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Health Beat Newsletter, Volume 14, Issue 1- There's an App for That!

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In this Issue:

  1. A Healthier, Stronger You By Angelica Vidrio
  2. Quit Smoking, Stay Motivated By Victoria Fields
  3. Smart Phone, Smart Period By Honey Scarcia-Irish
  4. Nutrition and Weight Loss Apps By Christina Goldpaint
  5. Safer Dating Support Team By Linda Pena
  6. Health Beat Contributors

A Healthier, Stronger You, by Angelica Vidrio

H

igh stress levels can negatively affect your body, thoughts, feelings, and behavior which can consequently lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.1,2 As college students, we constantly face stressful situations and although we cannot avoid stress completely, there are ways to reduce stress and/or manage it effectively. Stress management strategies include physical activity, relaxation techniques, meditation, and even yoga.3 College life is busy with school, work and other extracurricular activities, and students can suddenly be caught in a routine in which they forget to meditate or attend a yoga class.

Luckily, with today’s technology, we have the luxury of smartphones with access to free apps that are easy to use and available at our fingertips. There are apps to meet all types of needs. In fact, there are popular apps for relaxation that can help people control their stress at any time throughout the day. The app Relax Melodies is a free app available for Android and iPhone users. According to more than 13 million users, this app is known for its “ultimate and easiest relaxation experience!”4 User reviews say that Relax Melodies features 46 ambient sounds that are guaranteed to move “mind, body and soul” into a state of relaxation.4 This relaxed state now assists getting you through your busy day, or simply clearing your mind before going to sleep.

Aside from relaxation apps that reduce stress, there are also apps that can help students strengthen brain function, improve memory, and enhance attention span. Brain training works by introducing fun and entertaining games which are specifically designed to enhance your mental abilities. “Brain training is a simple, but powerful way to enhance a student’s core ability to learn faster, easier, and better.”5 Fit Brains Trainer is a free iPhone app with more than 2 million users who have reported benefits such as: deeper concentration, clearer and quicker thinking, and improved memory.6 Android users can benefit from a free app called Memory Trainer. According to over 5 million users, Memory Trainer works out your spatial and working memory, focus, and concentration skills.7 Many users say that it is definitely worth downloading because the results are beneficial and effective.

Take the time to find the app that is right for you, fits your lifestyle, and meets your needs. Improve your life by taking the time to control your stress and improve your cognitive abilities. Become a healthier, stronger you!

References

  1. Mayo Clinic. (2011, March). Stress Basics. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-management/MY00435
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2011, February). Stress Symptoms: Effects on Your Body, Feelings and Behavior. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-symptoms/SR00008_D
  3. Brown University. (2013, March). Stress. Health Education. Retrieved from http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/common_college_health_issues/stress.php
  4. iLBsoft. Relax Melodies (Version 3.1). [Mobile Application Software].
  5. LearningRx. (2013, March). Brain Training Research. Retrieved from http://www.learningrx.com/brain-training-research-faq.htm
  6. Vivity Labs, Inc. Fit Brains Trainer (Version 1.4). [Mobile Application Software].
  7. Urbian, Inc. Memory Trainer (Version 2.31). [Mobile Application Software].

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Quit Smoking, Stay Motivated, by Victoria Fields

Quitting smoking can seem overwhelming. There are many challenges, and often quitting smoking does not receive enough immediate tangible rewards. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that smokers typically require multiple attempts to quit, but it’s encouraging to know that “today there are more former smokers than current smokers.”1 Mobile applications are becoming an increasingly popular and cost-effective alternative for smokers trying to quit.2 If you’re a current smoker, have tried to quit before, or are thinking about quitting, smartphone apps can offer immense support, motivation through incentives, and a sense of personal fulfillment, all at the touch of your fingertips. 

Quit Smoking: Cessation Nation3 is a free app offered through Android phones that offers statistics and other features to help you stay motivated.  Your input data continually displays the days since your last cigarette, money saved, number of cigarettes not smoked, and time saved. The Cessation Nation app also allows you to track your health changes as you progress so the student observes health benefits gradually increasing as he/she remains smoke free.

Cessation Nation also includes a game to play within the program, which serves as an alternative action for smoking when one experiences those cravings for a “smoke.” Playing a game instead of smoking a cigarette assists the brain to refocus and effectively move through the craving until it passes.

The Apple store’s free app Quit Pro: Your Smoking Cessation Coach4 is a similar program that displays a student’s progress. This program provides support for those who have already quit, want to quit now, or plan to quit in the future. Additionally, the program takes into consideration students who may want to lessen the number of cigarettes smoked now or in the future; a gradual reduction method realistic for students who cannot quit “cold turkey.” Quit Pro allows the user to track cravings in order to understand where and why they smoke. If you have a craving, you can document whether you smoked or resisted the craving, then choose what triggered the craving such as a relationship interaction, hunger, boredom, etc.

Both Cessation Nation and Quit Pro apps are beneficial to students because through their programs they provide a way to visualize and measure progress. This visualization and measurement is critically important when changing a behavior. Students might choose the goal to stop smoking for an allotted time and be able to see how much money they saved during that time period. Suddenly the student is receiving a monetary reward for making an excellent health change. When goals are reached, have fun spending or continuing to save that money. Remember, it's not about what you're giving up, but rather what you are gaining from not smoking. 

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Smoking Cessation. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data­_statistics/fact_sheets/cessation/quitting/index.htm
  2. Hendrick, B. (2009, May 26). Computer Is An Ally in Quit-Smoking Fight. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/news/20090526/computer-is-an-ally-in-quit-smoking-fight
  3. Horner, R.. Quit Smoking: Cessation Nation (Version 1.3.8). [Mobile Application Software].
  4. Bitsmedia Pte Ltd. Quit Pro: Your Smoking Cessation Coach (Version 2.1.1). [Mobile Application Software].

Smart Phone, Smart Period, by Honey Scarcia-Irish

As a woman, one of the first questions you’re asked when you visit the doctor is, “When was your last period?” Some women quickly recite the day, even down to the hour. Other women stare blankly at the calendar on the wall for 20 minutes with no clue as to the date of their last period. Today’s smartphone technology can access this date with the touch of a finger.

According to Alyson English, “Tracking your menstrual cycle simply means keeping a record of when you’re menstruating and other information related to your cycle.”1 This is done by documenting the first day of each menstrual period. Today, smartphone apps have ways to make tracking and counting these days easier. In addition to tracking the first day of each period, some of these apps also note when ovulation will most likely take place and the days surrounding it, often called the “fertile” days.

The free Android and iPhone app Period Tracker Lite allows its users to track the duration of their periods and note different moods, symptoms, and when sexual intercourse takes place. It will even project future periods months ahead (a great feature used to plan vacations on the days when women are least likely to be menstruating). Period Tracker Lite also claims that the more months you track your period, the more accurate the app’s representation and future predictions will be.2 For women on birth control, this app can also be beneficial. Sometimes women experience side effects when taking these medications and it’s important to report them to your doctor. With this app, you can note symptoms such as: acne, spotting, headaches, and cramps. Tracking changes in your cycle, including side effects, can help you and your doctor determine what is “normal” for your body.

My Days - Period & Ovulation is another free Android and iPhone app that women can use to track their periods and help assess when they could expect to be ovulating.3 In addition, this app helps women trying to get pregnant predict their most fertile days and track their basal metabolic temperature (BMT).3 Many users enjoy the app’s multi-user feature because they can track themselves and/or friends. Other highly rated features include: keeping track of blood flow and mood, choosing the start day of the week, and even chatting with other My Days users. 

When searching for menstrual cycle apps, look for one that best suits your lifestyle. Some apps are designed for women who are trying to get pregnant and others can be used to simply track your period. No matter which one applies to you, period tracker apps are here to improve health for all women who use them. Now, there’s an app for that!

References

  1. English, A., & Marcellin, L. (2012). Tracking Your Menstrual Cycle. Retrieved from: http://www.everydayhealth.com/womens-health/tracking-your-menstrual-cycle.aspx
  2. GP International, LLC. Period Tracker Lite (Version 8.7). [Mobile Application Software].
  3. Mueller, C. My Days – Period & Ovulation (Version 1.25). [Mobile Application Software].

Nutrition and Weight Loss Apps, by Christina Goldpaint

Studies show that the most effective way to lose weight and maintain weight loss is by tracking your dietary intake. This is because it raises self-awareness and accountability.1 Have you struggled with weight loss? Tried to count calories, but didn’t know how many to eat? Wondering how many calories you burned from that 20 minute jog? Well an app may be just what you need! But with so many to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you? This article will compare three different apps: MyFitnessPal2, Shape-up Club3, and Lose It! 4.

Set up is pretty standard for all of the apps; download from the Apple App Store or Android Market, create your profile (height, weight, activity level) and decide if you want to lose, gain, or maintain your current weight. The app will then determine a calorie goal for you and you’re ready to start tracking!

MyFitnessPal

  • 100% free; no need to upgrade to a premium version.
  • The database is huge, all users can contribute.
  • Barcode database is the most accurate of all the apps listed. If the barcode is incorrect, it can be corrected by users.
  • Gives you all macronutrients and also vitamin/mineral totals to see if you are eating nutrient-dense foods and meeting the daily recommended intake.
  • Nutrients are displayed similar to a nutrition label, including: total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, sugar, sodium, potassium, cholesterol, vitamins and minerals.

Shape-up Club

  • The basic Shape-up Club is free; the cost of Shape-up Gold is $6.99 for one month, $14.99 for three months, or $35.99 for a year.
  • Shape-up Club Gold is a comprehensive app that will cost a minimum of $36/year and up to $83/year if you buy it month to month.
  • You can see total fat, carbohydrates, and protein, but must purchase Shape-up Gold to see other nutrients. You can only see the previous 30 days with free basic membership.

Lose It!

  • Lose It!  is free; Lose It! Premium costs $39.99 per year.
  • The premium membership includes access to the community and challenge groups, as well as syncing with other apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and FitBit.
  • The database is not as comprehensive as MyFitnessPal, but the barcode scanner works very well.
  • Vitamins and minerals are not included in the analysis.

                In conclusion, MyFitnessPal allows you to track your food, activity, macro- and micronutrients for free. You can also track weight and BMI. MyFitnessPal is the only app that gives you all of these benefits for free without having to upgrade to a premium version. Download MyFitnessPal and start tracking!

References:

  1. Yusof, A.F., Iahad, N.A., Johor, S. (2012). Review on online and mobile weight loss management system for overcoming obesity. 2012 International Conference on Computer & Information Science (ICCIS). 198-203.
  2. MyFitnessPal, LLC (Version 2.6-2680). [Mobile Application Software].
  3. Shapeup Club. Sillens AB (Version 1.8.1). [Mobile Application Software].
  4. Lose It! FitNow, Inc. (Version 4.0.1). [Mobile Application Software].

 

Safer Dating Support Team, by Linda Pena

When asking students what is important in a dating relationship, many state having fun, sharing trust, gaining respect and feeling support. In spite of these positive dating criteria desired by most, some students experience quite the opposite. Their experience is considered dating violence that includes physical abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, and/or sexual abuse.1

Remember dating violence and sexual assault happens to students of all ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender, cultures, incomes, and educational levels. It can happen on a first date, or when you are deeply in love. Since it is difficult to predict when someone might mistreat another, it is always pro-active to have a dating support team. The app Circle of 6 provides a structure for such a support team. It is an app that builds upon the accountability, respect, and trust of tight-knit friendships to help prevent sexual abuse and dating violence.2

Research indicates that university students are at highest risk for experiencing some form of dating violence.3 Studies reveal that one out of every four female students will encounter a form of dating violence during their college career.1 Circle of 6 is available on smart phones and provides the user the ability to pre-program six of their closest friends’ phone numbers into the app. And then with only two taps of the finger, the user can request an immediate call-back or connection with a friend, or ask to be picked up from an uncomfortable or dangerous situation, or just to let someone know they need to stay close to their phone for further updates.2 The app creates a network of people who can intervene to prevent violence, whether they’re friends, parents, teachers, or other trusted individuals. The student chooses those individuals they most trust to place in the circle of six.

When meeting someone new or going out with someone familiar, here are a few tips to follow. Remember these suggestions can be used by those with or without a smartphone programmed with Circle of 6. All students can create their own circle of six support system. If it is a first time date, meeting in a public place is always safest. But prior to going out on all dates, tell at least one friend or family member your date’s name and where you are going. Avoid parties where a lot of alcohol may be served. Make sure you have a way to get home if you need to leave. Have your cellphone handy in case you need to call or notify someone you need help. Once you have put these safety tips into action you can now focus on enjoying the date and having fun!

References

  1. Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (May 18, 2011). Violence against women. Women’s Health. Gov. Retrieved from http://www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/types-of-violence-/dating-violence
  2. Apps Against Abuse (April, 2013). Circle of 6. Retrieved from http://appsagainstabuse.challenge.gov/submissions/4900-circle-of-6
  3. The National Center for Victims of Crime (April, 2013). Campus dating violence fact sheet. Dating Violence Resource Center. Retrieved from www.ncvc.org/dvrc

Health Beat Contributors

Editor-in-Chief:
Linda Peña, MA, MS, CADC

Editors:
Heidi Burkey, MPH, CHES
Christina Goldpaint, MPH, CHES

The HEALTH BEAT Newsletter is published by California State University, Long Beach, Division of Student Services, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90840. Printed in the USA. Copyright© 2013 by the Student Health Services. All rights reserved. Contact CSULB, Division of Student Services, Health Resource Center for a free subscription at (562) 985-4609.

Editorial Policies

The Health Resource Center does not accept responsibility for views expressed in articles, reviews and other contributions that appear in its pages. The purpose of the HEALTH BEAT newsletter is to serve college students and related professionals with health-related information, which may help understand a diagnosis or treatment, yet cannot serve as a replacement for the services of a licensed health care practitioner. The information and opinions presented in the HEALTH BEAT newsletter reflect the views of the authors.