Thursday, 8 February 2007

West Virgina offers program to help reduce obesity in state

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As some states try ti initiate programs to cut down on the rate of obesity in the citizen population, some states are attempting to take the lead in this area -- and count West Virginia among them.

The state is taking rather remarkable steps since it is, after all, the third-heaviest state in the U.S.. West Virginia is allowing obese Medicaid recipients to join Weight Watchers for free even.

The reason to do this lies in the enormous health care costs for obese (unhealthy) citizens in West Virginia -- everyone from government workers to teachers.

Five foods that are no longer forbidden

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When it comes to dieting and losing weight, we so often talk about what not to eat. So let's talk about what you can eat. Here's an article on five foods that are no longer taboo.

I have to say, I was so happy to see peanut butter on this list. I'd like to say I never gave it up because I knew it was a good source of protein and omega-3s (it is). But in reality I never gave it up because I love it. An apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter keep me full until dinner on those long afternoons when I can't seem to stop snacking. Peanut butter is good for you, but it's high in calories so keep your portions low. It also helps to choose an all-natural brand, which will eliminate any added trans fats that some brands add in.

Also on the list is dark meat chicken, which is fattier than white meat but safe as long as you remove the skin, and eggs, which are an excellent source of protein and can be made friendly for those with high cholesterol by removing the yolk. Margarine was also on the list and that may surprise some of you. The butter vs. margarine debate has been going on for some time, but it seems that the new trans-fat free margarines are coming out on top.

So enjoy these formerly forbidden foods and let a little flavor back into your diet!

Wal-Mart teams with unions on health care issues

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The world's largest retailer -- Wal-Mart -- is about to team up with two large labor unions in order to make health care accessibility more affordable (and available) to American citizens.

This is a great move for the retailer, as it has a negative PR record in the media regarding the health care options it gives to employees -- and sometimes, doesn't give.

With tens of millions of Americans living today without any kind of health insurance, res assured that this area will get loads of attention from his partnership along with focus from likely Presidential candidates for the 2008 elections.

Minority women know less about heart disease

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It's pretty well-known that the majority of information that can help U.S. citizens live healthful lives and make good nutritional choices are often lost on many minority groups. This can lead, quite naturally, to increased reliance on less-healthy lifestyle options and even into disease factors.

A new study from the American Heart Association stated this week that minority women in the United States know less about the risks of cardiovascular disease than Caucasian women.

This is not good news, as the people who need the inf ormation the most (more at risk) are the ones who get the least information on it. One of the survey results :The disparity in awareness of heart disease among black and Hispanic women (31% and 29%, respectively) compared to white women (68%) had not changed in the past decade. Quite scary.

New system for ranking flu severity

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In the wake of all the flu warnings we've been hearing for the last several months, federal health officials have released a new system for ranking the severity of the flu outbreak each flu season. Developed by the CDC and called the "pandemic severity index," it's designed to both weigh the risks of an expected outbreak and also give advice to local officials on how to handle it (i.e. school closings, quarantines, etc).

The new system would rank flu outbreak severity on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the most mild and 5 being the most severe. The hope is that if there ever is a true flu epidemic, this system can help government and health officials react in the best and most efficient way. I know the flu is a real threat, and the need for a system like this is no surprise, but still -- it's a little scary.

Youth suicides in the rise, according to the CDC

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We all know those younger years can be torturous -- peer pressures, bullying, low self-esteem and first loves can all be particularly trying situations to deal with -- all before age 14 in many cases.

It's a sad day, though, when a surprising increase in youth suicides is shown from government figures after an entire decade of decline.

But wait -- what changed? Some experts pin the blame on something that is intended to do the opposite (help alleviate depression) -- antidepressant drugs. I'm not a fan of any antidepressant drugs (except in extreme cases) , and these new pieces of data go a long way to selling that viewpoint to the American public -- many of whom are overmedicated already.

Kids weigh more when they sleep less

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A study that tracked 2,000 US kids over 5 years found that those who didn't get enough sleep were more likely to be overweight. In fact, only one extra hour of sleep per night can reduce a child's chances of being overweight from 36 to 30 percent in kids ages 3 to 8, and 34 to 30 percent in ages 8 to 13.

The numbers held up across the board -- even when researchers accounted for other factors, such as race, ethnicity, parents' income and educational level.

While the reason for this correlation wasn't examined, it's possible that lack of sleep may affect hormones that influence appetite. Or the cause may be more straightforward -- as in, kids who are up an hour later have more opportunities to eat, or those who don't sleep enough may simply be too tired to exercise.

The study recommended that children ages 5 to 12 sleep for 10 or 11 hours a night, and that adolescents sleep for 8 or 9.

Are some kids 'born to be bad' -- or good?

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Many of us have made judgment calls before when witnessing bad behavior from kids -- whether they be from the neighborhood, school or even child care facilities. "That kid was just born a bad seed" and the like.

But in a recent study of adult twins and their children, it was very surprising to me that the results indicated that genes -- instead of the behavior of parents and other caregivers -- were central in the development of behavioral problems in these children.

Chalk one up again for the continuous argument between those who can't reconcile whether genetics or environment is the more persuasive factor.

Teenage sexual relations may have emotional consequences

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There are many psychologists who believe that the emotional consequences of underage sexual relations can develop into lifelong problems such as emotional instability and personality issues.

In a new study in the journal Pediatrics, the results basically concluded that teenage sex -- in any form -- could have negative emotional consequences -- and especially for girls.

Kids generally are not even close to being emotionally prepared for the relations that sex requires, and even though some of the California high school survey respondents reported positive consequences like pleasure, popularity, and stronger relationships -- many felt that they were used, were fearful of getting pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted infection -- or in general, had bad feelings about themselves.

Solutions for chronic neck pain

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Dealing with chronic neck pain? Neck kinks and discomfort are fairly common, and although pain usually resolves itself on its own, anything lasting longer than two months can become chronic and require specialized treatment. A study done recently suggested that a combination of two treatments is the most effective -- neck exercises combined with sleeping on a supportive pillow. The study included 4 groups: one was the control group, one did exercises, one used a support pillow, and one group did exercises and used a special pillow. After a 12 week period, the only group that r eported decreased neck pain was the group that recieved the combination of therapies.

This is good news, considering how debilitating neck pain can be. Unfortunately, though, this study only looked at patients complianing of mild neck pain, so there's no data on whether it helps people with more severe cases.

High blood pressure during pregnancy may lead to later problems

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A new study suggests that women who develop mild or higher-end blood pressure levels while pregnant may be likely to have heart disease later in life.

The study mentions that many doctors decry high blood pressure during pregnancy as a one-off activity that has no long-term consequences. the new study, however, detracts from that notion somewhat.

In fact, one of the study's researchers stated that "Our research and that of others may have important implications for the management of women who have high blood pressure in pregnancy." This says that early i ntervention could be needed to mothers who are witnessed having high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Texas governor wants to pay health insurance costs for lower-income citizens

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Is the state of Texas ready to give monetary stipends to the medically uninsured to ensure those that do not have the capability to pay for their own health insurance still have access to those services?

Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to do just tat, by cutting the number of uninsured Texans in half. Perry's plan is to give low-income workers a monthly stipend to help them buy medical insurance. This sounds like a policy from San Francisco instead of the state of Texas, but here it is.

Whether you are a fan of giving stipends to citizens to help them pay for medical coverage or not a fan of that general policy, Texas's move may be the one some states are going to watch. I wonder how far it will get?

Healthy drink brands being taken over by corporate giants

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With last year's purchase of the Naked Juice brand by soft drink giant PepsiCo and the recent purchase of vitamin-fortified energy drink Fuze by Coca-Cola, are fans of these two smaller -- but healthy -- brands scared of having their precious drinks taken over in ingredient-land by the sugar water nonsense that makes up most soft drinks?

I am an avid fan of Naked Juice and I'm not that worried really. Although I'm not a drinker of the Fuze product, both Coca Cola and PepsiCo are basically trying to cash in on the shift away from high-calorie and high-sugar soft drinks and into healthy energy drinks that contain healthful and real ingredients, not corn syrup and insanely-high levels of caffeine.

Just don't change our products, please.

FitBeauty: Little Valentine's splurges good enough to give yourself

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When I was little, I made a very big deal out of picking the perfect Valentines for my class. And every year, before I penned the names of my classmates on the tiny envelopes, I carefully, agonizingly chose the most beautiful of the bunch. And then, shamelessly, made it out to myself.

I never got why other kids snickered at this. After all, on the day we all throw our attention desperately at love, shouldn't we reserve a tiny bit of that consideration for ourselves? I'm not talking about ignoring our loved ones here. I'm advocating that we - like a seven-year-old with a big stack of ornate cards and without abandon - choose to lavish a little of that love on ourselves, too.

That's right, ourselves. We get very good at taking care of everyone else, even when we're not so hot at taking care of our own bodies, style and spirit. This year, why not be good to you, too? Why not treat yourself to the delights you normally wouldn't buy or even consider? Why not get something delicious, something you really want just for you?

And while you're treating yourself, do it well. Steer clear of the chocolate and indulge the rest of your senses in these little splurges. Here are ten Valentines pour vous, all for $50 or less.

1. A rhinestone pedicure to bling up your feet. Treat your tootsies by adding a sweet flower, a sexy swirl, your zodiac sign over your polish. Trust me, you will smile every time you slide off your wool socks. Because the nice lady at my nail salon adds extra top coats when I order up "diamonds on my toes" (saying "rhinestones" will only warrant an awkward silence), these special pedis seem to last forever.

2. Cashmere socks for sweet feet. This soft pair will be your luxurious little secret under your favorite knee-high boots.

3. Cutesy cases for your tampons and pills. Keep your goods tidy in these sassy retro-styled little containers for your meds and monthlies that will hopefully take a little of the ugh out of everything packed inside.

3. Massage oils that make the mood. And this time, skip the baby oil and go for the stuff that glides on and leaves a tantalizing, tranquil aroma in the air. Kama Sutra's blends smell amazing and are soothing enough for the tub and potent enough for passion. (And yes, I'm working my way north with this list).

4. Ohhhhhbi belts. Belts in all materials, widths and degrees of excess were all over the runways during fashion week. Obi belts, though, are a striking way to sass up the clothes already in your closet, and the wrap style won't leave you punch-hole focused. You can spend a fortune to wrap a couture belt around your waist or you can pick up a dramatic obi sash on eBay for the cost of this week's lattes.

5. Loved
locket that says "I hea rt me." This modern pendant is a perfect place to tuck away one of your most treasured photos, a lock of hair, or some (very) small and significant reminder or memory. If you're stuck on what to put inside, why not download a picture of a strong woman you'd like to emulate this year - Margaret Mead, your grandmother, you at the summit of Mt. Ranier.

6. An upgraded lipstick..or liner or lashes. Whether you love drugstore deals or you go strictly designer, take one cosmetic piece up a notch for the holiday. A little lost in the cosmetic department? In my book you can never go wrong with a MAC lipstick, Lancome mascara or a smoky Chanel eyeliner, especially in a color you don't already wear everyday.

7. Gourmet tea and a beautiful brew pot. Add a little bit of ritual to your morning tea with a fancy new flavor. Include a new kettle, pot or pair of mugs to your purchase and you may be inspired to invite a friend over to share the gift with you.

8. Cookbooks you crave. Forget for a moment that zillions of recipes are available for free online and invest in a cookbook you've been coveting for ages. Then, forget who else in the house does or doesn't eat parsnips and cook up a delicious dish just for yourself.

9. Hardbacks you have to have. While you're at the bookstore, pick up a great read that hasn't made it to softback yet. Right now, I am loving every hardbound page of Eat Love Pray (a perfect companion to Lidia, by the way).

10. Trashy magazines that last the whole year. Give yourself a subscription to an impractical magazine and enjoy celebrity gossip guilt-free every single week. Stash some spendy, delicious beverages in the pantry to sip on while you steal away to read it.

If don't want to dole out cash on Valentine's Day, consider spending some time all by yourself, for yourself. Dip into a salt scrub, sit quietly in a library, ride to the top of the tallest building in your city. Watch a favorite movie (again) or dig out an old (gasp) mix tape (yes, I said tape) and relish the moment.

However you choose to celebrate the day, be sure to splurge - in token or in time - on the most important person in your life. Yup, gorgeous, that's you.

Daily Fit Tip: Do the crosswords

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Make no mistake: mental health is just as important as physical health when it comes to aging. I took a class on aging when I was in university and the message was simple - use it or lose it. That applies to both your muscles and your mind.

So how do you achieve a healthy mind? There are many ways, but one of them is by performing mental exercises, such as crosswords and suduko. I'll admit, I'm not a crossword connoisseur, and usually forgo the exercise in the interest of time, but if I have a bit of a break on a Sunday morning, I just might try it out. How about you?

Is your skin crawling? Researchers say a "virtual zoo" lives on our skin

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We've all watched the TV news specials that show us highly amplified images of the microscopic creatures that live on our skin. If those shows make your skin crawl, you might not want to read any further. Researchers, who now have better technology available to them than in the past, say that over 200 different species of bacteria flourish on our skin's surface and that 8% of them found were previously unidentified.

Calling it a "virtual zoo of bacteria," researchers in the study say we all may have our own personalized collection. Before you run off to the shower with a loofah, remember that those teeny hitchhikers are mostly friendly and are doing your skin a favor. In fact, with today's showers lined with special skin cleansers and chemically laden products, we may be doing more damage than good to our skin with our daily personal hygiene routines. (It also makes me wonder about antibacterial products and what they do to the friendly bacteria living on our skin.)

Experts hope to use this finding to learn more about what causes skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis and to develop techniques to treat them.

Antidepressants: What you should know

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Depression is becoming a more and more commonly diagnosed disorder, and with it prescription antidepressants are also on the rise. That fact combined with all the TV advertisements trying to convince people to ask their doctors for specific treatments makes it a good idea to do your research and understand exactly what antidepressants are and what they do.

This article gives a basic run-down of simple facts about antidepressant medications. It talks about everything from the different types commonly prescribed, to how they work in the body and common side-effects. It even includes some common pros and cons for different treatments and for different age groups.

Superbugs can be controlled by new processes, say Doctors

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Can the spread of a dangerous and drug-resistant staph infection be tampered by new processes within hospitals? Some doctors have said that an aggressive program to immediately identify and quarantine patients could be the trick.

While that is true, is this simply the replacement for a non-program right now that doesn't quarantine patients that exhibit signs of highly-contagious illnesses.To support their point, the physician group pointed to a pilot program in Pittsburgh that dramat ically reduced the rate of the potentially deadly staph germ.

Perhaps there is a roll-call of sorts on specific and outlined processes than can be followed to the letter to prevent deadly germs from easily spreading in certain situations -- if hospitals and health care facilities will adhere to it.

Running up the Empire State building

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For the past 30 years, runners from all over the world have been competing in a race to the top of the Empire State building.

That's 86 floors, and 1,576 steps. Seems steep, but the winner finished in only 10 minutes, 25 seconds.

This was the second year in a row Thomas Dold, a German 22-year-old won the Run-Up. Last year he finished in an even faster time of 10 minutes, 19 seconds. Singapore's Suzy Walsham, 33, claimed victory in the women's competition in 13 minutes, 12 seconds -- a mere 12 seconds ahead of American Cindy Moll-Harris, the second-place finisher.

No news on whether or not contestants used the elevator to get back down.

Minnesota wrestlers see more Herpes cases

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Somehow, the Herpes virus is spreading among high school wrestlers in the state of Minnesota. At this time, 16 teams in the state and 40 overall wrestlers have contracted the virus. The question remains, though -- how?

It's not hard to spread the virus at all -- skin-to-skin contact is all that is required. If one wrestler had the virus and had a wrestling match, it could be spread. If the virus remained on a wrestling mat and several wrestlers used that mat, there you have it.

What does this mean? The possibility of sanitizing all wrestling surfaces after every match? If the outbreak goes further than this, Minnesota officials may have to do just that possibly.