Monday, 5 March 2007

Virginia second U.S. state to require HPV vaccine

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In addition to the semi-disastrous affair of Texas Governor Rick Perry's mandate to vaccinate all young females with an HPV vaccine recently, now another state is going to the same lengths. Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine indicated last week that he would sign legislation requiring all sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against HPV -- the sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer.

Most parents probably have mixed feelings about this if they are informed. Mandated vaccina tions are always controversial because this is a free country -- and those parents should be free to choose if their kids receive or do not receive a vaccine for anything. A life-threatening illness is one thing -- but a virus that can be spread through sexual contact is quite another thing.

What do you think? Should vaccinations against a sexually-transmitted virus be mandated by any state government? Although Virginia parents can "opt out", they must know quite a bit beforehand that they have that option.

Drug testing on kids leads to many problems

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Do you approve of children and teens being subjected to drug testing? Well, a new group of pediatricians just concluded that this is generally a bad idea for many reasons.

The list of reason given include the potential for inaccurate results and loss of the child's trust -- which can lead to potential lifelong issues.

The pediatrician group centered in on testing for illicit drugs, which pins the age range down to the teenager level most likely. The group also said that such testing did not even curtail youngsters' drug use -- although I am not sure how they determined that outside of commonly available statistics on youth drug use.

Mood swings brought on by Daylight Savings Time?

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Ready for the "new" Daylight Savings Time? This year, DST will move up by three weeks and will end a week later in the fall. This will give folks longer daylight times -- most of which will surely enjoy it.

If you've been diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) or the "winter blues" though, the lack of more sunlight in the morning may not be that nice of a thing when these changes are made next weekend (and in future years).

Light experts chalk our sensitivity to light in that it sets the body's clock to gear up for the day's activities, bu t our society based on the clock instead of nature can cause issues. So, do you welcome the DST change or dislike it?

Low-carb diet and lowering cholesterol -- do they mix?

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Are you a "low-carber"? That is the term I've created for those that have had good luck starting and remaining a fan of low-card diets. Examples like the Atkin's Diet and the South Beach Diet are recognized as very successful low-carbohydrate diets, and millions of people have lost weight using those two methods.

But, are there "side effects" to these low-carb diets? There are bound to be opinions on each side of the fence here -- and this entry concerns a lady whose cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol" went up as she became accustomed to modified South Beach Diet.

Are there things to watch out for on most diets? Well sure -- as any diet needs to be balanced if possible. The best diets are the "common sense" ones -- eating less fat, more whole grains, less refined carbs, less sugar, more protein, etc. That is a basic methodology for most folks, although not for everyone.

Spring brings need for air filtering

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Suffer from seasonal allergies? Many of us actually have a break during the winter season since the air i barren from pollen, mold, cottonwood fluff and other springtime air irritants that can cause our respiratory systems to go into big-time defense mode.

But then again, inside air irritants like pet dander, dust mites and smoke residue can even pollute the inside of our homes. What to do? If you've considered an air filter system or air purifiers, you're not alone.

I use one of these myself and the way it changes the air quality inside a home can be downright addictive. Even if you don't have a huge amount of pollutants inside your home (trust me -- you do), an air purifier can be a wise investment. The thing is to do your due diligence research before purchasing one.

Pilates gives the gain without the pain

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Are you a fan of low-impact but very beneficial exercise? If so, you've probably heard of (and may be a practitioner of) Pilates. This type of exercise is very beneficial if you ask me, and with a little ingenuity, it doesn't take hordes of expensive equipment, tables and stretching gear.

No fan of pain while you get that daily does of regular exercise? No problem -- and as this story can attest to, the most ardent fans of Pilates as a form of exercise and toning may not have been a fan of the exercise regimen recently.

It seems like a "fad" to many -- but it is not, I assure you. It's one of the best workouts you can possibly have if you're not into the weightlifting scene or expensive cardio equipment -- although cardio toning and exercise goes hand in hand with Pilates from my perspective.

Stress and irritable bowel syndrome linked

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Though the cause of irritable bowel syndrome isn't exactly clear, researchers think they may have found a clue in how the disease develops.

They studied over 600 participants who had no history of the condition, but who had all come down with gastroenteritis. Each was asked to fill out a questionnaire that assessed mood or personality issues and to fill out a follow up survey thre e and six months later. Forty nine of the participants had developed IBS at the follow up check ups, and higher levels of perceived stress, negative feelings, and anxiety were deemed to be a risk factor. Interestingly, perfectionism and depression were not found to put patients at a higher risk of developing the disease.

Experts have long thought that IBS -- which causes such symptoms as cramping, constipation, or diarrhea in patients -- may have a psychological or emotional component and this study seems to firm up that suspicion. Read more about irritable bowel syndrome here.

Sleep naked for better health

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Here's an interesting idea for those of you looking for more restful sleep: take off your clothes.

According to the website SleepNaked.org, "Not only is sleeping naked more comfortable, but it's good for your health too. Increasing your level of comfort makes it easier for you to relax and sleep, so you get a better night's kip. The resulting deeper, longer sleep makes it easier for your body to regenerate and repair itself, and build up your energy for the day ahead."

Getting nude for your z's may -- for those of you that share a bed -- also have the ancillary benefit of increased intimacy between you and your partner.

Better sleep and more sex? Sounds like some kind of miracle cure.

I was a big fan of sleeping sans clothing, until I moved to Texas, and awoke not once -- but twice -- to a "water bug" (read: enormous cockroach) running around my bed. Ever since then, I've covered up, but now that I know what I'm missing, maybe I'll brave it.

[via Boing Boing]

Put your refrigerator on a diet

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You can put yourself on a diet, you can put your significant other on a diet, you can even put your dog on a diet. Did you know, though, that if you're trying to lose weight you should put your kitchen on a diet as well? White-knuckling the steering wheel of willpower will only get you so far a nd if you're like me, when willpower fails you, it fails you in a big way. But having a fridge and pantry full of all the right things (and very, very few of the wrong things) is a great way to surround yourself with the tools for success.

Take a minute to look through your fridge and pantry. What does it contain? Are there chips, cookies, or highly processed snack foods? Is there ice cream in your freezer? Hot dogs in your fridge? Snacks have their place, even in the healthiest of diets, but putting temptation out of arm's reach and learning to love high-nutrient,lower calorie foods instead will help you shed those pounds quickly.

Ready to get started? Here's a great article about stocking your fridge with all the right foods, and another about shaping up your pantry. Got any other great tips for keeping your kitchen lean and mean? Share them with us!

Coffee wins popularity contest

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Every year since 1950 the National Coffee Association (wow, they really do have an association for everything) has conducted a survey to see just how many people are drinking coffee, and to determine the direction of trends. This year, from data collected in January 2007, is the first year that daily coffee drinkers outnumber daily soda drinkers since 1990. And, interestingly enough, although the NCA attributes the rise to the ever-growing number of coffee options available to consumers, it was actually specific to regular cof fee only -- gourmet coffee drinkers declined slightly.

With soda consumption causing so many health problems, and even becoming popular even as a breakfast drink, I'm sure the coffee industry is relieved to get this news. But (not to burst anybody's bubble) with coffee at 57% and soft drinks at 51%, they're practically the same!

Kidney disease sees 16% increase in U.S.

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It's quite something to read that kidney disease in the U.S. has risen by 16% recently, but in retrospect, it's not hard to see why. The kidney is the master filter for the body (thank goodness we have two of them), so all garbage the body takes in is hopefully screened by the kidneys then flushed out of the body using -- well, you know.

I'm not sure even master designs like the human kidney can stand up to the onslaught of chemically-enhanced foods and beverages that the typical American consumes each and every day, though. The body was not designed to pr ocess nutritionally-deficient food like what many of us eat these days, so how can we expect the kidneys to function at optimum levels?

I'm no fan of renal complications or kidney transplants, but perhaps some citizens are.

National Sleep Awareness Week

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This week is National Sleep Awareness Week, and to celebrate the Loyola University Health System's Center for Sleep Disorders is encouraging all people who have any kind of sleep disturbance (snoring, gasping for air, waking up still tired, etc) be checked out for possible sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea affects more than 18 million people across the U.S., and although it's easily treatable it is also very serious when left undiagnosed. Risks increase for heart attack and stroke, not to mention all the negative effects from sleep deprivation.

So take some time this week to talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk -- your heart will thank you.

It's a matter of time: Know the symptoms of a cataract

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Cataracts are fairly common, with some experts saying pretty much everybody will get them eventually -- it's just a matter of living long enough. Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, and then obviously it's harder to see clearly. Seeing at night is more difficult, colors may seem faded, there may be "halos" around lights, and vision in general may appear cloudy or blurred.

Thankfully, cataract treatment is easy and fast with today's technology. A simple surgery to replace t he lens in the eye can be done, usually within an hour and without any hospitalization. But the single best thing you can do to help prevent (or at least "put off") the development of cataracts is super simple: wear sunglasses.

FDA plans to approve controversial cow antibiotic

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Despite serious concerns from serious people, the FDA is apparently planning to approve a new antibiotic for cattle. It's called cefquinome, and the reason for all the controversy is the fact that it belongs to the same class of antibiotics that are commonly used to treat many human infections, including diseases in children and meningitis. We are already dealing with a growing number of mutating drug-resistant bacterial strains and varieties, and this move is anticipated to make that prob lem even worse.

At this point the FDA plans to move forward and approve the medication, against the advice of its panel. In reading the article it sounds like a whole lot of politics and red tape to me. Ugh.

Jody flies free!

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Free of seat belt extenders that is! I've been training this amazing gentleman Jody since December 23, 2006. The day Jody arrived at my gym he weighed 316 pounds, and just the week prior he tipped the scales at 320. At 59 years old he was ready to drop down to 200 pounds and get his life back; I was eager to help him take it.

Jody signed up to train with me seven mornings a week. He's a real guy with real goals. He's not looking for 'ripped abs' or a chisel chest; he just wants to function in the world without complication and enjoy the regular things most take for granted. Flying without the humiliation of asking for seat belt extenders is one of them.

Jody has done a combination of walking, kickboxing on the heavy bag, strength training, and just recently we've added rebounding. He's shown up almost every day since and has worked like a dog. Gritting his teeth, huffing and puffing, cursing on occasion, and doing everything I ask him to do. More importantly he's been responsible on the 23 hours of each day that he does not spend with me. He's changed his eating habits dramatically, curbed drinking at the many social events he's invited to, and utilized fantastic will power over the holidays.

Continue reading Jody flies free!

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Ontario students invent CPR glove prototype

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Did you know that after CPR training, many people -- including doctors and nurses -- forget much of what they've learned about the life saving procedure?

That finding startled two Ontario University students, so for their entry into an Ontario engineering competition, they developed a prototype for a CPR glove. The glove has sensors incorporated into it that measure compressions and let users know if they are doing CPR correctly. It even measures the victim's heart rate, eliminating unnecessary CPR.

Not only did the student inventors win first place at the competition, they also won the attention of researchers and marketers who hope to help them develop the tool. Bravo!

Jumpstart Your Fitness: Spring is here!

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March is finally here, and as far as I'm concerned it's now spring! We had a big blizzard here in the Midwest last week, and are just beginning to dig out of about a foot of snow, but it still feels different outside. And even if you're a real stickler, the first official day of spring is just a couple of weeks away on March 21st.

For me the change of the seasons has a huge impact not only on when I workout, but on how motivated I am to do so. The longer days and warmer weather really add to the enjoyment and make it easier to get up and get moving. This article encourages us to use this time of year to renew our commitment to fitness, and do so in a smart and thoughtful way. No drastic measures, nothing so miserable you won't stick with it. Just figure out what you want, make yourself a map on how to get there, and follow it to the end. It's that simple (in theory, anyway!).

Continue reading Jumpstart Your Fitness: Spring is here!

Daily Fit Tip: Subscribe to a magazine

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Finding motivation for healthy living can be tough sometimes, so I look for it where ever I can. Which is why I started grabbing fitness magazines from the magazine rack on my way to the elliptical trainer. They're great sources of information - you can find exercises, eating plans, beauty info, fashion suggestions, recipes and a variety of other tidbits of info. I particularly love the inspirational stories of women who have changed their unhealthy habits and in turn changed their lives for the better. There are some great ones out there - Shape, Fitness, Self - and if you get the delivered to your home, you'll find yourself with motivation that comes regularly in the mail.

It's worth it. Right?

Are damp homes causing (not just aggravating) childhood asthma?

Did you know asthma is the most common chronic disease in school-aged children? Well if you've got kids, this news should bring a new sense of importance to your "spring cleaning".

Finnish researchers now say that one cause of permanent asthma in children is damp, moldy homes. While not all doctors are completely convinced, researchers in this study say it proves that dampness in the home doesn't just aggravate asthma and trigger new attacks - it actually is a factor in causing permanent chronic asthma in children. In fact, they estimate that one in five cases of chronic childhood asthma may be caused by living in damp or moldy homes.

[vi a] That's Fit

Forget your hair and wardrobe: Make-over your bed

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We've read it a bezillion times: Good sleep is one of the keys to good health.

And you've likely

Obesity the cause of early-onset puberty in girls?

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I've read a bit recently on why experts thinks younger girls are reaching puberty at ever-decreasing ages. One generally does not think of childhood obesity as a cause, but now that is being brought up as a possible reason why girls are reaching puberty at earlier ages than in the past.

A new study says that the earlier onset of puberty can be traced back to childhood obesity, as a study of 354 girls found that those who were fatter at age three and who gained weight during the next three years reached puber ty by age nine.

So, even if younger girls weren't at a weight considered overweight or obese by age 10 or so, the earlier indications of childhood obesity could have somehow caused the body to begin puberty by age nine. I really think there may be more than childhood obesity to explain early-onset puberty, but this study in interesting nonetheless.

Enjoying soy -- Is it possible?

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My initial reaction to that statement was that although it is possible, it's also really rare (at least in my experience). I'm all about supporting non-meat protein alternatives, but soy is a tough one. It's not hard to see how it got its reputation for being like a gray and slimy "Jello Jiggler" gone bad.

But the good news is that every day more products are coming out, many new and improved as far as taste and texture. And many of them also make really great substitutions for guilty pleasures like potato chips and other nasty munchies so many of us love. Click here to read some healthy, and perhaps more importantly good tasting, soy snack alternatives, including sandwich spread and soy nuts.

Lose weight painlessly -- 50 calories at a time

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If you're trying to lose weight and the "quick-fix" diets just haven't brought you success, here's a very moderate and sensible method to take the weight off.

The author says that if you really want weight loss to be "painless," then start by cutting just 50 calories per meal. Take the bacon off your hamburger, put 1/2 as much cream cheese on your bagel, or trade in that bag of chips for an apple. At the end of the day, you'll have cut 150 calories. At the end of the week, you'll have cut a little over 1000. If you burn another 100 calories per day through moderate exercise -- a 30 minute walk or similar activity -- you'll have lost a half a pound. Want to speed the process up? Try cutting 100 calories at each meal instead.

I think this is great advice for those who don't mind taking a little longer to lose their weight. It's not so much a diet at it is reteaching yourself about portion sizes. I also think that it's a gradual way to learn good food choices, rather than trying to make major changes to your lifestyle all at once. I bet that in the long haul, someone who loses weight this way keeps it off for good. It's not mentioned in the article, but before you can begin cutting calories it might be a good idea to know exactly how many calories your eating at each meal and throughout the day. Journaling your food for just three days can give you a good grasp on your daily intake.

Ibuprofen best painkiller for children

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When your child has a headache or just does not feel good, many of us rush to administer ibuprofen, acetaminophen or just plain aspirin -- but are any of those choices not the optimal one to reduce pain in the young ones?

A recent study showed that ibuprofen was, by far, the most preferred pain medication to give young kids for common childhood ailments like headache and pain from bruises and scrapes.

Ibuprofen beat out acetaminophen and codeine-based painkillers in a study which involved 300 kids. The results broke down like this: after 60 minutes, about half the studied kids who had t aken ibuprofen reported what doctors considered "adequate" pain relief -- compared with 40% of the codeine group of kids and 36% of the acetaminophen group.

Will artificial sweeteners really help you lose weight?

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When people go on a diet, one of the first things they cut back on is sugar...and rightfully so. Diets loaded with sugary foods are packed with empty calories and leave little room for foods with actual nutrients. Often, though, dieters trade in their sugar for artificial sweeteners, thinking they're doing themselves a favor by cutting the calories but still getting the sweet taste.

Like the saying goes, however, there's no free lunch, and artificial sweeteners come with their own set of consequences. For instance, did you know that people who use artificial sweeteners are no less likely to develop diabetes than those who use regular sugar? Experts believe it's because people who choose artificial sweeteners tend to eat more sweets as a matter of course. In fact, a 2004 study found that the calorie-free nature of sweeteners like Nutrasweet and Splenda may cause the body to crave more sugar. The sweet taste of artificial sweeteners tell the body to expect calories, and when none are received, the body gets confused. Concerns over the safety of these products has arisen as well.

So it appears, if you're trying to lose weight, sugar may not be any worse than artificial sweeteners. In the summer, watermelons an d cherries help keep my sweet tooth at bay, but during the winter it's harder to find fresh fruits that satisfy me. What about you? How do you feed your sweet tooth when you're trying to take off pounds?

Tyson Meats recalls beef over possible e-coli contamination

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A division of Arkansas-based Tyson Foods has issued a voluntary recall of about 16,743 pounds of ground beef that may be contaminated with E.coli. This recall was given by the USDA last Friday and made its way into the media over the weekend.

Although no illness has been documented due to the possible bacterial contamination, Tyson was recalling the beef as a precautionary measure, according to the company.

The details: the potentially affected beef was produced on February 16, 2007 and was sent to distributors in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington. If you have any Tyson beef products and you live in or have visi ted one of those states in the last few weeks, you may want to throw the product away or destroy it -- or return it for a refund if possible.

Spas: Not just for women and the rich anymore

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Spas have a reputation for being expensive and luxurious, and only for women who have a lot of money. But in today's world that's just not the case at all, well except for the luxury part. But with more and more spas popping up everywhere, prices are getting lower and the clients are getting more varied. Spas are becoming a very popular way for practically everybody to de-stress and treat the mselves to a little pampering. In fact, over 30 million Americans visited a spa within the last year, and 1/3 of those people were men.

So whether it's a destination spa, a resort spa, or a day spa, it's worth looking at what's available in your area to treat yourself -- prices and services are probably more reasonable than you think.

Three U.S. fast food chains to take nutrition info off websites

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It's quite nice when restaurants give information on the nutritional content (or severe lack thereof) of foods and drinks served in public locations. It's quite another when tat information is available then is pulled from view completely. Why is that?

The logical explanation says that many restaurants do not want consumers educated (much like most companies in the food industry). The sheer junk in most foods these days is enough to make anyone sick once enough research is done into what is actually contained in some of the most processed foods. Unless you have no desire at all for nutrition (just taste), the ingredients in some foods are just plain...gross.

Well, with that we have the deletion of calorie and nutrition facts from the websites of some national brands -- like Quiznos, Wendy's and White Castle. These companies have removed nutritional information from some restaurants on their websites. Why? Well, to avoid posting that same information on NYC-are menus, of course.

Bad corporate move here from these three -- and other customers will notice outside of New York City. Although Wendy's is pretty much fast food (read: I won't eat there), some sandwiches at Quiznos actually look pretty healthy. Would I eat there without knowing how many calories I am eating? Slim chance -- you?