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12 Travel tips to ease stress for your vacation

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The summer travel season is one of the busiest for any airport. In the US alone, the Transportation Security Administration is expected to screen 28.3 million Fourth of July travelers through July 9 and millions of others through the end of Labor Day weekend.  So smart planning and preparation is the key for travelers who want an easy start to their vacation, without the stress associated with airport crowds and security checkpoints, say the experts at Travel Leaders Network – one of America’s largest retail travel agency organizations.

“Many people procrastinate in making travel plans and then they are harried all the way to the airport, adding stress to the start of their happy, relaxing vacation time,” said Roger E. Block, CTC, President of Travel Leaders Network. “Planning and preparation from your itinerary to what’s in your suitcase makes a world of difference to landing on the right foot at your vacation destination. Travel Leaders travel agents provide their expert advice, time and talent to ensuring that their clients have an enjoyable journey from beginning to end.”

Here are 12 tips from the travel experts at Travel Leaders Network for easing summer travel:

  1. Check-in online. Airlines generally allow passengers to check in online 24 hours in advance, with a cutoff a couple of hours before boarding time. Checking in well before heading to the airport, saves time. Travelers should opt to receive digital (and paper) versions of their boarding pass so that a backup is at the ready on a handy mobile device.
  2. Leave home early. From traffic that may be heavier than usual and hard-to-find parking spots, to lines for security screenings, there is peace of mind when there is extra wiggle room in the schedule, whether traveling by train, plane or automobile. Arrive at the airport 75 minutes prior to departure for domestic flights and three hours before international flights.
  3. Double check your baggage. Overhead space is at a premium during the heavy holiday travel seasons. So when preparing to pack bags, it’s ideal to check in advance whether luggage meets the airline’s size and weight restrictions for checked baggage and carry-ons. Nothing brings on the worry like finding out last-minute that one has to pay extra for overweight or oversized luggage filled with sun visors, flip flops, extra-large cosmetic cases or junior’s plush toy.
  4. Pack smarter with essentials. Packing a few vacation essentials in a carry-on, such as a swimsuit and a change of clothes, helps if your luggage gets delayed, because you can still go for a swim upon arrival or put on a fresh change of clothes. This also comes in handy for those who arrive at the resort before the room is ready. Simply lounge by the pool or beach while you wait.
  5. Remember 3-1-1 rule. TSA allows each passenger one quart-size bag of liquids and gels, including toothpaste, gel deodorant, and lotions. Each item must be 3.4 ounces or less. Excluded from the carry-on list this summer are canisters of powders larger than 12 ounces. This affects protein powder for your mid-flight energy drink or a large jar of your favorite ground coffee. But for most people the powders will not ring any alarms, as it applies only to international flights in-bound to the United States. Medication and infant formula are exempt from the rule — but keep them separate from other items in case they need to be hand-checked on your return trip.
  6. If you’re US-bound, Purchase TSA PreCheck, CLEAR or Global Entry. Travelers who enroll in one of the expedited security checkpoint services spend less time in line. PreCheck members don’t have to remove their shoes, belt or jacket or take their large electronic devices from their carry-ons. So not only is the security screening less cumbersome, it also saves time not having to repack items and retie shoes – which can be a hassle for a family of four. Those enrolled in CLEAR, which is integrated with TSA PreCheck, will be able to skip straight to a special lane to get their boarding pass checked. (Children under 18 can use the CLEAR lane for free when accompanied by a CLEAR-enrolled family member.) Global Entry cuts down on immigration and customs processing time when reentering the US after international travel. TSA Precheck for domestic travel costs $80 for a 5-year clearance and Global Entry for international travel costs $100 for 5-years and includes TSA Precheck. CLEAR is $179 per year. This small commitment saves time and stress upon arrival at the airport.
  7. Airport lounge pass. Frequent travelers or those who arrive to the airport before boarding begins will enjoy an airport lounge pass over waiting at crowded gates. Most lounges offer complimentary food and beverages, along with free wi-fi. Those perks alone are worth the value for frequent travelers.
  8. All-inclusive family resorts. After arriving at one’s destination, especially an international one, an all-inclusive resort is especially satisfying on that first day in town away from home. No need to navigate to another location for dining or worry about menu prices. An all-inclusive package alleviates some decisions when all that is top of mind is relaxing. It also helps keep one from going over budget. Spending more than one plans to raises stress levels, but with an all-inclusive travelers know in advance exactly how much they are spending on food and drinks.
  9. Cruising along. There are many ways to take advantage of a cruise experience. First, arrive in the port city a day before sail time. This way, even if a travel companion misses a flight connection there is no worry about missing the boat. Once onboard, curtail exhaustion by skipping an excursion or two.  Take time to enjoy the ship with fewer people onboard while others are off exploring the port city. But when planning to go ashore, make sure you listen to the port talks. A lot of valuable information is relayed, as well as maps, taxi and shop information for those who choose to venture on their own.
  10. Bon Jour. Konichiwa. Shalom. Learning a few words in the native language of the destination country will ease stress, as a simple hello or thank you in the native language can improve the kindness of strangers and even open doors – figuratively and literally. If there’s no time to learn a few words before leaving home, the traveler can download an app to their mobile phone that will translate even the most complicated of sentences. It’s a great way to make new friends.
  11. Keep valid identification at hand. Children under 18 are not required to provide identification when traveling domestically with a companion, but passengers age 18 and older must show valid ID at the airport security checkpoint. Since most ID, like a driver’s license, has an expiration date, double-check that your ID will not expire before your return trip home. It’s a good idea to have color photocopies and digital copies of all important identification documents, including your passport, boarding passes, front and back of credit cards and health insurance information. Also have extra ID photos cropped to passport size in case you have to order a replacement at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Be sure to pack all paper copies or flash drives in a separate location for extra safe-keeping. Also remember to check the expiration date on your passport. If it expires within six months, you may not be able to enter most countries.
  12. Put your travel agent on speed dial. Bring the email and cell phone number of your travel agent with you, and provide your travel agent with your personal contact information, as well as pertinent health and travel insurance information. Your travel agent can rearrange your itinerary should you decide to extend your trip, or if there’s an emergency.

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Cardio-fitness cuts death and disease by nearly 20%

Running, cycling, or swimming – if you regularly exercise, you’re on track for a long and healthy life.

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Running, cycling, or swimming – if you regularly exercise, you’re on track for a long and healthy life.

This is according to a study – “Cardiorespiratory fitness is a strong and consistent predictor of morbidity and mortality among adults: an overview of meta-analyses representing over 20.9 million observations from 199 unique cohort studies” – that was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The study comprised of 26 systematic reviews with meta-analysis representing more than 20.9 million observations from 199 unique cohort studies. It is the first study to collate all the scientific evidence that looked at the prospective link between cardiorespiratory fitness and health outcomes among adults.

The study found that:

  • for every 1-MET increase in cardiorespiratory fitness – the amount of energy used for quiet sitting – a person can reduce their risk of death by 11-17%, and specifically, their risk of heart disease by 18%.
  • an increased cardio fitness level will reduce your risk of death from any cause by 11-17%.

Senior author Grant Tomkinson said that cardiorespiratory fitness is probably the most important type of fitness for good health. “Cardiorespiratory fitness (or CRF) is your ability to perform physical activity for a long period of time like running, cycling, and swimming. And in this study, we found prolonged cardiorespiratory fitness is strongly and consistently associated with all types of premature death and incident disease – spanning heart failure, depression, diabetes, dementia and even cancer.”

Tomkinson added that the researchers “summarized the evidence linking CRF to numerous health outcomes and found that those with low levels of CRF are far more likely to die early or develop chronic conditions like heart disease later in life.” Specifically, “we found that every 1-MET increase in CRF, which is the amount of energy used when sitting quietly, reduced the risk of early death from any cause and heart failure by 11–17% and 18%, respectively. For most people, a 1-MET increase in CRF can be achieved through a regular aerobic exercise program.”

For Tomkinson, the message is quite simple: if you do a lot of “huff and puff” exercise, then your risk of dying early or developing diseases in the future is reduced. If you avoid exercise your health may suffer.

Chronic health conditions are an ongoing cause of poor health, disability, and premature death. In Australia, an estimated 11.6 million people (47%) have a chronic and debilitating health conditions, which contributes to two thirds of the burden of disease.

“Clearly, cardiorespiratory fitness is as an important factor for good health. If you are already exercising, this is good news; but if you know you need to up your fitness and movement, then this is a timely reminder,” co-author Dr Justin Lang said.

“People can make meaningful improvements through additional moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, at least 150 minutes a week. And as they improve their fitness, their risk of death and disease will decline. But the onus for improvement should not just sit with the individual, it should also be routinely assessed in clinical and public health practice, so that we can support people to improve their health outcomes,” Lang added.

Through regular assessment, clinicians and exercise professionals could better identify adults at greater risk of early death and initiate exercise programs aimed at increasing CRF through regular physical activity.

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Natural therapy shows promise for dry-eye disease

Castor oil has been proposed as a natural product that could offer a safe, effective and easy-to-use alternative to existing therapies.

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Researchers at the University of Auckland are running a trial of castor oil as a potential safe and natural treatment for dry-eye disease following a successful pilot study.

While exact figures aren’t available for New Zealand, in Australia, it is estimated dry-eye disease affects around 58% of the population aged over 50. Advancing age, menopause, increased screen time, contact lens wear are just some of the risk factors for developing dry eye disease.

Blepharitis is the most common cause of dry-eye disease, accounting for more than 80 percent of cases. It is a chronic condition with no known cure.

“Currently, patients are left grappling with symptoms of dryness, grittiness and, in some cases, watery eyes that feel uncomfortable impacting on their quality of life and work productivity,” says doctoral candidate and lead clinical investigator Catherine Jennings.

Current treatments, such as antibacterials and anti-inflammatories, are generally unsuitable for long-term use, due to significant side-effects and potential for antimicrobial resistance.

“Often patients are left feeling helpless when attempting to manage a chronic condition,” Jennings says.

The current trial is of a product containing cold-pressed castor oil enhanced with mānuka and kanuka oils applied using a rollerball attached to a small glass bottle.

“The previous pilot study, conducted by our research team, was unique in its use of castor oil in such an application on the eyelids, with the product not known to be used anywhere else in the world for treating blepharitis,” says Jennings.

Castor oil comes from a flowering tropical or subtropical shrub from the species Riccinus communis. It has been used therapeutically for millenia, including more recently in eye cosmetics and eye makeup removers.

In the pilot study, 26 patients with blepharitis were treated with cold-pressed castor oil over four weeks. They had measurable improvements in symptoms, such as reduced redness of the lid margin, decreased thickening of the eyelid, and a decline in bacterial profusion, as well as reduced eyelash crusting.

Building on the success of the pilot study, the research team is now engaged in the more extensive double-blinded, randomised and placebo-controlled study. They are aiming to recruit 92 participants and generate robust scientific evidence for clinicians.

The ultimate goal is to sustainably improve quality of life for this large group of patients using a natural, safe and effective product, principal investigator Professor Jennifer Craig says.

“Castor oil has been proposed as a natural product that could offer a safe, effective and easy-to-use alternative to existing therapies,” Craig says.

“My hope is this study will produce evidence-based guidance for clinicians with regard to offering castor oil as a possible management option for patients suffering from blepharitis, so they continue to enjoy a great quality of life, read the books they love, be productive in their work environment and enjoy other visual hobbies.”

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For epilepsy, yoga may be good for your mind

People who did yoga were more than four times as likely to have more than a 50% reduction in their seizure frequency after six months than the people who did sham yoga.

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For people with epilepsy, doing yoga may help reduce feelings of stigma about the disease along with reducing seizure frequency and anxiety, according to new research published in the November 8, 2023, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“People with epilepsy often face stigma that can cause them to feel different than others due to their own health condition and that can have a significant impact on their quality of life,” said study author Manjari Tripathi, MD, DM, of All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. “This stigma can affect a person’s life in many ways including treatment, emergency department visits and poor mental health. Our study showed that doing yoga can alleviate the burden of epilepsy and improve the overall quality of life by reducing this perceived stigma.” 

For the study, researchers looked at people with epilepsy with an average age of 30 in India.

Researchers measured stigma based on participants’ answers to questions such as: “Do you feel other people discriminate against you?” “Do you feel you cannot contribute anything in society?” and “Do you feel different from other people?”

Researchers then identified 160 people who met the criteria for experiencing stigma. Participants had an average of one seizure per week and on average took at least two anti-seizure medications.

Researchers then randomly assigned participants to receive yoga therapy or sham yoga therapy. Yoga therapy included exercises in loosening muscles, breathing, meditation and positive affirmations. Sham yoga consisted of exercises that mimic the same yoga exercises, but participants were not given instructions on two key components of yoga believed to induce a relaxation response: slow and synchronized breathing, and attention to the body movements and sensations during practice.

Each group received seven supervised group sessions of 45 to 60 minutes over three months. Participants were also asked to practice sessions at home at least five times a week for 30 minutes. They tracked seizures and yoga sessions in a journal. After the three months of therapy, participants were followed for another three months.

Researchers found when compared to people who did sham yoga, people who did yoga were more likely to reduce their perceived stigma of the disease. People who did yoga had an average score of seven at the start of the study and an average score of four at the end of the study, while people who did sham yoga had an increase from an average score of six at the start of the study to an average score of seven at the end.

Researchers also found that people who did yoga were more than four times as likely to have more than a 50% reduction in their seizure frequency after six months than the people who did sham yoga.

In addition, people who did yoga were more than seven times more likely to no longer have seizures than those who did sham yoga.

There was also a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms for people who did yoga versus people who did not. They saw improvements in quality of life measures and mindfulness.

“These study findings elevate the need to consider alternative therapies and activities for people with epilepsy facing stigma,” said Tripathi. “Yoga may not only help reduce stigma, but also improve quality of life and mindfulness. Plus, yoga can be easily prerecorded and shared with patients online using minimal resources and costs.”

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