Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Mercury levels in tuna under the spotlight again

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If you're an avid eater of seafood -- like Salmon and Tuna -- you've probably heard that the mercury level in certain sea-faring fish can be high enough to offset the positive health benefits that seafood has to offer (outside of fried seafood, which is not healthy in most cases).

Even albacore tuna, which is considered the high-end of tuna, can have dangerous levels of mercury that has made many Canadian experts (among others) state that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding (and young kids) should limit the amount of canned albacore tuna they eat.

Although he althy adults generally will have no complications (that we know of) from eating canned tuna with mercury contamination, the immune systems from children and developing children could be at risk, hence the recent warning here.

Elders who live in "walkable" communities are healthier

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As the baby boomer generation begins exploding into retirement just about now, communities will surely spring up from coast to coast for these folks to spend their retirement time in splendor and relaxation. But is that the best way to spend retirement?

Sure it is -- when mixed with a healthy dose of relaxation and physical movement (exercise). The simple act of walking a decent amount per day is a great solution to ensuring long-term health viability, and communities where walking is encouraged (and the community is designed for it) have healthy elders than other places.

Factoids li ke the length of community blocks, how many grocery stores or restaurants are nearby and how many safe walking areas are featured may work to decrease obesity in older people -- using what is called as the feature of "walkability."

Emergency health training is scrutinized

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The response to recent natural disasters like hurricanes Katrina and Rita was a vivid demonstration that ended up showcasing abilities that relied way too heavily on computer technology to organize and assist trauma victims rather than traditional hands-on training.

Sometimes, all the technology in the world and all the contingency planning can't prepare anyone for a situation where quick human thinking, ingenuity and fast actions are the best remedy for tragedy.

This is an effect of medical teams that often lack experience and effective tra ining while technology has taken over part of their indirect responsibilities, according to investigators looking at why the system fails in disasters to the point it does.

Math anxiety contributes to lower math test scores

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In what seems like an obvious statement, U.S. researchers now say that worrying about how you'll perform on a math test may actually contribute to a lower test score. The condition, known as "math anxiety", causes feelings of dread and fear and avoiding math.

Math anxiety can actually sap the brain's limited amount of working capacity, which is not a good thing. In other words, your car can't operate at full efficiency if the engine loses a few cylinders -- and the same things happens with the human brain in terms of resourcefulness if math anxiety sets in.

The result here appears to be a direct correlation between feelings of anxiety and the limited and working capacity of the brain in terms of solving those math problems. Solution? Try not to get hung up on that math test, which is easier said than done.

Don't tell your boss: working overtime won't kill you

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A recent study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggests that working overtime -- even as much as 60 hours a week -- doesn't produce any adverse health effects. This refutes previous research suggesting that long hours lead to higher risk of health and safety problems.

And it gets worse. According to Harris M. Allen, Jr., Ph.D., lead author of the new report, "across-the-board restrictions that severely obstruct the capacity to work longer hours may themselves be too blunt and onerous in today's increasingly competitive marketplace."

Even working more than 60 hours a week won't affect most of you, and this extended time on the job is seemingly unrelated to "presenteeism" -- when employees show up at work but perform below their capabilities.

In fact, compensation type, demographics, prior diseases and overall health status are far more likely to affect your performance and safety than number of hours worked.

Looks like we'll all be coming in on the weekend.

Daily Fit Tip: Get your niacin!

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A recent article published in Molecular Cell brought to light the virtues of a vitamin rarely given consideration--niacin. According to a recent study of niacin one of its molecules might lead scientists to a method of slowing the aging process.

I've always known to get enough calcium, vitamin D and vitamin C, and I know just which foods supply the recommended daily doses of each. Niacin, however, is a rather foreign concept to me. A quick scan of the labels of my non-perishables revealed a bias: while the daily allowance percentages were noted for vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and even iron, no consideration was given to niacin.

So just what is niacin, where does it come from, and most importantly, is it important in our diet? Formally known as nicotinic acid and vitamin B-3, niacin is part of the vitamin B complex. It can be found in many protein friendly foods such as dairy, meat, nuts and eggs. Niacin assists in the functioning of the digestive system and in the conversion of food to energy. It also aides in the function of skin and nerves.

Continue reading Daily Fit Tip: Get your niacin!

Women have the dirtiest offices

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The Clorox Company recently funded a survey on office germs, and apparently women have dirtier offices than men. And not by a little either -- women's desks and work areas are about twice as germy as their male coworkers.

The study included swabs of all kinds of locations, but mold and yeast were found most commonly in the bottom of desk drawers (where people stash their afternoon snacks), and on phones, desktops, and computer mouses (mice?).

As ashamed as I am to admit it, I guess I'm not that surprised because it does seem like women snack a lot more at the office than men. But there is one saving grace to this whole thing: even though women came with the germiest workspace, what tested out as the single germiest item of all? Men's wallets.

Mystery of chronic dizziness gets solved -- a little

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If you suffer from or known someone who has chronic dizziness, there may be a partial explanation for what causes your condition according to a study just published yesterday.

And we're not talking Vertigo here either, which is usually related to inner ear problems. This dizziness condition manifests itself with chronic nonspecific dizziness (imbalance and motion-sensitive to walking in a busy store or driving in the rain). Doctors have been quite confounded by what may cause this non-specific dizziness.

The result? Man y patients in the study who suffered from non-specific dizziness were diagnosed as having psychiatric or neurologic conditions. These conditions included anxiety disorders as well as traumatic brain injury and related problems.

Swiss village may get giant mirror to light up town

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Every winter around this time, I start to look at March 1st as the winter-time finish line. Come the first of March, I know that spring is officially on it's way, even if we have weeks of snow ahead of us. Do you start to feel the crunch in February? Does the lack of sunlight start to wear you down?

Imagine not getting one single ray of sunshine for three months every winter. That's how citizens of Bondo -- a tiny mountain village in Switzerland -- feel every year. The steep mountains that surround them block the sun December through February, leaving them in the "dark" until just about now. In fact, local officials are looking into having a gigantic mirror installed next winter. A computer would rotate the mirror to follow the sun, reflecting the light back into the village.

I can't say I blame them, who doesn't want at least a few days of sunshine a month? With all the recent news about the sun and vitamin D, it may improve their health as well!

Jogging for Normal People: Does This Mean I Can Proscrastinate?

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You've met my type before. We're either blissfully laid-back -- the dudes with all the time in the world -- or rushing past you at full speed, cursing like a banshee with tourette's, trying to cram 2 hours of work into 45 minutes. If I'd left myself more time to finish this post, I'd think of a better cliche than "procrastination is middle name." But I didn't.

My problem compounds exponentially on long-term goals. If it takes a whole year to finish something, what's the harm in putting such a gargantuan task on hold for one measly extra day? Or, you know, six months?

So when I learned that I could train for the half marathon I'm scheduled to run next February in only 16 weeks, it was like I'd been given a form of slacker-friendly crack. Theoretically, I could sit on my expanding backside for the next 6 months -- at least -- eating frozen pizzas and watching sports on TV (so I could feel active by osmosis). As long as I kick things into gear by August I'd have time to spare. Right? Right?

I'm only half joking.

The half marathon was supposed to be ultimate motivator -- as completing a run of such an enormous distance seemed downright absurd. And it will motivate me -- 6 months from now. If I hadn't put off looking at the training schedule I would've known this sooner, but, alas, here we are, sans the urgency and/or sense of impending doom I was looking for.

The question is: where to go from here? Do I scrap this column, or change it's name to "Sitting On One's Ass For Normal People," and release my fitness desires into the eternal ebb and flow (just until August)?

I vote not. But I'm busy, and it's cold, and I'm tired, and I haven't eaten yet, and I'm not feeling well, and I have to get up early tomorrow, and...

Help me, Internets! I clearly need a kick in the ass.

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New regulations for tattoo parlors on the horizon

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If you or someone you care about are fans of body piercings and tattoos, it may surprise you that the body piercing and tattoo industry are largely unregulated. Though most artists -- those who care about their work, their customers, and the future of their business, I would think -- practice diligent sterilization techniques, there are many who don't. Tattoo artists are required to sterilize their needles, but there's virtually no regulation over body piercings.

New legislation being reviewed in the state of Washington would bring both forms of body art under new state regulations. One bill requires sterilization of equipment for all tattooing and body piercing, while the other puts much more funding toward enforcing those same regulations and would allow state agencies to investigate complaints. Another bill would create guidelines based on those given by the CDC and make it a misdemeanor not to follow them, and also require minors to provide written consent before any procedure.

Most tattoo and body piercing artists in Washington support one form or the other of these bills, which goes to show you that the people running the industry are behind the idea of keeping it safe for everyone involved. I guess the lesson here is -- before you let someone leave a permanent mark on your body, know them well. If you're going out for a tattoo or a body piercing, be sure it's through a reputable person and ask them to show evidence that their equipment is sterilized.