Saturday, 10 March 2007

Children and fevers -- How to take a temp

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Kids may "rough house" all the time, but in reality they are very delicate little creatures. And when they get sick they usually get really sick, leaving the parents sleepless, worried, and a little panicky over how best to get them to take their medicine and wondering whether that fever is finally going to come down.

Fevers might be one of the scariest things to deal with when it comes to children being sick, because just a degree or two in the wrong direction can have such serious consequences. So making sure you're comfortable in taking your child's temperature can go a long way to alleviating some of that worry as far as accuracy goes and g ive you some peace of mind. Click here for the basics on what kind of thermometer to use for what ages, along with some other tips from The American Academy of Family Physicians.

Daily Fit Tip: Eat yogurt

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Yogurt seems to "fly under the radar" I think when it comes to health foods and good solid nutritional choices. Although lots of people do eat it regularly it rarely gets talked about or pops up in the headlines, so for many it's easy to space it off when you're grocery shopping.

Yogurt tastes good, comes pre-packed and easy to serve, and is packed with health benefits. Yogurt will help you fight off osteoporosis with high levels of calcium and vitamin D, it may reduce your risk of high blood pressure, it will help with your gastrointestinal health by providing necessary natural bacteria, and it can even help you feel generally fuller and more satisfied.

See the article for even more on the benefits of yogurt, plus some tips and a handy chart on how to buy the best.

Fit Factor: Front crawling to a better body

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There's this workout that is really good at getting people in shape, fast. It tones your whole body and gives you a great cardiovascular workout with little impact to your joints. Chances are you did it when you were a kid (even took lessons!) and have continued to do it sporadically throughout your adult life too. Want to know what it is? It's swimming.

Yeah, I know. You hate the chlorine and you can't stand the thought of people seeing you in your bathing suit. You probably should get over it though because swimming is basically the perfect sport, and this article from yahoo health agrees. For me, getting into the pool is easy -- I have an inborn love of the water. I'm not the strongest swimmer, but I'm hoping to change that. After all, swimming at an easy pace can burn 560 calories an hour!

Continue reading Fit Factor: Front crawling to a better body

How to prepare for Daylight Savings Time

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Before I had kids, Daylight Savings Time meant one less hour to sleep on a Saturday night, but plenty of sleep-in time on Sunday morning to make up for it. It really only took me about 24 hours to adjust to the change. But then I had children...children with routines and schedules, children who are used to eating lunch at noon, napping at one, and being in bed by eight, and who do all of those things without the use of a clock. Now it takes us about 3-5 days to really get settled back in.

Children, as well as those suffering from sl eep issues, often take a little longer to adjust to Daylight Savings Time, so if you struggle with adjusting to the time change, here are a few tips to help you through. Try to expose yourself to as much sunlight as possible in the morning to reset your internal clock, avoid using caffeine and naps so that you can fall asleep in the evening, or even try adjusting your daily routine by about 15 minutes a day during the days leading up to DST.

One perk for me? My kids wake like clockwork at 7 AM, so for a few short days they'll be waking up at 8 (and then they'll adjust and be back to their early morning shenanigans). And if your state doesn't participate, then you won't be one of the millions of people stumbling around Sunday morning trying to figure out if they've changed all their clocks correctly!

Indulge in a (healthy) St. Patrick's Day celebration

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Everyone's Irish on St. Paddy's Day, right? No matter how much green beer or heaps of corned beef and cabbage your celebration calls for, you can be as Irish -- and as healthy -- as you want to be next week.

Although commiting to a conscious celebration and St. Patrick's Day may seem mutually exclusive, you can opt to consume smaller portions of the good eats or to cook with healthier ingredients. This article offers some delish sounding recipes and some sensible tips to stay healthy before and after the big parades. Tucked into the recipe s are these ideas for healthier Irish cooking:

  • Consider that wheat and barley have been a staple crop in Ireland for 5,000 years. I personally suggest adding barley to a hearty soup or choosing a dense whole grain wheat bread to give a boost to your St. Paddy's dinner.

  • Make mini versions of of traditional fare, like potato pancakes. This way you get a taste without packing in extra calories.

  • Opt for more richly-flavored cabbage than its corned beef partner.

  • Seek out revamped recipes with healthier ingredients that still offer the flavor of the holiday.

I am also inspired by the mouth-watering recipes on Cooking Lite that sound perfect for St. Patrick's day partying, no matter how Irish you really are.

Could your house be making you fat? Environmental triggers and obesity

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It lurks in your favorite easy chair, your hair dryer, even your microwave ... what is it? It's a chemical known as polybrominated diphenyl (PBDE). It's a flame retardant used in many different kinds of products to reduce their flammability, and manufacturers -- who have been using the chemical since the 1960s -- say the chemical could prevent consumer injury or death by fire by 45%.

So why do PBDEs have experts concerned? The chemical is so pervasive in our environment that experts say we come into contact with products containing PBDE over 100 times every day. The chemical is fat soluble, which means it dissolves in body fat, and it's been found to mimic the female hormone estrogen, as well as thyroid hormones. Researchers are unsure what those findings mean, but they believe the chemical may cause insulin resistance -- which can lead to type 2 diabetes -- or even make the body more prone to producing fat cells.

New studies on the effects of PBDEs in mice are just getting underway, but if these theories are proven true, researchers say it will be a mixed blessing. On one hand, PBDEs are nearly impossible to avoid. On the other, findings from these studies could yield even more clues in the development and treatment of obesity.

Is appendicitis an "old-fashioned" affliction? And is the appendix more useful than we thought?

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Two weeks ago (surprise!), I had my appendix removed. I thought I had food poisoning, which is bad enough, but after three days of throbbing tenderness and pain across my belly, I knew something more was going on and something was really not right.

After ten hours in doctor's offices, the emergency room and an observational area (where thankfully, I was distracted by wonderfully bad reality TV), I was told I might have appendicitis and would need a consult with a team of surgeons. Within an hour, I was being prepped for an appendectomy and a few hours after that, I was waking up from a haze of anesthesia, withou t my appendix.

All this emergent surgery (with the help of a few doses of pain killers) had me wondering how often appendectomies really happen.

Only a handful of folks I know have welcomed me into the appendix-free club, and many of them had their surgeries decades ago. To counter that, the surgical team that wound a laparoscope through me had already performed three such procedures in a row, a typical night they said.

Was it just because there are fewer fatalities due to burst appendices that I assumed appendectomies were an "old-fashioned" surgery?

The appendix is a small tube of tissue off of the large intestine, what my surgeon referred to as a "dead end street." It has been largely accepted that it no longer serves a purpose for our modern bodies, although I was told that it is (literally) a hang-over from times when ancient man ate many more seeds.

Interestingly, today a fascinating interview in Scientific American reveals that the little appendix may have more funcion than its been given credit for, possibly contributing to the development of the immune systems in fetuses and young adults.

The appendix can get blocked and then inflamed,which may lead to a diagnosis of appendicitis. Appendicitis is often resolved by surgery, removing the appendix altogether before it ruptures or perforates, spilling bile into the abdominal cavity and creating many more (unnecessary and painful) problems. (You can read some pretty graphic details of how an appendectomy is performed, step by step, here).

I was shocked to read that one in 15 people in the U.S. will get appendicitis, most of those people ranging in age fro m 10 to 30 years of age. I also wasn't aware that, although there isn't substantive evidence about why some of us are struck by appendicitis and why it strikes when it does, eating a diet high in fibers from fresh fruits and vegetables seems to lower our chances of getting it at all.

If you are concerned that your belly ache is more than normal tummy trouble, this comprehensive list of symptoms of appendicitis is helpful. If you think you have appendicitis, you should clearly get to an emergency room or call your doctor immediately. Although my own symptoms didn't present in the classic manner, I felt good that I (literally, again) listened to my gut and went into the doctor when things didn't feel quite right.

Here's hoping that you never have to go under the knife (or laparoscopic camera, as it were) for appendicitis. If you do, however, let me know and I'll pic k up a cake and the paper goods (BYOPain meds) to celebrate your induction into the club.

If you're one of those CSI-ish people who want more of the gory details, I wrote lots more about my hospital experience (and how meditating got me through the anxious parts) on my personal blog. Feel free to dig in there.

The scoop on booster seats -- when do you need one?

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Does your state have a booster seat law? Even if it doesn't, you may still want to consider one. New studies show that booster seat usage is on the rise. Children in states with mandatory booster seat laws were found to be 39% more likely to be properly restrained in the event of a car accident than children who lived in states without those same laws.

The National Traffic Safety Commission recommends that all children under age 12, regardless of weight, use a booster seat until they reach the height of 4' 9". That's because seat belts are designed for adults and may not properly protect a child in the event of a crash. At 12, children can sit in the front seat and use a regular safety belt, but the NTSC still recommends the back seat for safety.

Not sure if your state requires booster seats? Here's a map that'll help you find out.

Winslet wins libel settlement over diet doctor claims

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Kate Winslet, an actress who has a reputation for criticizing Hollywood's fixation on ultra-thin women, was accused of hypocricy by Grazia magazine -- who claimed Winslet had visited a diet doctor.

Yesterday, however, the star won a libel suit against the gossip rag, as she had, in fact, been seeking treatment for a neck problem.

The magazine released a statement saying: "We are very happy to set the record straight and sincerely apologise to Kate for the distress caused."

At the time, Winslet was reportedly very upset by the report, and, in the wake of her legal victory, said through her lawyer: "I am not a hypocrite. I have always been, and shall continue to be, honest when it comes to body/weight issues."

It's so refreshing to see an actress with a healthy perspective on body image. Congratulations to Kate for clearing her name.

Don't waste your time on these 10 exercises

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It's hard enough to get the motivation and energy to workout, but what if you found out that all your efforts were being focused in the most ineffective ways possible? Don't let it happen to you! Avoid these ten exercises:
  1. Adductor machine
  2. Abductor machine
  3. Standing or bent over twist
  4. Upright Rows
  5. Side bends
  6. Behind-the-neck lat pulldowns
  7. Shoulder press behind the neck
  8. Seated rotation machine
  9. Straight-legged sit ups
  10. More than 60 minutes of cardio
I'm not dedicated to any of these moves specifically, but I have done all of them at some point before. Reading the reasons why they are ineffective is a little scary -- besides being worthless for fitness many of them are downright dangerous.

Leptin resistance: the key to obesity?

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It's a generalization in our society that people who suffer from obesity just lack willpower or control, and that if they would "just eat less," then they would be as thin as their non-obese counterparts. Though that may be true on a basic level, recent studies have been pointing to the idea that obesity is more than a lack of willpower and is, indeed, a physical disease. A new study done on mice seems to solidify that theory.

Whe n genetically identical mice were fed a high fat diet for 20 weeks, about 65% of them became obese. When compared to the mice who did not gain weight, as well as mice who were fed a normal diet, the obese mice were found to be resistant to leptin. Leptin is a hormone that is produced by fat cells and "tells" the brain how much fat there is in the body. In a person who is not leptin-resistant, the hormone works to control appetite and to use stored energy appropriately. But in the mice who were obese, leptin failed to produce similar responses. This study seems to prove that there is a biological difference between the mice who became obese and the mice that stayed thin.

The great news is that when the obese mice were put on a low-fat diet, they lost weight. Their response to leptin regulated and their resistance to the hormone did not appear to be permanent. Though the study can not be directly applied to humans just yet, researchers believe that people with obesi ty who are leptin-resistant may be able to reverse the condition through weight loss.

Health costs to continue rising unless prevention takes hold

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Are you ready for a healthy increase in the cost of health care in the next ten years or so? If you're over 50, the prediction that the cost of caring for your age group may add 25% the nation's health care bill by 2030 according to recent figures released by the CDC a few days ago.

Although that is 23 years away, people need to act now to stay healthy if they want to avoid these large cost increases, warns the CDC, which said 80% of Americans 65 or older have at least one chronic disease that could lead to premature death and disability.

By 2030, it is projected that 71 million Americans will be over 65 and will account for 20% percent of the U.S. population. That's quite a bit of health care to take care of -- with the cost of caring for older Americans at three- to five-times greater than care for younger adults. I can't even imagine the cost figure in 23 years based on these statistics -- can you?

Kids facing cutbacks in health coverage

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Are you for or against children without health insurance being able to receive medical care when the need arises? If so, you may know about a national program that has helped 6.6 million children receive health insurance coverage.

However, possible cutbacks in this program may be coming as soon as a few days from now, with some states outside of Georgia (and its PeachCare for kids program) facing the issue of uninsured medical care for children.

A federal funding shortfall may beset the Georgia program along with similar initiatives in 13 states. What to prioritize these days when the bud get is getting low -- hmm. What would you fund when national health care programs for children can't operate because of inflation, higher enrollment and program expansions?

Meditation may benefit heart patients

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Meditation helps a lot of things because it reduces stress, but now there specific data about how it helps heart patients. A small pilot study was done on 23 African American patients hospitalized with congestive heart failure. Half of the patients were instructed on Transcendental Meditation and told to continue it for 6 months, while the other half was simply educated on their diagnosis and sent home without being asked to meditate regularly. After 6 months the people that meditated not only showed lower levels of depressi on but also performed better than their non-meditating counterparts on the six-minute walking test that measures functional capacity.

Obviously, this was a small non-diverse study that will need to be repeated on a larger scale and get the same results before the data is considered reliable.

Finding your natural "set point" for happiness

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Do you know what it takes to be "happy" these days? There are expert opinions that say there are different "happiness set points" for each individual -- so happiness becomes possible in the eye of the beholder.

Can you even change states every so often from happy to not happy, with all else being roughly equal? Sure you can, according to new research that concludes the "happiness set point" never changes, although temporary rises and falls in happiness may often occur.

However, that "set point" may not be completely unmovable Life situations like a divorce, job loss or becoming disables may affect and even reset your "happiness set poin t" at times throughout your life. We're all human after all, right?

Florida lawmaker challenges co-workers to diet contest

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The chairman of the Florida state House's health care council does not like fat in his politics or even on his body, as he has challenged the Florida state house to a diet-off to see which chamber member can lose the most weight during the contest.

In this real-life lawmaking example of The Biggest Loser, Rep. Aaron Bean stated that initial weigh-ins will be held this week and during the final week of the session in early May -- and that state legislature member that can lose the most weight by the close of the legislative session will win the contest -- and the respect of many constituents hop efully.

Body fat, the silent killer

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Probably no citizen of the planet is a fan of excess body weight, but millions have to put up with it anyway. Sure, there are reasons and motivations to lose excess weight, but it's not all that easy for most. Sometimes striking stats help, like the fact that 300,000 deaths per year are related to obesity here in the U.S.

Not to mention that obesity has been linked to a whole host of bad health conditions and diseases, the motivation to lose weight for those that are obese should be stronger than ever.

The problem in many cases is time -- it takes plenty of time to lose all that weight without enduring some kind of radical surgery or other fast resolution. A year or two (at the least) and a strict diet and exercise are generally needed to shed all those excess pounds. If you've ever been through that, you have my respect -- because there are not many other things in life that are harder (if anything).

Weekend strokes more deadly that weekday ones

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Try not to have a stroke (aided by healthy lifestyle choices), but if your body wards off that sentiment and has one anyway, try to wait until the weekend. New research states that strokes occurring on weekend days are more deadly than weekday strokes.

The death rate on stroke victims in a new Canadian study was higher than the death rate of stroke victims from weekday strokes in a rather odd study (insofar as conclusion). It's rare to see a study that distinguishes between days of the week, but here it is.

Nevertheless, it is inte resting anyway. Similar "day of the week" studies have been done on pulmonary and heart conditions, but this appears to be the first one I've heard of related to strokes (brain conditions).

Tai Chi may reduce diabetes symptoms

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Do you have type 2 diabetes? If so, you may want to look up your nearest community center or gym for a local Tai Chi Chuan class. When practicing the ancient martial art, participants move their body through a series of postures and movements in slow, graceful motion. Tai Chi -- which is self-paced an d non-competitive -- is often recommended for stress reduction, flexibility, and for strengthening the entire body.

Tai Chi was recently found to improve immune function in healthy adults, and researchers thought it may do the same for diabetics. During the study, 32 participants with diabetes took a 12-week Tai Chi class and showed a significant improvement in their blood work. Because diabetics experience chronic inflammation, researchers believe their response to the Tai Chi exercises may have been due to improved immune function which reduced that inflammation, or to improvement in glucose metabolism.

I've tried Tai Chi myself, just for fun, and I really enjoyed it. Though I recommend learning from an actual teacher in person, there are plenty of videos out there to help you get started if you can't find a local class.

Is personalized nutrition about to become reality?

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Are you into personal nutrition? I am, although literal personal nutrition would be comprised of a genetic profile matches against the best possible diet of food made for your exact body type.

That sounds like something from science fiction, but we may be closer than most of us believe. The science of nutrigenomics studies this correlation between genetic makeup and personal nutrition and you can bet that if there is a buck to be made in the near future, there will be mainstream development of customized diet plans for each one of us. I wonder if it will be cheap or expensive for a plan like tha t. Hmm.

Cholestrol drug trial results found "not significant"

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Although newer pharmaceutical drugs have been hailed as killers by some and lifesavers by others, there is no doubt many of these come with undesirable side effects. With cholesterol on the minds of many these days, drugs to keep that under control are being prescribed in rising numbers.

But one won't make it to the public at all, as clinical trial results for a new Canadian cholesterol management product showed that its use had "no statistically significant" effect. Ouch.

Possible variables remain on the trial's results, as the study of the drug CRD5 was done over the Christmas season. during that time, heavier th an normal alcohol amounts were consumed -- possibly affecting results, according to Liponex, the drug's manufacturer.