Sunday, 31 December 2006

Women with PMS demonstrate better memory skills

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There's always a silver lining, right? Women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome rarely have anything good to say about it, but now it appears that there may be a benefit to having the disorder -- better memory and increased awareness. Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas recently did a study involving women at different points in their menstrual cycle. Some of the women suffered from premenstrual syndrome and others did not.

What they found is that women who suffered from the syndrome had better recall and recognition skills during parts of their cycle than women who did not have PMS. The women who score d better on the tests showed an increased sensitivity to their environment, something that is key to memory performance. Researchers believe this finding may be due to fluctuating hormones or increased levels of serotonin. Interesting!

Home remedies for a hangover

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So tonight is one of the biggest party nights of the year: people who are normally in bed by 9pm will be staying up until the stroke of midnight, and those who are usually up late will be staying up even later. Many people will have at least a little alcohol, even if it's just a celebratory glass of champagne, and some will let it get a little crazy and have a little more than just that midnight drink -- and they'll be paying the price tomorrow with a nasty hangover.

The most effective treatments if you do end up with a hangover? Sleeping, drinking lots of water, and (I'm not kidding!) exercising. And, according to doctors, the number one WORST thing you can do in an attempt to heal a hangover is to drink more alcohol.

It never hurts to be prepared, so this article on home remedies for a hangover might be worth a closer read. That way if you, or a friend who crashes at your place, is miserable tomorrow morning you'll be prepared to make the best of it.

Saturday, 30 December 2006

Dieting may lead to bone loss

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In yet another example of why exercise is far healthier than dieting alone, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that those who merely restrict calorie-intake lose bone-density as they lose weight.

The study involved three groups, one with a calorie-restricted diet, one maintaining normal calorie-intake while starting an exercise program, and one that received information on healthy lifestyles when they requested it.

One year later, both the low-calorie and increased exercise groups lost weight, but the low-calorie group also lost an average of 2.2% of their bone density in the lower spine, 2.2% in the hip, and 2.1% at the tip of the femur. The exercise and healthy lifestyle groups showed no significant loss in bone density.

On the contrary, exercise actually stimulates bone growth. So, for those of you looking to lose weight while protecting your bones, a combination of dieting and exercise is the healthiest way to accomplish your fitness goals.

Fighting infections: an innovative approach

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I think this falls under the "why didn't I think of that" category. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have a new strategy for fighting bacteria -- removing it's "hair".

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a major issue in medicine today. Most hospital-acquired infections are caused by bacteria that are resistant to at least one antibiotic, so looking for ways to fight bacteria with out killing them -- and possibly causing them to be resistant -- is important.

The group focused on urinary tract infe ctions -- usually caused by E. coli -- which are common and frequently occur in women. The bacteria are coated in pili -- tiny hair-like structures that help them infiltrate healthy cells. Instead of attacking and killing the bacteria, these researchers are working on a drug that inhibits the bacteria's ability to grow pili. Being bald leaves them "happy and healthy," but unable to "stick" and create infection.

Researchers are hopeful that methods like this one will render bacteria harmless without inciting a reaction that causes them to mutate and become resistant, like antibiotics can do. Innovative, don't you think?

Easy ways to de-stress

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The holidays are almost over but that doesn't mean that the stress is gone from your life. Sure, you can relax now that you don't have to rush around finding the perfect gifts and planning fabulous feasts. But there's still the stress of every day life, which might be intensified by those holiday bills.

Now that you have some extra time, it's the perfect opportunity to start de-stressing. De-stressing is easy -- it 's just finding the time for yourself that presents a problem for many. Here are some tips: laugh, cry, exercise, meditate, eat well and sleep. These are all things that help us relax and help us feel better every day. And for further inspiration, check out our Stress Less feature.

What tips do you have on de-stressing?

Don't ignore bleeding gums

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Have you ever had bleeding gums before? Many of us know that bleeding gums are a sign of dental or periodontal disease -- and that should not be taken lightly just like any other tell-tale signs of ailments or disease anywhere on the body.

Although bleeding gums are often caused by a buildup of plaque along the gumline, the lack of proper dental care may cause plaque may harden to form tartar -- and that is difficult to remove without a dentist picking in your mouth with a sharp, pointed metal rod. That does not bring up pleasant thoughts at all. For me, anyway.

Fetuses risk more problems when expectant moms eat too much fish

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A new study by Taiwanese researchers shows that pregnant women who eat fish more than three times a week could be putting their baby at risk.

How can that be, when fish is supposed to be healthy for anyone? The answer is simple -- it's due to pollution of the oceans with high mercury levels. Eat more fish -- not from pristine waters and the like -- and you'll ingest more toxic mercury as a result, and exposure to this dangerous substance to fetuses is very dangerous.

Weekend warriors: Are you one?

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For me, I spend the weekdays working like crazy and then heading to the gym and sweating away until I collapse into bed exhausted. But on weekends, I have trouble convincing myself to work hard at anything. After all, I deserve a break, don't I? Other people have the opposite routine. Dubbed 'Weekend Warriors', they sit at desks all week and once the weekend rolls around, they become very active, whether it's completing heavy-duty around-the-house chores or doing some strenuous activities with the kids. And while it's good to be active, being a weekend warrior can be a bit dangerous because those muscles that rarely get used during the week are prone to strain and sprain.

Are you a weekend warrior? If so,

Americans support public policy change to curb obesity

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Would you exercise if your employer had on-site equipment? Would you visit with a nutritionist if your company sponsored it? If so, you're in the majority -- a study in the recent American Journal of Preventative Medicine shows. Using telephone surveys to question over 1000 people, the study found that 85% of participants supported tax breaks for companies that provide exercise equipment to employees.

Other ideas the participants supported include tax breaks for employers who reduced insurance costs for those living a healthy lifestyle and requiring insura nce companies to cover medical costs associated with obesity.

The article points out that these changes might motivate companies, but may not be enough to motivate employees themselves. What do you think about this issue? I question what would constitute a "healthy lifestyle" -- a certain weight? BMI? Cholesterol or blood pressure readings? I think that they might have a problem trying to define that. But putting that aside, would making these kinds of changes motivate you to make healthier choices? If not, what changes in public policy could be made that would motivate you?

Daily Fit Tip: Get good shoes

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Shoes can have an enormous impact on your health in so many ways, whether you're a fitness buff or not. But obviously finding the right shoes, and finding good quality shoes, is that much more important if you are involved in a fitness or workout routine because your feet, legs, and body need that much more extra support.

But you walk into the shoe store and are overwhelmed by the number of shoes available, all different brands and colors and types. How do you pick the best shoe for you?

Continue reading Daily Fit Tip: Get good shoes

Fit Factor: Get fit to the core with Pilates

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A few years ago, when the yoga class at my gym was full, I decided to try Pilates. At the time, I was doing 100 crunches a day and working out frequently, and I thought it would be a piece of cake for me. I was wrong. While I found that the abdominal strength I already had helped me through the class, the class wasn't really about strength; it was about endurance, namely the ability to hold a pose for a while and move slowly through the movements. That was the hard part for me, and it's something I still struggle with, years later.

These days, pilates is trendy, practiced among many A-list celebrities like Jennifer Aniston. It's a grea t class for beginners, but I think it has even greater benefits for people who are already active. Until I took pilates, I never realized how big a role my core plays in everything I do. Since I've taken pilates, I'm much more aware of my core strength and try to integrate it into every sport and activity I participate in. Using my core, I'm better at many things, including wakeboarding, snowboarding, volleyball and even yoga. I'm hoping to try surfing this year and know my core will play a huge part in that so I better start preparing.

Continue reading Fit Factor: Get fit to the core with Pilates

Verb yellowball gets kids moving

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If you have children in elementary school, you've probably heard of the character Flat Stanley. Stanley was flattened by a bulletin board and takes advantage of his new shape to travel the world in an envelope. Students make their own version of Flat Stanley with accompanying journal, then send him on an adventure that they hear about through letters, pictures, and email.

The CDC has put this same concept to work to encourage play and physical activity in children. Calling the campaign Yellowball, the department has handed out thousands of yellow activity balls around the country. Children play with them, then log int o the website to blog about what they did. When they're done, they pass the ball on to someone else. You can wait around for a yellow ball to find you, or you can enter your zip code to see who has one in your area.

The department's website Verb also has lots of fitness and activity ideas for children -- my favorite being the winter games generator. Take three activities (season doesn't matter), put them into the generator and click "winterize," and it creates a game that you can play in the snow. Parents with children on winter break -- get kids to the Verb website today help them find some new outdoor fun!

Quick tips on reading produce labels

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If you're anything like me, you're interested in knowing where your food comes from and how it's grown. I want to know, for instance, if the wheat in my cereal has been genetically modified to glow when it's thirsty. Unfortunately, with the labeling system we have today, it's not always possible to know when there are genetically modified foods in the processed food we eat. But did you know that produce is now routinely labeled?

The next time you're in your produce aisle, pick up the nearest fruit or vegetable. You're likely to find a sticker with a four or five digit number on it. This number can tell you how the food was grown:
  • Conventionally grown produce: 4 digits, usually starts with a 3 or 4
  • Organic produce: 5 digit number, starting with a 9
  • Genetically modified produce: 5 digit number, staring with an 8
The article uses bananas as an example. A conventionally grown banana will be labeled 4011, an organic banana 94011, and genetically modified banana, 84011.


Continue reading Quick tips on reading produce labels

Another take on eating cloned animals

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Bethany talked about the decision this week to allow proponents of animal cloning to vouch for food safety of cloned animals, so I started reading into the details.I'm not sure how to feel about this, but since I don't eat a heckuva lot of meat, it won't affect me in a huge way -- but I am in the minority.

Are there more ethical implications here -- or more implications that nobody has thought of yet? Just this past Thursday, the FDA issued a draft rule that found that meat from cloned cattle, pigs, and goats was as saf e to eat as any other meat.

I'm not sure I agree with that statement since we are so close to just the beginning of he way cloning will infiltrate our daily lives. "FDA is essentially giving a couple of cloning companies a Christmas present at the expense of consumers and the dairy industry," said Joe Mendelson, legal director at the Center for Food Safety. At this point, I think I agree with him.

Living near traffic causes breathing problems

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In a new study out of Switzerland, researchers have discovered that living near a busy street or high-traffic area increases a person's risk for various respiratory conditions and disorders. Although it's been widely known for a long time that auto emissions and other air pollutants are bad for us, this is the first study to take a look specifically at how health is affected by living close to main roads.

Almost 10,000 people participated in the study back in 1991 and again in 2002. The results showed clearly that the closer people lived to main streets and traffic the more respiratory symptoms they experienced. For example, people who lived within 20 meters of a busy road were 15% more likely to have phlegm in their throat and lungs. Yuck!

But there was some good news discovered. The second part of the study, done in 2002, showed somewhat less respiratory symptoms compared to the earlier study in 1991 -- researchers believe this is due to stricter auto emission regulations over recent years.

Definitely makes you think.

Sugar: 10 good reasons to avoid it

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As a pre-New Year's resolution, I gave up sweets and table sugar on December 26. Today as I busied myself with my day, I realized that I felt unusually good. I have a notorious sweet tooth and it takes giving up sugar to make me realize how bad sweets make me feel -- tired, headachey, and moody. Worse, the more sugar I eat, the more I want, which is a self-defeating cycle. Though I know I won't be able to avoid sugar forever, keeping it out of my every day diet is an important part of my health and nutrition goals.

I don't believe a treat here and there will hurt you, but this list makes a pretty good case for making sure that sugar is, in fact, just an occasional treat and not a major staple in your diet. Tooth decay, obesity, impaired immune function, faster aging...eek! There's a lot of good information there -- for instance, in the early 80s, New York City Public Schools reduced the amount of table sugar in their school lunches and eliminated artificial colors and preservatives. Their national academic rating shot up a whopping 15.7%.

Sugar is sneaky. Not only is it in a lot of products that don't seem sweet, it has a lot of different names. If you want to reduce or eliminate it from your diet, read food labels carefully.

If you have kids, better check your fat intake

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Do you have kids? If so, you may be eating more fat than adults in childless homes, according to a new study. The study suggested that the fat intake of adults living with under-17 children was five grams higher per day than childless adults.

"It's not a large amount, but if you do that every day, over time that adds up to be a lot of fat," says Helena Laroche, MD, an author of the study. I agree -- five grams a fat per day is not that much. But, over a long period of time, it can add up to quite a bit of fat.

It makes sense that the die tary habits of kids affects the eating habits of adults in the same household -- even though the reverse has been studied for years.

The worst foods: Things you should always avoid

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Ever wonder what the worst foods out there are? If so, you're in luck -- eDiets has compiled a list of foods that they advise you to never eat. What made the list? Doughnuts, for being high in fat and sugar and low in nutrients; Cheeseburgers and fries, for being high in saturated (and possibly trans) fats, cholesterol and refined carbs; Fried chicken for also being high in saturated and trans fats; Oscar Meyer Lunchables, for containing processed meats and cheese that are high in saturated fat, not to mention refined carbs, sugary treats and massive amounts of sodium; Sugary cereals, for being low in nutrients, high in pro cessed carbs and extremely high in sugar; processed meats for containing the least appetizing parts of the animal (blech) and being high in carcinogens (yikes!); and finally canned soup (really?!) for being often containing trans fats and being extremely high in sodium.

What do you think of this list? Are they really the worst foods for you?

Virtual reality helps young burn patients

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The multiple ways in which technology can help certain patients with medical issues never ceases to amaze me -- and it gets neater and more productive all the time.

Young patients with burn injuries can sometimes have a difficult trip back to normalcy -- but in new studies, exposing these kids to alternative forms of treatment -- virtual treatment -- can do wonders for their recovery.

Distraction from the daily torment of rehabilitation -- much of it painful -- can be largely distressing to younger burn victims -- but giving a very real diversion during these processes can be lifesavers according to some of the parents of young burn victims.

New clues to cancer found

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In some recent findings, it was found that the same mechanism that drives tumor development can also suppress tumor growth. In other words, learning to harness how to grow tumors may lead to an understanding on how to suppress them.

Mice were studied by a team at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine students. the students looked at mice that had cells with one or more extra or missing chromosomes. This is a common feature of cancer cells.

Don Cleveland, a professor of medicine at that university, explained that "W e found that, with age, having cells which inherited the wrong composition of chromosomes resulted in a larger number of spontaneous tumors."

Will this turn into a potential new area for cancer research? Quite possibly.

What's the deal with cortisol-reducing diets and supplements?

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Laid up with a bout of flu, I spent a couple of days channel surfing recently, something I rarely ever do. I can across a bright, flashy ad for a Cortisol-reducing supplement, which explained to me in an energetic TV voice that by reducing cortisol, it would reduce my belly fat. So I decided to figure out just what this cortisol stuff is anyway?

Turn out, Cortisol is a hormone that, in response to stress, increases appetite and in turn, belly fat. So weight-loss companies have drawn the conclusion that by reducing cortisol, appetite and therefore belly fat can also be reduced. It seems like an obvious conclusion but there doesn't seem to be any conclusive evidence that Cortisol-reducing products help with weight loss. A better way to reduce cortisol would be to reduce your stress.

Have you seen any results from using Cortisol-reducing products?

FDA approves new wrinkle treatment

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Radiesse is not actually new, having been used since 2002 in facial reconstructive surgeries, but the FDA has now approved it for a couple of new treatments. One is for HIV/AIDS patients who have suffered severe fat loss in their faces as a result of the disease, and the other -- more for the mainstream population -- is that it can now be used cosmetically to improve the appearance of moderate to severe frown lines. Supposedly Radiesse is longer-lasting than current wrinkle fillers, and has additional properties that stimulate the face to produce more collagen -- which in turn gives the face improved structure and fullness.

Yeah, we'll see! I won't be the first in line.

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Coming to a supermarket near you: clones!

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After what has been deemed suitable testing, the FDA is ready to to give the green light and allow meat and milk from cloned animals into the food supply. Two separate studies found no nutritional differences between the meat and milk from cloned animals and animals bred conventionally. Since the FDA can not address ethical or moral concerns, they appear to have no reason to say no.

But ethical and moral reasons are just one issue that opponents are raising. Citing that cloning poses significant risk to mother and newborn, as well as food safety issues, the Center for Food Animal Safety filed a petition this week seeking regulation of cloned animals. I think this is an important point, because if FDA approval goes forward as planned, products from these animals won't be labeled and consumers will have no way of knowing if they are eating them or not.

Speaking of consumers, a survey found that 60% of Americans were opposed to using cloned animals for food. That's probably why the International Dairy Foods Association is one of the biggest opponents of the issue. Concerned the wholesome image of milk and other dairy products will be tarnished, the association represents some of the biggest names in dairy -- Kraft, Dannon, and General Mills among them.

Continue reading Coming to a supermarket near you: clones!

A psychological approach to dealing with back pain

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When you have back pain in any form, most would do anything to make the pain go away. How about a non-medical approach?

New research shows that focusing on the mind may be the best approach to treating the back for many people with back pain, chronic back pain or other types of back pain that is recurrent.

I'm anxious to hear from anyone that has been suggested this kind of treatment for back pain in the past -- and if the suggestion was helpful to you at all (when the 'directions' were followed, of course). Things like biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy teaches people ways to think and act to help cope with pain -- and I'd be interested to hear if it has worked for you -- long-term.

Regular soda slows down the effects of alcohol

Here's some news that comes just in time for the New Year's Eve celebrations. For all the bad publicity that full-sugar soda gets, there's something positive: it keeps you from getting drunk as fast as sugar-free soda would. So, if you want to wake up the next morning without the foggy pounding head and the lurching stomach, avoid the diet rum and coke and go for the standard version of the drink instead. If you want to keep from embarrassing yourself and creating mortifying memories that your family members will dredge up for years, mix your drink with regular soda. Sure, it's more calories, but alcohol is chalk-full of calories anyway so if that's your major concern then maybe you should be the designated driver.

Keep in mind th at regular soda will still get you drunk, just not as fast. So as always, moderation is important.

Accupunture won't assist with depression in many cases

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Have you ever tried acupuncture? If so, to try and deal with what, exactly? I've known many people who swear by acupuncture, and yet I've heard middling results by others as well. With the subjective nature of people, it's sometimes hard to believe one opinion over another.

New research states that acupuncture -- on its own -- does not appear to be an adequate treatment for depression, although the ancient Chinese medical technique is safe.

This new st udy flies in the face of two previous studies which showed that acupuncture specifically targeted to symptoms of depression was effective.

Cutting back doesn't reduce cancer risk for smokers

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If you smoked 40 cigarettes a day, and you cut back to 20, your lungs are twice as healthy -- right?

Wrong. According to researchers, smokers who cut back compensate for their reduced nicotine intake by inhaling more smoke from the cigarettes they do smoke. So, in a group of smokers who smoke the same number of cigarettes every day, those who cut back still have a higher cancer risk than those who have always been light smokers. In fact, studies show a reduction in tobacco consumption by 62% only results in a 27% reduction in cancer risk.

However, if you're trying to quit, don't be discouraged. Cutting back is easier than quitting cold turkey, and, as long as it's a stepping stone toward stopping entirely, it's still a healthy choice.

Burning off calories: the sequel

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I recently posted this information on how much exercise you would need to get to burn off something you ate. Well, here is some more information -- in the form of a book that compiles 7500 foods and the impact they'll have on your diet. For instance, 8 oz of prime rib will take you nearly 6 hours of yoga to burn off. That whopper? You'll have to walk for 9 miles. Want to know something even more scary? It takes an extra 100 calories a day to gain a pound. What's 100 calories? 5 Ritz Crackers (withou t cheese), a low-fat pudding cup, 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds, a small banana, etc.

This information is frightening, but I think if you practice moderation, maintain fairly active lifestyle and eat healthy, you don't really need to worry about the particulars of how many calories you can burn doing something. Because honestly? That time you spend doing the math is time that could be better spent doing something healthy like going for a walk with your family.

More men getting plastic surgery

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Are more men getting nipped and tucked? It seems so -- rates of minimally invasive cosmetic procedures for men have increase 44% in the last six years. Women's rates are rising as well, but plastic surgeons are seeing more men in their offices than before.

What are they having done? This article outlines the nine most popular procedures. The quick fixes like microdermabrasion, Botox, and hair removal top the list, but men are also going in for liposuction and to remove the fat from under their chin. Surgeons also speculate that body lifts and tummy tucks will also become more popular as gastric bypass surgery becomes more mainstream.

Claiming their p atients diet and exercise and just want to look as good on the outside as they feel on the inside, plastic surgeons expect to see the number of male patients rise in the coming years. What about you? Male or female, would you consider plastic surgery simply for the purpose of improving your looks? Or do you think this trend takes the focus on appearance one step too far?



What do you know about supplements? Take the quiz

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These days, it seems like everyone's medicine cabinet is stacked to the top with vitamins a supplements that promise various benefits. We've come a long way from taking a Flintstone's multivitamin everyday -- now drugstores are full of different nutrients and vitamins. But do we really need them? And what do people really know about those supplements they take diligently every day? Supplements have many health benefits, but they can also have drawbacks.

It's no secret that many people don't know the real story behind the supplements they are taking and it's important to know what we are put ting into our bodies. This quiz can offer some valuable insight into the world of supplements as well as advice on taking supplements. If you're currently taking supplements or are thinking of starting on a supplement regime, I encourage you to take it.

I got 4 out of 5. What about you?


Gene hardwires aging brains for better cognition

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Experts in the field have known for sometime that longevity of life runs in families. Called the "longevity gene," people who posses it have larger size particles of cholesterol in their blood, too big to cause the fatty build up that causes heart attacks and strokes in their younger counterparts.

A recent study in the United States suggests that this same gene may also prevent fatty build up in the blood vessels of the brain, preserving memory and cognition. Participants in the study -- all in their 70s, 80s, and 90s -- who carried the gene all performed much higher on memory tests and showed superior concentration.

For those of us who don't carry the gene, never fear. Experts hope that more research in this area will help them develop a drug that mimics the actions of the longevity gene.

Daily Fit Tip: Cut calories every day

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Healthy living is about fitness but it's also about how much you consume. Cutting calories is a good way to get healthy and feel your best. But cutting calories isn't easy -- or is it? This article offers a list of 100 painless ways to cut calories every day. The tips are simple, like replacing full-fat milk with non-fat, eating dried fruit instead of candy and munching on a whole wheat English muffin instead of a muffin.

If you can cut 100 calories from your diet every day, you can lose a pound of fat a month. This may seem a bit slow but it's a start, and the slower the weight loss, the more likely you are to keep the weight off.

Simple steps to a healthy heart

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With U.S. waistlines expanding and with an aging population, heart disease has become one of the major health headlines of our day. Heart failure -- when a heart can not pump correctly -- affects 5 million people nationwide, and a 1/2 million more new cases will be diagnosed this year. The leading causes of heart failure include heart attack, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

A healthy lifestyle can prevent heart disease. This article outlines six simple steps to good heart health -- including losing weight, dropping the cigarette habit, and limiting alcohol, as well as exercising and having basic blood work done by your doctor.

This article is interesting for its health advice, but also has a stunning list of statistics. Over 100 million people have high cholesterol, 47 million still smoke, and a whopping 73% don't exercise....it's an eye-opener for sure.


Working hard on a new fit you? Don't ruin it with a fashion flub

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When fashion blunders happen to someone else they are almost always funny, but when they happen to you they're just sad. And I think especially sad if you work hard to keep a fit physique, or have been making an effort to get a fitter physique, and then ruin your look with a major fashion flub. That's not to say that everybody has to be on the cutting edge wearing designer labels and outfits fresh off the runway, but there are some simple across-the-board rules when it comes to dressing yourself for the day. Things like che cking sheer tops in a variety of light levels (before you leave the house) to make sure they aren't see-through, and how to avoid your pants getting caught under your heel when you wear mule-type shoes, are just a couple.

When I first read this article I absolutely broke out laughing -- I saw the phrase "unsightly muffin top" to describe when someone's pants or belt are too tight and cause overhang...

It's such an accurately graphic visual! I couldn't have described it better myself.

Control cholesterol naturally with the right foods

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Cholesterol-lowering drugs can cause liver problems, muscle cramps, and kidney problems. Fortunately, by adding certain foods to your diet, you can combat high cholesterol naturally.

For breakfast, increases the rate cholesterol is removed from your blood by upping your vitamin C intake. While too much might cause intestinal distress (read: diarrhea), most people can tolerate up to 2,000 milligrams daily.

You also might try having a glass of wine with dinner. This will boost your levels of high-density popprotein, or HDL, which, like vitamin C, also works to remove excess cholesterol from your bloodstream. While, of course, too much wine has it's own negative side effects, in moderation it can make blood platelets slippery, thus reducing the chances of a fatal blood clot. If you do chose to imbibe, you should know that wines from Southwestern France contain substances which block a protein associated with heart disease.

HDL -- often referred to as "good cholesterol" -- is also boosted by soy protein found in tofu, soy nuts, and soy burgers.

To reduce bad cholesterol, try eating almonds, or adding a a little cinnamon to your coffee.

Ideas for healthy New Year's resolutions

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The American Medical Association has released a list of ten ideas for New Year's resolutions. Healthy resolutions usually fall into one of two categories: quitting a bad habit or starting a good one. Make your resolution this year to quit smoking, or to cut down on your consumption of sugary soft drinks, fat and/or sodium.

Feeling more pro-active? Resolve to start a healthy new exercise routine, get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked, or wear more sunblock.

Will an apple a day cut it?

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We've all heard the old adage: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But does it really? An apple a day is a great start for someone who doesn't eat a whole lot of fruits and veggies, but is it really the best choice for those of us who are diligent about our produce consumption?

According to this, apples are an OK choice, but not the best by any means. In fac t, each of the produce items that the general population consume most frequently, namely iceberg lettuce, corn, potatoes, apples and bananas, aren't as nutrient-rich as the other things in the produce section at the grocery store. What's more, consuming an apple every day doesn't give us the variety that we need to achieve optimal health benefits. So what should we be eating? Check out this article for more information.

How does your favorite fruit or vegetable stack up?

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Can you cure a sex addiction?

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In light of recent writings by Hillary Clinton revealing that her husband has received counseling for sex addiction, Slate's Explainer tackles the question: how do you cure a nymphomaniac?

The answer, as you might suspect, is that the methods for treating sex addiction don't vary much from those used to treat other kinds of addicts -- counseling, therapy, even medication in severe cases.

While not all doctors agree that a person can actually be addicted to sex -- many feel the condition is nothing more than an especially heightened sex drive -- the symptoms are similar. Withdrawal, denial, and the inability to curb the behavior -- even when it's proven to be destructive -- are common.

Wondering if your sexual escapades make you an addict? You can the Sexual Addiction Screening Test to find out for sure.

Get inspired by real life success stories

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Every now and then, when I need a little motivation, I pop by a weight loss blog I love. The woman who writes it decided one day to tackle her weight problem once and for all. In nearly two years time, she's dropped 140 pounds, through simple diet and exercise.

Reading real life success stories can be an inspiration when motivation is flagging. Just knowing that every day people tackled the same goals you are striving for can give you the strength you need t o push forward toward your own health or weight loss goals. When I read about someone who seems a lot like me -- and read about their success -- it makes my goals seem that much more attainable.

Are you just getting started on brand new weight loss goals? Or recommitting yourself after some holiday overindulgence?

Lose that newly acquired Santa Belly

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Well. Christmas is over, New Years is on the way, and it's time to figure out how to work off all the extra food you consumed during the Christmas holidays. Here's a workout that should help you get rid of that abdominal fat that you've added to your frame, making you look like a Santa imitator. The series of crunches described will help you tone your midsection, but keep in mind that no matter how toned your abs are, nobody will be able to see your six-pack if it's covered with a layer of fat, so you need to burn calories too to conquer the fat and get in to those skinny jeans.

What are you doing to get back into shape after the holidays? For me, simply getting back in to any type of routine required persistence because it's hard to get back in to a routine after a few days off.

Exercise: tips for beginners

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If you make New Year's resolutions, chances are one or two of them are health related. Diet and exercise seem to top the list of changes people want to make when making a fresh start in the new year. A consistent exercise routine is an important step towards good health, but if you've been sedentary a long time, there are a few things you might want to consider before diving into your routine at top speed.

Sparkpeople has outlined a few important exercise tips for beginners. They suggest that you start slowly and work your way up at a measured pace, and that you s ee your doctor if you're more than 20 pounds overweight or have a chronic health problem. Personally, I think it's important to set many small goals in the beginning so that you can feel the reward of success right away. Setting a long-term goal -- such as running a race -- six to 12 months down the road is another way to motivate yourself without doing too much too fast.

Congratulations for taking charge of your health. I'm hoping to make 2007 the year that my exercise resolution really sticks, then maybe in 2008 I can finally cross it off my list and move on to organizing my closets!

Exercise keeps your brain from shrinking

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In case you haven't been paying attention, exercise is awesome. It prevents obesity and cancer, improves cardiovascular health, stops you from shrinking so much in old age, and will combat those holiday pounds like nothing else will.

And now, as an added bonus, scientists have discovered that exercise also helps your brain. By stimulating the production of brain neurons in older adults, physical activity actually keeps the brain from shrinking in old age.

Previously, scientists had thought such production of new neurons was impossible. However, this recent research suggests that three hours of brisk walking per day can help seniors at risk of losing their independent functioning.

So get active!

Refridgerator Makeover: How does yours stack up?

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The fridge can hold some pretty scary things, especially at the office where my co-workers often forget to take lunches home of leave condiments in there for ages -- not that I am entirely innocent of this.The fabulous AOL diet has let diet guru Jorge Cruz take a peak into the office fridge at various companies and this week it's a restaurant PR firm that has hummus, cheese, M & Ms with the company logo, apple cider and granola in their fridge. Sounds mostly healthy, ri ght? They only got a B- because they have too much sugary food. Which makes me wonder how my office fridge would stack up? We are offered chips, soda, juice, chocolate, gummy candies, nuts and occasionally some doughnuts and muffins. Yikes! Occasionally, we are offered V8 juice instead of fruit juice, but other than that, our healthy eating is up to us!

How would your fridge stack up?

Are male surgeons better looking than other male doctors?

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I knew there was a reason I love Grey's Anatomy!

A recent small study published in the British Medical Journal found that male surgeons are perceived as being taller and more handsome than other male physicians. Am I the only one rolling my eyes? Anyway, a panel of eight female doctors and nurses were asked to rate 12 male surgeons and 12 male physicians (as well as a few celebrities as a control group) on a scale of one to seven. The surgeons (and the celebrities, surprise) were consistently rated higher.

The researchers in this study aren't sure whether the effect is genetic or just environmental. I'm not sure th at it matters. The first thing I think most people look for in a surgeon -- male OR female -- is a combination of skill and good bedside manner. I'm interested to hear what surgeons and physicians think of this study. Are there any out there that are willing to comment?

Why we snooze after a holiday meal

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The holiday meal is over. There's a fierce battle being waged, and it's not the football game on TV. It's for rights to the couch and for who gets the most comfortable spot for the post-meal snooze.

Why do we get so sleepy after a large meal? Researchers at the University of Manchester think they've figured it out. Doing research on mice, they found that certain nerve cells in the brain work to keep us awake. When glucose levels rise, those same cells stop producing signals, making us want to sleep. Alternately, when we're hungry, those same nerve cel ls fire away -- keeping us alert to be on the look out for the next meal. (This may explain any late night trips to refrigerator, and why it's hard to sleep when you're hungry.)

Though this link is interesting, it seems more research is needed. We don't, for instance, feel tired after breakfast. And the afternoon slump many of us feel is more likely to be the cause of natural circadian rhythms than lunch. But researchers still think this finding may be helpful in treating obesity and eating disorders down the road. For the rest of us, it's just one more reason to take that brisk walk after dinner!

Faster healing for common injuries

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In today's fast paced world, getting hurt or injured can put a serious kink in your plans. Whether it's something major like a broken bone, or minor like a paper cut, I'm sure most of us would agree that the faster it heals the better.

So, what if you do break your arm? Believe it or not, there is something you can do to help that cast or sling come off faster than it would with usual methods: ask your doctor about ultrasound therapy. Ultrasonic waves stimulate cell growth in the broken bone, and can save you as much as one third the time, or 2 months, of invalid status.

Other remedies for speedy recovery? Put antiperspirant on a nick from shaving, have steak and cranberry juice for dinner to cure a urinary tract infection, and moisturize moisturize moisturize a skin scrape. Click here for other creative healing ideas for things like headaches, blisters, and side stitches.

I'm seriously curious now if any of these really work?

Can weight loss reduce the risk of cancer?

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Although I've mused on this subject a few times, weight loss has again sprang up as a possible reason that losing weight can have an impact on the potential for developing prostate cancer in men.

Yes, gentlemen -- a new study says that after tracking the weight of nearly 70,000 men between 1982 and 1992, researchers found that men who lost more than 11 pounds had a lower risk for aggressive prostate cancer than men whose weight remained the same over a decade.

Although weight loss can have many other positive impacts for health, the possible reduction of a deadly form of cancer in men -- by having an appropriate weight -- seems to be one of the better reasons to make and stick to that upcoming New Year's resolution.

Take heartburn drugs, break hip?

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In a rather interesting end to a recent study, research has shown that taking such popular heartburn drugs as Nexium, Prevacid or Prilosec for a year or more can raise the risk of a broken hip. That's correct -- a broken hip. Explain, you say?

In people over 50, the researchers that published the study speculated that when the drugs reduce acid in the stomach, they also make it more difficult for the body to absorb bone-building calcium.

Ah-ha -- there's the ticket. A possible waterfall effect from lowered calcium absorption can lead to weaker bones , causing more fractures in the process. Broken hips can lead to more serious complications, so avoiding those when possible is probably a good thing, yes?

The risk of stroke in the U.S. drops

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Stroke as a cause of impairment seems to have lowered in recent years, as previous decades produced more strokes in the U.S. population.

When strokes come -- however -- they are just as bad as ever according to new findings. A new report from the famed Framingham Study, which looked at the risk of stroke across the time periods 1950-1977, 1978-1989, and 1990-2004.

The risk of death within 30 days of a stroke declined from 23% to 14% for men -- but it did not change for women, as the rate remained about 20%.

Circumcision could save African lives

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The AIDS epidemic could be severely impacted -- in a positive way -- by the practice of male circumcision according to a new study. The study stated that circumcision has been shown to decrease the chances of contracting HIV -- and it could save billions of dollars in AIDS-hit Africa.

Circumcision has shown that the chances of HIV infection can be cut by as much as 60%. Is circumcision a good AIDS-fighting strategy? "I would say we're making two points -- it's an effe ctive strategy and it's cost effective," said one of the lead researchers on the study.

I would have to agree.