Monday, 12 February 2007

Antibiotic exposure increases resistance

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Are the antibiotic drugs that are supposed to help us fight infections actually cause resistance to these same drugs? This is the question from Belgian scientists this past week, who were discussing the emergence of bacteria that do not respond to antibiotics as a major health problem.

The Belgian scientists states that the overuse of the drugs has been blamed for the development of so-called superbugs. These superbugs then become resistant to the most powerful antibiotics.

In one way, antibiotics are a good thing, but just like the human body's capability to adapt, the bacteria and viruses that like to in vade us also have that capability -- and that's not a good thing.

When you've had enough therapy

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If you believe everything you see on TV, then you probably think of therapy as an almost addictive, lifelong commitment. Once you start going for sessions, one "problem" comes up after another and you never get to the bottom of anything, really. And eventually you'll start using phrases like "my therapist says...." in everyday conversation.

In reality, though, that's not the case at all (well, not the case for most people). The majority of those seeking therapy usually have a specific issue or issues that they need help resolving, and the treatment runs a natural course that doesn't last forever. Although most often it's pretty obvious to both the therapist and the patient when the therapy is done, it can help to go into it picturing what results you're looking for and what changes you hope to see.

Snake venom used to fight stroke?

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This really isn't what I would consider a "natural cure", but a new experimental drug derived from the venom of a certain snake shows promise for the treatment of stroke, according to studies of over 4,000 patients.

The drug, known as Viprinex and based on pit viper venom, may double the time window during which victims can be treated for stroke as the condition develops, according to new research.

Specifically, the people who suffer an acute ischemic stroke -- the most common type -- are the patients that can be most helped by this experimental drug.

Viprinex packs a triple punch against stroke, preventing blood clots from forming and breaking down existing clots while thinning out the blood.

Can you be allergic to water?

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You can be, sorta. There are different disorders that can seem like a water allergy, but the closest thing is called aquatic pruritis, and wow it must be rough to deal with. The symptoms -- itching, burning, and/or a prickly sensation -- usually show up within minutes of coming into contact with water. Surprisingly, there are usually no visual changes to the skin, although some people do get mild (but itchy) red bumps on their chest, back, arms or legs. And although doctors don't know the cause for sure, the most popular theory is that it's a hypersensitivity to additives or minerals in the water.

Treatments vary from topical or oral prescriptions to light therapy. After reading this I do have one question: do these poor people get symptoms, like an itchy throat, from drinking water?

Daily Fit Tip: Play

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We could all use a bit more fun in our lives to break up the humdrum of every day life and make us appreciate the things we have, like our health and our family. So on your next day off, why not head to the park with your kids or your dog (or both)? Do what you did at the park when you were a kid: run around, take the slide, swing on the swings, dig in the mud and basically have fun. You'll relieve stress, burn calories, nurture relationships and get some much-needed fresh air that you don't have at the office. If, like me, you don't have kids or a dog, offer to babysit or dogsit for a friend. There's also a multitude of other fun to be had: you could fingerpaint, ride a merry-go round, go rollerskating -- th e options are endless. The only rule is: have fun.
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Jumpstart Your Fitness: Get fit faster by avoiding injuries

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Nothing will slow up your fitness progress like getting hurt. Depending on the injury, you might have to pass on your workout for just one day, or possibly for several months. Then, if you're anything like me, it's so hard to get motivated again -- it feels like you're back to starting from square one. So the best thing is to do whatever you can to avoid that horrible fitness trap altogether by paying attention to your body and taking steps to avoid workout related injuries.

Continue reading Jumpstart Your Fitness: Get fit faster by avoiding injuries

Adding weights to your Wii - smart workout or just silly?

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Wii has gotten lots of good press as one of the few video game systems that requires physical activity. (If you've never played, the Wii has a wireless controller that can sense motion in three dimensions. Wii bowling requires a bowling motion, a sword-fight requires fencing-like motions, etc.) It's not for everyone, and it's not going to replace your cardio routine, but if you're already a Wii fan consider upping the intensity of your Wii "workout " by adding ankle and wrist weights to your games. Moving around those few extra pounds really will add to your total calories burned per hour, so if you're already playing the game you may as well get the maximum benefit from it, right?

Someone was so excited about this idea that they came up with a prototype for Wii branded weights. But unless you're obsessed with having workout gear that matches your video console (and please don't be), the plain ones you can find at your local sporting goods store will work just as well.

Can functional foods replace a healthy diet?

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Cruise the aisles of your grocery store and it seems that almost every product is screaming its health benefits to you from colorful boxes and displays. Added omega-3s, rich in vitamins, good source of calcium...everyone has something to say about their product. But are functional foods -- or foods that have been artificially enriched with added vitamins and minerals -- really healthier?

It depends on who you talk to.
Experts say that there's a lack of definitive research say ing that functional foods are as good as foods that are naturally high in vitamins and nutrients. Not only that, functional foods may replace those high-nutrient and lower calorie foods, eliminating them from your diet or packing more calories on to your day. The Grocery Manufacturers Food Products Association disagrees, saying that these products provide many health benefits to consumers.

I think the most important thing to remember when you're reading a food label of a product that promises to improve your health is this: is it a healthy food choice to begin with? Cookies made from whole wheat flour or with added omega-3s are still cookies. If those cookies are full of sugar or eliminate food naturally rich in omega-3s, such as salmon, then they aren't a good choice. If a food is already rich in vitamins, such as orange juice, and it has added calcium, then you've put yourself in a win/win situation. I think that functional foods have their place, in m oderation, but can't replace a healthy diet and a multi-vitamin. What do you think?

ADHD experts weigh in on causes and treatment

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Straterra, Aderall, Ritalin -- many of us have heard the names of these drugs that are principally used to control the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.

While these are management tools, the theories behind this type of behavior in kids (and some adults) has been the mainstay of many discussions from pediatricians to parents to educators to society at large.

What are some of the leading theories? Dr. Peter Jensen of the Center for the Advancement of Children's Mental Health Columbia University st ated some results recently from a study that addressed the question of which method of treatment is most effective for ADHD. He concluded that carefully monitored medication was more effective that intensive behavioral treatment. That conclusion was surprising to a point, but these suggestions just discussed treatment -- not underlying causes.

Continue reading ADHD experts weigh in on causes and treatment

No more Mr. Right? Study finds women prefer "Mr. Average"

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A recent study done at the University of Lancashire found that -- when looking for a long term partner -- women are looking for more than tall, rich, and handsome.

Though women in the study still put a major emphasis on looks, when provided images of a variety of men and given information about their careers, women were more likely to choose men with average jobs, and they shunned men with more high-profile careers. Why do women prefer travel agents over architects? It seems that when looking for a long term partner, women weigh their future children in the equation. Men with high-socioeconomic status were seen as less likely to be interested in parenting and being long term providers. (For some reason, I can't get the "Trumps don't do diapers" line out of my head!) Men in middle incomes seemed perfectly suitable for that role to study participants.

Generations ago, women wanted their daughters to grow up and marry a doctor. Now our girls grow up and become doctors. I wonder how much changing gender roles had an effect on this study and how much this study really applies to real life relationships. I'm also curious about the outcome if the genders were flip-flopped; would men choose women with high-powered careers or go for the average Jane as well?

The fine correlation between discipline and love

One of the things I've noticed recently is the lack of discipline many parents bestow among their kids these days. It's no guess at what this creates -- kids that are tuned to get anything they want at any time and who will go to cruel lengths to be manipulative in many ways. This is a far cry from a mentally healthy child, yes?

While there needs to be discipline -- as in, "I am in charge here" from many parents -- the fear of some unknown factor prevents parents from ensuring their children grow up knowing limits, the difference between right and wrong and other healthy life lessons that will ensure their kids grow up being healthy and responsible adults with regards to the outside world in as many ways as possible. Does discipline mean spanking, loving guidance, a combination of both or none of these at all? You make that c all.

But love never should leave the equation either -- far from it. The number-one thing many kids need these days from what I see are loving parents -- or in the case of so many broken marriages, a loving parent at least.

A fried veggie question

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We all know fried foods are bad, but are they completely 100% devoid of all nutrients? Is a fried vegetable better than no vegetable at all? Or the other way around? I think a lot of parents ask this question because their kids refuse to eat veggies cooked in a healthy way, and it seems that frying them is the only way to get them on the menu.

But be careful -- the negative side effects of fried foods can outweigh the benefits, no matter how healthy a vegetable you started with. Your best bet is to try other ways of convincing your children to make the right choices, like trying a variety of recipes and educating your children in fun ways about how good they'll feel (think Popeye) when they eat their greens.

5-minute tooth whitener?

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I'm no fan of tooth whitening systems simply because most teeth don't look natural when so eerily white. But, in a marketing extravaganza galore, Procter & Gamble (and others) have convinced us that we all need to 'whiten' our teeth for some reason. What a joke.

Now, if you have stained teeth for whatever reason, this is a product that may work well for you. But for normal people with normal off-while teeth, why in the world do we need bright white colors on our teeth? I won't answer that as fans of these systems will most likely chime in.

But, how about one crazy step further into a tooth-whitening system that works in five minutes? Since the age of instant gratification is now the norm with millions who can't wait for anything anymore, this is a product that will certainly flourish.

High-risk pregnancies increasing in the U.S.

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It's been said recently that high-risk pregnancies are on the rise in the U.S. -- and they may be even with all medical advances we still hear about in the field of modern obstetrics. What gives?

It's somehow been classified that women having children over age 35 these days have a higher risk for a healthy term. Although medically I can see that point, I am sure it's based on statistics that are probably outdated (as usual). Maybe not, though.

More fortysomething moms are having babies, as they put careers first only to come back to the family later, which is a path many women are taking these days. Add epidemics of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure and those factors all convolute the scene a bit.