Tuesday, 6 February 2007

How good is the air you breathe?

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How "good" is the air you breathe each and every day? If you live in a big city, the quality is probably not the best in the world -- and in fact, it can be downright tyrannical over your respiratory system in some cases. I've known some people who had to move due to having bad respiratory conditions due to local air.

In a new study published just last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, a final conclusion was that where you live in a city is more important than which city you live in. Closeness to the vagaries of heavy air pollution, in other words, could take a larger toll on health than actually living in a city known for subpar air qua lity.

No wonder the suburbs are more comfortable for many citizens, eh?

Pro eater is repeat Wing Bowl champ

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Of all the careers championed by high school guidance counselors, I'm sure "professional competitive eater" is near the bottom of their list. However, one man is making quite a name for himself, winning Philadelphia's annual Wing Bowl for the second consecutive year.

Joey Chestnut faced off against 15 locals and 5 other professionals in an event that draws thousands of beer-guzzling spectators every year. The 23-year-old swallowed wings, bones, "whatever it took," to gobble his way to a new 2007 Suzuki Grand Viatra. In the end, he had consumed 182 chicken wings -- a new event record.

That's about 7,780 calories (about 3 times your daily recommended intake), and -- because chicken wings are high in purines -- a one-way ticket to gout.

Take a nap -- and power that run!

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What is one of the best weapons an athlete like a runner can have in his or her arsenal to ensure top performance and excellent stamina? Would you believe -- napping?

Now, many an athlete will not be surprised to hear this -- but some will be. A nap can increase alertness, boost creativity, reduce stress and improve perception, stamina, motor skills & accuracy. That nice laundry list of benefits is enough to get any athlete's attention.

A list of who's who from recent history shows that some of the great ones took regular naps : Albert Einstein, Lance Armstrong, JFK, Winston Churchill, Ryan Hall, Thomas Edison, Jim Lehrer, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton are just a few famous advocates of napping.

[Thanks, Ben]

Get the benefits of red wine, with breakfast

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Good news for health-conscious types who have been interested in getting some of the health benefits of red wine that have been all over the news recently, but aren't so interested in drinking alcohol on a regular basis. According to a new study, many of the heart and artery benefits attributed to drinking red wine can also be had by drinking Concord grape juice.

Researchers say the benefit must be in the grapes, and not in the wine itself. I believe it (it's not such a huge leap) and it's good to know that such a long-time "staple" can be even healthier than previously thought.

Child weight-loss surgeries on the rise

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It's kind of a sad day in American history when weight-loss surgeries are being prescribed for...children. Yes, there are some conditions that would warrant this kind of undertaking for some kids -- but for most, controlling one's diet and getting a decent dose of exercise each day would be kind of a better deal.

I don't want to suggest that the medical industry is profiteering off these surgeries -- but where there is money, there is sure to be a "market" of some sort. This one, if there is a market here, rather disgusts me though.

Instead of leaving diet control to the individual (who can't control it, apparently, in some cases), some hospitals now have approval from the FDA to test how teens fare with a procedure called laparoscopic gastric banding, where an elastic collar installed around the stomach limits how much someone can eat.

Texas first state to require cancer 'vaccine' for girls

It kind of troubles me when states start passing legislation that requires vaccines for things that really are not contagious except through certain forms of contact -- like sexual contact.

Texas Governor Rick Perry issued an order this past Friday that makes his state the first ever to require that schoolgirls to get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

So, there is a virus than can cause one type of cancer in women, and it is spread through sexual contact. Fr some reason the government of Texas has taken away rights of the individual here in requiring this vaccination. Somehow, something just does not sit right with me about that.

How the cold weather affects your health

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It's cold outside! Even my winter-loving, snowball-chasing dog pokes her nose out the door, then returns with a sigh and a flop to the sunny spot on the floor for yet another nap. Schools all around us are closed and we've all been warned to stay inside, lest we turn into icicles upon contact with the arctic air outside. Since a large portion of the country is stuck in the same cold snap, I thought today might be a good day to talk about this article from the Weather Channel.

Have you ever heard anyone claim that they can predict the weather by judging how they feel day to day? Though e xperts can't pinpoint any scientific data that says chronic conditions flair up more when it's cold or windy or raining, they admit that people are feeling real pain, and feeling it more intensely when the weather is bad. Gloomy weather certainly affects our moods, especially in the late months of winter, and some experts believe that when people are feeling low emotionally, their pain seems worse. But many arthritis sufferers swear their symptoms worsen with the weather, and those with chronic diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, fibromyalgia, migraine or sinus headaches, and asthma may notice a difference as well.

The major culprit seems to be barometric pressure, which fluctuates as the weather changes. People with sinus problems may have sinus cavities that are slow to equalize the pressure, leading to sinus headaches. As many as half of all migraines may be triggered by weather, with cold, dry weather (such as wintertime) carrying the most complaints. Asthma tics may suffer on windy days, when gusts bring in pollen and pollutants to irritate delicate airway passages.

What about you? Do you have a chronic condition that flairs in the winter time or when cold or warm fronts come through? Or do you agree with some of the experts, and think that bad weather just makes us grumpy and more susceptible to complaining?

Watching less TV doesn't boost physical exercise

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Many of us have seen kids 99 ours or others -- spends hours in front of the television watching programs and more recently, playing endless video games. There are some parents that attribute kids getting fatter due to this displacement of television over physical exercise.

But, U.S. researchers said just this morning that getting children to switch off the television does not guarantee they will exercise more.

The conclusions came after a four-year study of more than 10,000 U.S. chil dren aged 10 to 15. The researchers said that they found no correlation between changes in the amount of time they spent in sedentary activities and time engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Want the details on the results of the study?
  • More than 10,000 girls and boys answered annual questionnaires for the study, which found girls spent a mean of nearly 10 hours a week watching television per week and boys nearly 12 hours a week. Girls were physically active for 12 hours a week and boys for 14 hours.

Adolescents have poor diet and lack of exercise according to new study

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In new research, it was not surprising to hear that most adolescents do not get enough exercise each day or maintain a healthy diet.

The changing of what keeps a kid "busy" these days is changing (or has changed in many cases) from outside time playing with other kids to watching TV inside a house with them -- or playing video games. Just pick a sedentary activity, and there is probably many kids doing it e very day. While most of these activities are not bad, they can be not that good for a child's overall physical health.

Add to that the diet of processed foods and sugared soft drinks and it's not hard to see why so many adolescents are just not eating right and just not getting the physical motion needed to help their bodies grow properly.

Fit Links: Staying ahead of your allergies

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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.

Allergies aren't just a warm weather problem. Long after the hay-fever season is over, people are still battling allergies to food, perfumes, fabrics, plastics - even that romantic Valentine's bouquet can be a source of misery for some allergy sufferers! Here's some links to keep you informed in your battle against allergies:

Achoo! The Blog: cute name, serious blog. This site covers allergy news and perso nal experiences with allergies and the latest treatments.

Allergy Alert Stuff also covers news, but since this blog is based in the UK it offers some stories you may not have seen elsewhere, with a focus on eliminating allergy sources in your home.

The Healthy House Allergy Blog is a great resource for those with severe food allergies. This blog offers fast updates when common allergy-causing ingredients are discovered in unlisted sources.
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Self-exams are the breast Valentine you can give yourself

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Every year, as Valentine's Day rolls around, I call my gynecologist. It's not that she's the person I most want to spend the day with (she doesn't even offer me any chocolate). To me, there's no better time of year to do something loving just for myself - namely, making sure that I'm good and healthy by scheduling an annual exam appointment.

While you're thinking of ways to celebrate big love, why not consider a small and significant way to be good to you? If you already have your annual exam scheduled for this year, a monthly self-exam of your breasts is at the heart of good health for women.

Not sure where to begin? This handy how-to makes self-examination and a bit of self-care easy for you this month...and every month from here on out.

Smoking causes blindness?

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Did you know that smoking caused blindness? In the UK, where 20% of young women and 15% of young men smoke, only 2% of those smokers know that their habit increases their risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) -- the number one cause of sight loss.

However, when young smokers are aware of this side effect, they fear it more than any other. 90% of young smokers interviewed in a recent survey said they'd give up smoking at the first sign of vision loss, and -- while they rated their fear of lung cancer at only 3 out of 5, the smokers rated sight loss at 4 out of 5.

Smoking and AMD were linked conclusively in 2005, in findings that showed smokers to be twice as likely to develop the condition.

Daily Fit Tip: Quit smoking!!!

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It seems like an easy tip, even an obvious one but if that's the case, then why are so many people still smoking? I'm not sure about the rest of our fair country but here in New York City it seems one out of four people I pass on the streets is lighting up, despite messages from everyone from the surgeon general to our moms (even the ones who smoke).

It's a familiar scene. As someone who in the distant past dappled in the smoking arena myself, I hear people constantly pretending they don't smoke when in fact they do. Whether it's a casual cigarette after dinner with the one friend who smokes, or claiming to only smoke on weekends or when bar hopping, it's all the same: smoking is smoking is smoking. The figure that has always stuck in my mind is that smoking only one cigarette a day increases the chances for heart disease by 25%. Just one.

A brief message from My NYC Government News, a newsletter from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene sent to my email inbox recently started a new and very frightening campaign to get New Yorkers to quit smoking. The tagline is Cigarettes are eating you alive. Sounds more like the tagline for a horror film than a health campaign, but it may just work. Included in the email was a less-than-enchanting poster I could download, print out and post to persuade a smoker to cease with a bit of malevolence.

Continue reading Daily Fit Tip: Quit smoking!!!

Coke's new weight loss drink Enviga falls under scrutiny

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Coca-Cola and Nestle's new weight-loss drink Enviga enjoyed a limited release recently in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The celebration appeared to be short-lived, however, as Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal began an investigation this week into claims that the product can promote weight loss.

Enviga cont ains a green tea extract known as EGCG, as well as caffeine and calcium. Coke cites studies that found that the combination of EGCG and caffeine speed up a person's metabolism, and a study done by Nestle found that young people who downed three of the drinks a day burned over 100 calories. Blumenthal says that the product is nothing more than "voodoo nutrition" and requested copies of all data collected by the corporation.

The product is slated for national release later this year, so we'll see who comes out on top. In the meantime, I have a question. If you have to guzzle three of these drinks to burn 100 calories, wouldn't it just be easier to take a 10 minute walk? Just my two cents...what do you think?

Common causes of brittle nails

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The same way your hair has a major impact on how your face looks, your nails have a major impact on how your hands look. It seems like some poeple are naturally blessed with beautiful fingers and fingernails, while the rest of us struggle with brittle, peeling, cracking nails that break easily.

So what sets some people apart from others when it comes to long sleek nails versus short breaking ones? According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, some common causes are over-using nail products (nail polish, polish removers, hardeners, or other nail products and applications), low zinc or iron levels, or even thyroid problems.

And sadly, sometimes brittle nails are just a normal side-effect of the aging process.

Oh yay.

Organic will soon also mean "clone free"

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When news that the offspring of cloned animals would soon be mixing with the food supply, reaction from the public was mixed, including my own. Nearly 64% of people said that they were uncomfortable about eating meat and dairy products that came from cloned animals, but when pressed, the same percentage said they'd feel comfortable if the FDA really thought it was safe.

Suppliers expect to be able to use clones sometime this year, when the FDA gives final approval. That has some consumers wondering how to distinguish cloned products from conventional. Though proponents of the process contend there is no difference between the two, those who are uncomfortable with the idea of eating cloned food products will be relieved to know that the organic industry will not allow cloning on its farms. So while there will be no mandated "clone-free" labels on food, the green USDA organic seal will assure customers that their food was processed through conventional methods. Other companies may voluntarily put "clone-free" on their products as well.

What's your opinion on this issue? Are milk and meat from cloned cows an issue for you, or will you accept the FDA's safety assurances? Whether this will shape your shopping practices or not, do you think that food fr om clones should be clearly labeled? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Jogging for Normal People: The Post of Shame

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I want to say it's not my fault -- excuse my weakness and bemoan the oh-so-demanding trials of the nigh-on-unbearable workload that has, of late, permeated all facets of my existence. Woe is me, life is hard, yadda yadda.

But the truth is much simpler. I have strayed.

Since we last met, I have run but once. Last night. The time in between I spent convincing myself that I was too tired, overworked by exceptional circumstances, and justified in putting it off -- taking a little break. I kept thinking of this respite like it was some kind of reward, because I had "worked so hard," which is really to say that I'd managed to run 3-4 times a week for 3 months -- not actually much work at all.

I am not proud.

Plus, I think I'm a little bit fatter.

Not only had I succumb to sloth, but my indulgent, gluttonous betrayal of both myself and my sport was mired in hamburgers, and awash in beer, beer and beer. 'Twas the Super Bowl. And I celebrated. And I feasted. A lot.

Needless to say, when I laced up my running shoes last night, and fumbled for the right track on my iPod, it was a little awkward. We were like scorned lovers, fumbling and self-conscious in formerly familiar patterns, trying to set things right. And it's not like we had a stellar relationship in the first place.

But when my feet hit the ground, it was awesome. It felt good to be in motion again. So good, in fact, that I was just about spent after I'd run to the end of my road. It took some considerable willpower not to cash in, catch my breath, and walk. I managed to keep pace with where I was at last week, but I'd nearly coughed up a lung by the time I made it home -- all the while cursing myself for taking the time off.

So, runners of the Internet. Learn from this. Don't be a wuss. Remember, running is fun, but if you don't do it regularly, it'll suck. And you'll get fat.

This week I'm starting to train for my half marathon in February '08. Pray for me.

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Anna Nicole Smith and TrimSpa sued over weight loss mumbo-jumbo

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Back when Anna Nicole posed (sort of) glorious in her reclaimed, TrimSpa-ed bod for studio paparazzi, I imagine she thought it was sort of a cure-all, the career comeback she needed. Sadly, the endorsement has become one more sad, sad stop on the desperation train for the tabloid gawkee. Also sad, the folks who believed her commercials were probably having similar thoughts when they forked over 25 bucks a bottle for the Anna Nicole formula diet pi lls. Today, that train stops at the courthouse for both Smith and TrimSpa.

TrimSpa and celebrity spokesperson Anna Nicole Smith are being sued over allegations of false or misleading marketing of weight loss pills. The class action suit calls for an injunction to halt claims that the TrimSpa X32 pills lead to substantial weight loss, as well as unspecified restitution and damages.

While TrimSpa has countered allegations that its product is not scientifically substantiated, the company did pay up $1.5 million to settle a suit last month with the Federal Trade Commission over those very shaky claims.

Accomplish more with an early start

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Do you find yourself dragging through the early hours, only to end up inefficiently slugging away at the same old problems late into the evening?

Studies have actually shown that it's actually better to be a morning person, as the more you accomplish early in the day, the more thoughtful and efficient you'll be overall.

In fact, in a recent series of interviews with 20 CEOs, writer Jim Critin found that the one thing they all had in common was a dedication to getting their day started early. For instance, Steve Murphy, CEO of publishing company Rodale tells Critin that he lives by the mantra: "Think in the morning, act in the noon, read in the evening, and sleep at night."

For suggestions on how to be more productive in the early hours, try Critin's Tapping the Power of Your Morning Routine, and Brett Webb's Get More Done By Going Home On Time.

[via Lifehacker]

Barack wants to quit (smoking, that is)

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Adding a bit of healthy hype to all the pre-presidential campaign announcement hype, Barack Obama is making it public that he's trying to stop smoking for good.

The Senator announced yesterday that he is attempting to end the on-again, off-again, lingering habit by chewing Nicorette "strenuously" as a cessation aide, all timed accordingly to his assumed bid for the country's highest office.

Good political PR aside, I am still a bit taken aback that someone so progressive on so many issues struggles with smoking. Before I climb up too high on my soapbox, I will say that the admission that Barack's been a smoker and is trying to stop is a campaign I think most folks can support.

And hey, isn't hearing a little bit of honesty over health challenges from media darlings and politicians always a breath of fresh air?