Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Are there lingering negative health effects from 'Ground Zero' workers?

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When there is a disaster, there is the inevitable cleanup that sometimes poses just as much risk to those that come after the fact than to those who were directly effected by the disaster.

Think of the massive mess the Asian tsunami over a year ago left behind -- and all the potential disease precautions rescue workers had to take to prevent disease spreading.

Toxic dust and other maladies that have affected rescue workers in the aftermath of 9/11 seem to be causing deaths among those workers in increasing amounts, which -- unfortunately -- comes as no surprise. Breathing in wh atever was floating in the air and was dusted on everything near ground zero was not a good thing for *any* rescue worker hero.

For real? The Beer Drinker's Diet

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As a lover of beer and also as someone who knows a fair bit about calorie counts and nutrition, I thought a diet that involved beer was too good to be true. Maybe not -- one man, Bradley Scott Cailor, has written a book called The Beer Drinkers Diet. But if you read a bit into it, the title of the book is not trying to tell you that you can guzzle Budweiser without abandon -- rather, the title attempts to reflect that this is a normal person's diet, one that doesn't involve any major deprivation. So correct me if I'm wrong but the word BEER in the title is more of a gi mmick to attract attention to the book.

The author lost 114 lbs and has managed to keep it off, so he may know what he's talking about. Although I was skeptical at first (the poorly designed red and yellow website usually indicates some sort of scam to me,) apparently, the book advises readers to be wary of quick-fix gimmicks and find a weight-loss solution that is both healthy and suitable for their lifestyle.

Have you read the book? What did you think?

Stay away from "yeast extract" in foods if possible

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When shopping, are you one that looks at the ingredients of the products you purchase looking for "bad ingredient offenders" (as I like to call them)?

If so, one of the "bad ones" is yeast extract. That ingredient may sound harmless enough, but did you know that yeast extract and MSG (monosodium glutamate) are one on the same for all intents and purposes?

MSG is an "endocrine disruptor" (excitotoxin) by most standards and it not a healthy ingredient at all. But, it does makes foods taste good - which is why it is used in so many processed foods. Search Google for this ingredient and you'll be amazed at what you find out there.

Train your brain! 8 ways to exercise your noggin

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Death and taxes are things that can't be helped. Mental decline is another some people think of, but a new study suggests there's something that can be done to prevent that particular effect of aging from happening. Think of them as brain workouts. Of course just about anyone can enjoy doing these mental exercises since you're never too old to learn some new tricks.

Playing head games to challenge your analytical and mathematical skills is a good way to ward off dementia. Games like Brain Age on the Nintendo DS are a great way to achieve this. According to the article, doing your own taxes can also keep you sharp. You can always try and tackle them yourself before heading down to your local accountant.

Another way to exercise the brain is to remember passwords. Most of our browsers probably retain passwords automatically, but if you challenge yourself to keep up with them manually, then it makes you recall the necessary facts later. There are more things you can do to keep yourself mentally sharp, so read on!

What is your daily exercise routine?

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If you're a regular exerciser, what do you do every day? Are you into free weights, pilates, recumbent bikes, ellipticals, treadmills, crunches or running outside?

With New Years resolutions finally hitting home for most people, I'm interested to hear what is working (and not working) for our readers, and how much time you actually spent exercising each day (or every other day, etc.).

Want my guide? 10 minutes of treadmill "jogging" at 5.5MPH, 4 minutes of elliptical use, 10 minutes of use on a recumbent bike and 60 situps (3 sets of 20 reps) -- and the I change that up with more and less of each every other day, M-F (take weekends off!). In 35 minutes, you can bet I've burned some calories -- and it feels darn good too.

Decaf or regular coffee -- that is the question

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I dumped caffeine in soft drinks long, long ago, but still am a somewhat-slave to coffee (two cups a day). Although I've recently switched to decaf (a few months ago), some recent research has caused me to re-think that position due to some of the processes I have uncovered that are used to "decaffeinate" coffee beans -- is it natural?

There are more than a few ways to make coffee beans "decaf" -- and the chemical process used is not a huge bother -- but it is something to consider.

Would you rather drink decaf and have potential exposure to chemicals used in the decaf process or drink regular, leaded coffee and get the caffeine dose that starts s o many mornings? I'm still in limbo.

Is there a 5K in your future? How to prepare

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Last year at this time, I started training for my first 5K. I worked out indoors all winter (my asthma keeps me from jogging outside when it's cold) and in the spring I hit the pavement. Determined to teach myself to run, I shrugged off my marathon-running husband's advice, strapped on my running shoes, and went flat out. In three days time, I had shin splints and blisters and didn't care if I ever ran again. When I recovered, I turned to the Couch-to-5K Running Plan. Once I realized that I really didn't have to run every day and that 20 minutes a day was really enough to start with, I found that I really enjoyed the sport. I looked forward to my daily run and soon my c anine running partner and I were shaping up.

Then I plateaued, got frustrated, and quit. When race day came around, I felt horrible that I'd let my goal slip away. So this winter, I'm at it again. I've started my indoor workouts and am looking forward to the first 50 degree day so that I can take my dog, my mp3 player, and feel my feet hitting the pavement. Watching me from afar it certainly doesn't look that way, but running made me feel like I was flying. I loved it.

Setting a goal for yourself -- like a 5K race -- can be a great motivational tool. Whether you're looking to learn a new sport, lose weight, or just improve your fitness, it helps to form short-term goals as well as a bigger, long-term goal to work toward. A 5K race isn't too long, making it an attainable goal even if you've never run before. If you're thinking of picking up running,

Asbestos removal in older homes -- or not?

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If you have an older home -- made before the 1980s in many cases -- you may have asbestos in your home's walls and ceilings. Although asbestos remains mostly inert unless disturbed, many homeowners have chosen to remove asbestos from their homes while remodeling.

Is that the best choice? here in the Midwest area, the ceilings of many homes contain asbestos and that is disturbed when anything scrapes or touches the ceiling (hanging things, etc.) -- releasing minute (but possibly dangerous) amounts of asbestos in the air -- at least temporarily.

Is it hard to just leave asbestos "alone"? Yes -- it's kind of hard to work around it when a home is being re modeled. But is there a solution? Hard to say...

Lead being found in vitamins

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This is a little shocking -- there were recently 21 multivitamin products (for adults and children) that were independently selected and tested by ConsumerLab.com. Now, this is quite normal for competitive purposes and such.

But, this test was looking for -- and found -- unacceptably high levels of lead in addition to too much or too little of a particular ingredient as stated on the packaging. Nice. Quality. Control. Not.

I t's hard to believe anything on any food labels these days (there are so many flat-out lies it can make your skin crawl), but vitamins are not immune to shabby practices as well. No big news here.



Lose the pounds, and the extra skin

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Depending on how many pounds you have to lose, extra or loose skin could potentially be left hanging on your new thin body in very unattractive ways after you've lost all the weight. I think it's something most of us think about, at some point or another, even if you're just looking to lose a little.

Truth is, your skin is amazingly resilient and elastic, and most of the time it can adjust to your new size and shape without too much issue. That being said, there are things you can do to help your skin recover and shrink with you as effectively as possible -- for example staying hydrated, eating a diet high in nutrients, and losing weight slowly. And don't worry too much if you notice some "extra flabby" areas along the way, often it's just excess fat that will resolve itself as you go.

Workplace Fitness: The power of shoes

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There are all kinds of jobs in the world, and all kinds of work attire and dress codes. If you're into health and fitness then you've probably been trying to make some adjustments at work, like eating healthier lunches or managing a workout routine around your hectic job responsibilities. But something you may not have thought about is the effect your shoes can have on your health, maybe in more ways than you realized. Estimates are as high as $2 million each year for surgery related to footwea r, and the majority of that figure is for women.

Although any shoe that doesn't fit correctly can wreak havoc on your joints, posture, and muscles, high heels are the biggest culprit. In today's world high heels are almost a requirement in some jobs, and although I think they're horribly uncomfortable I admit I do have several pairs in my closet because they just look so darn good. But fashion comes with a price in the form of foot pain, foot deformities, knee pain and arthritis, changes in back posture, and impaired balance.

Continue reading Workplace Fitness: The power of shoes

Endurance athletes: is your training lacking a key element?

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Are you an endurance athlete? If so, you probably focus your training on building strength and endurance in the muscles you use the most for your sport - but what are you doing to train your respiratory muscles?

New research in the European Journal of Applied Physiology shows that training your breathing muscles can help your body perform longer before fatigue sets in. Often our "stopping point" is decided when the muscles we use to breathe can't keep up with the demand put on them by our bodies, so by training these muscles to las t longer, our overall athletic performance can last longer too. This research applied specifically to swimmers but holds true for other endurance sports as well.

Which means that endurance athletes should be training their respiratory muscles just as diligently as the rest of their body. How do you train respiratory muscles? Check with your doctor first, then check out special respiratory training devices like the PowerLung or POWERbreathe that are created especially to train respiratory muscles for greater stamina.

How many calories ... in Olive Garden's Chicken Marsala?

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One of my favorite indulgences is a meal at the Olive Garden. I love Italian food and I can't get enough of the unlimited salad and breadsticks they give you with your entree. Usually, I take it easy and try to cut fat where I can but I recently went there with some friends and since I was starving when I got there, I totally pigged out on what I can only imagine would be extremely unhealthy items, which were loaded with cheese and deep fried. Afterwards, I felt sluggish and had a stomachache -- a sure sign that what I ate was not the healthiest.

So I decided to figure out what I consumed. I had the Chicken Marsala. Did it have:

A) 1020 cal, 45 g of fat

B) 973 cal, 57 g of fat

C) 644 cal, 14 g of fat

D) 555 cal, 23 g of fat

Continue reading How many calories ... in Olive Garden's Chicken Marsala?

Urban sprawl making us fat?

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I live in Austin, a city in the midst of an enormous population boom. As people flock to the area, residents and city officials are working to "minimize sprawl" and create "walkable neighborhoods." While, at first, I assumed this was merely an aesthetic preference in urban planning, the cover story of this week's Science News suggests that, essentially, urban sprawl is making us fat.

In fact, the study found that the typical resident of an urban area -- a "compact, mixed-use community" (read: places where homes, jobs and shopping are within walking distance one one another) -- is 10 lbs lighter than his suburban counterpart.

From Science News: "...areas with interspersed homes, shops, and offices had fewer obese residents than did homogeneous residential areas whose residents were of a similar age, income, and education. Furthermore, neighborhoods with greater residential density and street plans that facilitate walking from place to place showed below-average rates of obesity."

Obviously, we're not always in control of where we live. Work, family, or better school systems for our kids all may seem more pressing than the convenience of a lifestyle where you could stroll to the grocery store. This doesn't mean, however, that you can't try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the closest shop on your lunch break instead of talking the car, or even strolling around your neighborhood after work as ways to routinely incorporate physical activity into your everyday life.

[via Boing Boing]

What is Gyrotonics?

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Wondering what Gyrotonics is and why it is invading your yoga studio? If you're still trying to figure out if it is a new(ish) fitness movement or trendy way to drink your gin, this introduction may just get you dancing (but not running) in circles soon.

Gyrotonics is a fluid training style that blends bits of yoga, dance, gymnastics, tai chi and swimming. Classes begin with self-massage, move on to circular, synchronized movements and progress to exercises on specialized equipment. Gyrotonics uses rhythmic, fluid exercises and breathing patterns to gently work the muscles and joints and to stimulate the internal organs and neurological system.

Often compared to Pilates, Gyrotonics is focused on improving flexibility, balance, alignment and mobility, as well as muscular strength. Because there is no bouncing or jumping and because of the smoothness of the movements, some practitioners describe it as meditative.

Named one of Forbes hottest fitness trends for 2006, Gyrotonics was originally developed in the 70s by Juliu Horvath, a Hungarian dancer who sought political asylum in the . Horvath's professional dance career ended abruptly when he ruptured his Achilles tendon. The injury led him to intense yoga practice and to develop a yoga technique for dancers. This technique eventually became known as Gyrokenesis, the basis of Gyrotonics. Horvath also created a machine now used to compliment Gyrotonics practice by employing even resistance through a pulley system. How did Horvath dream up this now-trendy form of fluid fitness? He was reportedly inspired by the unrestricted movement of the monkey, cat and octopus.

If you're concerned it is all a little dancey for you, consider that Gyrotonics is also used to for golfers, tennis and basketball players, and other athletes who could use some alignment training. Whether you are curious or concerned, take a peek inside a first visit to a Gyrotonics class or, you tell us: How's Gyrotonics treating you?

Project Runway alumnus sketches for Starbucks

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Starbucks and Project Runway's hottie-boombalottie Michael Knight now have more in common than a steamy new line. Designer coffee, meet designer.

Knight's aligned with America's caffeinators to create shirts that commemorate signature Starbucks drinks. Knight says this project's dedicated to the fans and that he is at work developing a new designer collection and fragrance. He admits - I am sure with that sparkling smile that made me fall in love with his delicious designs week after glorious reality TV week - that he's peddling his wears to celebs.

You can pick up one of Knight's tees online just after Valentine's Day and strut your customized Starbucks stuff rather than verbializing how you take your coffee treat (or healthy habit, if you take your tees and your tea in the green or non-cream blended variety). As for me, I will stick to my grande non-fat sugar-free vanilla lattes and boring, plain old t-shirts.

Can caffeine cure baldness?

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We've talked about coffee many times at That's Fit, and it's no wonder; coffee is the number one source of caffeine in this country, ahead of both soft drinks and tea.

But did you know that recent research suggests that caffeine may be the new up and coming treatment for baldness? Researchers believe that c affeine protects hair follicles by blocking a chemical called DHT, which is produced by the male hormone testosterone. In fact -- and this was news to me -- experts believe that men with more testosterone in their bodies are at a higher risk of balding, especially when there's a family history of hair loss. DHT damages hair follicles, but caffeine appears to block that process and stimulate growth. In recent lab test, hair follicles exposed to caffeine grew an extra 33 to 40%.

Before running out to your nearest coffee shop, you need to read this: Researchers don't believe that drinking more coffee will affect your scalp -- or your hair loss -- in any significant way. In fact, you'd have to drink a heart-racing 60 cups of coffee to gain any benefit. It makes me jittery just thinking about it! Instead, a German cosmetics firm has developed a caffeine-infused lotion that can be rubbed directly onto the scalp. If it works, it seems like a simple and n atural solution.

Diet Nanny: Will nutritional information on Menus tell us what to eat?

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According to this, nutritional facts could figure prominently on the menu at your favorite eatery in a move designed to educate people on what just what they're putting into their body.

Is this a good idea or not? What do you think?

The article suggests that nutritional information is already readily available, and placing it right on the menu is insulting to customers. I agree with this point, because as an informed eater, as I li ke to call it, I tend to research my choices online if I know I'm going to a particular restaurant. But what if I am being spontaneous and don't have time to read the nutritional information online before I go? I would appreciate the nutritional information being easily accessible.

I also think it's a good idea because it forces people to see what their choices will cost them -- no more living in the dark and insisting you didn't know that the deep-fried cheese-stuffed breaded chicken you ate wasn't low in fat.

I can see how the move can be seen as insulting, and I agree that people should be permitted to make their own unhealthy food choices if that's their prerogative. But what wrong with allowing people to make informed choices?

Can the weather be used to predict disease outbreaks?

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Can weather forecasts helps doctors 'round the world predict disease patterns? That is the theory that pits weather changes against epidemics and outbreaks.

Why is this? Mainly, it's a pretty simple explanation -- weather changes determine the conditions for germs and their carriers to breed. Hence, disease spreading.

In an example, an ongoing outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever in Kenya was studied by scientists after NASA scientists noticed exceptionally warm sea temperatures at the same time. Connection? Rain brings mosquito breeding increases, so there you go.

Can logging too many frequent flyer miles be bad for your health?

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This post is not about the end of a study, but about the beginning of one. As of now there is no data on record to suggest that flying frequently has any negative health consequences, but there are many instances of airplane passengers and crew members complaining of ailments like headaches and dry eyes. So many, in fact, that the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers is launching a 2 year study to look at links between aircraft cabin air and crew/passenger complaints of discomfort.

Two years is a long wait, and the experts don't have much to say in the way of coping suggestions in the meantime. Try keeping to your schedule as much as possible, drink lots of water, and put a wet handkerchief over your mouth if it's dry. Other than that, apparently your guess is as good as anyone else's.

There's no magic pill: learning to love exercise

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The Breathing Diet? The Bigger Hips Diet? The Smoker's Diet? Do these exist? No, but if a few readers over at MSNBC had their way, they just might. These wacky workout inquiries are all fun to read, and the answers return to the same theme over and over again -- there's no magic pill, no special exercise that will help you lose weight in exactly all the right places.

As I read this article, something struck me. The people asking these questions are looking at exercise as a means to an end -- something they must endure to have something they want, a better body. There are many days when I d rag myself to my workout, doing it only to appease the guilt, or not doing it at all on days when my conscience will let me off the hook. If there was a magic tea to whittle my hips or a breathing exercise that would trim my waistline while I enjoyed the upcoming return of Lost, I would probably jump at it.

But by categorizing exercise as a chore, I think we do ourselves a great disservice. Our bodies were built for motion and the benefits we reap from regular physical activity shows that. Rather than trying to dodge exercise, maybe we should celebrate it. I love the burst of energy I get during a workout and how strong I feel afterward. After I finally convince myself to strap on my shoes and get warmed up, I even enjoy the working part of a workout.

Continue reading There's no magic pill: learning to love exercise