Wednesday, 3 January 2007

News that's no surprise: the British drink too much

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Before moving to Texas, I lived in the UK, where pub culture is popular culture, and wandering drunk through the streets while singing annoying 60s pop songs is seen as a rite of passage. According to UK officials, this is a culture that has to change.

Because pubs used to be required by law to close at 11pm, and clubs were required to stop serving alcohol at 2am, it was thought that Britons had developed binge drinking habits -- quickly consuming large amounts of alcohol in order to get drunk by last call. However, in the wake of the country's second New Year's Eve under new, extended hours, it appears drinking habits haven't changed.

"People are getting quite serious health conditions earlier -- things like liver problems in their twenties and thirties that perhaps before only came out in their forties and fifties," said Hazel Blears, chair of Britain's Labor Party.

To our British readers -- what do you think? Has drinking culture in the UK gone too far?

Do you suffer from homesickness?

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Do you suffer from homesickness? Those who are new to being away from home -- new college students or recently-transplanted employees -- are some of the groups that suffer from a feeling of being homesick more than normal folks, according to a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Almost everyone occasionally has a bout of homesickness, but some people have this to such a degree that it affects normal activities and almost consumes their entire life.

If you've ever had overwhelm ing feelings of homesickness, I'd like to hear from you via a comment -- and how you overcame the feeling.

Running in the cold: Is it dangerous or okay?

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It's a brand new year and many of us have set brand new resolutions. Getting out and exercising more could be at the top of many people's list for 2007. While New Years gym-goers are sure to renew those ancient memberships, others may set their sights on taking regular jogs around their neighborhood or park. But the weather is still cold so running outside is something that requires a certain degree of safety.

A humorous take on runner's safety in the cold is best exemplified by Doctor Melvin Hershkowitz. In a funny third-person tone, he wrote an autobiographical account o f how taking a jog in freezing temperatures rendered the man's genital glans "frigid, red, and anesthetic to light touch." Don't worry, he recovered.

But the moral of the story stands: boxers won't protect you all by themselves. Another concern the author tackles is frozen lungs. Interestingly enough, this is nothing more than a common myth as many doctors assure the only way this symptom can occur is if the runner is dead. Although the cold, dry atmosphere can induce "runner's asthma," our bodies are well-adapted and warm the air going into the lungs. So is running in the cold dangerous? Only if you don't bundle up properly (or don breezy underwear).

Keeping food safe during a power outage

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Though most of the country has had mild temperatures so far this winter, Mother Nature recently hit the west coast and Colorado with some pretty wild weather. High winds, rain, ice, and snow can lead to power outages that last for hours, days, or even weeks. Murphy's Law states that the power goes out right after you fill your fridge or freezer with hundreds of dollars of groceries, so what exactly are the rules for keeping food safe when the lights go out?

This fall, USDA filmed two public service announcements on the issue and also posted information on their web page. Follow the link for the full list of tips, but they include keeping the refrigerator and freezer doors shut as much as possible, getting a block of dry ice if power outages will be extended, and using a food thermometer to make sure the freezer temperature has stayed below 40 degrees. Any perishable items, such as milk, butter, cheese, and meat that have been left in the refrigerator more than four hours should be thrown away.

Finally, never eat food to test for food safety. If you have a question, the USDA website has a Virtual Representative who takes questions 24 hours a day.

Why do we get hangovers, and can they be 'cured'?

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I'm a fan of a decent glass of wine on occasion (like New Year's Eve), but alcohol consumption is not an activity I partake in. The reason? I can't handle it (can't "hold my liquor" as they say).

Therefore, I have to stay away from alcohol for the most part. In essence, a "hangover" is something I've rarely experienced, even yesterday morning as I awoke to visions of the ball dropping in Times Square.

How do you recover from hangovers? Is there a "cure" for them? Many say no, but some doctors say yes. What do you believe?

New year resolutions for healthy aging

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New Year's resolutions are for everyone -- the young and the young at heart -- so the International Council on Active Aging has outlined some simple tips for making and keeping health related resolutions and encouraging healthy aging.

My favorite is a tip I'd never heard suggested before; take 15 minutes a day for the next four days to strategize how you're going to get started. What a great idea! Sitting down each day to review and recommit to new goals is a great way to prevent them slipping by the wayside. I think that taking 5 to 10 minutes a day every day may be a good way to evaluate your health related goals and your progress toward them.

Other tips include: playing brain games to keep mental functioning sharp, taking up walking and doing balance exercises, nurturing loving relationships, and eating your fruits and vegetables. Sounds like things we should all have on our to-do list!

The most popular New Year's resolutions

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What's your New Year's resolution? If it's to quit smoking, lose weight, get fit, spend more time with friends and family, get out of debt, get organized or quit drinking, you're not alone. These are among the 10 most popular New Years resolutions and they're the reason that health clubs, weight loss companies and anti-smoking plans see a huge soar in profits in January. But promising to do too much too soon may not be the best idea -- too much change can be overwhelming and with the added stress, you'll be back to your old habits in no time. So try to set manageable goals that you can easily achieve -- once you're there, you can always raise the bar at bit at a time and eventually you'll have made big progress. And why wait until January 1 to make a change? Maybe we should have new season, new month, or even new week resolutions. Taking small steps to reach our goals will have the most promising results.

It's January -- time to detox

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I don't know about you, but I had a bit too much fun on New Year's eve and as I woke up with a fuzzy head and lurching stomach on January 1, I decided that it was time to clear myself of the toxins that I ingested with wild abandon over the holiday season. That's right -- I'm detoxing.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with a detox, it essentially involves cleaning your body of toxins. The diet is restrictive -- no dairy, wheat, caffeine or alcohol -- but you health is worth it, right? No smoking either, but that' s not a problem for me because I am a non-smoker. This website is a great resource for detox-related information if you're thinking of joining me.

Have you done a detox? This is my first so any tips would be appreciated.

Workplace Fitness: It's easier than you think to get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Surprisingly (at least to me) one of the most common reasons people miss work is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). I've always known that CTS was serious, but honestly never really considered it as something that happened very often. So what is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)? Caused when pressure and inflammation interfere with the median nerve that runs through your wrist, CTS refers to a specific group of symptoms, including tingling, numbness, pain, and weakness. The symptoms are usually only in the thumb and first three fingers, but can (in severe cases that a re left untreated) spread as far as the elbow and shoulder and result in permanent numbness and weakness in the affected hand.

Continue reading Workplace Fitness: It's easier than you think to get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Surf's up! surfing found to be safer than soccer

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Many people perceive surfing as dangerous, but a recent study has declared competitive surfing safer than collegiate soccer and basketball.

Analyzing data from 32 surfing competitions, researchers found that surfers suffered about 6.6 significant injuries per 1000 hours of surfing. The most common injuries were sprains and strains. Second most common were cuts and contusions, which also happen to be the most common injuries among recreational surfers. Risk of injury inc reased twofold with large waves or when surfing over rocky bottoms. The hope is that this study will help predict the needs of medical staff at surfing competitions and provide information to schools wishing to start a surfing team.

With a little instruction and practice, surfing can be a fun and healthy workout. If you're landlocked and a seaside vacation isn't in your future, you can still get a great surfing workout at an indoor surf center.

The end of trans fats is near

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We've seeing cities and restaurant chains ban the use of trans fats in foods -- from New York City to KFC to Taco Bell to Starbucks just this past week. Will we continue to see the banning of this dangerous chemical from all kinds of foods and eateries in the future? You bet.

Frito Lay -- whose fattening products I avoid like the plague -- even advertises heavily on many of its products that ther e are no longer any trans fats used in -- for example -- potato chips and other snack chips. When other manufacturers start following the lead here (and many have), expect to see "0 grams trans fats" on labels for at least a few years until the marketing panache wears off.

Is this good? While some may argue that they would rather eat trans fats (and clog arteries) given the choice, the move by restaurants and processed food makers is more of a marketing opportunity than a pure move for better consumer health -- but I will take it.

Starbucks next on the "ban trans fats!" bandwagon

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With major hubs like New York City passing city-wide trans fat bans, many restaurants and shops -- franchises, chains, and even the tiny "mom & pop" places -- are being forced to take a serious look at their menus and the ways they prepare their food.

Starbucks is the latest to jump onboard the trans-fat-free bandwagon, stating that they've actually been working on it for about 2 years already -- and had already "quietly" replaced the fats in their national items like the pumpkin spice muffins and gingerbread.

Why quietly? Am I missing something...?

Whatever! Bottom line this is more good news for a good trend.

Don't partially hydrogenate me, please -- a New Year's resolution

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If you've already written down (and are following) your New Year's resolution list, perhaps you can add this one to the list -- dump partially-hydrogenated oils from your diet completely. These oils -- known as trans fats -- come in several varieties like coconut, palm kernel, corn and other innocent-sounding names. They are anything but innocent, though.

On your next trip to the grocery, check out the labels on all the processed foods you buy (anything not fresh, like produce or meat products). Chances are the words "partially hydrogenated" is on the label. Not only does this dangerous chemical make things taste good, it allows for a long shelf life as well -- which is key in food retailing.

One of the best nutrition-based resolutions, though, would be to band products containing this chemical from your home.

Nintendo Wii proves that video games can be good for you

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When I was growing up, my brother and I weren't allowed to have a Nintendo. At the time, it seemed like a particularly cruel form of punishment, but in truth, my mom was really just looking out for our health. She wanted to make sure we spent more time being active outside instead of couped up in front of the TV for hours on end, until our eyes were square and our thumbs cramped into little claws. I think she was on to something -- the popularity of video games has been directly linked to the obesity epidemic.

But gu ess what? A new video gaming system, the Wii, actually has potential health benefits. The system involves a wireless handheld controller that mimics the players actions. The player's movements are then mimicked in the game and, depending on the activity, playing can actually be quite a workout. There are even a large number of Wii-related injuries that involve more than the thumb. Sure, the fresh air is lacking when playing Wii, but if it gives players some sort of full-body activity, that can't be a bad thing, right?

I've yet to try out the Wii and am intrigued. Is it a good workout?