Americans concerned about weight, but don’t understand link to heart conditions, health

A Cleveland Clinic survey finds that while most Americans (88 percent) understand that there is a connection between a healthy heart and a healthy weight, most aren’t doing enough — or anything — to combat their own weight issues. The survey found 74 percent are concerned about their weight and 65 percent are worried about getting heart disease due to extra pounds, yet less than half (43 percent) of Americans have tried to make dietary changes to lose weight and 40 percent of those who describe themselves as overweight or obese say they aren’t careful about which foods they eat.

Part of the problem may be that Americans aren’t sure what to eat for heart health. Nearly one-in-five (18 percent) believe their diet has nothing to do with their heart health, and a mere 14 percent knew that a Mediterranean diet is healthiest for heart health. What’s more, nearly half of Americans (46 percent) believe using artificial sweeteners is a healthy way to lose weight despite studies showing they don’t promote weight loss.

The survey also revealed Americans don’t fully understand the impact excess weight has on their heart and overall health. The overwhelming majority of Americans (87 percent) fail to link obesity to cancer or atrial fibrillation (80 percent). More than half of Americans also don’t know that obesity is linked to high “bad” cholesterol levels (54 percent) or coronary artery disease (57 percent) and two-thirds (64 percent) don’t know it can lead to a stroke.

“Most Americans understand abstractly that being overweight or obese is not good for your health, but it seems we are not grasping that the leading causes of death and disability — stroke, cancer, coronary artery disease — are all adversely affected by increased weight,” said Steven Nissen, M.D., chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. “We need to do a better job of educating patients and the public about the major consequences of carrying excess weight and the benefits of losing weight. A patient only needs to lose five percent of their body weight to start seeing important health benefits.”

Eighty-four percent of Americans say they have tried at least one weight-loss method in the past. About one-third (30 percent) say they typically stick with it between one week and one month. Americans cite dislike of exercise (24 percent) and lack of time (22 percent) as their main barriers to maintaining a healthy weight. Most Americans also believe their metabolism is detrimental to weight loss — 60 percent of women and 46 percent of men say their metabolism is working against them.

“Americans may be correct that their metabolism is thwarting their weight loss efforts,” said Dr. Nissen. “Once you’ve been overweight, your body tries to hold on to that excess fat, making it more difficult to lose weight. It’s best to work with your physician to develop a steady long term weight loss plan that will help you keep off the pounds. Quick weight loss programs are not effective.”

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States and around the world. The survey was conducted as part of Cleveland Clinic’s “Love your Heart” consumer education campaign in celebration of American Heart Month. Cleveland Clinic has been ranked the No. 1 hospital in the country for cardiology and cardiac surgery for 24 years in a row by US News & World Report.

Additional survey findings include:

  • All fat is not created equal: When it comes to body shapes, almost half (45%) falsely believe that all types of fat put you at equal risk for heart disease; however, numerous studies have shown that fat stored in the abdomen is the most dangerous.
  • Not feeling the pressure: Most Americans say they are concerned about a family member’s weight (62 percent), or them getting heart disease due to their weight (64%). However, for many, outside pressure to lose the weight doesn’t help. Fifty-seven percent say they don’t need others to tell them to lose weight because they already know they should. Baby Boomers (65 percent) are particularly resistant to others weighing in on their weight.
  • Seeking medical advice: While 44 percent of Americans say they are most likely to turn to their physician for nutrition advice, only a quarter (28 percent) have told their doctor they’d like to lose weight. Even less (22 percent) say they’ve discussed heart health in relation to their weight with their doctor.

According to the CDC, nearly 40 percent of Americans, 93 million people, are obese, and even more are overweight.

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Materials provided by Cleveland Clinic. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

I’m an R.D. and I’m Really Great at Grocery Shopping—Steal My Tips

As a registered dietitian, I see grocery shopping as one of the most essential steps you can take towards healthier, more intentional eating. If you don’t restock your kitchen often enough, it’s going to be difficult to make and prepare food for yourself. And if that doesn’t happen, your chances of resorting to less nutritious and more expensive options like takeout are way higher.

Part of working one-on-one with a dietitian often involves going on a grocery store tour with your RD to learn helpful strategies and skills for buying groceries that will be the building blocks of delicious and nutritious snacks and meals. So I’m going to give you your own virtual tour right here and now, so you can see how I build out my pantry and fridge with nourishing (and also a bunch of not-so-nutritious but very satisfying and tasty) foods.

1. Before we start the tour, here’s one overall tip I tell all my clients: Try to be open to new things.

A lot of my clients go grocery shopping and grab the same foods week after week. And sure, we all have our favorites and our go-tos. But resist the food tunnel vision: Take the time to look above and below the foods you grab off the shelf, try a new vegetable, see what’s new this week, or on sale at the moment. Variety in your diet is a great way to keep things interesting and keep making food you’re excited to eat.

2. Stock up on fresh and frozen fruit.

You already know that fruit and vegetables should be mainstays of your diet, but if you’re cooking for one or two people, it’s hard to keep fresh produce, well, fresh for the week. Frozen vegetables and fruit are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, thanks to the fact that most are packed within 24 hours of being picked. They also stay on the plant until they’re at the peak of ripeness, so they tend to be deliciously ripe and sweet.

Maybe you’ve seen or read something about how you should avoid fruits with higher sugar content. When it comes to fresh fruit, I say don’t worry about “high sugar” versus “low sugar” ones. Just choose whichever fruits you love and will be excited to add to meals or snack on. All of that “don’t eat grapes, they’re a high-sugar fruit” stuff is too nitpicky for me, and I promise: There’s really not enough difference nutritionally between fruit types to spend too much time worrying about eating one kind of fruit versus another.

3. Don’t be afraid to try a kind of fruit or vegetable that’s totally new to you.

I love trying fruit that’s not native to Canada or the U.S., like mangosteen, dragonfruit, and persimmon. They’re all delicious and a offer nice break from apple and pear fatigue. Fresh lychees are my fave, though; they’re super sweet and easy to peel, no other prep needed! To me they taste like a cross between a melon and a grape, and fresh ones are so much yummier than the syrupy canned ones.

Abby Langer, R.D.

My favorite fruit: lychee

Your veggies should include some dark green options like arugula, spinach, kale, or collards. These are full of vitamin A and folate. Get a good variety of leafy greens and others that you can roast. Yes, you can have potatoes. They’re starchy, yes, but that’s what makes them filling and satisfying, not to mention delicious. And as with fruit, I recommend trying vegetables that are new to you, whether that means discovering that you like something other than broccoli or trying out vegetables that aren’t native to your part of the world. Again, a varied diet keeps things interesting.

4. Go for bread that’s hearty and filling.

I love bread, so it’s always on my list. I go for Ezekiel sprouted grain bread and Alvarado Street Bakery breads the most, because they’re hearty, higher in protein and fiber, and lower in sugar. They both contain the entire grain, which has been sprouted, so some of its nutrients, such as the B vitamins, are more bioavailable. Find these breads in the freezer section. They have no preservatives, so I recommend refrigerating or freezing them so they last longer.

Abby Langer, R.D.

Ezekiel bread is my go-to

I recommend looking for loaves that have between three and four grams of fiber per slice, and as few grams of sugar as possible. Fiber helps satisfy and it’s also good for digestion. Bread with higher fiber and protein will be more filling and satisfying and will make your sandwich or breakfast feel like a full meal. Added sugars aren’t really needed in bread, at least not in the quantities that some bread varieties have. If you’re buying bread at a bakery, choose a whole grain (versus whole wheat, which is more processed and therefore less hearty) variety that’s dense and heavy.

5. Try not to obsess about added sugar.

I should talk about added sugar just to clarify my position on it. I think most of us eat too much added sugar, which admittedly makes things taste great but also doesn’t offer anything in the way of nutrition, especially when it’s added to foods like bread or salad dressing. My preference is to mostly try to save my high-sugar snacks for sweets and desserts rather than eating it in processed foods that aren’t meant to be sweet but have added sugar in an effort to replace fat that’s been removed or to make processed foods more palatable. That being said, I am a big supporter of carbs, especially the whole, nourishing ones like the potatoes I mentioned above. And if I’m being honest, I don’t think any one ingredient is worth worrying or obsessing too much about. My thoughts on sugar are just something I keep in the back of my mind as I shop.

6. When it comes to meat, go for a mix of fresh and frozen.

At the meat and fish section, I generally buy what’s on sale, and what looks good. That usually means some bone-in pork chops (I never buy boneless anything; bone-in meat is cheaper and tastier), flank steak, salmon, a bag of frozen shrimp (I always have one in my freezer for quick meals like these bowls), and a whole chicken for roasting.

7. Pick up tofu, which is a good plant-based protein option

I’m a huge fan of plant-based proteins, so I always have extra-firm tofu in my fridge for things like stir-fries and to marinate for salads. I also make sure I have cans of chickpeas for quick dishes like my chickpea curry, and lentils for tacos as well as my Mexican lentils with polenta.

8. Dairy-wise, go for the full- (or at least not-too-low-in) fat milk and cheese.

For dairy, I grab butter, milk, feta, parmesan, and string cheese, which I love as snacks. I stay away from dairy that’s less than two percent milk fat. I don’t think that super low fat and fat free dairy tastes very good and I also don’t think there’s a compelling health-related reason to not enjoy full fat or low-fat dairy. I’m always looking for higher-protein snacks, and I’ve re-discovered cottage cheese! My new love is Muuna cottage cheese, because even their fruit-flavored cottage cheese has more protein and less sugar than most flavored yogurt. It also has potassium and comes in little grab and go containers that I throw into my bag before I leave the house. By the way, I work with and receive compensation from Muuna, as well as another brand I mention below, Rx Bar. However, my opinions on these and all products are my own. I personally purchase and use all of the products mentioned in this piece.

9. If you only shop the perimeter, you’ll miss out on great stuff.

Now would be a great time to bust one of the most persistent and popular nutrition myths out there: that if we want to shop healthy, we should only shop the perimeter of the store. Nothing could be further from the truth; nutritious food is everywhere, not just around the outside.

The middle aisles have great stuff: canned and dried beans, oatmeal, pasta (yup, I love and eat it, both whole wheat and white, and it’s the perfect make-ahead food), canned tuna, nuts and seeds, spices, and seasonings. I make sure to toss some olive oil into my cart; I use extra virgin olive oil for cooking at eating. It has a fairly high smoke point and heart healthy fats. I love this one from California.

Also in the middle aisle, I always grab a box of RXBars for myself and my kids. My daughter eats them for breakfast and after her hockey games, and my husband eats them in the car on his way to work. I like that they’re high in protein and have simple, whole ingredients.

Abby Langer, R.D.

Rx Bars are a great grab ‘n go snack

10. Get plenty of stuff you can heat and eat (or heat and serve).

I cook a lot, but sometimes life gets in the way. Let’s be real: I can’t make every little thing myself. So, my kitchen has frozen chicken nuggets for my kids, because they hate mine no matter how I make them. I buy rotisserie chickens, hummus, frozen fish fillets, and frozen spring rolls.

11. Don’t forget dessert and favorite snacks.

I also buy chips, Oreos, or ice cream; you will never not find one of those things in my cart.

Abby Langer, R.D.

The best place on earth: the ice cream aisle

The way I grocery shop isn’t only about making great meals and snacks. I shop this way also because I want my kids to grow up with a normal relationship to food, which for me involves normalizing all foods, not demonizing or putting certain foods on a pedestal. When I was growing up, I was rarely allowed to have store-bought cookies, chips, even white bread. Once I got older and could buy my own food, I ended up binging on it all for years. It was unhealthy and extremely tough to get myself out of that place.

A healthy diet has a wide variety of food and a good attitude towards food and eating. Life is far too short for anything less than that.

Back Labor: Childbirth Myth or Reality?

Does back labor really happen?

Answer From Yvonne Butler Tobah, M.D.

“Back labor,” a term used to describe labor in which the most discomfort is felt in the lower back, does happen. Back labor sometimes occurs when the baby enters the birth canal faceup instead of facedown. However, that isn’t always the case. Some women simply feel more tension in their backs during labor and delivery than others do.

Although you can’t prevent back labor, you can ease back pain during labor. Consider these suggestions:

  • Try a back rub. Ask your partner or labor coach to rub your lower back. Counter pressure against your lower back with a closed fist or tennis ball might help. Having one or two people provide pressure against your hips during contractions while you lean forward onto something might help, too. This is known as the double hip squeeze.
  • Change positions. Take a walk. Straddle a chair and lean forward or kneel against a pile of pillows or a birthing ball. Take the pressure off of your spine by getting on your hands and knees. To give your arms a break, lower your shoulders to the bed or a floor mat and place your head on a pillow. When you’re lying down, lie on your side rather than on your back.
  • Apply heat. Soothe your lower back with a heating pad.
  • Consider medication. Epidural and spinal anesthesia can temporarily block pain in your lower body. Although not widely used, some research suggests that shallow injections of sterile water to the lower back can provide temporary—but potentially significant—relief from back pain during labor.
  • Hydrotherapy. Soaking in a tub or aiming the shower head at your lower back might provide relief.

Work with your health care team to evaluate your options for pain relief during labor. Whether you experience back labor or feel labor pain elsewhere, being familiar with pain management techniques can give you a greater sense of control.

Updated: 2015-03-14

Publication Date: 2015-03-14

Athletes can rest easy: Extreme exercise does not raise heart disease risk or mortality, study shows

Exercise is often cited as the best preventive medicine, but how much is too much for the hearts of middle-aged athletes?

Sports cardiologist Dr. Benjamin Levine led a study, now published in JAMA Cardiology, to find the answer. Dr. Levine is a Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, a collaboration between UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

What is coronary calcium scanning and why is it important?

Coronary calcium scanning is an imaging test that helps physicians classify patients without cardiac symptoms as low, intermediate, or high risk for heart attack. It represents how much calcium (and thus cholesterol deposits) has accumulated in the blood vessels that supply the heart. The scan can help physicians determine the need for medication, lifestyle modification, and other risk-reducing measures. Learn more

“The question has never been whether exercise is good for you, but whether extreme exercise is bad for you. For the past decade or so, there’s been increasing concern that high-volume, high-intensity exercise could injure the heart. We found that high volumes of exercise are safe, even when coronary calcium levels are high,” Dr. Levine said.

High-volume, high-intensity exercise was defined in this study as at least five to six hours per week at a pace of 10 minutes per mile. The average amount of high-intensity exercise in this group was eight hours per week.

Coronary calcium is a footprint of atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries and gives rise to heart attack and stroke. When coronary calcium is detected in the heart, the clogging process within the blood vessels has begun. The majority of high-intensity athletes had low levels of coronary calcium, though their odds of having higher levels were 11 percent greater than men who exercised less. Most importantly, the researchers found that higher calcium scores did not raise the high-intensity athletes’ risk for cardiovascular or all-cause mortality.

Dr. Levine studied data from the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. A total of 21,758 generally healthy men ages 40 to 80 and without cardiovascular disease were followed for mortality between 1998 and 2013. The athletes, a majority of them in middle age, reported their physical activity levels and underwent coronary calcium scanning. Most were predominantly runners, but some were cyclists, swimmers, or rowers. A subgroup of athletes trained in three of these sports.

Women were not included in the study as their mortality rates are lower than for men.

Despite the findings that extreme exercise does not raise heart disease risk, Dr. Levine advises against using the protective effect of exercise to excuse poor lifestyle habits. “You cannot overcome a lifetime of bad behaviors — smoking, high cholesterol, hypertension — just from doing high levels of physical activity, so don’t use that as a magical cure,” said Dr. Levine, who holds the Distinguished Professorship in Exercise Sciences at UT Southwestern.

He also recommends caution when starting a new training program. “If you want to train for a marathon, you have to have a long-range plan to build up slowly before you achieve those volumes and intensity of exercise.”

“The known benefits of regular physical activity in the general population include decreased mortality, heart disease, diabetes, and many other medical conditions which reminds us how important it is participate in regular physical activity as recommended by the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines,” said Dr. Laura DeFina, Chief Scientific Officer of The Cooper Institute and co-author of the study. “The current study shows no increased risk of mortality in high-volume exercisers who have coronary artery calcium. Certainly, these high-volume exercisers should review their cardiovascular disease risk with their primary care doctor or cardiologists and the study results provide helpful clinical guidance.”

“The most important take-home message for the exercising public is that high volumes of exercise are safe. The benefits of exercise far outweigh the minor risk of having a little more coronary calcium,” Dr. Levine said.

Females find social interactions to be more rewarding than males, study reveals

Females find same-sex social interactions to be more rewarding than males, and females are more sensitive to the rewarding actions of oxytocin (OT) than males, according to a research study led by Georgia State University on the brain mechanisms that determine the rewarding properties of social interactions.

“Recognizing gender differencess in social reward processing is essential for understanding sex differences in the occurrence of many mental health diseases and the development of gender-specific treatments for psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, substance abuse and schizophrenia,” said Dr. Elliott Albers, director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience and Regents’ Professor of Neuroscience at Georgia State, who led the research team.

The research team discovered that while OT acting within the “reward circuit” in the brain is essential for the rewarding properties of social interaction in both males and females, females are more sensitive to the actions of OT than males. The team also found that as the intensity of social interactions increases among females, these interactions become more rewarding up to a point and then are ultimately reduced (for example, there is an inverted U-shape relationship among OT, social reward and neural activity).

The findings are published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

OT receptors in the brain play a major role in regulating many forms of social behavior as well as pair bonding. Social neuroscience literature indicates social support reduces drug use, ameliorates stress and can predict better mental health outcomes in the treatment of various psychiatric disorders. Prominent sex differences exist in the prevalence and clinical course of many of these disorders. For example, women typically have higher rates of depression and anxiety disorders, while men more often suffer from autism and attention deficit disorder. Despite substantial sex differences in the expression of social behavior and the incidence of these mental health disorders, little is known about how the brain mechanisms underlying these phenomena differ in females and males.

Recognizing this gap in the knowledge base, the team investigated the sex-dependent role of OT receptors within the ventral tegmental area of the brain of male and female rodents. More specifically, they explored whether OT receptors mediated the magnitude and valence of social reward and if this mediation differed by gender. They used several preference tests to measure the rewarding properties of social interactions.

Study data showed that activation of OT receptors was critical for social interaction to be rewarding in both males and females, but females were more sensitive to the actions of OT than males. This is the first study to provide evidence that same-sex social interactions and OT are more rewarding in females than in males in an animal model. These findings are consistent with human studies.

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Materials provided by Georgia State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Going for an MRI scan with tattoos?

According to Weiskopf, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig (MPI CBS), .” ..the most important questions for us were: Can we conduct our studies with tattooed subjects without hesitation? What restrictions may exist? At the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, part of Queen Square Institute of Neurology at University College in London, where I started the study in 2011, there were increasing numbers of volunteers with tattoos. At the time, there simply was not enough data to determine the likelihood of tattoo-related side effects arising from MRI examinations.” His former colleague in London, Martina Callaghan, completed the study after Weiskopf left London to become director at the MPI CBS in Leipzig. “Based on our investigations, we can now state, on the basis of meaningful numbers, that if a tattooed individual is scanned under the conditions tested in the study, the risk of side effects is very small.” the physicist explains.

Indeed, millions of people with tattoos are scanned every year in hospitals and research facilities without any side effects. Until now there has not been a systematic prospective study on how safe it is to be scanned in an MRI scanner with a tattoo. Reports of adverse reactions are usually based on individual cases and describe two different reactions. It is possible that the pigments in tattoos can interact with the static magnetic field of the scanner. Why? The tattoo ink can contain pigments that are ferrous and therefore magnetic. The strong magnetic fields involved in the procedure can interact with these small particles, which in turn can lead to a pulling sensation on the tattooed skin. However, it is another potential interaction which may represent, from the experts’ point of view, a far greater risk. Many of the color pigments are also conductive. This is an issue because in MR imaging, high-frequency magnetic fields are used to generate the images by effectively labelling protons. “High-frequency fields usually have a frequency of a few hundred megahertz. That happens to correspond to the resonance lengths of conductive structures similarly sized as tattoos. In this case, the tattoo may absorb much of the energy of the high-frequency field, which would normally be spread out more widely. It can then happen that the tattoo heats up. In the worst case, this can lead to burns,” says Nikolaus Weiskopf.

Together with his colleagues at University College in London, he examined 330 study participants before and after the MRI scan and tested a total of 932 tattoos. The team systematically collected information about their participants’ tattoos — how big they were, where they were located, and what colors were used. The country of origin was also recorded with most arising in Europe, but also from America, Asia, Africa and Australia. The majority of the ink used was black, but various colors were also registered.

“We found that the majority of the participants did not notice any side effects with tattoos,” says Weiskopf. “There was one specific case where the study doctor found that side effects — a tingling sensation on the skin — were related to scanning. However, this unpleasant feeling disappeared within 24 hours without the affected person having required medical treatment.”

In order to ensure the participants safety (from potential burns) not just anyone could be scanned for the study — exclusion criteria concerned the size and number of tattoos. For example, a single tattoo was not allowed to exceed twenty centimeters and no more than five percent of the body could be covered by tattoos.

The MRI scanners used in the study had a static magnetic field strength of three Tesla, as is common in many clinics today. By comparison, the magnetic field of a rather weak 0.5 Tesla MRI model is ten thousand times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field. These MRI scanners usually have a radiofrequency body coil, which stimulates the proton spins for imaging. The high frequency field of a body coil extends not only over the head, which was scanned in this study, but also the upper body area of the participants and thus on frequently tattooed areas. According to Nikolaus Weiskopf, the results of the study not only provide information on safety guidelines for research, but can also be helpful for clinical environments. The existing recommendations on how to scan people with tattoos are always based on weighing the risk against the actual benefit of diagnosing a disease. While it should be noted that the results are limited to specific configurations and scanner types, this study adds to the positive safety record of MRI.

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Materials provided by Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

The Best High-Waisted Jeans for Curvy Girls

If there’s one type of clothing I absolutely love to wear, it’s a really good pair of high-waisted jeans. My co-workers at #TeamSELF can attest to this, since they see me wearing jeans at least three times a week. Yet finding jeans that complement my curves and meet most of my requirements—good length, well-fitting, and comfortable—can definitely be a challenge. Usually if I find a pair that fit my hips and waist, they’re too short for my 5’8″ frame (and definitely not supposed to be cropped). After years of looking for a few good jeans, I can finally say that my search is over, and my co-workers might see me in jeans every single day from now on.

I tried on high-waisted jeans from brands I love and brands my fellow curvy girls love, too. I found 10 pairs that not only make me look good (if I do say so myself) but feel good, too. As a curvy size 12 woman, I understand the importance of a great jean that doesn’t make me look boxy (these hips don’t lie). If you’ve got curves for days and are on the hunt to finally find comfortable pants in a range of styles and sizes, read on for my holy-grail jeans list for a few of my favorites.

1. Universal Standard Seine Jeans 32 Inch, $90

Cristina Cianci
Cristina Cianci

These jeans are created for sizes six through 32, so I already knew they’d be a hit for my size 10/12 hips. The jeans are not only curve-hugging and the perfect length, but since they’re super stretchy, I don’t have to worry about the waistband digging into my stomach. Bonus: The jeans are available in 27 and 32 inch length, as well as petite styles.

Buy it: $90,

Available in sizes 6 through 32.

2. Levi’s Mom Jeans, $70

Cristina Cianci

If I were an actual mom wearing these comfy yet structured jeans, I would definitely be a MILF. These jeans seemed a little boxy at first, but once I shimmied my way into these straight-leg pants, I realized that they actually fit like a glove, and made my butt look great.

Buy it: $70,

Available in sizes 24 through 32.

3. Universal Thread High-Rise Jeggings, $25

Cristina Cianci

If I’m being honest, I practically live in these jeggings (i.e. leggings made out of denim). Ever since I discovered them on sale at Target, I fell in love with their tailored but not suffocating fit, high-waist that doesn’t cinch my stomach when I feel bloated, and overall rock and roll look. Bonus: The jeans are available in short, long, and classic lengths.

Buy it: $25,

Available in sizes 00 through 18.

4. Everlane The High-Rise Skinny Jean, $68

Cristina Cianci
Cristina Cianci

These jeans likely won’t start making appearances at the office until it gets warmer outside, since mine are ankle-length. They’re made with Japanese denim that offers a hint of stretch, and lots of support, which makes me feel confident that I won’t have to worry about accidental plumber’s crack while bending over. Bonus: The jeans are available in ankle-, regular-, and tall-lengths, and come in six different washes, including white and black.

Buy it: $68,

Available in sizes 23 through 33.

5. Good American Good Legs Jeans, $159

Cristina Cianci
Cristina Cianci

These really might be the softest jeans I’ve ever worn in my entire life. They feel like a pair of my go-to weekend leggings, although they certainly don’t look like them. I can wear these pants for hours on end without wanting to rip them off after a long day because they work with my curves in the best way. The best part is this size-inclusive brand goes up to size 24 in regular, short and long styles.

Buy it: $159,

Available in sizes 00 through 24.

6. J. Crew Tall 9″ High-Rise Toothpick Jean, $110

Cristina Cianci

These jeans offer a slight stretch at the waist, and are perfect for curvy girls with long legs. Their dark wash works for everyday, which means they’ll definitely be making an appearance around the office. Bonus: The jeans are available in petite, classic, and tall lengths.

Buy it: $110,

Available in sizes 23 through 37.

7. Mott and Bow High-Rise Skinny, $128

Cristina Cianci
Cristina Cianci

Since these jeans are made with some stretch, I can drop it like it’s hot without feeling like my button is going to pop off. Plus, their black version has a slight sheen which helps make them look a little more elevated than my go-to blue wash. Additionally, the brand’s “Bond” denim fabric resists fading, you can wash and wear them again and again. Bonus: These jeans are available with or without knee slits.

Buy it: $128,

Available in sizes 24 through 40.

8. Rag and Bone High-Rise Ankle Skinny, $195

Cristina Cianci
Cristina Cianci

I’ve been a long-time fan of Rag and Bone jeans for their overall quality and great fit, and these high-waisted pants just seal the deal. Since they’re made with stretch in mind, they’re always flattering on my curves. I love that they’re simple with a slight edge in the form of a raw hem that’s subtle, yet stylish. I might wear them more on the weekend than my sweatpants.

Buy it (similar style): $195,

Available in sizes 23 through 32.

9. PacSun Vintage Black Mom Jeans, $48

Cristina Cianci

I feel instantly edgy after slipping these vintage-inspired mom jeans on. Their faded black wash and front rips makes them ideal to pair with a rock and roll T-shirt, blazer, and ankle boots when I’m ready to paint the town red with a few of my closest friends. Although they’re mom jeans, the pants offer a straight leg silhouette that is fitted, not boxy.

Buy it: $48 (originally $60),

Currently available in size 32.

10. Ellos Crop Bootcut Jeans, $47

Cristina Cianci
Cristina Cianci

Let me just say that I love the way my booty looks in these lightweight jeans. Their “v” stitching on top of the pockets helps my derrierè look super plump without doing too much. Plus, since the brand is devoted exclusively to sizes 10 through 28, the jeans are made with curvy bodies in mind. Bonus: These jeans are also available in a light wash blue denim.

Buy it: $47,

Available in sizes 10-28.

If you’re looking for more high-waisted options, try Torrid’s Premium Stretch Sky High Skinny Jeans (available in sizes 10-30), the High Rise Wide Leg Denim jean from Eloquii (available in sizes 14-28), or the Plus Emma Mini Boot Jean in Clean White from Lucky Brand (available in sizes 14-28).

What Is Tinnitus?

Ever hear a random ringing in your ears that you’re certain is all in your head? Medicine actually has a name for this annoying phenomenon: tinnitus. But what is tinnitus, exactly? Why does it happen? And is there anything you can do about it? Here’s what you should know about this strange auditory experience.

Tinnitus usually means you’re hearing a noise that doesn’t exist.

“It’s the perception of a sound without an environmental cause,” Rachel Georgopoulos, M.D., an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF.

About 10 percent of adults in the United States have experienced tinnitus for at least five minutes in the past year, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). The exact nature of the sound can vary from person to person, though. It’s common for tinnitus to present as high-pitched ringing, Dr. Georgopoulos says, but people can also hear buzzing, humming, roaring, clicking, hissing, swishing, or a heartbeat-like sound.

Tinnitus can be so loud that it’s hard to hear yourself think, or it can be so soft it’s barely noticeable. It can be present in one or both ears; constant or intermittent; temporary or permanent.

Tinnitus often happens due to age- or noise-related hearing loss.

“I see it in a lot of elderly patients,” Dr. Georgopoulos says. As the Mayo Clinic explains, the number of working nerve fibers in your inner ear gets lower as you get older. Your inner ear contains the cochlea, or the organ that actually allows you to hear, so this kind of decline in function can contribute to hearing issues.

Tinnitus can also be the result of noise-induced hearing loss, per the NIDCD, which occurs when people who are exposed to loud sounds without proper ear protection suffer damage to sensory hair cells in the inner ear that help carry noises to the brain. According to the Mayo Clinic, tinnitus due to short-term noise exposure, like after a music festival, will typically fade. But long-term exposure to loud noises can cause permanent ear damage that leads to tinnitus. This is why people who work in jobs like construction or air traffic control are vulnerable to this issue, Dr. Georgopoulos says.

Tinnitus is also relatively common among service members and veterans, the NIDCD explains. When a bomb goes off, the shock wave of the blast can actually harm some of the tissue in the parts of the brain that process sound.

According to the NIDCD, other possible tinnitus causes include sinus infections, earwax blockages, ear infections, hormone fluctuations (estrogen and progesterone can affect the auditory system), and a condition called Ménière’s disease that is linked with too much fluid pressure in the inner ear.

Tinnitus is also a known side effect of going on or off of over 200 medications, per the NIDCD. These drugs can range from antibiotics to chemotherapy treatments, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although medication-induced tinnitus often goes away, it can stick around in some cases.

Lastly, there’s a handful of people who have tinnitus with no apparent root cause, according to the NIDCD.

Luckily, no matter the cause, tinnitus is often a pretty minor annoyance that doesn’t interfere with people’s daily functioning because they’ve grown accustomed to it, Dr. Georgopoulos explains.

Tinnitus appears to happen most often due to a malfunction along the pathway from your ear to your brain.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure how to explain tinnitus. What they can say for sure is that tinnitus is a sign that something is up with your auditory system, which includes the ear itself, the auditory nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain, and the areas in the brain that process sound, per the NIDCD. That’s why it’s viewed as a symptom, not a condition all on its own.

The most established theories try to explain tinnitus associated with loss of hearing. “We believe that your brain tries to adapt to that hearing loss, and there’s some abnormal reorganization somewhere in the auditory pathway,” Dr. Georgopoulos explains. One popular theory, according to the NIDCD, is that neural circuits may be overcompensating for loss of hearing by increasing the ear’s sensitivity to sound.

Other scientists think that unusual interactions between the neural circuits involved in hearing (as well as other activities in the brain) are to blame, per the NIDCD. Or, these circuits could be compromised when inner ear damage affects the signaling activity between the ear and the part of the brain that processes sound.

Yet another theory compares tinnitus to chronic pain syndrome, according to the NIDCD, a condition where someone continues to feel pain after the initial source of pain (like a broken bone) heals. So, even if the temporary cause (like an ear infection or brief exposure to a loud sound) goes away, the tinnitus can persist indefinitely.

More rarely, tinnitus happens because of an underlying physical issue that actually makes the noise audible to doctors.

So far, we’ve been talking about subjective tinnitus, meaning only the person with the symptom can hear the sound. This is clearly the more common form of tinnitus, experts say. However, an extremely small minority of tinnitus cases can be categorized as objective, according to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA). (The ATA estimates that less than 1 percent of tinnitus cases are objective.) If you have objective tinnitus, a doctor can insert an exam tool like a microphone into your ear canal and actually hear the same noise as you, Dr. Georgopoulos explains.

Potential causes of this are an underlying anatomical abnormality in the region, like a middle ear bone condition, muscle contraction, or blood vessel problem, per the Mayo Clinic.

For instance, if you have objective pulsatile tinnitus, you and your doctor may be able to hear rhythmic, heartbeat-like sounds in your ear. This is usually due to irregular blood flow in the veins and arteries in the head or neck caused by conditions like high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (a narrowing of blood vessels caused by the buildup of deposits like cholesterol), a malformation of capillaries, or a narrowing or kinking of the jugular vein or carotid artery, according to the Mayo Clinic. This kind of tinnitus can also happen due to a tumor or structural abnormality in the brain, according to the NIDCD.

Objective tinnitus often recedes when the underlying problem is treated. In some cases, though, like a vein issue requiring surgical correction, the risk of nerve damage or hearing loss from the operation is too high, Dr. Georgopoulos says. Other treatment options targeting the tinnitus itself do exist, though.

There are a few ways to try to find relief from tinnitus.

The more burdensome a person’s tinnitus is, the more they may benefit from seeking treatment.

Hearing aids are a prime option for those with hearing loss-associated tinnitus, according to the NIDCD. The better you’re able to hear external sounds, the less apparent your tinnitus may be. That’s the reasoning behind trying cochlear implants for severe hearing loss associated with tinnitus, too. These implants communicate directly with the auditory nerve, using external sounds to mask tinnitus, according to the NIDCD.

Sound therapy can help with objective and subjective tinnitus. This relies on wearable sound generators, or small, hearing aid-like devices that emit noises (music, tones, white noise) to help conceal tinnitus, according to the NIDCD. You can also use an ambient sound or white noise machine to make the tinnitus less pronounced, which is especially good for sleeping.

If someone’s tinnitus is persistent and very loud, a newer therapy called acoustic neural stimulation may be most helpful, the NIDCD says. It uses a small handheld device and headphones to deliver a special sound signal that can affect neural circuitry and desensitize a person to the ringing, buzzing, or other tinnitus sound plaguing them, the NIDCD explains.

If relentless tinnitus is making it difficult for somebody to concentrate, relax, or engage with the world, they may also need to address any related mental health issues.

With more severe cases of tinnitus, “It becomes really challenging to talk and to understand other people and to be in loud environments, so it can be really stressful and isolating,” Dr. Georgopoulos says. This is why tinnitus is sometimes linked with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, the NIDCD explains. In these cases, counseling like cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful in addition to some of the above measures.

With more time and research, doctors are hopeful that they will have better treatments—or even cures—for tinnitus in the future. “Honestly, we’re still trying to figure out a really good way to treat it,” Dr. Georgopoulos says. “It’s so common and can be quite debilitating.”


Exercise may improve thinking skills in people as young as 20

Regular aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling or climbing stairs may improve thinking skills not only in older people but in young people as well, according to a study published in the January 30, 2019, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study also found that the positive effect of exercise on thinking skills may increase as people age.

The specific set of thinking skills that improved with exercise is called executive function. Executive function is a person’s ability to regulate their own behavior, pay attention, organize and achieve goals.

“As people age, there can be a decline in thinking skills, however our study shows that getting regular exercise may help slow or even prevent such decline,” said study author Yaakov Stern, PhD, of Columbia University in New York, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “We found that all participants who exercised not only showed improvements in executive function but also increased the thickness in an area of the outer layer of their brain.”

The study involved 132 people between the ages of 20 and 67 who did not smoke or have dementia but who also did not exercise at the start of the study and were determined to have below average fitness levels. Participants were randomly assigned to six months of either aerobic exercise or stretching and toning four times a week. The two groups were equally balanced for age, sex, education as well as memory and thinking skills at the start of the study.

All participants either exercised or stretched and toned at a fitness center and checked in weekly with coaches monitoring their progress. They all wore heart rate monitors as well. Participants’ thinking and memory skills were evaluated at the start of the study as well as at three months and at the end of the six-month study.

Participants in the exercise group chose from aerobic activities including walking on a treadmill, cycling on a stationary bike or using an elliptical machine. They ramped up their activity during the first month, then during the remainder of the six-month study they trained at 75 percent of their maximum heart rate. People in the stretching and toning group did exercises to promote flexibility and core strength.

Researchers measured participants’ aerobic capacity using a cycling machine called an ergometer that estimates exercise intensity. Participants also had MRI brain scans at the start and end of the study.

Researchers found that aerobic exercise increased thinking skills. From the beginning of the study to the end, those who did aerobic exercise improved their overall scores on executive function tests by 0.50 points, which was a statistically significant difference from those who did stretching and toning, who improved by 0.25 points. At age 40, the improvement in thinking skills was 0.228 standard deviation units higher in those who exercised compared to those who did stretching and toning and at age 60, it was 0.596 standard deviation units higher.

“Since a difference of 0.5 standard deviations is equivalent to 20 years of age-related difference in performance on these tests, the people who exercised were testing as if they were about 10 years younger at age 40 and about 20 years younger at age 60,” Stern said.

He added, “Since thinking skills at the start of the study were poorer for participants who were older, our findings suggest that aerobic exercise is more likely to improve age-related declines in thinking skills rather than improve performance in those without a decline.”

Researchers also found an increase in the thickness of the outer layer of the brain in the left frontal area in all those who exercised, suggesting that aerobic exercise contributes to brain fitness at all ages.

“Our research confirms that exercise can be beneficial to adults of any age,” said Stern.

Overall, researchers did not find a link between exercise and improved memory skills. However, those with the genetic marker for dementia, the APOE ?4 allele, showed less improvement in thinking skills.

A limitation of the study is the small number of participants. Larger studies over longer periods of time may allow researchers to see other effects in thinking and memory skills.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Here’s Why You Should Try This Incredibly Tough Core Exercise From Celeb Trainer Ron Everline

Celebrity trainer Ron “Boss” Everline has a core exercise challenge for you, and spoiler: it’s much harder than it looks.

The founder of the Just Train fitness brand, whose famous clients have included Christina Milian, Kevin Hart, and Ne-Yo, among others, posted an Instagram video on Tuesday of him demoing what he dubs the “hardest core challenge I’ve done in a while.” It’s a one-legged, kneeling rotation move that requires a ton of balance, evident in the extremely focused expression he maintains throughout the video.

You can check out the move via @justtrain here:

“Y’all gotta try this!!!” Everline writes in the caption before tagging fellow trainer Kasia Keranen (@kasiafit) and the account @realgame.athletics, which shared its own iteration of the challenge over the weekend. In the comments under Everline’s post, the two trainers, plus hundreds of others, chimed in.

@justtrain Everyone thinks it’s easy until they try it 😂😂😂,” responded @realgame.athletics.

@justtrain as soon as I get off this plane I’m heading straight to the gym to show you how it’s done… 👊,” responded Keranen, and Danielle Gray (@Daniellegrayfit), an Equinox trainer, added “@kasiafit I feel the same way I wanna try and show him up. Maybe I’ll be texting @justtrainwhile DOING this exercise 😂😂.”

“I’m duplicating this tonight!!,” wrote @notyouraveragefitness, a personal trainer named Christopher Wilson, according to the bio.

@marktewkesbury we’re doing this today babe,” wrote @petraarvelatrainer, another personal trainer, according to the bio.

As the move continues to spread across the ‘Gram, we chatted with two personal trainers to learn more about this core-slash-balance challenge, including what makes it so damn difficult, the specific skills and strength required to nail it, and beginner-friendly ways to work up the move.

There are several reasons this one-legged drill is so tough.

“The fittest of the fit will find this challenging,” James Brewer, NYC-based certified personal trainer and certified Spin and TRX instructor, tells SELF. Why?

First, as Everline mentions, you need a high level of balance to pull it off, thanks to the kneeling stance. Balancing on one foot can be challenging in and of itself, but balancing on a knee—a much less stable base than the foot—is even more difficult. “Being on your knee is very unstable,” says Brewer.

This stance also makes the hip rotation component—which Everline demos in the second portion of the video—especially challenging as well. Thanks to the shorter distance between your hips and the ground in a kneeling versus standing position, you have to have even more strength and mobility in your hip flexors to lift your hips up—and then keep them up, Stephanie Mansour, Chicago-based certified personal trainer, tells SELF. “The hip flexor flexibility is really challenging,” she says.

On top of that, to do any portion of the move well, you need to activate essentially every major muscle in your core, including your rectus abdominis (what you think when you think abs), transverse abdominis (the deepest core muscle that wraps around your sides and spine), and internal and external obliques (muscles on the sides of your stomach), says Mansour. The hip rotation in particular is “a great oblique challenge,” says Brewer.

Lastly, though this move is core-centric, it does requires some strength in the multifidus (the thin muscle that runs along the spine), as well as the glutes and hamstrings, adds Mansour. In other words, it really works the core and lower body.

If you were to attempt this move on the reg, you’d feel several big benefits.

These benefits include increased hip mobility, improved strength in the core and hip flexors, and better balance, says Brewer.

Also, because this move is a single-leg exercise, it could also help reveal any discrepancies in balance and strength between the right and left sides of your body, adds Mansour. Muscle imbalances in particular can lead to injury over time if they’re severe enough and left unchecked, which is why doing single-leg exercises like this one can help.

Though you wouldn’t want to do this move as a set of reps, says Mansour, it would make for a fun challenge at the end of a workout, says Brewer.

Want to give the challenge a go? Here are Brewer and Mansour’s suggestions for safely working up to it.

Because this challenge, as mentioned, is quite advanced, here are more beginner-friendly ways to build up the requisite skills and strength. [Also important to note: Though the move, overall, is safe for most exercisers to attempt, if you have knee joint issues, it’s probably best to skip it, says Mansour, because of the pressure it could put on your kneecap.]

First, stand up alongside a pole or something you can lean on, says Brewer. Lean one half of your body against the pole and then lift your opposite leg up as high as you can and bend at the knee. If you can balance comfortably in this position, try performing hip circles with your elevated leg. “This is a good way to start opening up your hips,” says Brewer.

Once you feel comfortable with the standing hip circles, place a pad or mat on the floor (this will protect your kneecap, says Mansour) and try balancing on one knee while lifting the other knee out in front of your body. As you balance in this position (and all progressions of the position), make sure that the hip of your grounded leg is directly over that knee and that the calf is pointed straight back (not turned in or out) with the ankle directly behind the knee. This will protect your knee joint, says Mansour. For added stability, press the toes of your grounded foot into the floor, and raise your arms out to the side (don’t place them on your hips) for extra balance help, says Mansour.

If you’re still wobbly here, you can lightly rest your fingertips on a couch, chair, or other nearby object. Use the fingers on the same side as your elevated leg, says Mansour, and make sure to keep your touch light; otherwise, you’ll reduce the core challenge. You can also aid your balance by fixing your gaze on one spot on the floor, says Mansour, ideally a point that’s several feet in front of you.

When you feel comfortable and stable in this position, up the complexity by slowly lowering and lifting the elevated leg. Once you can do this for 5 to 8 consecutive seconds, progress the move by hinging your elevated leg out to the side and then back in. Start with a small range of motion, suggests Mansour, and consider placing a paper plate or other very light object atop your elevated quad. This will provide feedback on your balance, she explains. If the object falls off, you’ll know you need to really work on your balance before progressing the move.

Once you’re comfortable with the leg hinges, you can increase the challenge by adding a light, weighted plate on top of your elevated quad (like Everline does in the video). Or you can attempt extending your elevated leg straight back behind you, as he also demos (removing the weight first, of course).

Whatever iteration of the move you attempt, remember: “you’re not looking for speed,” says Brewer. Rather, it’s about maintaining balance and good core activation as you perform slow, controlled movements.

Lastly, don’t be discouraged if you find this move extremely challenging and/or near impossible. After all, according to Everline, that’s exactly the point.