Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Fit Links: Happy, healthy feet

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As fabulous as we at That's Fit think this blog is, the truth is there are hundreds of wonderful blogs on healthy living to be seen all over the blogosphere. So in this feature, Fit Links, we'll introduce you to some that have caught our eye.

April is Foot Health Awareness Month! Feet are another one of those body parts that we tend to forget about unless something goes wrong. But taking preventative steps to make sure your feet stay happy can save you lots of trouble down the road. Here's a few of my favorite foot care blogs for inspiration:

Happy Feet offers new foot product reviews, from shoes to arch supports to foot-washing systems. Plus, the site has foot care tips and a little foot health news.

The Foot Blog is more of a heavy duty, medical report-based foot blog. While it may not always be an easy read, if you're having foot health problems and you need real information this is a good place to start.

Foot Health News from Foothealthcare.com offers all the latest in news about feet. Who knew there were so many foot news headlines?
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You Are What You Eat: What is acai, and how do I use it?

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acai berriesEach week, we'll be offering original recipes and unique ways to use those Super Foods that pack nutritional power. After all, you are what you eat -- make it count!

What is Acai? Not only is this Brazilian berry being touted as having ten times the antioxidants of blueberries and grapes, but Dr. Perricone (of Oprah fame) calls it his number one Superfood. That's all well and good, but is it even available for general consumption? It sure isn't on the shelf of your local supermarket next to the orange juice, but it is becoming more common. Try these . . .

Acai Berries
Acai Roots sells a big ol' bucket of these nutrient-rich berries. Get them delivered and try some of their recipes for acai drinks as well as the traditional Brazilian way to eat acai.

Continue reading You Are What You Eat: What is acai, and how do I use it?

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Jet lag is real, and it's bad for you

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Being an airline pilot, or even a stewardess, carries with it a certain air of being in some exclusive club. They always walk by in groups wearing their official-looking uniforms and pulling their cute little suitcases -- you can't help but feel like they have a charmed and exotic lifestyle full of travel and adventure. But that package deal may come with more risks than expected as more and more airline crews are facing serious health troubles, including everything from psychotic disorders to menstrual cycle disruptions. What's the cause? Jet lag. Specifically jet lag experienced a few times too many -- the body just can't adjust fast enough or frequently enough and as a result different systems suffer, particularly in areas of mental health and hormones.

Whether you're a frequent flier for work or pleasure, something to think about!

Children of depressed parents take more trips to the doctor

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Did you know that nearly 1 in 2 parents may suffer from depression? That's an astounding number. A recent study followed 70,000 children, age birth to 17 years, to take a closer look at the health care utilization of parents with and without depression. About 1/3 of parents involved in the study had previously diagnosed depression.

What researchers found was the children of parents with depression were more likely to make trips to the ER, medical specialists, and to have more sick visits. Teenagers, especially, were found to have fewer well-child visits, but made more trips to the emergency room and to costly specialists. Infants of parents with depression, on the other hand, made 14% more sick visits to their doctors.

While the study didn't define the motivation behind the extra visits (Are children of depressed parents less healthy? Or do depressed parents have a higher level of anxiety so need reassurance more frequently? Or is there another cause?), it did make it clear that parents who suffer from mood disorders need more help. The next step for researchers is to find out what type of intervention will improve screening and treatment options for parents.

If you think you may at risk for depression, take a look at this Depression Symptoms Checklist and talk to your doctor if you fit the profile.

Ten foods that are hard to digest

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Knowing your favorite foods rank high on a list of tough edibles can be a bit hard to digest sometimes (pun intended). But seriously, did they have to tell us that chocolate, ice cream AND mashed potatoes sit among the top ten foods that are hard to digest?

You may be wondering how in the world mashed potatoes got there, but in fact this comfort food is loaded with milk. That means lactose intolerant people won't find them very easy to absorb. What about citrus juices? Believe it or not these juices can also throw a wrench in the digestive process. Irritating the esophagus, causing a stomach ache or inducing diarrhea could be the result of having citrus at the wrong time.

Don't worry though, this isn't meant to deter anyone from consuming broccoli or sugar-free gum (yes, both of these are also on the list!). Some people may just find it interesting if they experience these symptoms after eating, so check out the rest of the information to learn more.

Overweight? You may be more likely to have asthma

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New research was released yesterday that stated obese folks are 50% more likely to get asthma than those of normal weight. The solution to ease asthma troubles was -- you guessed it -- overweight people need to lose weight.

In general, Asthma is not life threatening -- but it case be since it is indeed an inflammatory disease that can cause wheezing, coughing and labored breathing. Asthma affects about 7% of the U.S. adult population while obesity and being overweight affects 65% of U.S. adults according to the latest estimates.

This study's conclusions gives even more reason to those that are overweight to seek solutions and help for losing those extra pounds if unsuccessful attempts were made in the past with losing weight and failed.

Why men get skin cancer more often than women

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Attention women! When you smooth on your SPF 15 moisturizer in the morning, you might just want to dab a little on your man; a recent study found that men's skin is more sensitive to the sun's rays than women's.

The fact that men develop skin cancer more frequently than women has been a well known fact in the medical community for a while. What experts aren't sure about is why men are more prone to the disease. Are they out in the sun more? Are they less likely to apply sunscreen? Or is their skin just different? During this particular study, male mice who were exposed to ultraviolet light were more likely to get skin cancer sooner, have more tumors, and more severe tumors than female mice. This seems to solidify the theory that men just have skin that is more sensitive to sun damage than women. When researchers investigated further they were surprised to find that the male mice skin had fewer antioxidants in the cells than the female mice skin.

Dermatologists agree that male skin differs from female skin, but that this study doesn't tell the whole story. Men do get more exposure to ultraviolet light, says Marianne Berwick, PhD. Further studies should explain what exactly is happening and how men (and hopefully women, too!) can protect themselves from the disease.

Are vegetarians healthier people?

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I've heard several people I've talked to recently state that vegetarians can't be all that healthy based on the lack of protein intake from a non-meat diet plus other factors. But, eating veggies for your entire diet is not inherently better than having some meat in your diet, right?

It all comes back to details. For example, there are a multitude of plant-based sources for protein -- it does not have to come from meat as some may think. Cutting out red meat (which is always a good idea) will reduce saturated fat and artery clogging, yes?

The only thing is that you can't replace meat in your diet -- if you decide to become a vegetarian -- with other foods that are bad for you.

When the hospital calls 911

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So the idea is that you call 911 in an emergency, hoping to get rushed to the hospital. But what happens when the hospital calls 911?

Believe it or not, it happens fairly often. I get that sometimes stabilizing a patient and calling for "Flight for Life" to take them somewhere with more advanced equipment or specialized staff is necessary, but a hospital calling 911? No way, that's like a doctor calling himself...

Well apparently "hospital" doesn't always mean "doctor." In over 140 small hospitals around the country there isn't always a doctor in the facility around the clock, and so when patients suffer severe complications like breathing problems or medication reactions the nurses resort to dialing 911 to get the patient rushed to a bigger hospital with an MD on site.

It sounds like there are a whole lot of politics surrounding these small hospitals that specialize in procedures like heart surgery and knee replacements, but as far as I'm concerned it's pretty simple: if you want to use the name "hospital" you should be required to have a doctor -- at all times.

Free, bilingual health checklists make doctor's visits easier

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If you ever feel unsure about what routine tests you should be getting at your yearly checkup, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality wants to help. The agency recently announced a new pocket-sized, bilingual checklist that patients can bring with them to their doctor appointments.

The checklists are gender specific and list common tests for both men and women. Men are urged to discuss screenings for colon cancer, high cholesterol, and obesity, while the women's list suggests screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer, and osteoporosis (among others). Along with recommendations, the checklists also have charts to record medical screenings and procedures, reminders for following up, and healthy lifestyle tips.

So if you need help organizing your thoughts before a doctor's visit or are unsure what screenings you need, keep your eye out for Your Checklist for Health and tuck it into your purse or pocket for your next appointment. And if you can't wait for the pocket sized version, here are links to the men's and women's versions.

Jogging for Normal People: OMG! I Have Cramps

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Despite the assortment of physical set backs I had when I first started this jogging gig, things had been looking up. I was running longer, I'd found a rhythm, and I rarely had concerns that the burning in my chest was the precursor to a heart attack. In fact, the most significant hurdle I've been overcoming these days is the motivation to get out there in the first place.

Awesome.

But my last couple times out, I've been cramping, which sucks.

I have a few pet peeves in life. The largest -- and by far the most frustrating -- is when a device that's otherwise working normally develops an asinine little problem that a) you can't fix, and b) renders the device utterly useless. Like when the TV almost works, but it just a bit too fuzzy to make out what's going on. Or when my computer will open some windows, but not others, or slows down such a mind-numbing pace that the repercussions of every click are 5 minutes in duration. Why? Why? WHY?

Or, when my otherwise normal functioning body -- breathing, legs pumping, mind on the prize -- is brought to it's knees by some stupid little pain in my side that just won't go away no matter what I try!

So I turned to my friend, the Internet, in order to end my side stitch, once and for all.

I recognize this is a fairly basic problem, with a number of straightforward solutions. The more fitness-savvy among you might want to skip ahead to the next post, but for anyone who's as clueless as I am, the following seem like viable ways to cure that obnoxious runner's cramp once and for all.

According to About.com, this is why it happens: Now researchers believe that the side stitch is caused by stretching the ligaments that extend from the diaphragm to the internal organs, particularly the liver. The jarring motion of running while breathing in and out stretches these ligaments.

Ok, great. So how do we fix it? According to website called Cramps Help, it's easy: To prevent this from happening, it is advised to take evenly spaced, deep breaths. Shallow breathing means the diaphragm is not given time to lower enough for the ligaments to relax.

For a more thorough explanation, including tips on how to relieve side stitch-related pain, check out this helpful site from Mother Nature.com.

Hopefully this works. I'll let you know next week.

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Depressed? Try CBT over drugs

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Have you been diagnosed as depressed recently or currently? Are you on prescription medications that calm anxiety, depression and irregular mood swings? There are those that believe the age of pharmaceutical drugs for depression and related mental disorders may be giving way to the psychiatrist's couch.

This article over at Forbes.com talks about the prevalence of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a replacement for medications for those that are depressed. The list of clinics and professionals now using CBT to treat patients is very impressive indeed.

With some depression sufferers wanting alternatives to drugs with side effects, the exploration of CBT may make quite a bit of sense. If you're depressed and not much seems to be helping, investigating CBT in your area may be the best decision you ever made.

Pregnancy pounds: How much is too much?

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New information is challenging the accepted rules regarding how much weight is "healthy" to gain during pregnancy: studies show that women who gain pregnancy pounds within the acceptable range are twice as likely to have over-weight toddlers (3yr olds) than women who gained less than the recommended amount.

But don't make any decisions about how to handle your pregnancy just yet -- pretty much all the experts agree it's too early to change the standard, and your baby's health (as well as your own) isn't something to play around with. At most, aim for the lower end of the currently accepted range.

Hopefully they clear this up soon -- there's enough anxiety around having a healthy pregnancy without throwing more "unknowns" into the mix.

Overweight patients have more complications after heart surgery

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A recent Australian study found that heart patients who are overweight are more likely to have complications following heart surgery than patients who are at a healthy weight.

The study found that heart patients who were obese were 40% more likely to suffer infected wounds and renal failure post-surgery. Patients who were morbidly obese were more likely to have prolonged venilation, longer stays, and return visits to the ICU. The good news is that, though these statistics seem bad, patients who were overweight were no more likely to die after surgery than their thinner counterparts.

Keep fit to protect your heart to avoid the operating table in the first place, but also so that in the event you do need heart surgery, your body is better able to bounce back and avoid complications like these!

Living a healthy lifestyle -- suggestions

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After reviewing this blogger's take on living a healthy lifestyle, many of the points made make great sense. The modern lifestyle of the western culture is the start of the formula for so much sedentary lifestyle choices and, in turn, the prevalence of obesity.

I often ask friends over dinner this question and wait for the discussion to start: "do you think that people in general are better off today -- health-wise -- than they were in the 1850s?" The answers to that question have ranged all over the map, but they seem to coincide with the suggestions from this blog entry -- much of which I agree with.

Some points to live a healthy lifestyle would include:
  • Try to cook more often and more creatively.
  • Walk. It's not hard. I
  • Have fun how you used to.
  • Be old fashioned. Don't always take the technologically assisted easy way out.