Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Music as medicine

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Any obsessive music fan can tell you that they love music because something about a certain chord, melody or lyric can make them incredibly happy or calm or relaxed. Music is one of -- if not the only -- universal language. Anyone anywhere can move to a beat. It can lift your mood when you're sad and act as company or reassurance when you're lonely.

Is it surprising then that music is increasingly being used as part of a normal course of treatment for a number of ailments? As the American Music Therapy Association website states music can useful in a range of ways when working with patients. It can help kids dealing with an illness to express their feelings, it can improve communication, it can help a patient manage pain and reduce stress -- as Jessica mentions here, a recent study shows that patients who listen to music while undergoing a colonoscopy needed less sedation.

So what do you think? Is it best to just stick with a typical medical course of treatments and rehabilitation when dealing with an illness or is there some validity to the idea that music helps with healing?

U.S. Senate defeats climage change proposal

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Is the planet consistently becoming warmer? Scientists the world over have evidence of global warming, yet the methods that produce this kind of environment are being ignored in many ways. Even if the planet is not warming up, it is a good idea to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases?

Don't tell this to the U.S. Senate, which defeated a proposal yesterday that would have required the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the impact of climate change in designing water resources projects. This is a big deal, since the CoE designs massive lakes and rivers used in many states.

I'm not sure of the possible political nonsense that caused a proposal like this not to be passed (what could be the reason, I wonder), but designing a "green" lifestyle and trying to reduce the amount of contribution to possible warming of our planet still sounds like something all people and organizations should be involved in, right?

Fish: feel good about what's for dinner

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What's the number one best food for women? According to Women's Health Magazine, it's fish...and lots of it. But many people are still avoiding fish, and one of the reasons is the risk of heavy metal contamination.

Big fish eat little fish and then bigger fish eat those big fish (who ate the little fish) and so on and so on up the food chain. Those bigger fish can and do contain high levels of mercury, but according to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, you'd have to eat several of those "big fish" every month to be at risk for mercury poisoning. That's because our bodies do a good job of eliminating the mercury we take in. Of course, if the mercury doesn't get you, the PCBs will, right? Consider this -- there are higher levels of PCBs found in chicken and beef, but those types of meat won't give you heart benefits that fish does.

I think it's time to feel good about eating fish again. Check out Ocean's Twenty, a list of the 20 most popular kinds of seafood. It'll help you navigate the murky waters of deciding which fish to eat and which to avoid. And if you're worried about over-fishing and the state of the globe's fish populations (and if you live on the planet, you really should be), check out this excellent post from No Impact Man that will help you choose a sustainably-caught fish.

Healthy country, healthy people

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In a study called "Healthy People, Healthy Country," researchers looked at the connections between indigenous populations of people and ancestral lands or the physical areas in which they lived -- and the health of both seems to go hand in hand. Although in some areas both the people and the land were very healthy, in others neither were thriving at all. The trick for these populations seems to be finding a balance between modern social benefits and health care, and traditional living with cultural history and roots.

The basic findings of the study was that increasing natural and cultural resource management activities in target areas (more remote or isolated groups) could significantly improve overall the health of both the people and the landscapes. And this, obviously, would benefit everybody.

Bacteria will cure what ails you

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stomach acheRecently, I posted about hand sanitizers -- the good, the bad and the ugly. Triclosan, an ingredient in some of them, and also a common ingredient in antibacterial soap, has been shown in studies to create super-bugs that don't respond to antibiotics. It can also kill off your body's good bacteria.

Which brings us to a story that tells us antibacterial soap can cause eczema, IBS and even diabetes. The cure? To re-introduce the good bacteria back into the sick person's system.

Learn more about probiotics in a recent post by fellow blogger Sarah Anderson, and for crying out loud, stop using antibacterial soaps. Check my post for natural alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and just use plain old soap to wash. Your health may depend on it.
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Retro Review: Introducing our sister health sites

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Here at That's Fit, we pretty much live by the motto, "An ounce of prevention," presented in a casual, fun, informative way. But what if you are already living with a disease like diabetes, cancer or heart disease? Unfortunately, these are fast on the rise, affecting millions of people each year.

Have you been affected by one of these? Does your friend or family member suffer? Do you want to measure out that "ounce of prevention" for yourself to do your best to sidestep these illnesses? Then, we introduce to you our suite of health and wellness sister sites:

The Diabetes Blog
The Cardio Blog

The Cancer Blog

These sites have been going strong for much longer than That's Fit, and they're staffed with knowledgeable writers who are passionate about presenting disease-related news with a mix of hope, healing, humor and honesty. Many of them are survivors themselves, or have been deeply touched by someone close to them living with the disease.

If you haven't had the opportunity to visit our sister sites, we invite you to view a sampling of what our bloggers have been talking about this past week. And each Wednesday, we'll recap these conversations in this Retro Review feature. There's a wealth of information here; bookmark these sites and share them with your friends and family. They may just offer a ray of hope to someone in need of it.

The Diabetes Blog
Does diabetes have an impact on your sex life?
What came first? The diabetes or the depression?
Job stress might contribute to diabetes
How sweet it is: Can honey treat diabetic ulcers?
Diabusine$$: Too profitable to cure?
Michael Moore will take HMO's to task in "Sicko"

The Cardio Blog
Younger women don't always recognize heart attack symptoms
iPods interfere with Pacemakers?
Heavy drinking is bad for your heart in so many ways
The role gender plays in blood pressure
Regular vs. baby aspirin: Which to take?
A button for Gabriel's heart
Tips for shopping healthy
No more fat-free dieting?!?!
Easy ways to control your salt intake

Five tips to prevent heart disease
Sibling had a stroke? Your risk may go up

The Cancer Blog
Survivor Spotlight: Spunky Katie
The flip side of sun protection
Sending bras of hope
Doll helps kids understand breast cancer
Prince William leads cancer crusade
Boiling broccoli destroys anti-cancer properties?
When at first you want to quit, don't give up!

Take TV shows depicting cancer with a grain of salt
Smoking scenes might influence movie ratings
Aiming at Hope marshmallow launchers help kids to breathe
Bracelets tell when to seek shade
Utah Jazz's Derek Fisher fights for daughter's life
Tea time can lower your risk of skin cancer
The truth may be in the vitamin D

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Consider "nutrient density" when eating those meals

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Do some meals you eat feel more fulfilling than others? Sure, some chemicals in processed foods can make your body behave like that (but it's a falsehood), but what about meals that seem smaller in portion but give you a sense of having eaten well? Welcome to "nutrient dense" foods, and there's quite a few of them.

For example, did you know that a slice of 100 percent whole-grain bread is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A slice of regular white bread is lower in all three. In fact, white bread with refined and bleached flour is one good way to pack on the pounds and not eat healthy. Whole-grain wheat bread is a much better choice.

So, if you are concerned about the amount of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber in a given portion of food, do some research and see which foods are loaded and which are not. Then, try to find the nutrient dense foods with the fewest number of calories. Do that and you'll be eating extremely healthy I'll bet.

Can you spare 10 minutes? It may help your heart

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I love Debra's new feature, Working in the Workouts. She makes squeezing exercise into an already busy routine look easy -- a few minutes of strength training here, a few yoga moves there, a walk a few times a week. Though it would be nice to commit to an hour long workout every day, for some people it's just not possible.

If lack of time is one of your best excuses for avoiding exercise, you might be interested in reading this: Researchers recently found that as little as 10 minutes of walking a day improved the cardiovascular health of sedentary women. Though current guidelines recommend a minimum of 30 minutes a day, just those 10 short minutes improved women's fitness level and peak oxygen consumption.

So even if you've been a certified couch potato for years, here's your chance to get out and do something for yourself. Open your door and walk in one direction for five minutes. Then turn around and come home. What could be easier? And once you've mastered 10 minutes, you may just feel like doing 30, or even 60, and pretty soon that couch won't look so good anymore.

We love to gawk at fit celebs: Ricki Lake

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Although Ricki Lake isn't getting much love for being a boss or for her work in front of the camera these days, she is loving the work she's been doing to have a healthier, leaner body.

Lake first found notoriety two decades ago as the full-figured and fabulous star of Hairspray (no, not the one out now with creepy John Travolta in drag...shudder...the one that debuted in 1988). Four years later, the actress began hosting her own TV talk show and lost a hundred pounds on a restrictive diet she says was not healthy.

"I was starving myself. I was fainting. It worked, it was effective, but it wasn't the healthiest way to do it, " Lake confesses.

Lake chose a different route to lose weight this year, opting for a healthy food delivery service to keep her meals on track. Down 140 pounds from those crazy Hairspray days, Lake says she's feeling great in her body after twenty years of weight challenges.

Fitness blog round-up: Three you should be reading

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OK, people, let's be honest. All this health and wellness stuff is hard. Really hard. And I don't just mean squats and The Hundred. I mean, sticking to a program or at least getting back to it after an Oreo binge over Gray's Anatomy (what is it about that show that makes me crave sugar...and not the raw, unbleached kind?). As simple as it really is, it sometimes feels like earning a doctorate just to get off the couch, put on shoes with laces and breathe air that hasn't been recycled and squint at light that is fluorescent.

It is tough to veer off the expressway and stop at the gym instead of getting a giant bag of tacos and a Slurpee. And it is tricky to figure out how to put yourself above your kids, your deadlines, your boss, your cat and Matt Lauer for thirty whole minutes in the morning.

But we do it anyway. It ain't easy, but we do it. And we're not alone. There are other folks out there with us, not just on the treadmills but out there in the blogosphere, too. For those times when you need to know you have passengers next to you on your fitness journey or when you just need inspiration to make sure you keep going, reading their personal blogs is a great motivator.

Here are three personal health blogs I'm loving and I hope help you stay focused when it's easy not to, too:

Kelly at Fitness Fixation keeps it rea-uhl. She is hilarious, articulate and best of all, is blogging her own fitness reform to help us all unleash our inner badass. How sweet is that?

Jenny at Big Slice of Life, Small Slice of Cheesecake is a woman who is shrinking in size while raising kids and cheering on other moms who are getting fit. Visiting her blog is a serious pick-me-up.

Crabby McSlacker's Cranky Fitness offers all the commiseration you need
. But in a good way. A funny, sassy way. Plus Crabby's a hardcore That's Fit reader and commenter and we just have to give props for that.

Got a fitness blog you'd like to see featured in another round-up? Leave the URL in the comments section and we'll check it out!

Attitude traps that can kill your weight loss mojo

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Since weight loss plans are never a quick thing, it's easy to let mood swings and attitude issues get in the way as time goes on. Weight loss plateaus and other negative snags are also easy roads to negative thinking and loss of motivation. But common traps like unrealistic dreams, being inflexible, and an all-or-nothing attitude are not that difficult to overcome -- if you can recognize that you have them.

Having a good attitude really boils down to being realistic, not setting impossible standards for yourself, and giving yourself credit for small successes. Click here for more advice on avoiding attitude traps!

Does organic have to be dirty?

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lettuceI know, I know, it really is a rant post, thinly disguised as a post about organic food.

But really, does organic food have to be dirty? I don't know about you, but I find that when I buy organic food, it tends to need a lot more washing than the conventional fruits and veggies. Tonight, for instance, it has never taken me so long to make a salad in my life. I had to wash, wipe and dry each individual leaf, due to the dirt and dead bugs. Yuck! It makes me understand why some people don't choose organic.

Does anyone else have this problem?

I know organic is better. I am not ingesting pesticides, the soil used is less depleted due to proper crop rotation, which means more nutrients, and it is great for the environment. But there are some days I don't want a head of green leaf lettuce to consume the better part of my afternoon.

Yes, I will continue to buy organic, and I will probably even try not to complain about it anymore. But I was just wondering if it is just me?
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Eat and exercise to keep your memory strong

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Want to keep the thing inside that noggin as strong as possible? There are known brain foods that will let you keep that information processing organ in tip-top shape, but do you go out of your way to find those foods?

Not only is a strong brain a great asset to have, the memory power you'll reap will put you ahead of the competition. Check with many successful people, and one of their secrets is bound to be that they treat their brain like a precious commodity.

What are these memory and brain foods and methods for keeping all that in shape, you ask? Fruits and vegetables are an easy answer to the "food" question (there are many more, though), and there comes exercise to keep your body (and mind) in motion, which leads to memory health. See more details and ideas here.

Chocolate and cheese: Stay slim by eating like the Swiss

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I've managed to do a bit of traveling over the past few years and in every country -- America, Canada, England, Scotland, Australia -- the health news was the same; the amount of people who are overweight, and even obese, in these countries is skyrocketing. Apparently the story is the same in many Westernized nations.

The writer of this article, however, found that the Swiss have managed to maintain a healthy relationship with food and as a result, continue to be relatively fit. It's not that Swiss citizens have give up on all the tasty stuff out there, but rather that they know how to enjoy in moderation. Apparently they still eat rich chocolate and delicious cheese, but they eat stuff made with quality ingredients and they only have small amounts at a time. Wine is sipped in moderation as well, as they serve drinks from smaller glasses. According to the article, if you dine off smaller plates and drink from smaller glasses, you'll end up consuming less.

There are a few more tips listed to help the rest of us live healthy-Swiss-habit-related lives and none of them involve depriving oneself or giving up tasty food altogether. So check it out and see if there are any ideas that will work for you.

Fatal cancer linked to multivitamins

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It can be difficult to get all the nutrients you need in any given day, so many of us compensate with multivitamins -- but are they safe?

A new study has found that men who take excessive amounts of these kinds of supplements might be increasing their risk of fatal prostate cancer. However, the men at risk were taking more than 7 multivitamins a week, and were also more likely to be taking additional supplements, so -- while there's a correlation between multivitamin use and cancer -- the research isn't conclusive.

Regardless, even the possibility of a link is alarming, and thus more research is planned to investigate further.

Get a FuelBelt like Fergie's

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I honestly can't decide if I think this gadget is handy or hilarious. On one hand, a "tool belt" for water bottles does sound nifty, but how many separate beverage options do you really need in the average workout? It could be used for the added weight I guess, and of course if you're training for something like a marathon -- but wouldn't it all get warm and gross after awhile? I honestly have never trained for any extreme long-distance sports, so maybe this is appealing to people who have? And after all, if Fergie likes it...

The 6-Bottle Terminator FuelBelt holds six 7oz bottles for your choice of liquids or gels, for a total of 42 oz. of hydration. The bottles are evenly distributed around the entire belt, and it's fully adjustable with lumbar support. All that for about $32.

via FitSugar

There are more than 24 hours in a day

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Are we ready for 25-hour days? Scientists as NASA seem to think we can squeeze an extra hour out of each day, and many of us who can't seem to fit everything into 24 hours may be subtly asking for a longer day. I saw we definitely do not need it!

Reading the results of the Harvard sleep study here made me think that it's quite easy to trick the body into things when external stimuli is taken away. This is nothing new, but fooling the body into thinking that the day we live in is more than 24 hours seems odd to me. How about you?

Should you hire a nutrition coach?

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Eating healthy isn't as easy as it looks. There's a mountain of information to process just to understand what's good for you and what isn't -- and then, once you have that knowledge, you have to start looking for food that meets your new standards. And if you have a family, you're also stuck finding food that your kids will actually eat.

Sound daunting? If so, maybe it's time you hired a nutrition coach. While, at first, this might seem superfluous, so did the notion of a personal trainer -- once a luxury for ultra-fit celebrities, and now a common occurrence in every gym across the country.

And it's surprisingly inexpensive. Weis Penngrove, a Wisconsin-based nutrition coach, charges $25-$35 per hour for non-cooking time, and a offers a flat fee for menu planning and preparation (four meals for a family of four) of $228. All in all, you could get yourself out of an unhealthy cooking rut for $500.

Given what you'll spend to keep the weight off when you're eating ready-made, unhealthy food, this seems like a bargain.

Overweight women benefit from just limited exercise

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Are you a female who is overweight? Many women I know have faced this problem, and some made changes to alleviate it (like diet changes over time), while others gave up after not seeing expected results from exercising. Bethany's post here got me thinking here: is it too much for some to get just 10 minutes of exercise each day? It's much easier than you could think, since there are many ways to get exercise in 10 minutes.

However, U.S. researchers this week concluded that only 10 minutes of exercise per day in fact can help even the most inactive overweight women. Some of my friends may say "what?" at that statement, so I'll move into the details.

The tests performed within the researcher's study showed that overweight and obese women did see improved fitness from small amounts of exercise. These women were often obese (and just overweight) and most has high blood pressure, which can lead to early death. Read all the details here, then you may be making a decision to try and change again.

More kids taking long-term prescription drugs

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"There's increasing use of medication in children the last 20 years, but does that mean we're treating them successfully or that we're overmedicating?"

That speculation by Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, was quoted by the Associated Press in response to a recent study that found more and more adolescents are being prescribed long-term medicines designed for adults.

For instance, the number of girls taking drugs for Type 2 diabetes has tripled in the last five years, and the use of drugs to combat psychotic behavior and insomnia has doubled.

But is it working? Or should we instead be focusing on strategies that don't require medication -- like counseling, exercise, changes in diet, caffeine intake, etc.

We all want what's best for our children -- anything to keep them healthy and happy. On the other hand, especially because adolescents' brains are still developing, maybe we've been too quick to jump on the prescription drug bandwagon.