Thursday, 12 April 2007

Job stress = raised blood pressure

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The connection between being stressed at work and the overall rise in blood pressure has been studied several times. So much has the correlation between stress and blood pressure woes that it's a common "fact" in many circles.

The actual blood pressure increase (not huge, but significant) due to work-related stress is enough to confer a substantial risk of heart disease according to a new study out of Belgium.

Why is everyone so stressed from work, then? Things like "high psychological demands" in combination with low job control ends up being the culprit in the minds of many experts. What do you think?

"Cocaine" energy drink being marketed against the law, says FDA

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The other day I went on a fact-finding mission to see what was really inside some of these so-called "energy drinks". Guess what? I ended up appalled by what some of these products contain.

The actual products will go nameless here, but all invoked a marketing image of "extreme energy" with the colors, container sizes and logos and other things. Some even threw in ginseng and green tea alongside junk such as high-fructose corn syrup and mounds (and mounds) of refined sugars and caffeine.

Sure -- all things said, these products will give one "energy" (at a cost of being extremely unhealthy), but what about an energy product with a name like "Cocaine"? How odd is this? Well, FDA officials are clamping own on the product (which is an energy drink) just due to the name (I think). "Cocaine" contains no actual cocaine, but is being marketed as "The Legal Alternative" to the illegal drug. Wow. This is what the beverage industry does to grow. Bleh.

Looking at the details of calorie restriction

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I've talked to a few nutritionists lately who insist that longer lifespans and overall healthier lives can be had by restricting overall caloric intake. Since eating is a social and mental undertaking that happens to manifest itself in physical health, one must be vigilant in calories every single day. Few have this overall discipline I think. Well, unless you're a nutritionist.

A recent study looked at calorie-restricted diets and how they differed in overall glycemic loads -- but ended up resulting in comparable long-term weight loss. In other words, there is more than one solution to the problem of weight loss and multiple and somewhat equal methods. Do you agree?

Serving suggestion: Amy's Kitchen Organic Pizza

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I am a fan of Amy's organic foods. There are only natural ingredients in most of the frozen dishes and some of the alternative meals like pot pies and pizzas are actually very tasty (while not filled with chemicals and trans fats).

Eating raw is sometimes really palatable, but when the mood strikes for a pizza, I suggest the "Mushroom & Olive" organic variety made by Amy's. The crust is whole wheat and there are no sodium nitrite-filled meats to be found.

There are very few mass-market frozen foods that are really healthy (when you're portion watching, of course), but this Amy's Kitchen product qualifies in my book.

Regular physical exercise good for mental health too

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Are you a fan of regular physical exercise? If so, is it vigorous? I'm talking 45 minutes on a stairmaster or maybe half an hour on an elliptical? If so, you probably are making your heart extremely healthy while also ensuring your mental health is in top form.

Recent research states that those who indulged in regular vigorous exercise were less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over time. Maybe there really is a mind and body connection!

Rigorous exercise is great just for the physical health benefits alone, but if the mental healthy benefits of the future are also to be gained, there's nothing to lose at all. Well, except some weight, maybe.

The top 100 hiking trails in North America

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When the winter weather broke last month, we started hiking again on the weekends. I plotted out hiking destinations on the calender, and by summer we'll have covered every known trail in our area. I'm not opposed to revisiting favorites, but I'd love to explore some new terrain this summer. Determined to find new-to-us hikes, I started with Google and came across this list of the the top 100 hiking trails in North America, put out by Trails.com.

Though it didn't uncover anything new for us in our area, it did give me a heads up on an excellent trail running right through the town we plan to vacation in this summer, as well as few others within in an hour's drive or so from our home. Not only that, it sparked some vacation ideas for next summer! Trails range in location from Pennsylvania to Florida to Oregon and to California, so you should be able to find something relatively close to you.

Here are some more links for finding great hikes, including Local Hikes, One Day Hikes, and for those of you who like the idea of extreme hiking, Day Hiker. Just remember, though, that a great hike doesn't have to show up on a list or even be Google-able. Some of our favorite local destinations aren't even on the 'net, yet we return to them again and again.

Dealing with pet allergies

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Are you prone to allergies? I am with certain things outdoors and indoors, but aside from trying to live in a bubble, I take steps to keep allergies at bay in a healthy and natural way (as possible, anyway).

Most of us love our pets, but with that companionship we sneeze and wheeze at cat and dog dander like it was some strong pepper on an Indian dish of spicy peppers or something. Solutions?

In favorable weather, keeping many pets outdoors is a good thing. Not only is clean, fresh air good for you, your pet will love it outside in most cases. Want more suggestions? See this.

The Nip-Tuck workout

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What do you get when you combine a retired plastic surgeon with a certified personal trainer? If you're Bruce J. Nadler M.D., you get "The Nip Tuck Workout -- Exercise through the Eyes of a Plastic Surgeon."

It's a fitness system based on plastic surgery principals -- like proportion and symmetry -- that also combines elements of bodybuilding and martial arts. Dr. Nadler hopes to optimize each of his clients' "physical and aesthetic potential" through body shaping and core stability training.

He's targeting baby boomers -- a generation that's seemingly willing to try anything to ward off aging -- so I imagine he won't have trouble finding clients. The question is: will the training actually work in making people look younger?

No more insulin shots? A new study offers hope

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A tentative new study is offering hope for those with Type I diabetes and has some researchers even using the words "possible cure." Scientists in Brazil and the United States used stem cells to treat 15 patients, ages 14 to 31, who recently had been diagnosed. After suppressing the patients' immune systems, the researchers gave each participant a chemical that excited the stem cells in the bone marrow. These stem cells were filtered from their blood and re-injected into each person. All but one of the study participants showed some level of freedom from injectable insulin, and one person has been free from all insulin shots for nearly three years.

Experts caution that this was a very small test and that there was no control group to compare test subjects to. In addition, researchers don't really know for sure that it was the stem cells that fostered the change or if it was suppressing the immune system that did the trick. In type I diabetes, cells made in the pancreas are attacked by a person's own immune system, causing difficulty in managing blood sugar levels.

So even though it's not clear whether researchers have truly found an answer, it is a glimmer of hope for people around the world who deal with the disease and the pokes and jabs of the needle on a daily basis.

Go hands free with iWalk

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So you've started walking to stay fit. You like the exercise, you enjoy being outside, but after a few weeks, it gets boring. To remedy this problem, you buy yourself a hip little iPod nano for some musical accompaniment. At first, this seems great, but before you know it you're tired of carrying around that little piece of plastic all the time, and wish that someone would invent a way for you to have hands-free access to tunes while you workout.

Well, my friend, the wait is almost over. The iWalk will be here in less than a couple weeks, and -- while it's a little conspicuous -- it looks like a nice way to keep your hands free for weights, or just to wave pleasantly at passersby.

For joggers this is even more useful. I've been using an armband to carry my nano while running, but A) the chord is annoying, and gets tangled in my hands; B) it's hard to work the clickwheel through the armband fabric; and C) the headphones are always falling out of my ears, which really defeats the purpose. While I'd be slightly embarrassed to wear this while huffing and puffing around my neighborhood, it might make life considerably easier.

[via Popgadget]

Workaholic? Loosen up.

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You see them everywhere these days -- those who take the office with them on the BlackBerry or Treo, and who have taken the lines that used to divide personal and professional lives away for good.

Is this a good thing? In most cases, workaholics are out of balance, according to Bryan E. Robinson, a therapist in Asheville, North Carolina. I agree with that. Sometimes the papers, calls and emails need to be set aside and work just needs to stop.

We've all experienced this in some form or another, but it takes a mountain of effort to ensure that living a personal life remains separate from what you do for a living (in most cases). Time for both will always be there.

Prenantal smoke exposure may lead to attention problems

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Women who smoke while pregnant and then give birth to kids who end up smoking in those hard teenage years appear to have kids who have a harder time paying attention and focusing, according to a new study.

Does smoking in general or even nicotine exposure cause this? Hard to say based on the conclusion, but the study did show that teenage girls showed both visual and auditory attention deficits and teenage boys only had issues with listening.

The prevailing theory of nicotine being known to bind to receptors involved brain development shows that perhaps an environment of nicotine is to blamer here. This is another good reason to not smoke during pregnancy, yes?

J&J recalls drug as glass fragments found in product bottles

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It's no secret that modern manufacturing processes are rarely perfect, but in the latest episode that could possibly demonstrate this, pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson has issued a recall based on glass fragments found in some of its in bottles.

A unit of Johnson & Johnson stated yesterday that it would be recalling prescription medicine used to treat ringworm and other fungal infections based on reports that glass shards were found in the prescription bottles used for the product, Grifulvin V.

At this time, the Johnson & Johnson unit responsible for the product is issuing recall letters to wholesalers and pharmacies across the U.S. to ensure Grifulvin V is being taken off pharmacy shelves. Right now, the glass shards in bottles are reportedly the results of S&H damage outside of the manufacturing process.

Are you smarter than a 5th-grader?

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There is a TV show called "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" that is quite interesting, as it shows adult contestants going up against standard fifth-grade students.

Why? Well, to see which group is smarter. Anyone who has seen "Jaywalking" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno knows that there are some adults here in the U.S. who just don't seem to know about various pieces many of us consider common sense. How about fifth-graders, though?

How about a version of the show called "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader in Health?" When

Another recall from J&J: Listerine 'Agent Cool Blue'

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Johnson and Johnson announced another recall today: all lots of Listerine Agent Cool Blue are being recalled due to potential health risks to people with weakened or suppressed immune systems. Apparently the preservative used in the bottle and product was found faulty at controlling certain microorganisms. Yikes, and yuck.

But J&J reports that the health risks to healthy individuals is not only very low, but nobody has even reported any problems as of yet (yeah, with an announcement like this that's about to change!). So check your cabinets and bathroom countertops for Listerine Agent Cool Blue, available in both Glacier Mint and Bubble Blast Flavors.

Thanks to a reader for the tip!

It's hard to say I'm sorry...when you're a doctor

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I'll never forget when my own favorite doctor apologized to me. He hadn't made a mistake, really, he had just underestimated me and my ability to manage my own medical care. I pushed for a test, he rolled his eyes, and when the results came back he was man enough to admit I may have just solved my own problem. His ability to apologize and see me as an equal in my own health care makes me a loyal patient.

But in the medical industry, an apologize can be equal to an admission of guilt, leading malpractice lawyers to advice their doctor clients against using the old-fashioned "I'm sorry" when they make a mistake. But states are now looking at laws that will let a physician apologize and not have those words being used against them in court.

"I'm sorry" can go a long way toward emotional healing and experts hope that by admitting they made a mistake, doctors may be able to prevent more lawsuits than they cause. Critics say that even in states with these kinds of laws, doctors who admit guilt may still be headed for court. Malpractice insurance companies, who obviously guard their own best interests as well, advise doctors to apologize for the outcome, but never for something they personally did. What do you think? Should your M.D. say he or she is sorry when they do wrong, or should they be allowed to protect themselves even if they know they made a mistake?

Cool Kid Recipes

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My kids are on a mission to try to out-do Mommy in the neat recipe contest, and I think they're winning. Almost every time I put a meal down on the table, they ask to change it up in some way or add something else to it. Often, my first thought is Eww!, but I never say that. As long as their requests are healthy I say "sure, let's give it a try!" Then...after they've done the taste test first and have given their approval I give a try myself. I've loved it all.

I think it's cool that they're not slaves to social pressure or traditional meal planning. They like what they like and they have oodles of new ideas. Maybe they'll spawn their own recipe book with this stuff, but for now....here are a few of their innovative and healthful treats. Enjoy!

Nutty Nana: Peel one entire banana and smear reduced fat peanut butter on it. Sometimes we put cherries on top of the peanut butter.

Yodelaheehoo Yogurt: Open a cup of your favorite yogurt and add any of the following ingredients: grapes, yogurt raisins, raisins, broken pretzels.

Continue reading Cool Kid Recipes

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Daily Fit Tip: Cook with Garlic

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One of my favourite things to use while cooking is fresh garlic. LOTS of fresh garlic. My fella would say perhaps too much garlic, but I wonder, is there any such thing? It's so fragrant and delicious. It's also good for you -- it's been known to manage acne and cholesterol, repel mosquitoes and even help with the common cold. Apparently it's also an antioxidant, and we all know that the more antioxidants you get the better. So, if you're not cooking with garlic, why not?

FitBeauty: Gift Guide for your very own Fit Beauty

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With Mother's Day just around the bend, triathlon finishes to cheer and the inevitable slew of showers and graduations already on your calendar, it is time to think about finding a great gift the healthy-minded, fitness-committed, fabulous women in your life. Since online shopping is overwhelming and the mall experience is overwhelmed by the smell of Cinnabons, I've done the legwork for you.

Find the perfect present for your favorite fit beauty right here in the The FitBeauty Springy-Summery Gift Guide.


For she who makes a fashionable entrance, even into the locker room - This invigorating Spring Green Shoulder Bag will liven up her locker room look, is handmade by a crafty woman and available on one of my favorite sites, Etsy.com. The roomy Aspen Messenger has exterior and interior pockets perfect for organizing locks, gym cards and Luna Bars and is sized generously enough to easily transition from work to workout. This Sling Purse and Snap Pouch Set will stylishly hold sweats separate from make-up and other girly things. Consider giving her an unnecessary but fun accessory like an embroidered hot bottle holder for soothing bootcamp-achey muscles, a monogrammed towel wrap and flip set for post-Pilates showering, or perhaps a fuzzy or frivolous water bottle cozy.


For the rocker grrrl on the elliptical - There's always the skull-inspired tank option or torn tee for rocker mamas-to-be. Depending on what's on her shuffle, some carefully-selected shoelaces might give her a laugh as she steps it up. If her iPod's collecting more dust than hair band hits, subscribe her to an MP3 loading service to get all that head-banging music she loves on there already.


For the sassy cycler - The days of big-booty biking shorts are over! This fiery tank and skirt set is perfect for your favorite cycler. And although it comes with all the amenities - built-in mesh bra, back pocket, leg grippers, all in a soft chamois fabric - the bicycle built for two's not included. Pair up this outfit with sassy workout socks that make a statement. This hydration and gel belt takes the sting out of wearing a (gulp) fanny pack and this funky chain frame will help her show off her proudest pedaling moments.


For the recipe-renovating baker - Remind her to make her favorite recipes with simple but effective multi-strand cookbook markers and a flippy little retro apron. These heart-shaped measuring spoons and matching measuring cups will keep track of how much love, hugs, spice (and more!) she's adding to a dish. They'll also serve up a dose of pride for all of her efforts to cook up healthful, scrumptious goodies.


For your on-the-program pal
- Whether she's stuck in a grilled chicken and steamed veg rut or is embracing multi-ethnic cuisines, celebrate your friend's new nutritional ways with this (not your grandmère's) spice rack. The design's trés moderne and the diversity of spices will have your friend smiling at the stove toute de suite.


For the dog-walker -
This is a must-have for every person who trudges out at 6 a.m. to walk the doggie and get in some sunrise exercise: A couture-inspired Swoop! It looks more like a giant, intimidating flashlight than (err) waste remover, making those walking workouts with her best friend a bit more humane. The Sleek Watch will help her easily keep track of walk/run intervals with the pooch and how fast she can lap the dog-walkers at the park. The City Sling Pack will keep her wallet, poncho and chew toys handy but her hands free for leash-wielding.


For the meditating mama - While she's getting a little om nima shivaya on, brew up a little comfort with this nifty teastick and a tea of the month subscription for delicious blends she'd never splurge on for herself. To help mama get to that centered place where toddler wailing and deadlines are tuned out, I love Soul Cards. One of my favorite gifts of all time (that I've received and given), this deck of gorgeously illustrations will provoke thought, creativity and focus on all things un-deadline.


For all gardeners, great and small - Dig deeper than cucumber seeds and tomato gates with some fun and refreshing supplies for the woman who loved her own little out of doors. If she likes the idea of gardening more than the digging itself, these Scatter Seed Kits make it easy. Just in case, maybe you should throw in a few fabulously-faux flowers to disguise any dangly dead leaves. If she's more serious than that, how about a Feng Shui Garden Design Kit for gentle souls, Flowers in a Can for concrete weeders and this cheeky, geeky tee for more playful pruners?


For the swimmer, surfer or fake baker in the bunch - Gift your favorite mermaid with all the accessories she needs for the summer. She'll feel fabulous adorning her perfect-find of a swimsuit with a Wet Bikini Bag, If she's also an earth-lover, she'll get a kick out of this mat that's not only perfect for her houseboat/cabana entry/outdoor shower that's made from tossed and recycled flip-flops. A sweet little splurgey surf skirt or aloha-inspired board shorts (with adorable matching stay-put two-piece) will inspire her to hit the waves.



Self-tanners: What's safe and what's not

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I'm like anybody else -- I think tan just looks better. But I also believe the health risks associated with sun (or even worse: tanning bed) exposure is very real. I don't want to look wrinkled before my time, or get an easily avoided and potentially deadly disease like skin cancer, so I'm always looking for the latest and greatest in self-tanning products.

So naturally when I saw this article I had to take a look, and thankfully it doesn't sound like there's anything to worry about. Now if I can just find a tanner that never EVER streaks...

Aspirin for heart disease prevention? Americans aren't buying it.

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By now, most of us have heard that a low daily dose of aspirin can help prevent heart disease. But a new study shows that many people who could benefit from this are not taking advantage of it.

The reasons why aren't clear. While many high-risk patients aren't getting an aspirin recommendation from their doctors, even when doctors do recommend it patients aren't always listening. Some people have a hard time believing low dose aspirin is really effective, and others worry that side effects of taking aspirin daily will outweigh the benefits.

It's no surprise that doctors are frustrated by this news. Americans seem stuck on the idea of aspirin being a pain relief drug rather than a heart health drug, despite the research.

Pack a snack to prevent overeating

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If there is one weight loss tip out there that I think should never be forgotten, it's this one: pack a healthy snack when you go out. Maybe it's because the car is an overeating trigger for me. It's too easy to grab a candy bar or run through a drive-thru when the day runs long, and having a piece of fruit, a small bag of whole grain cereal, or some other low calorie, nutritious snack saves me from having a high-sugar meltdown.

So what to pack? Here's a list to get you started. Fresh fruit tops the list as most portable snack food, but you can also prepare a few day's worth of cut veggies ahead of time and store them in single sized portions in the fridge for grab-and-go availability. Trail mix (homemade, not the fat-filled version they sell at the store) is another great option. Grab some quality whole grain cereal that's free from corn syrup and trans fats, throw in a few dried fruits, a dash of nuts, and you're good to go. Be mindful that dried fruits can be high in calories, and nuts are notoriously fatty (but in a good way) so keep the portions extra-light. (For reference, 1/8 of a cup of raw chopped walnuts has 100 calories. You wouldn't want more than a teaspoon or so in your trail mix!) Other good options, if you have at least five minutes, are whole wheat toast with a hint of peanut butter, smoothies, and if you're really desperate, energy bars (but check the food labels first).

Everyone's calorie needs are different, but in general snacks should be about 100-200 calories. Snacks should tide you over to your next meal, not become it. That said, the right kind of well-planned snacks can help you round out your daily nutrition, keep your energy levels up, and your hunger at bay all day long.

Regulation of vitamins and supplements coming?

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Does the U.S. really need regulation of vitamins, supplements and most other things considered healthy supplements (like raw vegetable juice)? From looking at a "final solution" proposal by the FDA, one could certainly start seeing things this way. Just search for CODEX on Google and read about what it is.

While I am no fan pf pharmaceutical drugs unless used in times of emergency or for conditions not brought on by lifestyle, they do have a place (a bigger one than I would like).

But natural living (as close as possible) with foods that actually are nutritious for your body is also a great way to stave off the need for many, many medications (my 2 cents). The overabundance of junk food and processed foods with chemicals is not a preferable lifestyle for many of us. If the FDA gets its way, will consumer choice be severely limited? I'm thinking yes.

We love to gawk at fit celebs: The Gyllenator

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Looky here: He bikes. He runs. He steals our hearts. Sigh.

Jake Gyllenhaal gives a bit of cycling inspiration on this workout through Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Perhaps he picked up some tips from pal Lance Armstrong over double soy decaf skinny lattes? Or more realistically, over chugs of Gatorade?

If the film star really is up for the starring role in the bio-pic of Lance's life, he may be working hard on research and not just working out. Gyllenhaal has said (clearly not on his most insightful of days) of working out: "Exercise is a natural high."

Splenda being sued by rivals for misleading advertising claims

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When you read the words "made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar," what do you assume about the product? Do you assume it's natural? Do you assume that it's made from sugar? Would you assume it was safer than other similar products? That's what legal minds are trying to figure out after the makers of Equal and NutraSweet filed a lawsuit against the makers of Splenda, saying that Splenda fools customers into thinking their product is natural with their misleading advertising slogan.

The truth is, sugar is used in the making of Splenda, but all sugar is burned off during the process and there is no sugar in the finished product. Splenda is made from synthetic compounds, just like Equal and NutraSweet, but these competitors claim that consumers don't understand that the products are very similar in nature. Splenda argues back that consumers like their product better because it tastes better and can be used in in baking. Splenda sales make up 60% of the artificial sweetener market right now, so there's a lot of money at stake on both sides.

Do you use artificial sweeteners? If so, let's take an unofficial poll: Which sweetener do you like better? If so, why? And did you understand that Splenda was not sugar-based and not natural? Does that make a difference to you? And if you're like me and you don't use these sort of products at all, tell us what helped you make that decision.

Do genes band together to promote the spread of cancer?

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It seems that there is news about cancer almost every single day. There are various types and some that are deadly and some that are benign.

Some medical experts believe that a genetic predisposition can be enhanced by lifestyle choices that actually bring on the onset of cancer. On that front, researchers stated yesterday that four genes are now thought to actually "band together" to help cancer spread throughout the body.

Even further, research from a second study suggested that 87 different genes end up actually working together to help make cancer more vulnerable to drug treatment. The body does strange and mysterious things, yes?

A frozen pasta guide for the busy eater

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I'm a busy person, so when I walk past the freezer aisle at the grocery store and see a bunch of cheesy, delectable, delicious-looking frozen lasagnas, I'm tempted to forgo the hassle of making one at home for the store-bough one. Sometimes they're not bad, but other times they come out a hard as hockey pucks. And it never looks like the picture on the box. Let's face it -- any type of pasta is better freshly made, otherwise the noodles are often hard, soggy or rubbery.

But I'm sure there must be some good ones out there for the busy eater. eDiets has rated the best and worse in frozen lasagnas, and they've added the nutritional information too so you can make a healthy choice. Give it a gander -- it's pretty eye-opening. Are there any that thy missed? What's your favourite or least favourite frozen entree?

Could the bubonic plague be a bio-weapon?

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It's amazing to me how we advance science and technology, curing diseases and illnesses left and right, and still somehow some of the oldest ailments on Earth, like the bubonic plague, still come around to haunt us.

This comes up because although the threat of bio-terrorism is nothing new, researchers are now looking into the possibilities of both the bubonic and pneumonic plagues being used as weapons. Because they are so easy to "make" (it's as simple as growing bacteria), distribute widely (aerosol-type weapons), and deadly they just might be the new attack ammunition of choice for terrorists.

So at least we're aware and working on the situation, but in the meantime keep your bio-masks at the ready...jk.

Can doctors say "I'm Sorry?"

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As Bethany posted on last night, some states are considering easing restrictions on what doctors can say to patients without being sued into oblivion. How about you -- do you implicitly trust your doctor? Physicians are human beings and sometimes make mistakes, a fact that attorneys partially clue in on when those larger mistakes happen that end up in a patient's death or disability.

The only difference here is that mistakes made on people are seen as of the highest caliber imaginable. But, as I said before, doctors are humans too. Everyone makes mistakes (some of us many of them every day), right? If engineers made quite a few mistakes, airplanes would fall out of the sky daily. If doctors made many mistakes, patients would die daily in alarming numbers. Are they? Well, you do your own homework on that one, but I think not.

What about more common mistakes? The days of supreme ego from the established doctor should be a thing of the past these days, where a solid line of communication between doctor and patient should exist. Some states are suggesting that approach more and more, it appears. For fear of lawsuits and rising costs in malpractice insurance (which are already sky-high), can a doctor say anything about possible fault without landing in court? That is what some states want, and maybe it should be applauded.

Water filters really do work to improve water quality

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Though my city sends out a professionally done "water quality report" each year, I'm skeptical. It's not that I don't trust what's written inside the pamphlet, I do. It's what's not written there that scares me. Recently, our local newspaper reported on the quality of our local water, and I was glad I already had my water filter firmly in place.

It turns out home water filters really can make a difference in your drinking water. They filter out lead, chlorine, and dangerous bacteria. Depending where you live, you may not need a water filter at all. But if your local drinking water routinely has safety violations (and 22 of 25 of the largest cities in the U.S. do, according to Consumer Reports) you may want to consider putting one in.

The question is, what kind to get? That depends on your needs. A pitcher will work if you only plan to filter your drinking water. We installed a tap filter, which is nice, but it does slow the flow of water and leaks on occasion. Other filters can be installed under your sink and you can even put in a whole-house filter. Luckily, Consumer Reports also found that you don't need to spend a fortune to improve the quality of your water, so if you do decide to filter, you should be able to find something that fits your budget. WebMD has a great list of the most common types of water filters and their pros and cons here.

Making the Ultimate Salad

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Tossing a salad is a work of art for some people. There are so many variations, styles, toppings, dressings, etc. It's hard to make a salad unhealthy, but it never hurts to have the directions for The Ultimate Salad. That's right, this 620-calorie beast of a meal includes everything needed to turn a normal salad into a nutritional work of art.

Starting with spinach and broccoli, you'll want to add these for a kick of folate and potassium. Not really foreign to any ordinary salad, but what about red kidney beans and yellow bell peppers? The beans are packed with antioxidants and fiber, while the peppers boast vitamin C.

Extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar contribute monounsaturated fat to the mix. This duo can also help boost vascular functioning. The list goes on (flaxseed and almonds anyone?). If you're a salad person and would like to know the nitty gritty on the ultimate salad,