Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Overweight kids = the need for ear tubes?

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Researchers stated this week that overweight kids (obese ones, to be specific) are probably more likely to need ear tubes due to an increasing and recurring problem of fluid build-up in the ears.

Excess fluid build-up can lead to chronic ear infections in many kids, and "tubes" are commonly used to ensure that fluid drains properly so that infections are kept at bay. But, why does obesity cause more examples of excess fluid in the first place?

The two have never been connected in a study before, so it's quite interesting that the study found a correlation like this. According to the South Korean researcher who led the study, "The finding suggests that childhood obesity could have an effect on the development of [otitis media with effusion]."

Gates Foundation money changing pharmaceutical landscape

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When Warren Buffet recently endowed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with $31 billion, it cemented that foundation as the largest in the history of the planet. The Gates Foundation had already impacted scores of people and countries with its philanthropic efforts, and it went into overdrive with the gift from Buffett.

Has the Gates Foundation changed the pharmaceutical landscape? According to some, it has -- and deeply. It's good to see the global pharmaceutical players having a danger posed to them.

Hey, it's what keeps companies inline when a disruptor changes the rules, right? Perhaps more collaboration between the largest philanthropy in the world and major pharma companies would be a nice middle ground.

Cyber-bullying can be terrifying for kids

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Do you monitor the activities your kids have while using the Internet these days? Most cognizant parents monitor Internet activity in some way (I hope) using software or by having physical monitoring.

But the use of cites like MySpace and others allow for bullying -- long used in a physical way in schools -- to reach even more destructive levels. Cyberbullies are sprouting from many corners of the Internet these days.

It's easier, for one thing. Face-to-face bullying can be harder than cyber-bullying. Both can be equally destructive, though. With more and more of kids' lives these days being attached in some way to the Internet, what can a child do? What can a parent do? What have you done? I'm interested to hear your thoughts here.

Chondroitin Sulfate not good for arthritis relief?

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Chondroitin Sulfate is used by many people I know for achy and arthritic joints -- but does it actually work? A recent clinical analysis says that it doesn't; in fact, chondroitin and sugar pills have the same effect.

I'm not sure I'm ready to believe this at all without knowing who is behind the clinical analysis (which is hugely important) or determining if there is any influence at work here to discredit a natural alternative (we've seen it before, folks). But, are you willing to no longer use your chondroitin supplements for those painful joints?

So, does the "better data" cited in this analysis hold water? From outward appearances, it looks like it does. Without more detail, I'm not throwing my opinion yet, however.

Working out in Wool?

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When it comes to choosing what to wear for a workout, I go for whatever is lightest, which is usually a pair of stretchy capri-style pants and a tank. Even though I live in a cold climate, I couldn't imagine wearing anything more because I tend to get very warm very fast. So I couldn't imagine working out in something made of, say, wool, but that's exactly what this company wants you to do. They're called Ibex and they produce a variety of sportswear, some of which is made from their signature lightweight, machine-washable wool. I'm not entirely convinced -- the word wool makes me automatically think of my itchy Christmas sweater that leaves me sweating bullets if the temperature is anywhere above freezing.

I haven't tried it -- have you? Is it really as lightweight as they say?

School-age kids motivated by possible climate changes

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Whether you're a supporter or detractor of the global warming debate, the facts of pollution (of any kind) are hard to deny. Are we headed towards global climate change that will change the face of the planet? Maybe so, maybe not.

Regardless, the amount of attention global climate change continues to receive is having an impact on kids, who are motivated to staying aware of the situation, according to The Washington Post.

Passing over control of the planet to kids who have a possible better understanding than agenda-based politicians may not be that bad of a future scenario in my book.

Lunch meats linked to lung disease

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Deli meats causing problems in the lungs, of all places, seems like an unlikely truth. But according to recent research it does seem to be the case. When experts looked at the connection between a diet including cured meats such as deli meat, hot dogs, and bacon and the development of COPD later in life, they found what looks like a direct link: the more cured meats in a person's diet the higher the risk for COPD.

They are quick to point out, however, that this study by no means proves anything. In fact, they aren't even recommending that people stop eating cured meats, just that they consider cutting back a little.

I think we all already know that fresh is always better, and it's not just for fruits and vegetables.

Teenage competencies make for less drug abuse

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A new study concluded that teenagers who have a command of basic competence skills (including positive psychological characteristics) are forces that help them prevent themselves from becoming substance abusers over time.

In research along those same lines, other research conclusions have stated that substance abuse by teenagers is a result of the same actions by close friends and peers. This newer study goes in a different direction, though.

In addition to positive mental thought processes and a good self-actualization characteristics, the study also concluded that students with high refusal assertiveness skills and good decision-making skills were less likely to conclude that they may smoke in the future. I know of many (many) smokers who started smoking in high school due to peer pressure -- and they remain smokers many years later (and may be for life). How about you?

Five quick fixes for back pain

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As I described at length in a post on our partner blog, ParentDish, my parenting exploits have left me in a little pain these last few days. Apparently this is pretty common, as nearly 80 percent of Americans suffer back pain at some point in lives. While this may come as no surprise, I was interested to learn that most soreness or spasms are triggered by seemingly innocuous, everyday activities.

Here's five simple, straightforward tips to help rid yourself of that discomfort.

1. Good posture is important, but you don't need to stand like a soldier -- this actually puts pressure on the spine instead of relieving it. Instead focus on being relaxed, and balanced.
2. Get corrective insoles to make sure your foot has the proper arch while walking.
3. Once you've achieved proper posture, talk a walk -- studies show this can relieve back pain.
4. Switch shoulders for your backpack, bag, etc -- even if it feels weird.
5. Take more breaks -- especially if you have a job that keeps you seated all day. Doctors recommend getting up and moving around every 45 to 60 minutes to prevent strain.

For more explanation, check out Alicia Porter's helpful article on Health.com.

Like to run? Join the Girls Gotta Move Running Club

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Are you a runner who's looking for a jogging partner? Are you new to running and are looking for some structure and guidance to help you on your way? Or have you signed up for a race and have no idea how to begin training? If you answered yes to any of those questions, Health.com's Girls Gotta Move Running Club might just be for you.

Create a profile and search for other runners in your area. I created a profile and searched in my tiny little burg and found at least 5 women I'd run with (if I liked to run with other people). Oh, and men? You're included too! If you aren't interested in meeting other runners, there are running logs, training guides for 5Ks, 10ks, and marathons, and plenty of articles full of tips and advice. There's even a Walk-to-Run program to help beginners get up to speed. Check it out!

Diet soda better or worse than the real thing?

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Are you a fan of diet soda? Many folks I know switched to diet versions of their favorite soft drinks years ago to get away from the sugar and calories of normal soft drinks. While diet sodas can be looked at as healthier than normal soft drinks, I still avoid them like the plague. Why? Chemicals and other non-nutritional items.

Have you looked at the sodium content of some diet soft drinks? How about aspartame content (a fake but dangerous sweetener)?

Always do what you feel is right, but in the case of diet soft drinks, the additives, fake colors, chemicals and other things sound like bad news to me. Do they to you?

Hey Smokers! This is what your friends won't tell you. Part 2

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A few weeks ago I posted Hey Smokers! This is what your friends won't tell you. and boy did I get some feedback. You know, I wrote it kind of harshly...it is true. It's just one of those things that stick in my craw. This is a blog and AOL welcomes us to be opinionated. It is what it is. I hate smoking. Smoking is not one of those deals that effects just the person doing it; everyone surrounding the smoker is affected. But, what inspired me to write the article was all of my friends who are former smokers.

Across the board, they all are disgusted by smoking now. They also say that they "had no idea how offensive they were being, how gross it smells......even from far away, and also how nasty it looks". Go talk to someone who has already kicked the habit. They probably had no idea how offensive they were. Look, my job is to promote fitness. Most of the time I do it with a happy face, cheerful voice, and congratulating air. Every now and then it's time for straight talk. That's what that blog was all about.

Some people respond to loving hand holding. Some people respond to the harsh truth. If you visit the comment section of that blog, you'll see the suspected replies of "Gee it's my habit, and it's not hurting anyone but me." "I've tried to quit but it's an addiction, none of the remedies actually ever work, woe is me, blah blah blah". I even got cursed out a few times. Oh well. Some cursed me of 'hating them'. Nope. I hate smoking. Lots of terrific people smoke, and that's also pretty frusterating.

Continue reading Hey Smokers! This is what your friends won't tell you. Part 2

Minorities more likely to develop cancer

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Minorities may have higher cancer rates based on not only genetics but by socioeconomic factors according to a recent report by U.S. researchers over the weekend.

The researchers concluded that minorities are much more likely to develop and die from cancer than the general U.S. population. With genetics being touted as a primary cause of cancer, the environmental effects are being scrutinized further in recent studies from what I've seen.

Things like nutrition, lifestyle choices, access to health insurance, poverty rates and cultural barriers are being looked at harder and harder as cancer contributors -- something this latest research backs up.

Youngsters fast to act when given nutrition advice

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In a new study from the Dietary Intervention Study in Children (DISC) trial in New York has concluded that kids can indeed be taught to choose healthier food and drink choices (like skim or reduced-fat milk over whole milk) in addition to getting the proper daily calcium intake.

While initial results centered around the different types of milk (i.e., skim being much more healthier than whole milk), it's an interesting result here. A possible result? Educating kids to make the best possible nutritional choices is possible.

Now, if someone could look at how kids could choose natural and healthy foods versus junk and processed foods, we'd have something very worthwhile. That's a monumental battle just judging from junk food commercials on TV these days, though.

New York joins other states for tougher mercury emission rules

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The levels of the toxic element mercury has been well-documented in certain parts of global oceans due to the amount of industrial pollution that occurs on some seaboards. It's enough to put some off seafood to be honest. But, there are those that would like to see things improved.

The state of New York and other Northeastern U.S. states want to to see stricter national rules on mercury emissions -- and they've joined up in a pact to see what they can collectively do about it.

One of the charges from the collective states says that airborne mercury emissions drift from coal-fired plants in the Midwest and drop into their lakes, ponds and rivers. The problem? Fish absorb the neurotoxin and end up recirculating it back into the food chain when seafood is consumed. Not good, right?


Fit Links: Start making your heart a priority

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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.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in both America and Europe. Whether your concern is high blood pressure, a family history of heart attacks, or even stress on your heart from marathon training, heart health is something that everyone needs to make a priority. Here's a few blogs to help get you informed:

A Hearty Life is a lighter-reading blog that covers anything to do with your heart, from interesting facts to news and personal stories.

The Heart Watch Blog from MedicineWorld.org and the The Cardio Blog are both great resources for keeping up to date with any news making headlines that relates to heart health.

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Your dangerous...toothbrush?

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Is there danger lurking in your bathroom? Some dental health experts think so and the culprit is something you use every day -- your toothbrush. Recent studies with dogs found that when the animals had their teeth brushed in the same manner humans do -- daily and with the same unsterilized toothbrush -- the animals got lesions in their mouths and even bacteria in their bloodstream. That's because bristles on a toothbrush aren't necessarily smooth like they seem. They're actually very porous (great breeding ground for bacteria) and become jagged with use, which allows them to create small wounds where bacteria can enter the bloodstream.

Does that mean you need to change your tooth brushing habits? It depends on who you talk to. Some health experts think the idea of disinfecting your toothbrush is silly, an overreaction to being afraid of germs. Others think that toothbrushes should never be kept in a bathroom, and instead should be stored on your bedroom window sill, where the sun's UV rays can kill bacteria. Some even think that toothbrushes should be replaced as often as every two weeks.

Continue reading Your dangerous...toothbrush?

You Are What You Eat: Kale, not just a garnish

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kaleEach 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!

Until several years ago, I really didn't know that kale was an edible vegetable. I honestly thought it was just used as a garnish in buffets, to make the trays set in ice look pretty.

Imagine my surprise, when my family adopted a healthy and green lifestyle and I began to shop at Whole foods, and kale was for sale . . . to eat!

Now that I am wiser and more well-informed, I really do believe kale is one of the best vegetables you can eat. It has all of the benefits of leafy greens, combined with all of the goodies in cruciferous veggies. How can you go wrong?

Continue reading You Are What You Eat: Kale, not just a garnish

Why our brains love chocolate more than kissing

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What do you love more...your partner or your chocolate? You may vow your undying love to your partner, but your brain? It wants the chocolate.

A recent study of 20-year-old couples found that when the lovebirds kissed, hearts pounded, knees weakened, and the kiss had a lingering effect on their brains. But when the same couples were given chocolate to melt on their tongues, heart rates jumped to up to 140 beats per minutes and the brain and body buzz lasted much longer than after the kiss. Not only that, while the kiss made some parts of the brain light up, the melting chocolate set off fireworks.

Maybe the volunteers were just kissing the wrong people? Not so, say experts, citing the fact that chocolate is full of phenylethylamine, which can boost endorphins in the brain, and caffeine, which is a stimulant. Then again, the volunteers were locking lips in a lab, which may have put a damper on their ardor. Now tell the truth, did this post have you craving a kiss from your sweetie...or a candy bar?

Traveling and still working out

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When you travel, do you leave your excellent fitness habits behind at home? Some do and some don't. Unless you travel regularly, I've seen the occasional travel seem like a "vacation" to many. While there's nothing wrong with that mindset, stopping a good exercise routine is not a good idea.

Solution? Bring small and easy to pack workout items with you. Bands, pilates balls, stretching equipment, etc. can be packed pretty easily into the suitcase, yes?

Also, take advantage of the workout facilities in your hotel (most have them these days). If you're paying for a room, use all the amenities that come with it. Take 30 minutes and you'll not be losing that exercise routine -- and you'll probably feel better and more refreshed (even while traveling).

Fitness is a struggle for disabled people (for all the wrong reasons)

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This is a subject near to my heart as I have worked for several years in the health care industry, most recently with adults who have suffered traumatic brain injury. Exercise and fitness is a huge part of the rehab process for these individuals, and if you think it's hard for you to get in (or stay in) healthy shape just imagine how it must be for someone with major physical limitations and little to no available facilities or equipment to work with.

Unfortunately the social perception seems to be that disabled individuals are unhealthy and unable to take part in anything physical, or that they're a liability in a gym setting, or that they simply can't do it or aren't interested. I can say from experience how largely untrue these ideas are, but they are not going to change unless, and until, we all take ownership for our own misconceptions.

Fitku: Abs of Steel

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absMy fitku inspiration today is my motivation for keeping up with those crunches, ab pulls and obliques. Do I want fab abs? Oh yes. And to tell you the truth, ab work is actually one of my favorite workout things to do.

Crunches, flex, release
Carve out those beautiful abs
Bikini this summer?

Here's hoping those bikini days aren't over for any of us . . .
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Source of high blood pressure is "in the brain"

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An early but exciting study has found that the cause of blood pressure problems may actually be in the brain, not in the heart, kidneys, and arteries. Researchers working with rats discovered a protein in the brain called JAM-1, which appears to cause white blood cells to collect, blocking blood flow and reducing oxygen to the brain. This finding may lead to new and more efficient treatments to control high blood pressure. The condition is common, and though it is treatable, it requires consistency with medication and lifestyle changes.

Experts caution that this research is in its earliest stages, but it offers hope for those with hypertension. High blood pressure is known as a "silent" disease, and you can suffer from it without any symptoms. If you think you're at risk, check out this article from Mayo Clinic for more information, and go here to find out if your blood pressure readings fall at a normal level.

Inspections rare for imported foods

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Are you comfortable eating imported food and fruit? If you've paid attention to the recent pet food recall, you may just be paying more attention. So far, the root of that recall was contaminated wheat gluten from a Chinese supplier.

Try this on for size: just a measly 1.3% of imported fish, vegetables, fruit and other foods are inspected. Does that make you feel safe? It shouldn't really, and even those inspections by the U.S. government regularly turns up food unfit for human consumption.

Even though the U.S. can't levy standards on food made outside the country, I would say that the FDA certain cam impose standards on foods sold to U.S. consumers. Is it feasible to do this, however? No big deal is at stake here -- just the health of the citizens, right?

Exercise presents major challenge for disabled folks

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As Rigel reported earlier, regular exercise can present a challenge to disabled folks. Those who are disabled can sometimes choose to let a disability get the best of them or can choose to live a normal life and overcome huge obstacles during the path of life.

One of those obstacles is fitness, which is physically very tough for those without the control of some physical motion needed for fitness. That doesn't mean it can't happen. If you think your workout was hard, try witnessing someone in a wheelchair go through their workout routine. Talk about inspiring. Personally, I've seen many disabled people become incredibly strong and in excellent shape by overcoming physical limitations to be the very best they can be.

Upper body strength is common in those without the use of their legs since more control is available up top, but that doesn't mean those legs can't be worked out as well -- it just takes more effort (and sometimes, more medical equipment) to get the job done. From what I have seen, though, many disabled folks don't consider their disablement a handicap at all. We should all be so strong.

"Night owls" are more depressed

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According to the latest research "night owls," even though they may get more/enough sleep, are at higher risk for developing depression than others. I won't say I was completely surprised by this news, but it wasn't exactly what I expected to hear either. I'm think I'm a "night owl," meaning I seem to naturally lean towards staying up later and sleeping in later versus hitting the sack early and getting up with the sun. So apparently I'm at higher risk for depression? Interesting.

Reading the article is does seem to make sense, not because I feel depressed or anything, but regarding the body's rhythms and that the most natural "cycle" is to be awake in the light and sleepy or sleeping in the dark. Of course just because you're a night owl doesn't mean you're automatically going to be depressed, but it is something to be aware of if this is true.

I wonder if you slowly start changing your habits, does your risk decrease?

Work/Life Balance Part 2: Keeping work at work, this time for real

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Last week, I asked if it is possible to untangle the stress of working and having a life by centering on harmony, getting honest about how work invades personal time and setting some realistic boundaries between the personal and professional.

I love how holistic these three steps are and I do believe that being truthful, accountable and emotional are necessary to pulling out stress and finding a calm medium as people who want to nurture ourselves, our families and our careers. I also think that once that touchy-feely goodness has been thoroughly examined, it is important to talk strategy. One of my favorite how-to blogs, Dumb Little Man, offers up some great tangible tips for leaving work at the office (or home office or car office or cafe office or wherever you're holding meetings, making deadlines or earning income).

These refreshing tips take into account that we all need time to process, vent and feel needed, both at work and at home. There's no assumption that just because you're striving to find balance that you're some kind of perfectly centered human being (phew). And one more tip about these tips: Be sure to scan the comments as this blog's readers are pretty insightful as well.

Are you keeping your professional life and personal life separate? What works for you?

Are you a leafy green eater?

Are you a fan of kale, chard and spinach? Maybe not, since those are leafy greens that send some folks scurrying away fast. Although raw (and cooked) vegetables are not that palatable to many people, the vitamins and minerals many of them have should be a powerful motivator to eat them.

A secret of mine is spices -- I use spices like majoram, bay leaves, sage, garlic and pepper on so many things it would make even my head spin. The reason? The lack of "taste" is a common reason why good foods are not eaten as much as nutritionally-dead foods are eaten.

A history of processed food tastes is hard to overcome, but getting vegetables right with spices and taste (while adding hardly any calories) can be a great method for eating those "bland" leafy greens. Try it and see what you think. Fresh garlic is a taste that I'd rather have than a quarter-pound cheeseburger any day -- but it didn't happen overnight.

World's first carbon neutral soccer team!

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A Boulder, Colorado soccer team isn't just taken steps to improve their game, they're also trying to help the environment. Boulder Rapids Reserve, part of the Premiere Development League, recently declared themselves the "world's first carbon neutral soccer team." Corporate sponsor Ben Bressler of the eco-tourism company Natural Habitat Adventures helped the team set off their newly "green" 2007 season with a carbon neutral tailgate party and incentives to fans who make it to the game on foot or bicycle. (Of course hoofing it to the events will also improve the health of their fans, so it's a win-win situation for everyone.)

Last year, the FIFA World Cup Finals in Berlin made history when it became the largest carbon neutral event in history by establishing green energy programs in India to offset the estimated 100,000 metric tons of gasses the event would create.

What an awesome trend, I say...athletes encouraging their fans to get fit and help the environment at the same time. Anyone know of other sports teams with similar goals?