Tuesday, 2 January 2007

So what is alternative medicine anyway?

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Many people have a usual medical routine or consistent doctor they visit when the ailment calls for it. So it is no surprise that the term alternative medicine may conjure up confusion. After all, how many people know what homeopathy or ayurveda is?

This article from the Mayo Clinic seeks to enlighten those of us who are in the dark on complementary therapy. They first start off by calling it "practices that aren't integral parts of conventional medicine." Okay, easy enough. But don't get confused: complementary and alternative medical methods aren't the same thing. The complementary variety usually goes hand in hand with conventional prescriptions while alternative methods seek to replace them.

Whatever you are curious about, it goes without saying that you should always ask your doctor before trying alternative medicine. Do your homework and research it first. Try starting here and you'll find a wealth of information on the topic and even find some good examples.

Do boxers really drink raw eggs?

Most movie fans remember the original Rocky, in which Sly Stallone downs a glass of raw eggs as part of training regime. In the recently released Rocky Balboa, the title character spends the movie training in a similar way, leading Slate writer Lindsay Goldwert to ponder: "Do real boxers really do this?"

Well, according to boxing trainers, eggs are a great source of protein, which helps to build muscles. And yes, a raw egg protein shake is a little easier to whip up at the gym than something cooked.

But -- and this is a big but -- most trainers don't believe that raw eggs are more nutritious than those that are cooked, and, more importantly, Salmonella could cripple an otherwise fit boxer with chills, diarrhea, muscle weakness and dehydration.

So, training for the big fight? Looking to add a little muscle mass with extra protein? Have an omelet.

Fit Links: Online versions of health magazines can offer daily motivation

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As fabulous as we here at That's Fit think this blog is, the truth is there are hundreds of wonderful blogs on healthy living to be seen all over the blogosphere. So in this feature, Fit Links, we'll introduce you to some that have caught our eye.

This week it's time to kick those New Year's resolutions into high gear - so we'll need all the motivation we can get. How about checking out the online versions of health and fitness magazines?

Granted, these sites aren't technically blogs, but they are updated daily with fresh material. Just be aware, the online versions of fitness and health magazines usually try to sell you a subscription to the actual magazine. But there's also lots of helpful, f un information in the online version of the magazines, absolutely free.

Self.com has daily fit tips plus quizzes and Q & A.

Prevention.com has new recipes and health news stories posted daily.

also features a daily fitness tip, plus success stories and a tool that can suggest a workout for you based on your body type.
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Daily Fit Tip: Keep a personal calendar

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Ever wonder if it's possible to keep your personal life as on track as things are in the business world? I know I do. Although my friends and family might believe otherwise, I am an extremely organized individual--at the office. My home life, however, would probably make Martha Stewart cringe. I seem to have so much going on outside of the office I barely have time to entertain my weekly call to my parents, whom, if I recall, brought me in to this world and at the very least deserve a call to let them know I am still alive.

As the new year gets into full swing this week, I thought of all the different resolutions I could make, many of which are old stand bys we all hope to achieve: getting in shape, eating right, saving money. Rarely do resolutions seem to include the other kind of fitness--that of the mind, the heart.

I used to laugh at my mother for being so overly-organized with her personal life until I became an adult myself and felt the real weight of responsibility--glorious as it is--settle onto my shoulders. I'd always thought the heart should rule one's personal life and that file-o-faxes and lists were for offices only. I remember how my mom used to give me a calendar each holiday, having previously taken the time to go through and mark the birthday of each of my immediate family members on the appropriate date so I'd remember to send a card or make a phone call. I thought she was wasting her time, but realize now that spending twenty minutes tracking down and recording important dates not only saved her from scrambling at the last minute to get a card but also made those important to her feel special enough to be remembered for a full day. That's a time bargain if ever I heard of one.

As an adult I see what she was trying to do, and to say: If it's important to you, write it down, make it happen. If I have an important meeting I have it written and recorded in several places. I prepare myself for the meeting well in advance so I can contribute effectively. Why should this not be so with friends and family, the most important people in the world to me?

So, as soon as I finish this writing I'll be heading out to my local bookstore for a 2007 calendar, which I plan to mark up with the birthdays, anniversary and other important dates I should remember for all my loved ones. Receiving a card from me, on time for once, will be meaningful to those who are meaningful in my life. Now if only I could find that master list of birthdays...

New vaccine called "holy grail" of flu protection

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I don't know you, but the hypothetical bird flu pandemic is one news story that gives me the shivers. Oh, I know that the virus has yet to mutate and may, in fact, never become easily transmissable among humans. I'd still love to see the problem solved sooner than later, and before it becomes a worldwide problem.

It seems British and Belgian researchers may have accomplished just that with a new vaccine that promises to protect humans from all influenza A viruses. The long-lasting immunity that this vaccine would provide would mean no more yearly flu shots and protection from the H5N1bird flu virus. Not only that, it appears that l arge batches can be made all at once. Conventional flu vaccines are grown in hen's eggs, a slow process that yields a limited number of doses.

The new vaccine -- and another that is being developed by a fellow biotechnology firm -- focuses on something called an M2 protein. This protein exists in all types of influenza A and has remained unchanged for over a century. In contrast, the proteins that traditional vaccines are based on are constantly mutating. The vaccine should be ready for market in about five years.

Jogging for Normal People: It's Better With Toys

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At first I thought it was a mistake to include friends, family and thousands of strangers in the stumbling beginnings of my quest towards the new, less-fat me. It means I'm almost constantly admitting that I suck at this -- explaining, in depth, the ways in which I've tried and failed to overcome the physical lethargy that's dominated the past 3 years of my life.

But then Christmas came along, and I got a bunch of cool stuff. Things are looking up.

My family tends to settle on gift-giving themes every year. One year it's "off to college," when Santa brings your first cooking utensils and plastic dorm room accessories; the next it's "expectant parent," when you get "how-to" guides for the novice care-giver, adorable onesies and dude-friendly diaper bags. This year, Mr. Kringle provided me with some awesome tools to further my new-found fitness hobby.

Enter iPod Nano, and accompanying runner's armband from Nike. These are, by far, the coolest runner's gadgets imaginable. Even better, is that mine came pre-loaded with a bunch of music my brother uses to work out -- stuff I would never, ever have chosen myself.

I switched on my new toy as I plodded out the front door, and was immediately blasted with the angry rants of Rage Against the Machine. Within minutes, I was pumped up, rocking out, and kicking that sidewalk's sorry ass! When the singer's last scream fell silent, I was already losing my breath -- but as I slowed to compensate I got serenaded by the most club-tastic dance tunes I've heard since I tended bar in college. The thumping base pratically lifted my feet off the pavement, and I think I spent the next half mile with a smile on my face -- bouncing down the road like some candy-raver at an all night party.

As a side note, a gift I didn't get, but discovered while I was browsing around the internet, is the Nike+iPod Sport Kit. The device allows you insert a chip into your Nike shoes, which communicates with another chip in your iPod -- recording time and distance, and, in turn, playing the tracks you've pre-selected for certain parts of your workout. As in, when you hit mile five and have to dig deep for that extra something, the chip will tell your iPod to play your power track, cranking up the Rocky theme song (or whatever), as you pound through the pain down the final stretch. Awesome!

Attention runners of the world: crank up the jams. Running in silence sucks.

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Medicine as a profit center

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Are pharmaceutical drugs in the business of making profits? Sure they are, and I am of the belief that prevention is the key to beating disease (based quite a bit on nutrition), although the "we have a pill for everything" mindset makes for a profitable enterprise in this day and age.

How about actual medical complexes? Hospitals and doctors are not in the business to operate as break-even or a loss either. Although many a doctor loves what they do regardless of money, I suspect that millions of procedures are done for profit motives other than "best for the patient" motives -- but that's just me. How about you?

Advice for the beginning skiier

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Skiing is a great way to enjoy the winter weather, a great way to socialize with friends, and a great way to burn calories. But, with the downhill version especially, it is also not something that you can just run out and do some weekend without any advance planning.

Skiing requires a lot more equipment than some other sports, like running or yoga. And you'll need to take a serious look at investing in a few lessons -- just to make sure you're safely able to stop and don't go careening down the hill like in some movie (only potentially without the happy ending). The author of this article also relates skiing to sprinting, in that the calorie burn is short-lived compared to the total time spent. It's probably best as a supplement to an already solid fitness routine, as opposed to your sole means of exercise.

Other pros? Skiing is a fast sport to learn (the basics at least), and you don't have to be a ripped fitness buff to enjoy it.

Stress Less: New Year's resolutions redux

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Ok -- if you've made a list of New Year's resolutions, use the comment section below to tell me what you hope to accomplish this year related to health (the highest category of resolutions).

Did you make a standard list like this?
  • Lose weight
  • Exercise more
  • Run/jog more
  • Visit Starbuck's less (hehe)

Continue reading Stress Less: New Year's resolutions redux

Down's screening recommended for all pregnant women

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A friend of mine -- 36 and pregnant with her first child -- was horrified when she saw the words "elderly gravida" on her chart at her OB's office. She laughed about it, but found herself facing a larger barrage of tests throughout her pregnancy that her peers just two and three years younger didn't have to deal with. Then, 35-years-old was the line the medical profession drew in the sand between women whose babies faced greater risk of birth defects like Down's syndrome and spina bifida, and women whose babies didn't.

That line has been erased with an announcement made recently by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The new recommendation says that all pregnant women should have access to voluntary prenatal screenings previously given only to older mothers. Down's syndrome is the leading cause of birth defects in the nation, and both noninvasive and invasive tests are available to screen for the syndrome.

Even with the new recommendations, the tests are strictly voluntary. Those who don't want the extra stress of additional testing, or who don't feel the need to know about potential birth defects before delivery, or have other reasons are free to decline the screening. The recommendation simply offers more diagnostic tools to more mothers than before.