If you think you have high blood pressure and want to check your blood pressure often, those free machines at local pharmacies are tempting. But just how accurate are they?

There are two types of blood pressure monitors. The first is the one you’re probably most familiar with, manual blood pressure monitors. These consist of an arm cuff, squeeze bulb, gauge and a stethoscope. This is most likely what your doctor or nurse practitioner uses when you go into the office for a visit.


Winter can be a rough time for many. The days are short, temperatures are low and sometimes it’s a struggle to get out of bed. Here are five ways to help lift your spirits and help you feel happier.

1. Utilize light. People with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) (a form of depression that begins as weather gets cold and days get shorter, and fades as the weather warms up) may feel depressed, irritable and have trouble waking in the morning, especially when it’s still dark out. Studies show that a dawn simulator, which causes the lights in your room to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed. Additionally, sitting next to a light box (10,000 lux) for 30 minutes per day can be as effective as antidepressant medication.

2. Listen to music. Does an upbeat song ever make you feel happy? A 2013 study from the University of Missouri confirms listening to upbeat music can significantly improve your mood in both the short term and long term.

3. Stay active. A 2005 study from Harvard suggests exercising every day for about 30 minutes improves symptoms of mild to moderate depression.

4. Eat smarter. Certain foods, like fresh fruits and omega-3 fatty foods, can help boost your mood, whereas carb-heavy and caffeine-heavy foods can impact your mood negatively. There are plenty of seasonal produce available in the winter like cranberries, oranges, winter squash and kale.

5. Laugh. Laughter helps stimulate processes in your brain that counter depression symptoms and blood pressure. Your local library should have plenty of comedy movies and TV shows to help you laugh.


This time of year is primed for turkey, pumpkin pie and cookies. We often spend as much time baking cookies as we do shoveling snow. So how do you work in a workout? Good news! Some common winter activities can double as workouts. So gather the family and be prepared to work up a good sweat:

Shoveling snow. This necessary evil in winter can help you burn more than 250 calories an hour. Just make sure you’re lifting with your knees, not your back, and using an ergonomic shovel to minimize stress on your back.

Sledding. Remember how tired you got as a kid running up the hill with your sled in hand? Try it as an adult. You’re guaranteed to have fun heading down the hill at top speeds, and if you last for 30 minutes you’ll burn about 200 calories.

Ice skating. You don’t have to be as skilled as Nancy Kerrigan or as agile as Brian Boitano. Just 30 minutes of light skating will burn upwards of 200 calories.

Playing in the snow. Building a snowman, snow angels and snowball fights have always been winter classics, but did you know they also help you burn calories? If you play in the snow for at least an hour you can burn between 200-350 calories.

Skiing and snowboarding. If you’re looking for a more intense workout, while still being outside in the snow, skiing and snowboarding is your best bet. Depending on your fitness level, and your skills, you can burn upwards of 300 calories per hour.

Make sure to bundle up, stay hydrated and have fun.

This article was originally published on December 20, 2014, and was updated on December 12, 2016.