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Safe snow removal

People with a history of heart disease should not shovel snow without a doctor’s consent.

People with a history of heart disease should not shovel snow without a doctor’s consent.

Each year in the U.S., thousands of people are injured and as many as 100 people die while shoveling or blowing snow. Last winter in Chicago alone, 18 people aged 40-75 died in snow shoveling-related incidents.

The National Safety Council advises that those with a history of heart disease should refrain from shoveling without a doctor’s permission and offers the following tips for safe snow shoveling:

• Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.

• Take it slow, and stretch out before you begin.

• Shovel only fresh, powdery snow.

• Push the snow rather than lifting it.

• If you must lift snow, use a small shovel.

• Lift with your legs, not your back.

• Do not work to the point of exhaustion.

• If you feel tightness in the chest or dizziness, stop shoveling immediately.

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons offer these snow blower safety tips:

• If a snow blower jams, turn it off.

• Keep hands away from moving snow blower parts.

• Do not drink alcohol while operating a snow blower.

• Be aware of the carbon monoxide risk of running a snow blower in an enclosed space.

• Refuel the snow blower when it is off, not while it is running.

Smart substitutions

The holiday season can be hard on health, with rich foods and high-calorie drinks leading to expanding waistlines and unwanted weight gain.

The American Heart Association suggests smart substitutions designed to make traditional holiday meals healthier.

When baking:

• Instead of butter, substitute equal parts cinnamon-flavored, no-sugar-added applesauce.

• Instead of sugar, use a lower-calorie sugar substitute.

• Instead of whole milk or heavy cream, substitute low-fat or skim milk.

• Instead of using only white flour, use half white and half whole-wheat flour.

• Instead of chocolate chips or candies, use dried fruit, like cranberries or cherries.

• Instead of sugar or butter, use extracts like vanilla, almond and peppermint to add flavor.

When cooking:

• Use vegetable oils such as olive oil instead of butter.

• Flavor dishes with herbs and spices like rosemary and cloves rather than butter or salt.

• Use whole-grain rather than white breads and pastas.

• Bake, grill or steam vegetables instead of frying them.

• Choose low-fat or skim milk rather than whole milk or heavy cream.

When preparing drinks:

• Use club soda rather than alcohol in mixed drinks.

• Instead of adding sugar to mixed drinks, mix 100-percent juice with water, or use freshly squeezed juice.

• Instead of using heavy cream or whole milk in dairy-based drinks, use low-fat or skim milk.

• Instead of sweetening cider with sugar, use spices and fruit, like cinnamon, cloves and cranberries.

Emotional eating

Millions of Americans will resolve to lose weight in the new year, but only a small percentage will keep that resolution. Among those who succeed in shedding some pounds, more than half will regain them later, statistics show.

To Diane Robinson, a psychologist and director of Integrative Medicine at Orlando Health, the statistics are not surprising.

“Most people focus almost entirely on the physical aspects of weight loss, like diet and exercise,” Robinson said. “But there is an emotional component to food that the vast majority of people simply overlook, and it can quickly sabotage their efforts.”

Orlando Health recently commissioned a nationwide survey that revealed more than 30 percent of Americans think lack of exercise is the main reason people fail to lose weight, followed by diet (26 percent), the cost of a healthy lifestyle (17 percent) and lack of time (12 percent).

Only 10 percent cited psychological well-being as a barrier to weight loss, which Robinson said might explain why so many people fail at weight loss.

“In order to lose weight and keep it off long term, we need to do more than just think about what we eat; we also need to understand why we’re eating,” she said.

To be mindful of emotional connections to food, Robinson recommended that dieters:

• Keep a daily diary logging foods and moods, and then look for unhealthy patterns.

• Identify the foods that make you feel good, and write down why you eat them. For example, do they evoke a memory, or are you craving those foods out of stress?

• Before having any meal or snack, ask yourself: Am I eating this because I’m hungry? If the answer is no, try to determine the root of your motive.

The goal is to eliminate emotional eating and to view food not as a reward or coping mechanism but rather as a source of nourishment.

For some, professional help might be the key to success.

“When we’re focused on the physical aspects of weight loss, many of us have no problem joining a gym or hiring a trainer. How about joining a support group or hiring a psychologist? If getting your body in shape hasn’t worked out yet, maybe this time start with your mind,” Robinson said.

Changing drinking patterns 

Worldwide, men drink more alcohol than women, but in the U.S., the alcohol gender gap is narrowing, according to an analysis performed at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Looking at data gathered in annual surveys from 2002-2012 and comparing responses from men to those of women, researchers found a narrowing in the differential between measures of current drinking, number of drinking days per month, meeting criteria for alcohol use disorder and driving under the influence of alcohol.

“Males still consume more alcohol, but the differences between men and women are diminishing,” lead researcher Aaron White said.

The study showed also that while binge drinking patterns among college students did not change during the 10-year study, among 18-25-year-olds not in college, there was a significant increase in binge drinking among women and a significant decrease among men.

The only measure for which the drinking difference between genders increased during the study period was combining alcohol and marijuana in the 18-25 age group, with the female measure holding steady and the male measure increasing 4 percent.

NIAAA Director George Koob said the findings are concerning because compared to men, women are at increased risk of adverse effects of alcohol, including liver inflammation, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and cancer.

Heart disease gender gap

Survey findings presented last month at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions revealed some concerning information about women’s health: Even though heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 killers of women in the U.S., most women lack awareness of the disease.

One issue surfacing from the survey is that doctors often focus more on a woman’s weight than on other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. When men visit their doctors, they are more likely than women to hear about concerns such as high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels.

“We are stalled on women’s awareness of heart disease, partly because women say they put off going to the doctor until they’ve lost a few pounds. This is clearly a gendered issue,” said C. Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center.

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