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Health Condition

Weight Loss and Obesity

  • Scales

    Many people track body weight to ensure they stay in a healthy range, and for the millions of people who go on a weight-loss diet each year, a good-quality scale is an essential tool. As you choose a scale, keep the following in mind.

    • Health insurance may cover the cost of a home scale, or you may be able to use a health savings account to pay for one. Call your insurance provider to find out before making your purchase.
    • Place the scale on a flat, hard surface for the most accurate readings.
    • Heavier weight that makes it difficult for scales to shift around can be an indication of higher quality.
    • Before purchasing, weigh yourself five times in a row. If you get the same number all five times, the scale has good precision.
    • To check accuracy, compare weight from your home scale against weight on an upright scale at a doctor’s office. These numbers should be the same or very close to one another.
    • Many things cause short-term weight fluctuations, including how much and what you’ve eaten, whether you’ve exercised recently, whether you’re properly hydrated, what you’re wearing, and time of day. Weigh yourself once per week or less if you’re trying to lose weight; daily fluctuations can lead to dieting frustration.
    • Basic Mechanical Scale (Dial)

      What they are: Mechanical, or analog, scales have a dial readout displaying weight in pounds and kilograms.

      Why to buy: Mechanical scales tend to be less expensive, don’t require a battery, may come with extra large numbers for ease of use, and are the simplest to use.

      Things to consider: Over time, mechanical scales may consistently add or subtract a few pounds. Most come with a tension knob to adjust the scale as required

    • Digital Scale with Added Features

      What they are: These scales give a digital (and sometimes audio) readout of weight.

      Why to buy: Digital scales may have features to allow storing and tracking weight over time, may have the ability to switch between pounds and kilograms, and may provide voice readouts of weight. If several family members are using one scale, consider a model with a multiple-user memory function.

      Things to consider: If you’re concerned about cost and ease of use, a mechanical scale may be a better choice. Digital scales require batteries, which need to be replaced when they wear out, so consider buying a rechargeable set for best value.

    • Digital Scale with Full Features

      What they are: Digital scales with full features can measure and track body weight, body mass index, percent body fat and lean body mass, hydration status, and bone mass.

      Why to buy: These models are a good choice for those who want the most information about weight and related measures. Tracking fat and lean body mass can motivate some people to more consistently follow a healthy diet and exercise plan.

      Things to consider: Extra features often mean higher cost. These models provide an idea of fat and lean mass, bone mass, and hydration, but are not always completely accurate. You should not rely on results from these scales to make important medical decisions. Digital scales require batteries, which need to be replaced when they wear out, so consider buying a rechargeable set for best value.

  • Blood Pressure Monitors

    Blood pressure is an important marker of health and a home blood pressure monitor is a wonderful tool for ensuring your numbers stay in the healthy range. A home monitor may lead to savings in health care costs, because you may need fewer visits to the doctor’s office, and it has the advantage of eliminating “white coat hypertension,” the falsely high blood pressure readings that can occur due to the stress of being in the doctor’s office.

    All blood pressure monitors have three key parts: the cuff, the gauge, and the stethoscope. On many models, the stethoscope is a built in sensor. Use this buying guide to find the right monitor to fit your health needs, lifestyle, and budget. As you choose a blood pressure monitor, keep the following in mind:

    • If you have an abnormal heartbeat, home readings can be inaccurate. Talk to your doctor about whether this is a concern for you.
    • Your health insurance may partially or fully cover the cost of a home blood pressure monitor. Call to find out before you purchase one.
    • If your arm is smaller or larger than average, you may need a smaller or larger cuff. If you are unsure whether an arm cuff will fit, ask the pharmacist if you can try before buying.
    • Manual Monitors

      What they are: With manual monitors, the user inflates the cuff around the arm and listens for the pulse through a stethoscope to determine blood pressure as the cuff deflates.

      Why to buy: Once you master their use, manual monitors are accurate and less expensive than most automated models.

      Things to consider: Manual monitors are more difficult to use than automated models, requiring more practice to learn or even another person to operate it.

    • Semi-Automatic & Automatic Arm Sleeve Monitors

      What they are: These devices have built-in stethoscopes with readings displayed on a digital screen. With semi-automatic monitors, the user inflates the cuff, while fully automatic monitors inflate the cuff for you. 

      Why to buy: These monitors typically are more expensive than manual options, but may vary in price depending on features. If you are looking for the most accurate and easiest way to store and track blood pressure readings over time, these models are a good option. 

      Things to consider: If you’re more concerned about cost than ease of use, manual options may be a better choice.

    • Wrist & Finger Monitors

      What they are: These newer devices allow a smaller cuff to be placed on the wrist or on a finger, instead of on the upper arm. 

      Why to buy: Putting on and taking off these monitors is easier than manipulating an arm cuff.  

      Things to consider: Although they tend to fall in the same cost range as automatic arm monitors, these monitors tend to be less accurate and lead to more errors than arm cuff monitors.

    • Advanced Features

      What they are: Depending on your budget and health tracking needs, you may want to consider spending extra dollars to purchase a digital monitor with more advanced features, including memory to store readings over time and computer software to track and graph your readings on a computer or mobile device. 

      Why to buy: Advanced features allow you to track blood pressure over time. Along with a few observations and notes, this can help you uncover connections between your behaviors, such as what you’ve eaten or how much you’ve exercised, and your blood pressure readings. Understanding these connections can help you take positive, effective actions to improve your health. 

      Things to consider: Advanced features cost more and may take more time to learn how to use. Many come with good instructions but if you’re uncomfortable with computers you may find these features take significant effort to learn and use.

  • Appetite Suppressants

    If you’re interested in losing weight, you’re in good company: millions of dieters spend billions of dollars on diet-related products and services each year. Taming the appetite is a logical component of a weight-loss plan, and our guide to appetite-suppressant products will help you choose products to meet your health, lifestyle, and budget needs. Keep the following in mind as you learn about appetite suppressants:

    • If you haven’t changed your eating or exercise habits and you’ve experienced recent or rapid weight gain, consult your doctor. These symptoms may signal a serious health problem.
    • Always clear new supplements with your healthcare provider before you begin taking them.
    • If you are already managing a health condition, especially heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney or liver disease, or mental health issues, consider your medications when selecting an appetite suppressant. It’s always wise to consult your doctor or pharmacist when mixing medications.
    • Many herbal weight-loss products are safe for short-term use only. Carefully follow all package directions and do not use products for longer than recommended.
    • If you experience serious or unpleasant side effects while taking an appetite suppressant, discontinue use and call your doctor.
    • Always compare ingredients to avoid accidentally doubling up on any one active ingredient.
    • Do not use appetite suppressants if you are pregnant or nursing.
    • Only use products that provide a complete ingredient list.
    • Herbs & Plants

      What they are: Numerous herbal and plant products on the market may suppress appetite. These include bitter orange (hydroxycitric acid), capsaicin (cayenne or red pepper), fucoxanthin, garcinia, glucomannan, green tea, guarana, guar gum, hoodia, yerba mate, and others.

      Why to buy: Some medical studies have suggested that certain herbal and plant-based appetite suppressants and weight loss products, such as green tea extract, may be effective for promoting weight loss. Fiber-containing substances, such as glucomannon and guar gum, may enhance feelings of fullness without unpleasant side effect such as rapid heart rate or insomnia.

      Things to consider: Do not use these products without consulting your doctor if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or irregular heartbeats, thyroid problems, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, or are taking medications to treat depression or other mental health issues. Some herbal appetite suppressants can cause unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects including irritability, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, nausea, dizziness, rapid heart rate, and high blood pressure. Some herbal products, such as guarana and yerba mate, are potent sources of caffeine.

    • Other Products

      What they are: Non-herbal appetite suppressants include products and substances such as:

      • caffeine—whether from natural sources or added to products, caffeine is an appetite suppressant
      • chitosan—starch derived from the skeletons of shellfish
      • chromium—a mineral involved in balancing blood sugar
      • conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)—a type of fat found in dairy products
      • pyruvate or pyruvic acid—a substance the body naturally produces after carbohydrate and protein digestion
      • tastants—a combination of ingredients such as maltodextrin (starch), tricalcium phosphate, silica, and soy; according to the creator of one of these products it, “is intended to work with your sense of smell, fooling your brain and stomach into thinking you're full”

      Why to buy: Non-herbal appetite suppressants may have fewer of the side effects associated with herbal products, such as irritability, anxiety, rapid heart rate, and insomnia. Some natural appetite suppressants, such as CLA, pyruvate, and chromium, may promote weight loss, according to medical studies.

      Things to consider: Do not use these products without consulting your doctor if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or irregular heart beats, thyroid problems, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, or are taking medications to treat depression or other mental health issues. Chromium can be toxic in high doses.

    • Prescription Appetite-Suppressant Medications

      What they are: Currently approved prescription appetite-suppressant medications include phentermine, diethylpropion, phendimetrazine, and benzphetamine. Phentermine is the most commonly prescribed of the available prescription appetite suppressants.

      Why to buy: These medications have been studied and proven to assist with weight loss when combined with a healthy diet and regular physical activity.

      Things to consider: These medications are intended for short-term use, typically up to 12 weeks, under a doctor’s supervision. They may not be safe for people with high blood pressure, heart disease or irregular heart beats, thyroid problems, diabetes, liver disease, or kidney disease. Side effects can be unpleasant and include irritability, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, headaches, nausea, dizziness, rapid heart rate, and high blood pressure.

  • Pedometers

    Walking is a fun and relatively easy way to get heart-healthy cardio while burning fat and calories. To maintain a healthy weight and stay active, try walking about 10,000 steps each day (approximately five miles). Do you want to lose a few extra pounds? Just step up the amount of walking each day. Whatever your goals, a pedometer is an easy way to keep track of your steps on the road to success.

    Remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you are overweight or managing a health condition.

    • Basic Pedometers

      What they are:A pedometer is a small device, usually worn on your belt or clipped to a pocket, which counts how many steps you take in a day. There are two types:

      • Pendulum: Placement of a pendulum pedometer is vital for accuracy and they must remain in a vertical position on the hip or waist band.
      • Piezoelectric accelerometers: These can be placed anywhere on the front of the body, and some can even be kept in a pocket or on a neck lanyard and still provide accurate step counts.

      Most pedometers weigh only a few ounces and include a security strap to attach to clothing to prevent you from losing it.

      Why to buy: Pedometers are an easy way to track your daily exercise and overall health. Beyond counting steps, many pedometers track the distance in miles, amount of time you’ve been active, and total calories burned.

      Things to consider: When choosing a pedometer, consider the size of the display screen and the ease of reading results. Pendulum-style pedometers are generally less expensive than accelerometers, but the counting of incidental steps can be frustrating. Advantages of accelerometer pedometers are there are no moving parts and they remain silent as they record every step you take. Remember you’ll need to set your average step length or stride length in order for the pedometer to be accurate. Read the instructions on your pedometer carefully; most ask for the step length and explain how to measure it properly. Also note that some pedometers reset at midnight so you’re ready to go each morning, while others require you to manually reset them. Look at whether you need to change the batteries regularly or if it’s rechargeable through a USB connection to your computer.

    • Specialized Pedometers

      What they are: Monitors that help you measure steps plus other tracking, such as heart rate, calories burned, and so on.

      Why to buy: Pedometers with features that track heart rate and so on are handy for keeping an eye on your cardiovascular health, too. More advanced models include a memory function to save your accomplishments and some can upload data to a website, so you can easily track your results online and share with your doctors and friends.

      Things to consider: When investing in tools to support your health goals, sometimes simplest is best, but other times it can be helpful to combine goals and look for a device that will give you other helpful information, such as heart rate or trackable online information.

  • Heart Rate Monitors

    Heart rate monitors vary in size and function, but most are easy to use and provide valuable insights that support your exercise goals. For example, a heart rate monitor may help you stay in your target heart rate zone while exercising so you can safely focus on burning fat or improving your cardiovascular fitness. People with certain health conditions may use heart rate monitors to track their heart rate throughout the day and catch issues early. Heart rate monitors may also help keep exercise safe for people who, due to health conditions, should not exceed specific levels.

    Remember to always consult a doctor before starting any exercise routine, particularly if you are overweight or managing health conditions.

    • Basic Digital Heart Rate Monitors

      What they are: Many heart rate monitors look and function similarly to a wristwatch. Simple heart rate monitors measure your pulse in beats per minute while advanced models keep a history of readings and track data like irregular heartbeats and average and maximum heart rates. Some monitors even offer display text in multiple languages including English, German, French, and Spanish.

      Why to buy: Measuring your heart rate is important for getting the most out of your workouts, and can be especially important if you have heart health concerns. Most monitors save results by date and time, some for more than one user, and many have averaging functions so you get a feel for how your heart is doing over time.

      Things to consider: Many heart rate monitors include a chest strap that sends a wireless signal to the monitor on your wrist. Other heart rate monitors attach to your wrist or finger where your pulse rate may be counted through the skin. While comfort is one consideration, keep in mind that some experts believe chest straps are most accurate. Check which types of batteries the monitor takes and make sure you can replace them yourself. Look for features such as power-saving modes and low-battery indicators.

    • Multipurpose, Multimedia Monitors

      What they are: Usually worn on your wrist or arm, all-in-one digital devices may measure heart rate, calories burned, number of steps taken, and more. Look for those that combine a heart rate monitor with other interesting tools, like GPS sports watches and mp3 players. Some monitors even interface with exercise equipment or computer software to give you more detail and allow the sharing of results with your doctor or personal trainer.

      Why to buy: Multipurpose monitors provide a better overall picture of your health by tracking multiple factors in one place and cutting down on the number of different gadgets you need. Combining music with your workout makes it a lot more fun.

      Things to consider: Make sure the monitor is easy for you to use—pay attention to the size of the screen and buttons, how easy it is to switch between operating modes, how long the battery lasts, and so forth. When using a device for multiple purposes, you may use power more quickly and have to replace or recharge batteries more often. Online user reviews can be helpful when choosing a device combined with a heart rate monitor.

    • Specialty Heart Rate Monitors

      What they are: Heart rate monitors are sometimes designed to meet other needs, such as water-resistant and waterproof models. There are even heart rate monitors for cyclists to attach to their bikes, which can record data such as bike speed, pedal rpms, and elevation as well.

      Why to buy: If you’re going to wear your heart rate monitor outdoors in rain, snow, or other wet weather, look for ones rated as water resistant. If there’s a possibility your heart rate monitor will get submerged in water, even for a short time period, you’ll need one that’s waterproof.

      Things to consider: There are varying degrees of “water resistant” depending on how much moisture exposure the device can handle, so read labels carefully and err on the side of caution.

    • Fingertip Heart Rate Monitors

      What they are: Fingertip heart rate monitors—which measure your heart rate through the skin in a few short seconds—are rapidly growing in popularity.

      Why  to buy: They’re a portable, easy-to-use version of a heart rate monitor that you can carry in your pocket or purse and use on the go.

      Things to consider: Some experts believe fingertip heart rate monitors are not as accurate as the chest strap versions. Many fingertip monitors are small, so make sure you can easily read the display screen and operate any buttons.

  • Natural Digestion Aids

    From indigestion to constipation, digestion woes can ruin anyone’s day. If you suffer with these issues from time to time, a natural digestion aid may be just what you need to get your body back on track. Our guide to digestion aids will help you find the right products to meet your health and lifestyle needs. Keep the following in mind as you choose a digestion aid.

    • If you haven’t changed your eating habits and you’re experiencing new symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, or heartburn on a regular basis, consult your doctor. These symptoms may signal a more serious health problem.
    • When selecting a product, consider medications you use and health conditions you have. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if unsure about whether any particular digestion aid is safe for you.
    • When using multiple products, always compare ingredients to avoid accidentally doubling up on any one particular active ingredient.
    • Read labels carefully to ensure you pick the right products to meet your particular digestion issues; some products are designed to address several problems at once, others only one issue at a time.
    • If you are pregnant or nursing, consult your doctor before using digestion aids.
    • Do not use any products for which a complete ingredient list is not provided.
    • Teas

      What they are: Teas to address a particular digestion issue contain an ingredient, or combination of ingredients, such as:

      • Ginger, fennel, fenugreek, or chamomile for nausea, indigestion, and heartburn (acid reflux)
      • Peppermint for nausea (good for nausea, but may worsen heartburn)
      • Parsley or fennel for gas and bloating
      • Slippery elm or meadow sweet for intestinal discomfort and spasms
      • Aloe, senna, cascara, or burdock root for constipation

      Why to buy: Herbal teas are generally safe and easy to use, offer gentle relief for occasional digestion woes, and are relatively inexpensive.

      Things to consider: Teas for constipation can have strong laxative effects in some people; start with a quarter to half cup serving and see how your body responds. Increase the dose as needed to relieve constipation. Pregnant women, people with kidney problems, high blood pressure, or heart disease, or those who are taking diuretic medications should consult their doctor before using digestion teas.

    • Herbal Capsules

      What they are: Natural digestion aids are available in capsule or tablet form and contain many of the same herbs found in digestion aid teas.

      Why to buy: Digestion aid capsules are more convenient; they can be carried with you and taken anytime, without the need to boil water to make tea. Capsules may deliver a more concentrated dose of the active ingredient than tea.

      Things to consider: As with teas, products for constipation can have strong laxative effects, so start slow and increase the dose only as needed. Consult your doctor or pharmacist before using these products if you are pregnant, or have kidney problems, high blood pressure, or heart disease, or take diuretic medications.

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