Thursday, 28 June 2007

FitBeauty: Maternity yoga wear for the rockin' mama-to-be

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When I was pregnant (oh gaw, I know, I know, I know, that's easily the 500th post I've written that begins that way and you will only understand why that's acceptable once you've grown a human in your body and then delivered it into the world...but anyway, back to the beauty and style stuff)...

I found a new inspiration in exercising. I wasn't doing it to slim down or stop cellulite in its tracks. I wasn't climbing up on that treadmill next to the weird old guys in plastic sandals at the Y just because swimsuit season was in sight. I wasn't cursing my way through 18 too many squats because the burn was actually good for my booty. I was doing it because (here comes the Susan Powter moment in 3...2...1) I wanted to feel good.

That is, I wanted to work out to feel good until I couldn't see my $50 pedicure with rhinestones, and then I just wanted to take a nap and gorge myself with red meat and McDonald's Ice cream cones. But that's beside the point. By the time the bun-baking was over and the timer on the boy was dinging, I felt like my body was prepared for giving birth. And that felt good, too.

Given all of this, that being pregnant and fit at the same time requires extra energy, more water, more accommodations for your changing body and escalating hormones, and maybe another person to help you get up off of the yoga mat, don't you think it is a good idea to work out in clothes you love?

Don't you think it is worth it to have a cheeky little tank and some super-stretchy but stylin' capris so you don't have to worry about leaving a big old belly print in your favorite pre-pregnancy microfiber tee?

Don't you think if you are going to drag yourself and your zygote to class, you deserve a fun mama-centered outfit or four?

Of course, of course. And while I highly recommend taking full advantage of the Liz Lange for Target activewear, especially when it is calling to you from the clearance rack, I also really think you should consider getting a little RockStarMoms for yourself, too.

RockStarMoms has all kinds of tempting maternity clothing, from halters fashioned from classic concert t-shirts to a convertible dress that will knock your socks off (if only you could bend over to put them on). They also have a line of yoga wear that celebrates your commitment to being healthy without forgetting your sense of humor.

The Buddha Belly set actually encourages the crazy cat hair lady in your yoga class to rub your belly rather than keeping all that goodness hidden away from strangers.

The Mod Set tells it like it is so you can keep quiet during final relaxation. And my absolute favorite, the Floating Baby Set, is the hip mama's "baby on board" sign for this millennium. I know. it is a little science-experimenty but it makes me laugh every single time.

Each yoga set includes a cotton tank and either capris or full-length comfy pants and rings up for just under $50. Considering you know you will wear these clothes almost everyday, that's not so much to put up.

And while you're cruising around the site, I advise stopping by the t-shirt and tanks section where you will find sweet and sassy shirts to stretch out over your pregnancy (and even beyond).

I think the Goddess tee is a must-have, not just as a good prenatal reminder of your body's miraculousness, but also to ride on the post-partum oxytocin wave. Trust a friend, you will be sore and tired and overwhelmed after giving birth, so this might just be the perfect thing to wear when you bring that baby home from the hospital.

There are so many good ones here, be prepared for making tough choices when ordering your pregnancy gear. Don't blame me, though, if you blow a paycheck on maternity t-shirts all in the name of yoga, aerobics or walking the track at the high school. And don't curse me for inviting you to buy the yoga pants you'll probably be wearing two or three years from now as the adorable little maternity get-up becomes the inevitable mommy uniform. Not to worry. As long as it makes you feel good, it's so worth it.

Daily Fit Tip: Mix up your cardio

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Even the most motivated of exercisers can't help but get bored with the same routine day in, day out. I know -- for years, I spent almost all my gym time doing the same cardio workout : a 10-minute warm-up on the StairMaster at level 4, 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer at level 7, 20 minutes on the bike at level 8 and some weights thrown in there if I was feeling energetic. Not only was my cardio routine ineffective, it was boring and not at all challenging.

In order to keep up with your routine, you have to mix it up. eDiets has these suggestions: Try interval training (alternating super-challenging with rest periods), endurance training (a low to moderate level of activity) or one of their other cardio suggestions. You'll burn extra calories and you'll give yourself more of a challenge.

5 steps to great skin all over

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It seems like when most people think of skin care they think of the skin on their face and nowhere else, but dull dry skin or even oily breakouts can happen all kinds of other places too. Whole body skincare is a year-round job, but this is the season when your efforts really pay off in shorts, tank tops, and swimsuits. WebMD has a 5 point "summer skin makeover" that has some great advice we should all be doing:
  • Exfoliate to get rid of dry, dull skin
  • Moisturize to keep skin hydrated
  • Use sunscreen (and use enough)
  • Shave away unwanted hair
  • Take care of your feet

Budget fitness: Eating healthy on $7 a day

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If you're like a lot of health-conscious people on a budget (for instance: this blogger), then you don't always vibe with the health food aisle at the grocery store. And it doesn't help that some of those organic products are not even legitimate! So what are the rest of us to do?

Here is an interesting take on cheap foods that are actually good for you. Leading the way is whole wheat pasta that can be used for anything (serve with vegetables or go with the classic tomato purée). At $2 a pound, it's hard not to agree with such a bargain. Any kind of nut or seed is also a winner. From flax and almonds to cashews, this stuff usually goes for under $4 or $5 and lasts as long as you can stretch them. Don't forget that the health benefits of such foods are undeniable (soy nuts can even help with blood pressure).

Eggs also rank pretty high up on the list of great foods any way you look at them. They're relatively cheap, packed with nutrients and are a great source of protein. Frugal health enthusiasts are no stranger to the incredible edible egg. Check out the site here for more suggestions. Some of these items are actually organic, but look for them in bulk to get the best deals. You may have some budget food suggestions of your own! Hopefully this list can spark some ideas for eating healthier and cheaper.

Why are fast food chains refusing to put calories on the menu?

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All the drama from New York City's recent regulation requiring fast food restaurants to post calorie counts on menus is about to come to a head as the deadline, this Sunday, approaches. Burger King, McDonalds, and Wendy's are all openly planning to defy the order and will not be making any changes to their menus anytime soon. And due to a pending lawsuit by the New York Restaurant Association the city won't be handing out any fines until at least October, if the new law is still standing by then.

In the meantime fast food chains say it's not that they don't want consumers to know calorie counts (many of them make the information available voluntarily anyway), but they say that putting them on the menu in print as big as the price would make for a messy, hard to read display that would look like "a bad day at the eye doctor's office."

What do you think? I like the idea of easily accessible calorie information, but I don't know that it needs to be in huge print right on the menu board.

Antidepressant use found to cause small risk of birth defects

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If you were pregnant while taking antidepressants, a new study shows that your child has a very small chance of being born with birth defects. This news is sure to be reassuring to many moms, but still points possible issues during pregnancy.

Pregnant would-be moms who are depressed need some way to deal with their condition, but at the same time, use of many popular antidepressants had recently shown to contribute to possible birth defects. Although this study puts a little of the unrest to bed, note than the study said that antidepressants "do not" remove the possibility for birth defects -- it only gets smaller.

So, are you ready to take the risk? There are two studies connected with this story that are reporting the same findings, so even though the risk is small, you need to be prepared, right?

Help keep your pets fit this summer

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Now that it is officially summer, I'm sure that many of you out there are making sure to take the proper precautions when you head outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather. You've likely got lots of sunscreen to protect your skin and water to stay hydrated, and you've probably got nausea medicine for car and plane rides. So you and your family are all set to have fun and stay safe this summer but what about your pets?

Many of the same measures that we take to look after ourselves in the summer need to be considered when dealing with pets. Heat stroke, parasites, poisonous plants and noisy thunderstorms are only a few of the things that could harm your dog, cat, rabbit, bird or other furry, feathered or even scaled animal companion. In order to make sure that your pet makes it through the summer happy and healthy, check out this site that offers advice on how to prevent and look out for a number of ailments that could effect your animal at this time of year.

Breast ultrasound may spare some women surgery

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When a woman finds a lump in her breast, it's always worrisome, even though most lumps are benign. A radiologist can usually tell through mammogram whether the lump is a cyst or solid, and often may use ultrasound as well to get a clearer picture of what is going on. Even so, many times when a lump is deemed "probably benign," surgery is schedule anyway just to be safe.

New research, however, finds that if a lump has certain characteristics -- oval in shape, circumscribed margins, and solid, to name a few -- it may be just as safe to use ultrasound alone. Out of 445 women with breast lumps of this type were followed for over three years, and only one was diagnosed with cancer.

Many women feel better having the lumps removed and knowing with certainty that they are benign, but others may prefer to not undergo the invasive procedure. This study appears to open up choices for treatment of benign breast lumps for women.

Who has the fastest Emergency Rooms nationwide?

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Emergency rooms, despite their name or intended purpose, do not generally have a reputation of being an "in and out" kind of place. Long waits and slow care seem to be more common than not, for all kinds of different reasons. A study recently looked into how long it takes patients to get the care they need in ER settings nationwide and ranked all 50 states in terms of who had the fastest service.

Iowa came out on top with an average ER check-in to check-out time of 2 hours 18 minutes, which is well below the national average of 3 hours 42 minutes. Nebraska, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin round out the top 5, with Arizona, Maryland, Utah, New York, and Florida bringing up the rear of the list with the longest times -- having an emergency in Florida could take almost 4 hours!

Summer is here: 42 ways to improve your exercise routine

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work outAh, summer. The carefree, lazy days can somehow become tainted when we realize we will need to wear bathing suits, short shorts and fitted tank tops.

These exercise hacks make taking your summer workout to the next level a piece of cake. Simple ideas like scheduling your workouts as if they are appointments and setting a 30-day challenge for yourself spoke to me.

Other ideas which may appeal to you are joining an online group (to me, takes up the time I need to spend working out!) and getting a workout buddy (I am a solitary exerciser).

Other motivators? Take before and after photos of yourself, save the diet until the workout is habit and make yourself a star chart.

A star chart? I wouldn't even use one of those for my students when I was teaching, as fostering intrinsic motivation is the key to success in my opinion. Since we are not trained seals that perform for fishy treats, why not set some goals, reach them successfully and then bask in the inner glow of success. Skip the stars.

Mostly, these are fun hacks that just may give you that oomph to start off your summer workouts right.

Determining sexual orientation by observing walking

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Can a person's gait help other determine his or her sexual orientation? A Northwestern master's degree student thinks so, as she's trying to get through whether homosexuality is chosen or genetically predisposed -- or perhaps a combination of both.

A recent poll from CNN showed the majority of respondents thought that sexual orientation could not be changed once "established." In scientific circles, scientists and psychologists continue to grapple with the "nature versus nurture" argument on the basis of how someone becomes a homosexual.

What will this result in? Regardless of how people choose or are predisposed to homosexuality, I'm not sure I understand what the outcome to such rigorous debate is supposed to be. Life is too short to worry about such things. Well, to some people, anyway.

Mmm Melons: Recipes for summer's favorite fruit

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There's been a lot of talk on this site lately about all of the wonderful things that come along with summer. Holidays, warm weather, extended daylight hours, that fantastic relaxed attitude and, of course, all of the great recipes that only come together with the help of all of the fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season.

Possibly my absolute favorite of these fruits are ripe and delicious watermelons, honeydews and cantaloupes. All of these make a tasty snack or dessert all on their own. But the folks at Oprah's lifestyle magazine O have put together a few fairly easy recipes that utilize these juicy and healthy fruits.

The first one I want to try is the Spicy Skewered Shrimp with Grilled Watermelon. Maybe I'll enjoy it with a Melon High-Baller to drink and follow the meal with Cantaloupe and Citrus Pops. My mouth is watering just thinking about it to be honest. If you'd like to try these or some of the other melon-tastic recipes on offer, this is where you'll find them.

Get a beautiful bum, once and for all!

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Your gluteous maximus, a.k.a. your butt, is one of the biggest muscles in your body and also one of the most visible, so it's no wonder we all try so hard to firm it up and avoid that 'gelatinous jiggle' we all fear like the plague. But what many of the bum-firming workouts you've tried in the past might have failed to address is all the surrounding support muscles -- your backside may be big but it doesn't work alone!

Women's Health has compiled a 2 phase exercise plan that will surely whip your 'b-side' into shape by not only attacking the jiggles directly, but by strengthening some of the 'support staff' as well.

Stem cells created from unfertilized eggs

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As the debate for and against the use of embryonic stem cells continues unabated, some scientists now say that the possibility of embryonic stem cells created from unfertilized eggs may be a possibility.

If this becomes true, then those who opposed embryonic stem cell research on the grounds of a fertilized egg being destroyed may not have a solid argument any longer. Whatever your personal stance may be, would the possibility of embryonic stem cell research being performed without destroying fertilized embryos be against your beliefs?

I'm curious to hear from our readers here -- what do you think? This could lead to cloned body parts later according to the report -- but is that heading in the right direction?

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Poland's baby boom shows limits of free health care

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Poland is finding out the hard way that free health care can overburden a government's resources. Polish health officials are being apparently overwhelmed by the country's largest baby boom in quite some time. That must be the result of the government's promotion of having more children being pushed down to Polish citizens.

People born in the 1980s are choosing to have more kids these days in addition to the government's suggestion to couples to have more kids, and the health care system -- which is not all that changed from 1989 when communism fell -- is struggling to keep hospital resources staffed and ready for all those babies.

More people have died in Poland in recent years than have been born, which prompted the Polish government to promote pregnancy to the entire country. Little did it know that this suggestion would come around to bite it later.

Consumer group urges FDA to reconsider aspartame warnings

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Will the debate over aspartame ever end? Though the FDA seems to firm in their decision not to label the artificial sweetener as dangerous, a consumer group is urging the FDA to rethink their stance based on studies done in Italy that linked aspartame to leukemia, lymphoma, and breast cancer in rats. The study allowed the rats, 4,000 of them, to live out their natural lives and found that the rats, when exposed to aspartame over their life time, were much more likely to develop certain cancers. Other tests on aspartame only lasted two years, after which the rats were killed.

The FDA says it won't be changing its stance any time soon, but the Center for Science in the Public Interest -- a consumer group -- says that because aspartame is easy to avoid, consumers should steer clear. What do you think?

Today is National HIV Testing Day

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June 27 marks the day which many hope will raise awareness for HIV by encouraging high-risk people to get tested. This is an annual recognition started by the CDC and the National Association of People with AIDS. Considering the potential that over 200,000 people in the United States are walking around without even knowing they carry HIV, this cause should mobilize those individuals to find out.

Don't count out men and women who are over the hill either. Nearly twenty percent of the people who have these sexually transmitted diseases are over 50. So what can you do if you're at risk? Stop by a clinic today and have a rapid test or a normal blood test conducted. Because it's National HIV Testing Day after all, many doctor's offices will not charge for these tests.

Of course you can always try testing yourself as well. Home Access provides the only FDA-approved home-testing kit for HIV. However they get you on the name, because the kit only gives you the material to take a blood sample. After that you have to mail it off to a clinic and wait for the results. Whether at home or in an office, today's the day to get tested if you're at risk.

Autism symptom reversal in mice studied

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Autism is sure getting a lot of medical attention lately as the rates of the condition increase (or the rate of diagnosis having increased maybe). Many parents are dealing with autistic children and the underlying cause is under the microscope like never before.

In what could be considered to be an impressive breakthrough when it comes to autism, scientists announced this week that they may have found a way to reverse symptoms of autism and mental retardation in mice.

MIT scientists ended up genetically manipulating mice to look at the role of "Fragile X Syndrome (FXS)". FXS is thought to be the leading cause of mental retardation and the most common genetic cause of autism. It's an inherited condition, and by manipulating the genes behind it could lead to changes in the mentally retarded and autism minds -- hopefully.

Do you have a case of ineffective sleep?

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You know you're sleeping ineffectively if you regularly get enough sleep in terms of hours but rarely or never feel truly refreshed and awake. I think that fits a lot of us, and it means that although you are sleeping you're not getting quality sleep -- it's is a perfect case of quality versus quantity. Men's Health has a list of tips to help everybody (not just the guys) sleep more effectively. It's hard enough to even find the time to sleep, let alone deal with poor quality sleep once you do! Try the tips in the article and see if they don't help, or do you have some tricks of your own that work? Please share!

Via Lifehacker

Make sure you know the directions on those medications

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When you're sick or have a condition that requires a certain medication, does your doctor generally write the prescription on his pad (or computer printout) and send you down to the pharmacist? Most likely, yes. But do you get a good understanding of exactly how to take those medications once you buy them?

Sure, the page-long directions that come with most prescription medications these days have a long lost of detail on how and when to take most medications -- but what about OTC (over the counter) medications? As you may know, many OTC medications are less-potent forms of prescription medications -- but the same level of detail on directions should be part of any OTC drug taking as well, right?

In other words, the level of detail on most OTC drugs is not nearly sufficient enough, although many manufacturers have gotten better at placing a ton of text on tiny little foldout pages inside OTC packages. Should you ask your pharmacist on more real-life detail on the OTC drugs you take? I would say yes -- with questions like this.

How accurate are today's newborn weight charts?

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If you've ever been to a well-baby visit, then you know all about height and weight charts. The nurse plots your baby's growth and you look at those arching lines, hoping it means that your baby is growing well.

Current weight charts are based on average growth for formula fed babies, however, and that can mean that the growth of breast fed babies may not be accurately represented on the old charts. Formula fed babies tend to be heavier, so, in some cases, the charts can make it appear that a breast fed baby isn't growing well. The World Health Organization has been developing new weight charts for nursing babies since 2005 and say they will soon be ready for release, which should help clear up confusion for parents of babies that are affected.

My pediatrician always told me that it wasn't important where my kids fell on the scale, just that their growth followed a normal curve. It was good advice that helped me relax and not fret over weight gain (or lack of). Of course, if you have any concerns about feeding or growth, you should always bring them to the attention of your doctor.

Are blindness and diet connected?

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A recent study published just this week concluded that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (which include DHA and EPA) may indeed protect the human eye's blood vessels from overgrowing.

As such, blindness that occurs in the eye due to abnormal tissue and vessel growth could be avoided if these fatty acids were regularly consumed. Many people I know take flax seed oil or fish oil to get the proper amount of these fatty acids every day, and from the results of this study, those people will probably have good eyesight for a very long time.

In addition to the general health and heart benefits omega-3 fatty acids have, promoting healthy eyes is just another arrow in the quiver of these products. If you're not taking omega-3 supplements or eating a lot of fish, what's stopping you?

Bionic arms available by 2009?

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It seems like science fiction, but fully-functioning bionic body parts may soon be a reality. DARPA, an organization within the Defense Department, is on track to create a bionic arm that works just as well as a real one made from flesh and blood -- as early as 2009.

The first prototype DARPA created was already a revolution. Instead of merely grasping objects, the bionic limb gave it's user direct sensory feedback -- meaning that the user felt the sensation of grip, as if he still had a hand full of nerve receptors. This allows for incredibly precise actions -- like putting a coin into a slot.

Now there's a new arm in the works -- called Proto 2 -- that promises to be faster, stronger and more flexible, while providing additional sensory feedback, such as limb position and temperature.

I remember watching The Six Million Dollar Man on TV when I was a kid, thinking "that's impossible!" Now, 20 years later, we seem to be approaching that reality. Amazing.

Cool Tool: Blast your abs with the Bender Ball

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I just got hold of a cool new tool called the Bender Ball and a few of the videos that go with it. Cool tool! My clients and I have been working with it for the past week, and every last one of them, has been challenged. They all came back in the next day or so griping about abdominal soreness (in a good way!) I've experienced the same thing too.

Not only great for abs, the Bender Ball can be used for a total body workout.. The Bender videos are not the "woo-hoo fun" type, but they are the clear, concise instructional type and that's good enough for this sort of training. The videos are great for those who like to religiously work out at home, but they're also great for those who don't. Use the videos to learn how to use the ball and fill your head up with training ideas. Then, take the ball in your gym bag and use it at the health club. That's what I plan to do. The ball is small and light, and it will be easy to toss in the bag with my mp3 player, so I'll always have it with me.

Best news about the product is that it's DIRT CHEAP! The Bender Method Kit comes with a Bender Ball, the Bender manual, and the Bender Method of Core Training DVD. Only $12.98. Crazy inexpensive. Quite a few other videos are available on the website BenderBall.com as well. Oh! And what does Bender mean? Bender is the last name of the woman who invented the product and designed a training method for use of it. Leslee Bender has done a great job, and if you're in search of something new and challenging......give that Bender Ball a try.

Continue reading Cool Tool: Blast your abs with the Bender Ball

Losing weight by tricking the body into starvation mode

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Recent research from Penn State University has shown that depriving mice of a single amino acid caused the metabolisms of the mice to react in a "starvation mode" that caused fat store usage instead of fat synthesization.

Result? These mice lost up to 97% of their own body far. Now, before someone creates a pill to clock the absorption of this amino old in creating a diet drug, this research was performed on mice, not humans.

Fooling the body into "starvation mode" to force it to use stored fats in everyday metabolic processes may not be the best way to lose weight, but this development may prove to be significant regardless.

Green in life, and in death: natural burial grounds

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Part of being fit is the pursuit of a long and healthy life, and no one likes to think about where they'll end up when their days come to an end. But if you've spent a lifetime walking gently on the Earth and doing your best to be an eco-conscious consumer, the thought of being buried in a coffin that's built not to biodegrade, or that may leech chemicals into the Earth might give you pause.

That's why many green consumers are making plans to be buried in green graveyards. In a natural burial ground, the deceased are buried in biodegradable coffins (or sometimes, no coffin at all) and the practice supports the principle of "dust to dust." In addition, say green graveyard supporters, by creating this kind of space in natural areas, they are essentially preserving land from development as well. Funds that would typically be used to pay for lawn services and repairs are instead funneled into land preservation.

This may be one of the most personal choices a person can make, but if you're interested in learning more about natural burial grounds, check out this article from AARP.

Your workout affects what kind of fat you burn

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In an interesting study done recently researchers found that your body burns different fuel during different intensities of activity. During mild to moderate exercise your body is burning mostly fat and some glucose (carbs), but as the activity gets harder that ratio starts to shift to the other end of the spectrum where intense exercise burns almost exclusively glucose and very little fat. This theory could explain why athletes sometime "hit the wall," and researchers hope to figure out how and why this change happens so someday fat burning could be made to continue into the more intense workout sessions also.

This article is confusing and I don't think they were very clear and on their findings. After all, exercise is exercise, isn't it? They make it sound like if you always workout intensely you'll never burn fat, but those calories have to come from somewhere.

Friendly bacteria studied thanks to infants

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Examining the stool of toddlers and infants may be giving researchers great insight into the functioning of "friendly" bacteria that grow in the human gut starting with birth and stay there for a lifetime.

These bacterium end up becoming crucial in food processing and providing the mechanism for pathogen protection, among other things.

Just how this complete mechanism begins and how it grows to a specific size was still a mystery until scientists started looking at the formation of these microbe communities after a baby is born (when the gut is sterile) and just when these communities start to grow. After all, those communities become needed for proper health.

Pack a healthy picnic

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When you think of picnic food, what springs to mind? Potato chips, hot dogs, potato salad, hamburger buns made with refined flour, brownies or cookies for dessert -- there's a lot that can go wrong, nutritionally at least, at a picnic!

It doesn't have to be that way. With a little planning, your picnic can feature some of the greatest tastes of summer -- sweet fruits and crispy fresh vegetables -- and pack in the nutrition as well. Replace those white hot dog and hamburger buns with healthier whole wheat versions and choose the leanest cuts of meat possible. Tweak fat and calorie-laden potato or pasta salad recipes by putting fresh veggies in place of the higher calorie starch ingredients. Finally, satisfy your sweet tooth with a piece of watermelon or other tasty fruit. A light, nutritious meal will give you plenty of energy to toss that Frisbee or go for a post-picnic hike!

Exposing the medical myth: "Don't eat before bed"

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I remember from when I was very young, my parents told me it was unhealthy to eat before bed. They only used it as an excuse to keep me from asking for last-minute helpings of ice cream, but when I got older, I believed in the idea, because the logic seems to make sense. In short, the theory is that your body won't use your late-night snack as fuel because you'll be sleeping -- thus converting it to fat, which would result in weight gain.

Apparently, this is a myth -- our bodies process food in the same way whether we're asleep or awake.

While one doctor notes the possibility of some correlation between late-night eating and weight gain, this is most-likely because it's more difficult to control portions at night than it is during the day, or it's due to the fact that a midnight snack is probably full of calories that you body didn't need in the first place.

So if you're watching your weight, make sure to keep an eye on your calorie intake, and get plenty of exercise -- but don't watch the clock. You can eat whenever you want.

Billions spent on vision problems with employees

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The time employees spend looking at computer screens and spreadsheets these days is bound to be staggering. After all, most of the economy these days thrives on information transfer, and someone's got to be processing all that data.

But maybe too much is too much. A new report finds that U.S. businesses collectively spend about $8 billion a year in lost productivity due to vision problems with employees. Yeah, I can see that (I think).

Are employees not going to the vision doctors (optometrists and such) as much as they should? Probably. The report centered on uncorrected vision problems alone, and the low rate of vision testing and regular eye exams were found to be mostly to blame.

Scientists calculate dollar value of happiness

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In every fable, children's book, and Hollywood morality tale, the message is the same: you can't buy happiness.

But according to a recent study, it's not that you can't, it's just that if you wanted to, it'd be very expensive. In trying to determine just what effect finances and lifestyle have on human emotions, a group of British researchers asked study participants to rate their level of happiness, while also answering questions on wealth and social relationships.

Once they had this data, they were able to calculate how much more money a person would have to earn in order to move up on the happiness scale -- essentially, putting a price on lifestyle factors that are impossible to purchase. For instance, an unmarried person could feel as a happy as someone who's tied the knot -- if they earned an extra £54,000 (a little more than $100,000) a year. Good health was considerably pricier, as it worked out to the equivalent of a £304,000 (about $600,000) per year pay rise.

So, while the answer to the age-old question is "yes -- you can purchase a higher degree of happiness," the joy we get from our social lives is incredibly important -- much more so than our incomes.

Fitku: Summer Swims

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swimmingSummer is here and if you have a body of water nearby, swimming is the perfect seasonal way to cross train. Lose those running shoes a few times a week and instead, head for the wet and wild workout!

Stroke and breathe, turn head
Rhythmic splashing motivates
More laps, more burn . . . swim.
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Pub declares itself an "embassy" to thwart UK smoking ban

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Some people in the UK are really bent out of the shape about the national smoking ban that goes into effect next month. The move that's had overwhelmingly positive effects on the health of citizens in American cities like New York, Los Angeles, Austin and more, was so offensive to one pub, that they've gone to incredibly lengths to avoid it.

And it appears they just might be successful.

By declaring themselves an official embassy for the Caribbean island of Redonda, the pub will be considered "foreign soil," and no longer under British jurisdiction -- subsequently, they won't be affected by the ban.

But what happens when Redonda comes calling? Will the pub's die-hard smokers be lighting up with Redondan diplomats? Probably not. According to Wikipedia, Redonda is a "one mile square remnant of the cone of an extinct volcano," and "The current title of 'king' of Redonda is disputed by at least nine people." So I have the feeling that the pub won't be serving any dignitaries in the near future.

The lengths people will go to just to keep smoking are sometimes amazing.

[via Boing Boing]

Diabetes rates highest with white children

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U.S. researchers stated this week that white children have the highest rates of diabetes in the United States, with the condition appearing to be more widespread than commonly expected.

The researchers noted the rates of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and concluded (as expected) that the rate of obesity and lack of exercise was a main reason behind increasing type 2 accounts.

While both type 1 (known as juvenile diabetes) and type 2 diabetes rates increasing, it appears even more important that kids get some regular exercise (like playing outside!) in addition to, or in replacement of, all that TV and video game time. What do you think?

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Artificial skin breakthrough can heal wounds

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If this sounds like something out of Star Wars or science fiction, hear it out. An organization called Intercytex Group has found a breakthrough in regenerative treatments. Enter the artificial skin. Okay by itself this is not new. However, the group has developed a novel lab-made living skin that lasts longer and even heals wounds!

Anyone who has gone through extensive surgery or needed a skin graft knows what makes this so innovative. Currently the best option for these treatments involves transplanting skin from one part of the patient's own body to another part. This can leave even more wounds. But imagine if there was a chance to use artificial skin which would heal naturally without painful skin grafts.

Maybe someday we can expect spray-on skin? Perhaps, but not any time soon. The company still has to move the product through clinical trials before they can even begin to consider marketing it. If that time gap means building a quality solution to take care of serious wounds, then I'm sure the world will wait.

Morning sickness could be good news

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If you've dealt with, or are currently experiencing, a pregnancy where morning sickness is an issue you're probably thinking how on earth can nausea and vomiting be a good thing? Well a new study shows that women who suffer from morning sickness during pregnancy have a lower risk of getting breast cancer later in life. The study that found this connection looked at many pregnancy-related issues, but only nausea and vomiting seemed to have any connection to breast cancer risk -- even down to the severity of symptoms (the worse the sickness the lower the risk).

This was only one study, so experts say they don't really know what it means just yet. But it sounds promising! A sort of 'silver lining' to one of life's more unpleasant side-effects.

Natural cures for acid reflux

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Acid reflux affects millions of people in the United States, and the sale of antacids and acid reducers is a billion dollar industry. Though there are popular and effective drugs out there, there are simpler and safer (and cheaper!) ways to ease the symptoms without taking long-term medication and suffering its possible side effects:
  • Eat smaller meals.
  • Skip the high fat foods (which will improve your health in other ways as well!)
  • Quit smoking.
  • Go to bed on an empty stomach (put at least 3 hours between your last meal and bedtime.)
  • Exercise before you eat.
  • Know your trigger foods and avoid them.
If you practice all of those GERD-reducing habits and are still having trouble, experts say that there's some evidence that calcium citrate powder and powdered digestive enzymes may help reduce symptoms as well. For more information, and to learn how to treat another common stomach ailment -- gastritis -- read the full article here.

Fructose-sweetened drinks are not a good choice

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It takes diligent effort to find beverages these days that are not sweetened with some form of sugar -- whether it's real or fake. Fructose, glucose, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, cane syrup -- talk about being confused!

On top of controlling sugar intake to maintain proper health, a new study suggests that there is yet another reason to avoid fructose (specifically): it may harm those all-important arteries.

The study concluded that fructose-sweetened drinks can promote the development of fatty acid deposits in arteries past what glucose-sweetened beverages can provide.

The next time you whip out that sweet drink, see what kind of sweetener is in there -- and drink at your own risk (for many reasons).

Healthy Handful: Reasons to avoid wheat

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wheatWhat? Avoid wheat? At first glance, this post doesn't seem to make any sense. Aren't we supposed to be eating a lot of whole grains?

If you choose to be a grain eater, there are plenty of ways to indulge in whole grain goodness -- quinoa, spelt berries, millet and buckwheat, just to name a few. But you may want to rethink wheat.

1. Wheat can cause nasty headaches. Try avoiding wheat and see if your migraines go away.

2. Wheat can be contaminated with myotoxins, a natural fungus that can cause health problems like diabetes, asthma, even cancer.

3. Intolerance to wheat can be connected to repeated miscarriages. If this is a problem for you and it is undiagnosed, you may have a problem with gluten.

4. The herbicides used on wheat may be linked to birth defects.

5. Eating wheat can increase your chances of dying of lymphoma if you have a hidden intolerance to wheat, and may also increase your risk of heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis.

Yikes! You might try avoiding wheat for a month or so and then add it back, keeping track of your symptoms along the way. If you feel better avoiding wheat, then you probably should. There's always brown rice pasta and spelt bread.
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Your memory: Keep it in the best shape you can

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One of my biggest fears is losing myself in a Dementia-fueled haze, in which I forget relatives, experiences and years of my life, as my great aunt Doze has. Losing one's memory is such a tragedy, and something to be avoided at all costs. While we can't control the future and what happens to our bodies and minds down the road, we can take steps to prevent age-related dementia such as memory loss.

Memory loss is due to a number of things--genetics, lifestyle, environment--but what much of it comes down to is this: use it or lose it. Just like any of your other muscles, you have to exercise your brain to keep it strong. This includes engaging in social activities, doing puzzles like sudoku, using your imagination, etc. Your lifestyle also plays a big role. It's important to get a well-balance diet and to be active, for your brain as well as your waistline.

For more information, read this article and let me know your thoughts.

Do you suffer from a panic disorder?

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For those who have experienced a panic attack, the moment is not something they'll soon forget. I remember freaking out at a restaurant in London once. I had no reason to panic about anything but suddenly my heart started to pound, my vision got blurry and I was so afraid that people would notice that I felt like I had to get out of there, fast!

It is normal to feel a fight or flight response when in a dangerous situation. During a panic attack, all of the same responses occur, such as elevated heart rate, sweating and increased blood flow to the limbs, but often for no reason at all. When these attacks occur often, you could be dealing with a panic disorder.

This disorder can be debilitating for those trying to endure it. But it is important to know that there are ways to treat the ailment so you don't have to suffer needlessly. Take a look here for lots of information on the condition including a definition, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. After reading the articles, if you suspect that you may be dealing with a panic disorder, it is important to go see your doctor as they can start you on the road to recovery.

Should you go veg?

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Everyone wants to live a long and healthy life, right? According to Dr. Mao over at Yahoo Health, one way to increase your chance of longevity is to eliminate meat from your diet. Dr. Mao says that vegetarians:
  • have a decreased risk of degenerative disease
  • reduce their risk of cancer
  • may avoid heart disease
  • have lower blood pressure
  • are less likely to be obese
  • have a decreased risk of developing osteoporosis
Of course, to achieve those goals, your vegetarian diet must be low in fat, high in fiber, and well balanced. You can't eat soy hotdogs out of a can every day and expect to be healthy! Dr. Mao also suggests that if you do eat meat, limit your intake to the weekends to reduce the health risks and choose fish over other types of meat as often as possible.

What do you think of Dr. Mao's advice?

Getting your daily greens

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Do you get your daily greens? That's not a golf term, of course -- it's a nutrition term. The amount of vegetables that is suggested by experts is probably not eaten daily by a majority of citizens in the U.S. Well, that is if my informal data collection is taken as proof.

But are there ways to get those daily greens without popping those fresh vegetables? Sure there are. There are supplements in tablet or powder form. Products like Emerald Balance is a great way to get a full day's worth of those veggies quick without fixing an entire meal.

Now, I've tried many superfood and green food powders myself, and the one listed above is among my favorites based on taste alone. Whichever you pick, your body will thank you. That is, of course, you are getting your daily greens directly from those tasty vegetables.

Is it okay to eat soft cheese?

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If you read my posts often, you probably already know that I love cheese. With an unadulterated passion. mmmmm.

Anyway, a friend of mine is pregnant, and when I suggested we snack on a cheese tray at a recent visit, she told me she couldn't eat any soft cheese, like brie and feta. I thought this was a bit strange so I decided to look in to it and figure out why soft cheese isn't safe for pregnant women. Turns out that while hard cheese is made with pasteurized milk, soft ones aren't, and can harbour harmful bacteria (called listeria) that can be fatal to babies, seniors and other people with weak immune systems.

I've eaten plenty of brie in my time and have never gotten sick from it, but I don't like the idea of eating bacteria that can kill people. Should I avoid my favourite soft cheeses, or are my chances of getting ill pretty slim? eDiets says you're better safe than sorry, but what do you think?