.
  • It damages essential crops and reduces visibility.
  • It has been linked to increased incidences of acid rain.
  • It weakens the planet’s protective ozone layer, contributing to climate change.

Though only the first point demonstrates a direct effect on human health, the remaining points all indirectly affect you, your loved ones and your community.

How To Check Outdoor Air Quality

Checking outdoor air quality is as simple as checking indoor air quality. However, whereas with your indoor air quality, you can simply refer to your thermostat, you would refer to the air quality index with outdoor air quality. You can do this via an app, such as the FiltreteÔ Smart App, or a website, such as IQAir.

Regardless of which source you use, the index should give you a number between 0 and 500. This number refers to the level of air pollution present that day. A score of “0” means there is no pollution, while a score of “500” means the air poses an immediate danger to life. If air pollution is present, the index should identify what the pollutant is and how much of it is present.

Finally, the index should provide a five-color grading scale, with green meaning “clean” and red or maroon meaning “heavily polluted.” Each color code comes with specific advice for being outdoors.

Checking air quality levels before heading outside is simple yet can have a profound impact on your health. Prioritize your health and well-being, and take 30 seconds out of your day to check the air quality in your area before heading outdoors.

My Favorite Natural Energy Boosters (They Aren’t What You Might Think)

Lack of energy is a pervasive problem in America, with as many as 42% of adults claiming they regularly feel tired before noon. In addition, an astounding 65% of 2,000 people surveyed said they never wake up feeling refreshed and energized. These statistics may account for the hundreds of self-proclaimed energy-boosting products on the market today — some of which make no claims of being natural and many more that do. Regardless of whether “energy” comes in a can, herb or supplement form, the truth is that the best energy boosters are already inside of you. You just have to make a few lifestyle changes to help them do their work.

Fortunately, the changes you need to make are not big or difficult to implement. See for yourself — check out the top five natural energy boosters that actually work.

1.    Say “Yes” Less

A major reason for the fatigue epidemic in the U.S. is obligation overload. Not only do Americans tend to overwork themselves but also, many find it nearly impossible to say no to their bosses, friends, family members and social obligations. To avoid burnout, learn to say “yes” less. When someone asks you to do something — whether five minutes from the moment or six months down the road — consider whether it is something you really want to do. When the time comes to do it, would you still say “yes” to the commitment? If the answer is no or not a solid yes, don’t commit.

2.    Manage Your Stress

Stress is a major energy zapper. If you don’t yet have a stress-relief outlet, adopt one. Such an outlet can be a support group, a happy hour date with a BFF on Tuesday afternoons, a yoga class or a simple 20-minute walk each evening. There are no rules to how you must control your stress, but you must find a way to do so.

3.    Get Moving

Exercise has many proven benefits, ranging from improved brain health to decreased risk of major health problems. It makes sense, then, that exercise has several energy-boosting properties.

Exercise helps you sleep better at night. It also generates higher dopamine levels in the brain, contributing to a better mood. Finally, exercise gives the cells more energy to burn, which helps circulate oxygen and increase energy levels.

4.    Drink Caffeine Sparingly

Yes, coffee does provide a much-needed jolt of energy in the morning. However, when consumed in large amounts, caffeine may prove ineffective, and it could even have adverse consequences across several areas of your life.

If you drink too much, your body may build a tolerance to caffeine. Moreover, high caffeine intake can lead to insomnia and sleep deprivation, contributing to fatigue. Coffee can also dehydrate you, which leads to fatigue, and affect your blood sugar levels, which also causes feelings of tiredness.

The bottom line is that caffeine is great in small doses. Stick to one to two cups a day to reap the benefits of the world’s favorite beverage.

5.     Drink Water

Water is the one nutrient proven to enhance the performance of all but the most rigorous endurance activities. If your body is even slightly dehydrated, decreased energy levels will be one of the first signs.

If you’re tired of being tired, you don’t need canned energy or fancy supplements to restore your energy. You simply need to make a few lifestyle changes. Incorporate the above five changes into your life today for more energy tomorrow.