Thursday, 25 January 2007

Are bad habits ... good for you?

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Before you go out and start binge drinking, hear what the idea behind this is first! Overindulging in such a way is probably not what the author of this article had in mind. However, you may be pleased to know that having chocolate, caffeine and alcohol on a regular basis could carry some benefits of their own.

While not considered a "bad habit" per se, having coffee on a daily basis has been known to cause problems to certain individual's sleep cycle at night. For that reason, many people try and avoid it. But did you know that consuming three 8-ounce cups a day lowers your risk of getting Parkinson's disease and Alzh eimer's? Oh yeah, and it helps ward off Type II Diabetes as well.

Popping chocolate kisses also has a nice effect. The secret lies in their flavonoids. Sure, they sound like a science fiction creature, but flavonoids provide protective benefits to plants that we can use too. For instance, the antioxidants in chocolate help defend against plaque buildup in our arteries. It seems like some of the things we try to avoid can actually do us some good. But the key to all of this is moderation, because anyone can tell you turning up a bottle of Hershey's won't help you much in the long run.

Cure chapped lips once and for all

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I think having chapped lips with no lip balm available ranks right up there with having lemon juice poured on a paper cut -- in the scheme of pain it's pretty minor, but somehow it's one of the most miserable things that can happen! I mean really, can you concentrate on anything else when your lips are chapped? I know I can't.

Of course the fastest and easiest solution is to keep a good chapstick handy, but there are other things you can do to help prevent dry lips this winter: using a humidifier, eating foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids (walnuts and avocados), and using vitamin E can all help keep uncomfortable chapping at bay.

FitBeauty: Three trendy ways to wear your hair while you workout

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FitBeauty is a new weekly feature that will focus on the lovely intersection of looking fabulous and feeling (or getting) fit. FitBeauty won't be about conforming to an unattainable ideal or all lip gloss and over-priced luxuries (although there may be a bit of the luxe, just for fun). We'll focus on things that help you help yourself feel phenomenal (and after all, sometimes that is lip gloss), things that feel great on your skin and are good for the earth, and above all, things that are healthy lifestylish. FitBeauty is a bit cheeky, a teense chic, and always celebrating the gorgeousness within.

Bangs blocking your view? Same old ponytail swinging in your face? Great layered 'do suddenly have you looking like Rod Stewart post-Pilates?

There's no reason to have a coif conundrum while you are working out. And there's no reason to resort to the same old scrunchy that's seen you from Jazzercise to step aerobics to hip-hop dance and back to Jazzercise again. With a little guidance from this year's trends for tresses, here are three ways to wear your hair in functional and fashionable styles while you workout.

1. Headbands - skinny, scrunched up, big and braidy

Headbands are at the top of hairstyle trends for 2007. Whether you choose designer brands or accessories on the cheap, a simple headband will keep your hair out of the way in a polished style.

If you take avid style notes from celebrities, you can translate the looks (and locks) from red carpet to locker room. Try out Sienna Miller's Greek goddess hair with this soft, braided hairband or Kristin Cavalleri's cuteness with this quirky (and customized) cotton number.

My favorite headbands for working out are soft, easy to slide on and still stay put while I hit the treadmill or the yoga mat. I've fallen in love with these jersey headwraps, which can be folded and outstretched out, going from skinny to wide to near-babushka. Adjust for your personal style, how much hair you have and how much control you desire.

If you're not keen on a spendy, trendy headband, you can achieve this style like my girlfriends and I did back in those days of glorious 80s layering: cut up a big, soft Hanes t-shirt (then it was my dad's and now wiser, I might opt for a man's shirt fresh out of the package), wrap and tie in a low knot.

If you're too tight to buy a tee to make a headband, consider stockings. Apparently, last year's funky tights are this year's hot headband. Tights - especially those with patterns and stripes - are a simple and sassy way to pull your hair back. Do keep in mind that, like the hosiery you wore to that dreadful wedding one late July afternoon, they won't absorb the sweat during your cardio class.

If you're sporting a shorter hairstyle, lots of wispy layers or have thinner hair, this year's skinny headbands will manage your mane just enough. Skinny headbands come in an array of candy shop colors, price points, and in materials from plastic to elastic.

If you've been blessed with thick tresses, a headband with teeth will secure your style. The headband's attached comb adds tidiness to a ponytail for longer and layered hair.

2. Clips and bands - not your daughter's plastic princess ponytail holder

If you prefer to stick to clips and elastic bands, try a twist on the classics (OK, some beauty blogger out there is cringing to hear me call these classics, but ignore him! We all know we're way past banana clips and post office rubber bands, right? Right? Just nod and keep reading...).

Since we all know trusty clips can make or break a tribal bellydancing circle or endurance run, check out these in preppy plaid or hot metallics. I also love upgraded salon clips to fasten a chignon that will get you through low-impact exercise, walking or stretching.

Next, update your ponytail holders. Bands adorned with leather flowers, baubles and other charms actually do make a difference in how your styley your updo is. You will spend a bit more than that 25 for $2.99 pack that you and your preschooler share, but I think you'll love having an adultified accessory all for yourself. Make sure that charm is sturdily attached to a thick, pliable band before you make your purchase. Just think how great you'll look as you blow past the competition at the finish line or courageously take up a bike next to the other front row spinners.

3. Head's up - a last resort for locks

If you've lost all interest in all this hair management or are having one of those days, just give it up already. Throw on one of the homemadey-slouchy caps that are showing up all over Sundance or dig out an adorable slope-inspired cap and make the most of an outdoor winter workout!

Metabolic syndrome points to heart disease risk

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Take a few moments to measure your waistline today. Why? Because elevated abdominal fat is one important criteria in diagnosing metabolic syndrome. In women, waists should not measure more than 35 inches. In men, no more than 40. Other criteria include insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. If you have a combination of three of these risk factors, you may have metabolic syndrome.

What is metabolic syndrome, exactly? Expert s don't always agree on its definition or even if the syndrome truly exists. But what is known is that having this collection of physical conditions can seriously raise your risk of heart disease. In fact, researchers recently did a meta-analysis of 37 different studies and came to the conclusion that metabolic syndrome may raise heart disease risk by 78%. Not only that, but this particular group of risk factors is becoming increasingly prevalent among Americans.

If you think you may have metabolic syndrome, there are steps you can take to reverse these risks and prevent heart disease. A trip to your doctor should be first on your list, but experts also recommend:
  • weight loss
  • a minimum of 30 minutes exercise each day
  • a healthy diet low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol
  • no smoking
  • regular monitoring of weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol at your doctor's office.
Read more about metabolic syndrome -- including information on diagnosis and self-care -- here.

Daily Fit Tip: Take advice from the experts

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AOL's Diet department has come up with this list of the the 100 smartest dieting tips. Usually I'm skeptical of things claiming to be the 'best' or the 'smartest' but I really think they're on to something here. Each of their tips is something simple that you can do, eat or say to help you at any point along your weight-loss journey, whether you're just starting out, you've hit a plateau or you're working the maintenance phase.

The ones that I am taking to heart are:

8. When dining out, make it automatic: Order one dessert to share.
16. Follow the Chinese sa ying: "Eat until you are eight-tenths full."
26. Have a V8 or tomato juice instead of a Diet Coke at 3PM.
72. Try two weeks without sweets. It's amazing how your cravings vanish.
95. Yoga can burn 250 to 350 calories during an hour-long class.

Read the list and let me know which ones are most helpful for you!

Texas makes a major move to cure cancer

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Unfortunately, sometimes it takes the death of someone significant to spur action. Such is the case in Texas, with the passing away of former Governor Ann Richards prompting the state to formulate a plan to fund cancer research in a big way.

Texas is already home to the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, among many other groups such as colleges and private companies. But this new project, in which the state of Texas promises to contribute 3 billion dollars (yes, that's a B...) to the cause, will hopefully help speed up some discoveries in the way of detection, prevention, and less toxic treatments.

Are drugs really the answer to slowing cancer growth?

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There are some holistic health practitioners I know that strongly advocate a natural process for defeating cancer in patients. Things like eating organic vegetables, becoming a blueberry/antioxidant steadfast eater, etc.

But, are there times when engineered drugs are the answer to trying to rid the body of cancer? Avastin, which is an anti-cancer drug that starves tumors of a blood supply, can be used to extend the lives of patients who have cancers when taken alongside more conventional treatments.

Is this important -- "extending the lives" of patients? With cases of terminal cancer, that is a question up for debate. For other sufferers who may have a chance to beat cancer, there are many hopes.

Designer clothing in Spain to be standardized

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Spain shook up the fashion world last year when they banned too-skinny models from the runway of their main fashion show, Madrid's Pasarela Cibeles, because they were concerned about creating an unhealthy image for young consumers.

Now the country's Health Ministry is taking things a step further and asking designers to standardize their sizes. Do you know how you can buy a size 10 in one store and have it fit perfectly, but a 12 is too tight in the next? That won't happen anymore in Spain, and major designers like Zara and Cortefiel have agreed to participate. In addition, store mannequins are getting a makeover. Participating s tores will be required to create window displays with clothing no smaller than a size 40 (an 8 in the United States). In addition, a size 46 (a U.S. size 16) will no longer be labeled as "plus-size."

The Spanish government say they developed this program so that the standards put out by the fashion industry more closely resemble reality, and they say (rightly so, in my opinion) that "beauty and health go hand in hand."

Hundreds rush out to buy Natto, only to find out it's a hoax

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Have you ever seen those clips on YouTube of Japanese shows that aim to humiliate unsuspecting citizens in fairly cruel and sometimes dangerous ways? Here's another instance: A Japanese show convinced people into believing that rotted soybeans, called Natto, are good for weight loss. As the slimy, foul-smelling substance litterally flew off the shelve at grocery stores, it was revealed that the whole thing was a hoax. Hopefully, consuming large amounts of Natto isn't harmful to people -- it doesn't appear to be at this point -- but it seems particularly mean to play off people's vanity.

It hasn't been decided if charges should be laid. What do you think? All in good fun, or downright cruel ?

Are high school football players overweight?

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This article brought up a pretty interesting subject -- that is, are high school football players too fat? I've noticed that the blockers and linebackers are pretty stout young men -- with pretty stout bellies as well (not hard to see), so I was thinking to myself "there is some truth to this".

A new study from Iowa shows that while many football players in high school are big and strong, many of them are also fat and/or obese as well. The researchers here analyzed the height and weight of 3,683 high school linemen in the state of Iowa. Based on BMI measurements, 45% of the linemen were overweight.

Raw food and Christianity are staples of the Hallelujah Diet

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It seems everyone these days come up with new premises for a 'diet'. Here's another one to add to the list: The Hallelujah Diet. The diet consists of strictly plant-based raw food -- that and a lot of praying -- all in an attempt to take dieters back to the heyday of when man (and woman) first lived in the Garden of Eden. No word on whether apples are forbidden.

Ok, I shouldn't joke -- the people foll owing this way of life are completely serious, and have embarked on the journey to help with a multitude of health problems, including MS, cancer and obesity. The lac of meat is made up for in vegetable proteins and vitamins. Vegan diets, as we know, have been shown to have amazing health benefits, with or without prayer. I'm not religious but I say kudos to the diets followers for taking their health seriously enough to embark on a path of both physical and spiritual wellness.

Using weather to predict disease

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More and more doctors worldwide are using weather patterns to help get a jump on disease epidemics and other health concerns. In Kenya an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever was curtailed significantly due to rainfall and satellite imaging reports from NASA, and unseasonably warm temperatures in Europe have helped increase risks for malaria and encephalitis.

Although the technology is there to make these predictions, the manpower to back them up and actually do anything with the information isn't always available. In Kenya the outbreak of Rift Valley Fever was greatly reduced due to the advance warning, but in other cases -- like the heat wave in Europe in 2003 -- the outcomes haven't been so positive.

Like anything, what it really takes is money.

Want to kill those "sponge" germs? Use the Microwave

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With wet and unattended sponges containing tons o' germs in many households, there are many sanitary-conscious consumers who want to know how to control germs in the sponges they use to, umm, clean things with.

How about sterilizing your wet sponges with a quick trip in the microwave oven? These modern food-cooking miracle devices can decontaminate all sponges way more than a trip into the dishwasher by a two-minute ride through the simple microwave oven.

Researcher Gabriel Bitton said "basically, what we find is that we could knock out most bacteria in two minutes." Start nuking those sponges now, folks.

Higher standards considered for birth control pills

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Women who used birth control pills in the 1960s would be amazed at the range of options open to women today. There are patches, shots, and even pills that shorten the menstrual cycle.

Recently, the FDA has started taking a closer look at the newer versions of "the pill." While the high-estrogen birth control pills of yesterday allowed only one pregnancy out of a hundred when taken for a year, the newer pills appear to allow two pregnancies. Whether this difference is cause for concern or not is the topic of discussion among a panel of experts at the FDA this week. A decision needs to be made on whether the contraceptive pill industry nee ds to create higher standards of effectiveness or whether the benefits of lower-estrogen pills outweigh the risks.

Because of their high levels of estrogen, the old fashioned pills carried a higher risk of blood clots and heart damage. The lower estrogen counterparts are thought to be safer, but because of the way testing is completed, it's hard to compare. Modern clinical trials are completed with non-smoking women at a healthy weight, so its difficult to predict how the drug will interact with the general population.

New and innovative contraception products hit pharmacy shelves on a regular basis, so I think a review by the FDA is probably a good thing. What do you think?

Hooray! More reasons that coffee is good for you

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Sure, the caffeine could send you into orbit, and if you're not careful, coffee can stain your teeth. But new research suggests that your must-have morning beverage is actually beneficial to your health in a number of ways.

"Scientific evidence now suggests that moderate coffee consumption 3 to 5 cups a day may be associated with reduced risks of certain disease conditions," says Roger A. Clemens, food expert with the Institute of Food Technologists. Alzheimer's disease, kidney stones, depression and others all may be effected by drinking coffee regularly.

Some research also suggests that coffee acts as a preventative agent against cancer and Parkinson's disease. In fact, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing Parkinson's by half simply by drinking one cup a day.

Good news for me, as I'm on my fourth cup, and it's not even lunch.

Bird flu "not that scary" in the U.S. for some reason

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Although the U.S. has not had a human outbreak of the H5N1 'bird flu' virus as of yet, it seems we'll be scared once a malady comes "over here". The term preventive maintenance is not in the vocabulary of many it appears.

But, according to experts, the bird flu poses as big a threat to the world as ever. But, what is worrying by the general public going to do? Probably nothing, although it is the job of health officials to worry about it more.

Federal health officials here in the U.S. say that they are working to raise preparedness -- but I am not s ure what methods they are using -- are you?

The most luxurious gyms

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Not that many (or any) of us can realistically afford to spend thousands on a gym membership each year, but it's fun to see just what you would get if you could.

From the latest trends like free-motion equipment to unlimited access to golf lessons and personal training sessions, it probably wouldn't be hard to find ways to spend more time working out in these luxury gyms. But no matter how rich I was it wouldn't be so easy to pay upwards of $20,000 for an enrollment fee, followed by hundreds of dollars each month for membership. Even though I think a nicer atmosphere can make it easier to get going, the bottom line that exercising can be really cheap and all the extras are just frosting on the cake.

Parents in Britain 'must be informed' if their kids are overweight

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In Britain this week, a group of influencers suggested that all primary schools should inform parents if their children are overweight or obese -- much to the chagrin of opposers who said that providing such information in the past had not been used because of fears over a child's stigmatization and bullying.

What is the best answer here? Are parents in Britain capable of determining if their own kids ore obese in order for them to make interventional changes in the l ifestyles of their kids?

The supporters of this controversial notification method said that failure to warn parents of their obese kids would result in the parents being kept "in the dark about possible serious health risks to their children".

Gaining weight bad for earning power

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Research by economists from nine European countries reveals that the heavier you get, the less you make. In fact, it only takes a 10 percent rise in your body mass index, (also referred to BMI), to cut your earnings by 3.3 percent if you're a man, and 1.8 percent if you're a woman.

But culture plays a hand as well. In "oil belt" countries like Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal, the negative impact of weight on earnings in more prevalent, while in "beer belt" countries like Austria, Ireland or Denmark, the effects of weight gain on earning power are less significant.

It's yet to be determined whether this is a result of discrimination against heavier people, or if those who are overweight suffer increased likelihood of depression -- a condition which would hamper their ability to succeed in the workplace.

Have you seen this in your work environment? Are the successful people in your organization more fit than their less-successful colleagues?

Five Factors for Fighting the Flu

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Let's face it: flu season is upon us. And the plain old flu can affect people in much worse ways than just having a stuffy head, runny nose and other terrible symptoms all day. This article provides a startling revelation about having the flu, saying that this year 36,000 people could die from complications of having it.

That's why staying healthy is so important. Here are some ways to beat the season of runny noses and sore throats. Start out by making sure you are constantly sanitized. If you wash your hands frequently, your chances of contracting the flu are much less. Also try not to rub your eyes, nose or mouth if you haven't taken steps to get clean first. The article points to kids next, encouraging parents to inoculate their schoolchildren due to the fact they spread illnesses easier.

Curbing stress can help too. Even if people take the shot, chronic worry can compromise the effects. However, it is interesting to note that short bursts of stress can actually help. For instance, if someone experiences anxiety right before they get vaccinated then their body will actually benefit. Stay at home and make sure you have plenty of over-the-counter drugs like Advil if you start feeling the flu creep. These remedies will help get through the worst of it, because the natural course of action is to wait it out.