Monday, 14 May 2007

Cholesterol tests to assess kids' heart health

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According to the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 17 percent of American teenagers are overweight. You can blame it on busy parents, video games, or fast food -- but whatever the reason the results are the same. Too many kids aren't eating well and/or exercising enough and it's led to a culture of obesity. The long-term effects of early obesity are still being studied, but growing evidence supports the (relatively logical and dare I say, obvious) conclusion that obese children are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease.

Children who have high cholesterol are likely to continue to have high cholesterol well into adulthood. It's important to start treating the issue and promoting a healthier lifestyle early. New information garnered from NHANES data are meant to improve upon the current guidelines which don't account as fully for age. Currently, cholesterol screening is recommended for adolescents who have risk factors such as a parent with high cholesterol, a family history of early heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or tobacco use. In April 2008, The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is expected to release new medical guidelines for cholesterol screening for children and teens.

Seven driving mistakes made by parents

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Are you a "busy" driver? It's hard to have all the time you need these days to have a career, take the kids to school, eat and be a spouse. And, that's all before lunch!

Nevertheless, there are several mistakes that parents make while driving that could end up very dangerous -- and sometimes do. One of the most obvious ones to me these days is talking on a cellphone while driving. If your phone has headset or Bluetooth headset capability, take advantage of it -- especially while driving.

What are some other bad driving habits parents have? Check these bad habits out -- and

How to avoid road rage

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I live in Austin, where rapid population growth and relatively poor planning have led to some very congested roads. Add that to the fact that Texans drive like crazy people, and you have yourself a recipe for some serious aggression behind the wheel.

This is echoed across the country, as roads become increasingly blocked up, and commute times growing longer every year.

But many aspects of life are stressful, so what is it about driving that sends us over the edge?

For one, there's no escape. According to psychologist interviewed by MSNBC, "Stress is a fight-or-flight reaction." And while we can normally step away from a situation to cool down, there's nowhere to go when stress takes hold in the car.

Regardless of why it happens, anger behind the wheel is unhealthy -- not to mention dangerous. In order to reduce the likelihood that you'll succumb to road rage, follow these tips:

-Make yourself more physically comfortable
-Distract yourself with something soothing -- like an audio book
-Take deep breaths
-Remember that everyone -- including you -- makes mistakes behind the wheel
-Rushing might save you 5 minutes, but an accident could kill you
-Realize that you're not invulnerable, nor anonymous just because you're in your car

For more in-depth explanations behind these driving tips, read this helpful article by Patrick Enright.

Are dirty windows contributing to air pollution?

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Does this mean I need to start washing my windows?

Scientists from the University of Toronto have found that dirty windows may be contributing to air pollution. When they simulated grime found on windows and exposed it to light, they found that a chemical change took place that broke down smog-pollutant nitric acid and returned it to the air, essentially recycling it. In theory, if the same chemical change takes place on real life windows in real life sunshine, dirty windows could be putting smog-related pollution back into the air.

Suddenly, the sun streaming through my unwashed windows looks a little less than idyllic, but yet not dangerous enough to get me up on the ladder to wash them. I think I'll file this under "Things I Don't Have Time to Worry About"!

Excess drinking could lead to abnormal heart beating

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If you're a heavy drinker (and I don't mean soft drinks), you may be putting yourself at heavier risk of heart problems, according to new research.

Atrial fibrillation, which can lead to a stroke or heart failure, cold be more prevalent in those that drink more often, say British researchers. The same researchers found that reducing alcohol consumption even a little bit makes a big difference.

If you're a responsible drinker but still engage in drinking too often, the results of this study may be of particular importance to you. What do you think? Is drinking in moderation the solution? From many points of view, it may be. Best advice: don't overindulge in any activity -- drinking included.

If you have the will, does Alli have the way?

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I would have thought the days of "weight loss in a pill" products were numbered (the credible ones anyway), but they just keep coming! The latest is from GlaxoSmithKline and it's called Alli. It's a version of Xenical, and it's the first drug to be approved by the FDA for sale without a prescription and over-the-counter in the U.S. It works by preventing some absorption of fat into the body.

The advertising of this product will be interesting, with more than $150 million dollars budgeted for marketing alone they plan on taking a slightly different approach than many diet pills have in the past: it's gonna take work on your part too. Interesting.

Learn more at

New fitness craze: BodyPump

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Is it aerobics? Is it weight lifting? No, it's BodyPump[TM] and it's probably coming to a gym near you. Body Pump is an hour-long, instructor-led repetition resistance training class. Participants use a step platform, a bar, and a set of free weights appropriate for their fitness level. The class is set to music and designed to make resistance training as engaging and fun as aerobics. Using moves like lifts, curls, squats, presses, and abdominal work BodyPump builds lean muscle mass while not adding bulk.

The concept isn't new. BodyPump first appeared in 1991 in Auckland, New Zealand, but is fast becoming a fitness fad in North America. A new class, with music and choreography, is released to participating instructors and fitness clubs every three months. Benefits of the class include burning lots of calories (up to 600 per class), shaping and toning muscles, building bone density, and improving overall strength and fitness.

There are no classes in my state yet, but I'm going to keep checking! Personally, I love aerobics and I think applying a similar concept to resistance training sounds like loads of fun. Check and see if there's a class near you.

College kids getting fatter

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If you're looking for the source of any new trend -- whether it's fashion, music or Internet technology -- you best bet is your local college campus. So, it probably shouldn't be all that surprising that students are on the brink of a less fortunate fad: American obesity.

It's no secret that college kids lead unhealthy lives. We all know the cliches -- they drink too much, eat nothing but pizza, sleep 'till noon (if they sleep at all) -- the list goes on. But recent research shows it's having a drastic effect on their waistlines. Almost half of all male college students are overweight or obese, with that holding true for nearly 30 percent of female students.

None of these behaviors, however, are new. So why are today's students larger and more unhealthy than those of 20 or 30 years ago?

According to researchers, it's a combination of things. Today's students spend more time in front a screen -- whether it's watching TV, playing video games, or using the computer -- while also eating larger portions from food sources that are more readily available. On today's campus, there's a fast-food restaurant or cafeteria on what seems like every other corner.

The good news is, that because this is an age where people are making their own life decisions for the first time, it's possible that by intervening, and helping kids for form healthy habits while at college, scientists may be able to make an impact lasting well into adulthood.

Tuberculosis gets thwarted by vitamin D?

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Are you a regular taker of vitamin D? If so, you may be thwarting tuberculosis without even knowing it. A new round of research concluded that vitamin D actually helped the body boost its own ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria, which causes the disease.

While there are numerous reasons to ensure you receive the right amount of vitamin D every day, this is yet another one, and especially if you are in an environment where you may be exposed to TB (like in a medical facility).

Need a great way to get that vitamin D naturally? Try being in the sun for 10 or 15 minutes each day and let your body do the rest!

Preventing knee injuries: 4 safe exercises to try

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When it comes to our joints, knees are strangely strong and weak at the same time, but they are absolutely vital to our mobility and general fitness. Without healthy knees physical activity becomes a next to impossible challenge.

So protecting the knee joints and preventing injury is a top priority, especially if you're just getting started with new fitness goals. There's nothing worse than getting hurt and having to stop right when you're starting to get the hang of things and are developing new healthy habits -- we all know how hard it is to get that energy and motivation back again!

There are two components, according to this article, when it comes to protecting your knees against injury: losing weight (to decrease their workload) and building strength in the muscles that surround and support the knee joint. The losing weight part is more complicated (but you're on the right track by visiting That's Fit!) than strengthening the joint, which is as simple as doing some regular exercises. Try these 4 knee-safe moves: knee squat, lying double leg curl, lying leg adduction, and standing calf raise.

Fitku: Yoga - Doing It with Farm Animals

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cat-cow stretchI refer to Cat-Cow Stretch, of course; where was your mind?

High arch builds core strength
Back sags with gentle relief
Abdominals stretch

One of my favorite poses; I do it every morning and evening. It protects the lower back, strengthens abdominals and your core, and stretches everything you strained by sleeping funny or by all-day abuse. Try this one!
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Calorie watching helps weight loss maintenance more than exercise

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Most of us have been there: we've struggled to lose weight using all the power we have only to gain some (or all) of it back later. While some goals for weight loss are temporary and some are permanent, how is it that some keep weight off after losing i and others don't?

I've covered this subject before here at That's Fit, but I'm still a believer in permanent nutritional change as a way to not only lose weight, but as a way to keep it off. We're not talking about "being on a diet," but looking at a different way about food in general and how much (and how often) to consume it.

Later on is when a good routine of physical exercise is a great idea, but initially, it's changing the entire mindset of food consumption that is key for keeping that weight off. Has it been successful for you, and did you find it more of a mental challenge or a physical one?

Busy mom? Stay fit with "Power Strolling!"

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Being a mom is an exhausting, time consuming, all-inclusive 24/7 job, so finding time to take care of yourself and make room for fitness is a daunting challenge. But one thing about women and challenges: when they come together amazing solutions are created!

"Power Strolling" is one of those creations. Available under different names across the country, the principle is the same: parents getting together to be healthy and get physical, with strollers and infants in tow. Walking, jogging, stretching, ab name it they do it. And all with the support and understanding of each other: nobody understands the challenges of being a mom more than other moms!

For more information, or to find a Power Strolling group near you, check out And another great resource is, where women can find a walking or jogging partner in their area!

Dairy ads that tell of weight loss may be ending

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I've kind of been suspect of diets consisting in heavy amounts of dairy being connected to any kind of weight loss. Are you a dairy fan? I used to be, but no longer (very rarely eat dairy). The advertising proponent of needing "calcium" from a dairy diet is way stretched from my perspective, but I'll move on.

Just like any food industry (beef, milk, etc.), marketing claims that are based on missing or dubious scientific (or biased) medical evidence seem to be under the microscope a little closer these days. As such, the industry of U.S. dairy producers may need to stop the empty sales pitch that drinking more milk assists in weight loss. This according to the FTC (which is a dubious agency in itself sometime).

It's beyond me how any kind of dairy diet can assist in any remote weight loss, but this is what is advertised in many cases. Hopefully now, that kind of nonsense will stop.

Summer skin facts you may not know

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The basics of summer skin care are pretty basic, right? But even things that seem very simple, like wearing sunscreen, may be more complicated than you think. For example, did you know that SPF 30 sunscreen incorrectly applied only gives the benefits of SPF 20?

It's true. In fact, the reason most experts recommend sunscreens with higher SPFs is because they realize most people don't use them properly. The biggest mistake is not using enough, and a good rule of thumb to make sure you're doing it right is 1 ounce, or the amount needed to fill a shot glass, is what the average person needs to cover all exposed areas of skin.

Other little-known summer skin facts include clothing with built-in UVA protection, and free skin cancer screenings available in many areas.

Sea lion joins children's walk-a-thon

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Children at an elementary school near the San Francisco Bay recently got a surprise. While participating in a walk-a-thon set up on the school grounds, they were suddenly joined by a sea lion who not only watched them exercising, but decided to join them himself -- doing an entire lap!

Though the encounter had to thrill the school children during their fitness event, it's an unfortunate turn of events for Astro, as the sea lion is named. Well known by the Marine Mammal Center, who raised him after his mother abandoned him, Astro keeps turning up despite being released to the wild again and again. His close contact with humans as a baby has made him unable to thrive in the wild, and he'll now live out his life in a zoo-type environment.

China's fragile food chain

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It's hard to trust imported foods these days, even with a label of "organic" on them. If you're into a surreal type of raw and organic nutrition, you may even have your own garden and grow food yourself. For the rest of us, though, we rely on foods bought at grocery stores and even open farmer cooperatives and such.

In general, foods bought locally are of very good quality -- but what about foods that are imported from China (which includes a lot of foods)?

There are many expert opinions that state Chinese farmers overuse pesticides -- and even skip protective clothing. The means that not only are millions of Chinese farmers putting their lives at risk, but are putting at risk all the foods grown domestically in that country, as those foods may have unsafe levels of residues in fruits and vegetables.

With China trying to supply its huge population of citizens along with quite a bit of the world. I don't think this problem will get any better soon.

How your sweetheart really feels about your weight

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Good news! A new study shows that when men tell their sweetie they will still love them even if they gain weight they are most likely telling the truth. That's not to say we thought they were lying this whole time, but there's always that doubt in the back of our minds wondering if they really really mean it, and apparently they do!

Three groups of men shown pictures of women of varying weights were asked to rate their appearance. One group was given positive traits about the women, one negative, and one no list of traits at all. The group given the positive list of traits was much more 'forgiving' and chose a greater range of body types as "attractive."

So somebody who genuinely likes you as a person really can overlook imperfect outward appearances. Yay! *Sigh of relief*

Natural ideas for dealing with PMS

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Many women struggle with the uncomfortable symptoms otherwise known as PMS on a monthly basis, and are unable to find effective ways to deal. Of course there are numerous products you can buy at the local drug store designed to help with issues like bloating, pain, crankiness, etc, but not everybody is interested in taking medications. Many women would prefer to try natural remedies first, if possible.

And there are some natural things you can try for relieving PMS related symptoms, one for example is calcium. It has been shown to decrease bloating, depression, and pain in some women. But be careful, however, as too much calcium is not a good thing either. Always stick with the recommended daily amount of anything, unless your doctor advises you otherwise.

Click the link to get some other natural ideas, including fish oil, vitamin B6, and chasteberry.

There are ways to make food safer

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Considering the winding and long route most food takes from the growing arena to your dinner table, are you concerned o how safe it all may be?

Sure, the standards of food consumed in the U.S. is rigid and is checked by regulatory agencies quite regularly. Food in the U.S. is pretty safe, all things considered. That, or there would be millions of food sicknesses each day as well all go about our lives and rely on others for supplying us food.

The recent peanut butter and bagged spinach recalls have made it hard to trust food safety, but it's generally still intact in the U.S. Even with the recent (and ongoing) pet food recall, have all these events shattered your belief in the safety of the U.S. food supply? Read this and see if there are steps you can take to make your food safer.