Thursday, 22 March 2007

Don't mess around with strep throat

Sore throats are almost as common as the "common cold," and most of the time drinking lots of fluids and waiting it out is the best treatment. But not all sore throats are created equal, with streptococcal infections (a.k.a. "strep throat") not being something laying on the couch will cure. Left untreated, strep throat can evolve into something much more serious like rheumatic fever -- which can permanently damage heart valves and other organs.

So what to look for when figuring if it's a the regular harmless variety or something more serious? Visiting your doctor is the safest bet, but these are the symptoms to look for:

  • (Obviously) A sore throat
  • Redness of the throat, with white patches
  • Fever
  • Pain and/or difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea/loss of appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rash
  • Generalized malaise
If at all in doubt, head to doctor as soon as possible. Even though it's been around forever and is fairly easy to treat these days with antibiotics, strep throat is nothing to mess with.

Coffee's calorie count; don't add all the fluff

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Are you a coffee fan? If so, you may have joined me in the universe of being an off again/on again fan of coffee as my last surviving intake of caffeine.

In general, simple black coffee is not bad at all, calorie-wise. A regular cup of unsweetened black coffee contains around four calories, which is just a small blip on any day's caloric intake. Adding milk (full cream) will raise the calorie count to around 15 -- still not bad.

But, when I enter a coffee shop and see these luxurious lattes and macchiatos being served, I can't help but wonder how many calories are inside each one. I can imagine some of those drinks having 300 to 500 calories each -- enough for a full meal.

"Organic" being diluted by large manufacturers?

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I've been paying attention to the proliferation of new and "Organic" food offerings at mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart and Target from last year into this year and have a few questions. Maybe a reader can shed some light here?

There are hundreds of smaller Organic food companies that most likely can't increase production to meet the demand scheduled from mass merchants, which leave larger Organic outfits like Muir Glen and The Hain Celestial Group to fill in Wal-Mart's Organic food offerings.

I've noticed "Organic Raisin Bran" as well now, so the question that comes to mind is: are the large manufacturers just marketing the term "Organic" without any Organic certification or other measurement, just to stoke the public's growing attention on eating more nutritionally-dense foods?

It's hard to say right now, but when I start to see the term "Organic" on Frito-Lay tortilla chips, Chee-tos and mainstream breakfast cereals, inquiring minds want to know what's behind the curtain.

Video games and bad driving -- is there a link?

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On the streets of popular driving-style video games, you can drive up onto sidewalks and careen at top speeds down narrow streets crashing into buildings, all without anyone getting hurt. Obviously you know that when you get into your actual car, you can't behave that way, right? On a conscious level you may know that, but recent research in Germany suggests that when you play these kinds of video games, your risk-taking behavior on the real streets may increase.

Three different studies found that both men and women who played video games that allowed or required major traffic violations were more likely exhibit risky behavior in a driving simulator. While these results can't necessarily be transferred into real life, it does suggest that playing these types of video games may affect the judgment of drivers on the road. Not only that, when you consider that kids start playing these kinds of games as early as 10 years old, it makes you wonder what kind of drivers you may be sharing the road with in the future.

The effects of video games on teens and young adults has been a source of debate for some time now. Do violent games cause violent behavior? Do video games play a role in childhood obesity? Now we can add to that list -- Do video games make bad drivers? What do you think?

Anti-smoking bill gets committee aproval in North Carolina

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I wrote about the smoking ban possibly coming to Texas public spots just recently, North Carolina is also considering a ban as well at several public venues.

A broad ban on smoking at businesses and public places in North Carolina has been passed by a state House of Representatives committee as of this week.

As usual, opponents of the measure said business owners should be able to decide how to run their own enterprise. This is true, and customers can vote against "smoking allowed" places (like restaurants) with their dollars.

But, at places where non-smokers need to be, toxic smoke is not all that dissimilar to asbestos in terms of being inhaled. On that vein, Rep. Verla Insko stated that "We don't have asbestos in buildings any more ... It's a health risk." Well said.

Eating lots of fruit may keep colon cancer at bay

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There are always good news when it comes to eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day. In addition to the varied nutrients and vitamins fresh (and frozen) fruits provide, fruits are way (way) better to eat than processed, pre-packaged foods that many of us consume daily.

A new study corroborates the need to keep eating those fruits, as it concluded that eating lots of fruit and little meat may help prevent precancerous colon polyps.

It should come as no surprise that eating a healthy dose of fruit every day helps the body fight off cancer nastiness among many other ailments. Are you eating enough fruit every day? My preferred method when I don't have time to mix a smoothie is Naked Juice.

Is Chinese restaurant food unhealthy?

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Are you a fan of eating Chinese food? I was a huge fan until a few years ago when I started investigating all the sugary coatings used on many of those tasty dishes along with the huge amount of sodium found in many dishes on the standard Chinese restaurant menu. Of course, there were so many levels of things off the chart that I can to cut down on eating "most" Chinese food completely, unless I prepared it myself.

There are many kinds of Chinese foods that are excellent; watercress, green soybeans, snow peas, pepper chicken, brown rice (not fried) and others -- all without all that added sugar and salt. But then again, many Chinese restaurants seem to have cratered to catering to the salt-hungry American, as a new study shows.

A consumer group study has found that a typical Chinese restaurant menu is filled with nutritional no-nos. For example, a plate of General Tso's chicken contains about 40% more sodium and more than half the calories an average adult needs for an entire day. The battered, fried chicken dish with vegetables has 1,300 calories, 3,200 milligrams of sodium and 11 grams of saturated fat.

Yes, that woke me up on most Chinese food dishes. How about you?

Ten exercise commandments to help you overcome your fear of the gym.

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If you've recently bought a new health club membership, but are now terrified to go, rest at ease. Health clubs are the perfect place for both beginners and experts and usually have the staff to guide you from one level to the next. You spent the dough, now take control of your life and use that gym! Stop playing mind games with yourself and follow these 10 exercise commandments.

1. I will be impressed with everyone who walks through the front door of my health club. After all, they came here to improve themselves. I will understand that everyone is equally impressed with me.

2. I will utilize the health club staff for a first day introduction to the gym. I will take notes as they explain how to use each machine.

3. I will purchase three exercise outfits, which I feel comfortable in. That way, I will never feel self-conscious about whether or not I look good.

Continue reading Ten exercise commandments to help you overcome your fear of the gym.

Presidential fitness

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Think you're too busy to exercise? If the President of the United States can bike and strength train most days of the week, you can certainly make time to do so. Lots of folks feel lots of different ways about George W. Bush, but the fact of the matter is when it comes to fitness he's the ultimate role model.

He knows that with an incredibly stressful job, two busy daughters and a wife to keep up with skipping workouts is not an option. He needs energy, stress relief, and physical strength to survive each day. Most people would consider being "the most powerful person in the world" an easy excuse to slack on training for four to eight years. Bush doesn't do it and neither should you.

When the pressure increases, you need your workouts more than ever. Get up early, go to sleep late, return to work stinky after a mid-day jog, but don't make lame excuses. Cause if George can do it, so can you!

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That's Fit Weekly Podcast #4: March 22, 2007

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We're always looking for fresh and innovative ways to blog about news and trends fit for helping you live a healthy life. Now, thanks to Saturn, we bring a new voice to our efforts with the launch of our That's Fit Weekly Podcast. Each Thursday, we'll go from blogger to broadcaster as we discuss topics relevant to pursuing your health and fitness goals.

In the fourth program of our Spring Into Fitness series, our topic is Debunking Fitness Myths. We've been talking about starting fresh with new goals, solid plans, and better habits. Along the way -- at the gym, talking with friends -- you're bound to hear tons of advice about exercise, but not all of it may be true!

There are several common misconceptions about exercise and weight loss, but don't be fooled! In this podcast, we look at six top fitness myths and the truths that debunk them.

Have comments on our current shows or ideas for future podcasts? Or, do you have a burning health and fitness question you'd like answered on an upcoming installment? Comment right here and we'll do our best to provide the helpful information you're looking for!

There are several ways to receive the That's Fit Weekly podcast: Subscribe to our RSS feed, through iTunes, or just hit the MP3 file directly -- your choice!

Receive That's Fit Weekly Podcast using one of these methods:
[RSS] Add The That's Fit Weekly Podcast feed to your RSS feedreader and have it delivered automatically
[MP3] Download the podcast directly
[iTunes] Subscribe to the podcast directly in Apple iTunes

Kristi Anderson

File Format
7:00:00 length, 3.03 MB size, MP3 format (64kbps)

Intro/Outro Music (great workout music!)
Song: Sound Scientist

March 29, 2007 Program: Foolproof ways to boost your energy!

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FitBeauty: Bling up your beautiful belly

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Spring has officially arrived and summer will soon be upon us. This means sandals (finally) and sunscreen (still), swimsuits (ack) and sarongs (ahhh). If you've been working hard on those abs all winter long, you're probably anxious to show your stuff during the upcoming warm-weather months. Whether you're sporting a totally flat tummy or are graced with lovely soft curves, accentuate your positives with some beautiful belly bling.

From tummy to tresses,
these Convertibles by Bazner Studios can be worn loose or wrapped tight. Create a headband one day and let the beads hang at your hips the next. Designer Shaune Bazner's sense of simplicity and serenity is apparent in all of her jewelry, especially in her beadwork. These double (maybe even triple)-duty chains are beaded in beautiful hues and have alluring names like Sunglow, Hot Pepper and Mountain Mist.

If you're crafty or thrifty, make a beaded belly chain, custom fit for your own style and curves. Use a toggle to fasten your creation just under your navel, at the hip or simply slide through your belt loops.

If you're a hipster,
check out these low-slung belts from the Margaret Cho Hip Wear line. Now that the comedian's big into belly dancing, her products celebrate women's shakeable curves. The belts are adorned with brocade fabrics, intricate fringed beading, silk ties, fancy flower-work, buckles and other attentive details.

Although her Hip Wear is bellydance-minded, think about adding it to a simple all-black ensemble or classic low-rise-jeans-and-fitted-shirt outfit during this belt-crazy season. Since Margaret designs and hand makes all of the belts herself, just pretend she gave you a funky, fabulous girlfriend gift.

Mix bad-ass and baubles
as you decorate your belly with a shiny rhinestone pirate buckle and belt set. The skull and crossbones buckle is substantial size and will be a perfect accessory for your favorite drop-dead-but-not-overdressed outfit. I bet you'll naturally hook your thumbs comfortably at your hips while you're wearing this killer belt, calling even more attention to hard-earned midsection of yours.

If you're headed to see Supernova or just want to rocker it up a notch
, try out a temporary tattoo centered over your navel. Just for fun, try out a hot little heart , go groovy or gecko-geeky. They may not be completely chic, but they're sure to be a bit of cheap thrill (especially at under two bucks a pop).

P.S. And if you do have tix to Supernova this summer, you can at least rest assured that your belly tat's much cooler than Dana's silly little attempt.

If you feel like embracing your inner stripper (and sister, there's no shame in that every now and again), check out the many rhinestone belts that will have you lacing up your acrylic platform heels and swinging from the poles (or at least knowing you could if you really wanted to). Choose a sex-kittenish belt style, star , something simple or something a bit more blatant, just try to ignore the slightly creepy sites you order your merchandise from. As you close your eyes and hit "make purchase," consider how you'll look with some of this bling underneath your clubbing clothes, tucked away as a little insider secret or for a nice surprise for your after-party companion. Shhhh....

You don't have to be Paris Hilton to have a piercing.
Trust me. I have ample belly and adore my belly ring! My simple silver and onyx ring has helped me learn to love my middle parts. If you're up for ornamentation that's as permanent as a piercing, there are gazillions of styles to choose from. Just be sure that first you pick a reputable place of business, a technician you feel comfortable letting see you wince and good quality body jewelry.

If you're feeling daring and baring, check out a few belly ring-belly chain combos. Chains are linked to dangling charm or gem and make, well...a gutsy statement.

Whether you go bare or embellished, be sure to give your belly the love it deserves. And if you're midsection's not as flat, round, smooth or taut as you'd like right now, not to worry. Take a moment to embrace what it is and where you are right now. With a little positive attention (and maybe something saucy and sparkly), you'll be ab-happy in no time.

Daily Fit Tip: Go Asian

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Fact: Japanese people have the highest life expectancy in the world. The Chinese aren't far behind them. Why is that? There have been a number of investigations into their longevity, and it's thought that a low-fat diet high in fish and antioxidant-rich vegetables -- plus a lifestyle that includes few car rides and plenty of walking in its place -- is what sets them apart from the rest of the world. If you want to read more on this, check this out.

For us North Americans, it would be pretty hard to eat like someone would in Japan. After all, fish is expensive and often not fresh in landlocked areas, things like processed beef, dairy and bread are abundant, and walking often isn't an option in our car-dependent sprawl. But the goal here is taking a small step, so why not try to eat Asian 2 or 3 times a week? Try things like sushi, miso soup, a vegetable stir-fry. As long as it's not battered and deep fried, it's probably pretty healthy.

Overweight kids being treated with ADHD drug

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If your child or teen was overweight and getting ready to enter junior or senior high school, would you consider letting his or her pediatrician prescribe an amphetamine-type drug to speed weight loss?

At least one pediatrician in Illinois is doing just that, and some suspect the practice may be more widespread than we think. Adderall, a popular drug used to treat ADHD, is an amphetamine with the known side effect of appetite suppression. When given to children and teens who don't have the neurological disorder, it can cut their appetite and lead to weight loss.

Though it's legal to prescribe medicine "off label" or for uses other than it is intended, it raises ethical questions. Should we be giving drugs to children to combat childhood obesity? Are the risks of the medication worth the benefit, especially when the drug hasn't been tested for the specific purpose of losing weight? How does taking a drug teach children and teens about making healthy food choices and being more active?

Those are my questions, and unless a child or teen is morbidly obese and has little or no family support, I think this is a very dangerous trend. What do you think?

Appendicitis: Not always just abdominal pain

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The appendix: the one organ of the body that doesn't have any well-defined purpose -- well, any purpose other than randomly bursting without notice.

If health conditions can be famous, then appendicitis is. And even though it's easy to treat, if left untreated it can be extremely serious and even fatal. Abdominal pain is the most obvious and most noticeable symptom of appendicitis, but the following are also important to watch for:
  • Abdominal pain that starts around the belly button area, and may move over to the right lower side, and steadily intensifies as time goes by
  • Fever
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Constipation or diarrhea
Of course, if you or someone you know does need to have surgery the good news is that removing the appendix is a fairly routine procedure, and living without it isn't even noticeable -- other than a small scar maybe.

Treating obese kids ADHD drug?

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It's kind of scary when patients are treated with a conventional treatment or drug that has not been accepted as a treatment for the condition being treated. This is precisely what happened to 11-year-old Alex Veith recently, though.

Alex was 30 pounds overweight with signs of Type 2 diabetes. Since he was apparently active and eating a healthy diet, his parents and attending physician could not figure out what to do -- so a referred doctor prescribed Aderall, a common ADHD drug.

Why would this happen? Well, according to reports, a common side effect of Aderall is weight loss -- which was the goal in Alex's case. But with the other effects of Aderall, was a weight loss goal worth the risk for this specific drug? This sounds rather odd to me -- but when Alex did lose a good amount of weight, the psychological benefits were probably tremendous -- but at the cost of what? Although the FDA has not approved ADHD drugs like Adderall for weight loss, it is legal to get a prescription for this "off label" use from a doctor

Trying our best not to clog those arteries

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Although it can be a very silent killer, clogged arteries are responsible for heart attacks and other ailments after years (and decades) of consuming fatty foods that end up leaving deposits in all those internal pipes. After all, you would not through bacon grease continuously down the drain, right?

Research from this week stated that people with clogged arteries have a one in seven chance of dying -- or having a heart attack or stroke. No surprise there, really. What can be done to ensure those arteries don't become clogged, though?

Unfortunately, feeling good does not mean a patient is protected from clogged arteries (remember, this can be and is a silent killer). The best advice would be to carefully watch one's diet and exercise regularly to have that strong and vibrant internal connection system known as main arteries.

Detour diet "danger zones" with these simple substitutes

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Do you have a vice of those foods that you just can't stay away from or can't stop eating? We should all be able to have a treat every now and then, but vice foods can wreck a diet faster than you can say mint chocolate chip. The problem with vice foods is that a) they usually aren't healthy food choices and b) we tend to lose our self control around them.

If you're committed to dieting, there are a few things you can do to detour these diet danger zones. According to the author of this article, you should:

1. Recognize your trigger foods.
2. Determine which foods are "danger zones."
3. Find reasonable substitutes.

Continue reading Detour diet "danger zones" with these simple substitutes

Success at beating chocolate cravings is mental

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This advice about beating those insatiable cravings for chocolate are great -- and worth reading if you find that craving that chocolate during certain times can lead to sugar-based weight gain. Yeah, you say -- but it tastes so good!

Dieters often fall prey to cravings since psychologically, they feel deprived of something. Although that is normal human behavior, the way past it (my own example) is to have the correct mindset. A diet is not being "deprived" of food at all -- but it making a change to a better and more healthy lifestyle.

The more you tend to want to "cheat" on that diet or have a "free day", the more those different cravings will sneak up on you. Minor cheats are not bad for balance, but the daily cravings for some kinds of sweets can lead down that slippery slope for some of us.

Flu vaccines headed for the trash

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So if you're reading this then you've obviously survived the flu season. But whether you spent the winter miserably sick, or squeaked through flu-free, the over-all picture is that years flu numbers were quite a bit lower than expected -- which means there are a whole lot of flu vaccines set to expire and headed for the trash.

The sad part about this is that although the expiration date says they're no good, in reality experts say they're probably still effective for another year or longer -- which means we're headed for serious frustration if next year we have a worse-than-expected flu season and end up with vaccine shortages instead of excess.

Are nutritous school lunches much more costly than junk food?

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Sometimes I just can't understand why many public schools can't have a healthy school lunch menu at least 74% of the time. I've seen some schools that have made very decent strides towards a healthy school lunch menu, while others serve cheeseburgers, fries, milkshakes, fried pies and other unhealthy items several times a week.

Either is it much tougher financially to actually provide semi-healthy or healthy meals to public schools or something else is going on here. Although there are standard-of-living differences all over the map in the U.S. for families,California school nutrition professionals are seeking federal funding that indexes both reimbursement rates and free and reduced-price eligibility guidelines to get the state's higher cost of living mapped out as a large variable in the march towards healthier school lunches.

It's not that kids need to eat (or that their palates can be made to accept) organic vegetarian diets at school -- but some semblance of healthy dietary habits would be a good start.