Monday, 21 May 2007

UCLA study shows that women keep each other sane

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Apparently the Beetles were right when they sang "I get by with a little help from my friends". Well, as far as women are concerned at least. As shows like Sex and the City have shown, women tend to turn toward their girlfriends when they're having trouble with work, kids, boyfriends, husbands and anything or anyone else out there that adds stress to their lives.

I know when I've had a bad day the only thing that I really want to do is get together with friends for a chat. We don't even have to talk about the cause of my troubles. Just having those girls to joke and laugh with makes all the difference. I imagine that most of you ladies out there also have a great group of women friends, or even just one best girlfriend, who you turn to for support and comfort on a regular basis.

Have you ever wondered why we girls gravitate toward each other for emotional support? According to a study by UCLA -- which is reported on here -- when a woman is feeling stress her brain releases chemicals which counteract the typical "fight or flight response" that is prevalent in men, and instead encourages her to stick around and congregate with fellow females. According to the article, the effects of the hormone oxytocin, which is responsible for this reaction, is enhanced by estrogen and diminished by testosterone. So while men would often rather work out problems on their own, women are programmed to go to each other for support.

Pediatric allergy detection tools

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Are kids these days showing more allergies to common things like nuts, soy and wheat? It appears so, and it makes the curious want to know what happened to cause the increase.

There's a part of me that beckons this to the amount of tampering food scientists do to nature for yield results (i.e., genetically-modified organisms or GMO)while still passing the food to the consumer. By that's another day. Kids are seeing increased amounts of allergies and many scientists think it will only get worse. What to do?

Detecting the preventing allergies in kids takes vigilant effort in proactive fashion, and there are tools being developed to assist in this effort. While I'm not sure more synthetic drugs are the best answers, several methods may need developing unless kids of the future won't be able to eat any modern processed food unless it's grown in the backyard.

How to avoid travel-related illnesses

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Having recently returned from a two-month-long holiday, I have to admit I've got a bit of the post-travel blues. While it's always a bit of a downer to return from travelling, the trip home is much worse if you come back with a travel-related illness. I'm not one to worry too much about things like SARS and Avian Flu -- I'm no expert but I think the danger of either for a healthy adult is very low -- I do think it is important to be aware of the types of bug you can pick up in the location you're visiting.

Both the US and Canadian governments have sites that detail potential risks in most countries as well as vaccinations and tips for staying healthy. Check out this article for a quick break-down of what you might pick up from contamiated water or food, insects or other people. Various forms of hepatitis as well as malaria and yellow fever are a few of the big ones to protect yourself against.

I have a friend who contracted Dengue Fever in Vietnam, and as a result ended up delerious for the last few days of her trip. Eventually some of her skin peeled off and chunks of her hair fell out in response to having such a massively high fever. There was a big scare in the city where I live last week when a young woman came back from a holiday in Thailand, returned to work at a local gastro-pub and then started to show symptoms of Hepatitis A. As a result, the eatery had to shut down for a few days and everyone who had eaten there recently had to line up for a booster shot. So while it may seem like the risk is low, the results of coming down with a nasty illness while travelling make it worth educating yourself and taking preventative measures before you go.

Eating only 'good' calories

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Do you seek out delicious foods that are tasty and have "good" calories instead of consuming "empty" calories (like most soft drinks)? If so, you'd probably like the idea of a doctor in Singapore who maps out the best street food based on how much "full" calories there are in the meals being served.

This would make a great idea for someone in an area with many street food vendors, like in Southern California or New York City.

Talk about an opportunity for a healthy-conscious street food vendor to drum up business from virtual scratch and retain a decent and loyal customer following. What a great idea!

To eat low glycemic or low fat?

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Are you on a low-fat diet? If so, you've joined the tens of millions of Americans every year (and in other countries as well) who cut down on fat to try and lose weight. What if you're going about it all the wrong way?

A new study defines the difference between a low-fat diet and a low-glycemic one by stating that younger adults who secreted a high level of insulin lost more weight with a low-glycemic diet.

With more obesity being seen these days in all age groups, the multi-tiered attacks on curbing it are being fronted as well. The study's authors concluded their research by saying "The main finding of our study is that a simple measure of insulin secretion predicted weight and body fat loss on low-glycemic load and low-fat diets."

In other words, there are many details in the mix for losing weight beyond "what" you eat.

Choosing the best camp for your kids

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I'm a single parent and my son is going to be attending a day camp this summer. He's an active kid -- always on the go -- so finding a camp that maintains structure while offering a variety of fun activities was tops on my list. Finding a camp that meets your criteria, is safe and well-staffed, and is beneficial for your child isn't an easy task. Especially when it also needs to be affordable. Here are some tips on choosing the best day camp for your child:
  • Talk to your child and ask what he/she is interested in.
  • Visit the camp in advance -- see what the grounds are like and meet with the counselors.
  • Ask questions about camp policies, what items your child will need, and what the daily schedule will be like.
Summer day camps are a good way to foster your child's interests and encourage him/her to be physically active. I think my son is going to have a great time this summer. His camp has daily swims, team sports, hikes, arts and crafts, and other games. It's reassuring to know your kids are having fun and are well cared for while you're at work.

Yoga may relieve migraine pain

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If you're a migraine sufferer, new evidence that points to yoga as a helpful preventative tool may help you control your symptoms. Indian researchers randomly assigned participants to a regimen of an hour of yoga therapy per day, and found that those who took yoga had fewer and less severe attacks than those who didn't.

Yoga has long been thought to relieve pain in certain health conditions, and to ease the effects of conditions like high blood pressure, asthma, and to alleviate stress and anxiety. Now it looks like migraine prevention may soon be added to the long list of health benefits of yoga.

The Indian study was small, involving only 74 participants. A larger study is in the works to find out if yoga truly can prevent and ease migraines. If yoga is appropriate for you, ABC-of-Yoga has an interesting article and a list of poses that may help.

Can diabetes be prevented?

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Diabetes, to many, sounds like a condition that's "here to stay" when it is diagnosed. After having talked to literally dozens of diabetes sufferers over the years, many came to the realization that changing a lifestyle and changing nutrition habits would help them.

Big surprise (not), exercise and healthy eating made diabetes in many of these people (some personal friends) go away completely. These folks now are adamant in telling people how to prevent diabetes in the first place, which is a great charge to undertake.

If you're considered pre-diabetic (or have diabetes now), do your own research and talk to your doctor -- and then kick diabetes to the curb as soon as you can.

No surprise here: Teenagers need more fruits and veggies

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My high school years, and the high school years of my classmates, were spent agonizing over a few extra pounds, even though when I look at pictures of myself then, I am shocked (and a bit envious) at how lean I was. But the key to keeping slim in the teenage years lies in that stuff that teenagers eschew the most -- fruits and veggies. This study shows that teenagers who eat more produce and spend less time in front of the TV will be healthier and slimmer, both in high school and for years to come.

But is this really anything new? Chances are teenagers know what's healthiest for them, but they just don't care. The easiest way to lose weight was not to eat better, it was to not eat at all, and this how my friends dealt with it as well. I don't think much has changed either. That mentality has to be changed, but how? I think my own weight issues were due to low self-esteem but is there more to it? What do you think?

Wi-fi won't give you cancer

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Recently there's been concern that wi-fi posed a health-risk to those who used it. This came after a BBC television program discovered that radiation levels from wi-fi in a British school were three times higher than that emitted by a cell phone tower.

However, scientists point out that this is still a tiny amount of radiation, and is no cause for alarm. Regardless of the amount, they note that there is no research connecting wi-fi, or other devices that emit low levels of radiation (cell phones, microwaves, etc) to health problems.

That being said, for those who want to be on the safe side, the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research program suggests that children use laptops on a table (instead of on their laps), if they're going to be using it for an extended period of time.

It seems that every time a new technology is introduced to the public -- whether it's wi-fi, cell phones, even genetically modified foods -- there's an uproar over "possible" health concerns. While it's important to monitor these evolving technologies and the effects they have on our bodies, I also try and take the more sensational claims with a grain of salt. Any popular device that's not entirely understood is an easy target for someone trying to get their study published.

Daily Fit Tip: turn off the TV, go for a walk

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With spring rapidly coming to and end and the weather very decent in most of the U.S., do you come home from work to plop in front of the TV and "veg out," as it's called?

Don't do it! This is the time of year when spending time outside in the mild weather make a walk around your block or even in the nearest park very enjoyable.

Want something to look forward to after work besides happy hour and catching up on some TiVo'ed shows? Try turning that mentality off and walking for at least a mile (about 1,500 steps). Pick up a $7 pedometer at a local pharmacy and count your steps to help motivate yourself. Trust me, it feels better to walk and get motion that sitting like a log in front of the TV.
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Jumpstart Your Fitness: Get rid of healthy habits that really aren't

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It's hard enough trying to get in shape and live healthy, but what if you're putting all your good intentions into wasted efforts? I'm not talking about fads or the "latest thing" that turns out to be not so cool -- if you're trying that stuff then you realize it's risky business. But what if some of the supposed "tried and true's" really aren't what they're cracked up to be? Unfortunately, in some cases it's true!

Here are eight healthy habits that unfortunately, aren't (not always anyway):
  • Using antibacterial soap. Truth is washing with antibacterial soap is no more effective at preventing illness than washing with regular soap. And, although not proven yet, there are serious concerns relating to antibacterial soaps helping to create tougher more resistant strains of the very bacteria we're trying to kill.
  • Sitting up straight. A study in 2006 showed that leaning slightly back while sitting is actually much better on your back than sitting straight up or, obviously, hunching forward.

Continue reading Jumpstart Your Fitness: Get rid of healthy habits that really aren't

Is chocolate toothpaste the new flouride?

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Chocolate toothpaste... Ugh, I feel a little nauseated just thinking about it. But not to worry, chocolate flavoring isn't destined for toothpaste, but chocolate extract instead. Arman Sadeghpour, from Tulane University, has found that an extract from cocoa powder may be an effective alternative to flouride in toothpaste.

The extract is a white powder, and it works by hardening tooth enamel thereby making the teeth better able to resist cavities. More testing is needed before it can be used in humans, but if all goes well in 2-4 years it may be on shelves hidden in your favorite brand of toothpaste.

Have spring chores to do? Stay safe on your ladder

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A couple of years ago, a friend of the family fell from the third step of a six-foot ladder. What should have been a tumble that resulted in just a few bumps or bruises ended up breaking one of his neck vertebrae and nearly paralyzed him. He was in rehab for months, and now treats his ladder -- one tool of his trade -- with great respect.

Though superstition tells us it's unlucky to walk under a ladder, it's people who climb ladders who seem to have the bigger problem. The incidence of ladder injuries climbed 50% from 1990 to 2005, and 97% of those injuries happened in the home or other non-work settings. Though most injuries involve legs and feet, 10% of injuries each year require hospitalization. Fractures were the most common injury. Ouch!

The arrival of spring brings home maintenance; gutter-cleaning, window washing, painting, and tree trimming may put homeowners at dangerous heights. Instead of tempting fate and teetering away, consider these ladder safety tips to complete your chores safely.

Meet the Bloggers: Bethany Sanders

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For months now, you've read our thoughts about living fit. Don't you wish you knew more about the people behind the posts? Throughout May, we'll introduce you to our bloggers. We know you're dying to learn if we favor spandex over sweats, the craziest diets we've fallen for, what "forbidden foods" lurk in our pantries, and what motivates us to embrace each lunge after glorious lunge. So, read on. And if you feel like asking us a question we haven't posed for ourselves here, ask away!

Today we introduce Bethany Sanders, who writes on all things fit all week, and contributes her Daily Fit Tip on Tuesdays.

1. Who are you?

Bethany Sanders

2. Age you tell people you are.

30-something ... ish

3. Where you're from and where you live now.

Midwest, born and raised.

4. Do you have a personal blog?


5. What is your day job, or rather, what do you do when you're not fitness blogging?

I put a successful career in education on hold to become a housewife domestic engineer. Since then, I've spent most of my time changing diapers, cooking meals my kids won't eat, and generally hanging around with the under-5 set.

6. How long have you been blogging with That's Fit and what is your favorite post?

I started blogging with That's Fit in December 2006. My favorite post is "Mr. Average." The post itself isn't that memorable, but the reaction was priceless. No matter how evolved we think we are, it appears the opposite sex still completely baffles us.

7. Do you have a specific fitness background or are you a mere mortal who's just passionate about being healthy and fit -- and living to write about it?

I'm definitely a mere mortal. Some of the research coming out of the health and fitness fields is so intriguing, I love being able to talk about it and blog about it on That's Fit.

8. What's the worst fitness or diet idea you fell for?

Do I really have to admit this? The worst definitely has to be the Slimfast "fasts" I used to do shortly after I graduated from college. Three shakes a day and a salad for dinner. Shudder.

9. What motivates you to exercise and stay healthy?

My kids top the list. Not only do I want to be around for them for as long as possible, but I also want to be the kind of mom who can run, climb, crawl, tumble, and match their energy all day long.

10. Who's your favorite fitness role model?

The average joe or jane, honestly. When I read or hear about everyday, normal people overcoming their own bad habits and getting fit, I get inspired to work harder on my own goals.

11. What's your exercise "M.O." -- Gym workouts or outdoor endeavors; team or solitary sports?

When I had a gym membership, I adored it. But, these days I definitely prefer to exercise outdoors. I find myself looking forward to the fresh air and the time to myself. It's jusually just me, my dog, and my mp3 player. On weekends we hike as a family, but my kids' legs are still pretty short and they tend to wander off the trail a lot to stop and look at things. So, I don't know that I'm burning that many calories!

12. Choice of fitness gear: Baggy sweats or sultry spandex?

There is not a single piece of spandex in my closet.

13. What's your favorite fitness activity?

I love to walk, jog, and hike for nine months out of the year. When the snow comes, it's usually DVDs in the living room until the spring thaw. My favorites are T-Tapp, Leslie Sansone's 3 and 5-Mile Walks, and pilates.

14. Do you have any non-fitness-related, non-blogging hobbies?

I love to tinker in my long-neglected yard. I've also been devouring cooking magazines and learning to cook better tasting and healthier meals. Reading, movies, and shopping round out the list.

15. Confession time! What nonhealthy food do you eat -- or what unhealthy habit do you indulge in -- that would get you banned from That's Fit? What's your excuse for doing so?

Do I have to pick just one? I absolutely can not say no to chocolate covered peanuts, so please don't bring them near me. Pizza's another hard one and peanut butter ice cream ... groan. If it's a special occasion or rare indulgence, I dn't beat myself up for it. But occasionally I'll indulge and think, "OK, this has X amount of calories. If I skip dinner, I'll still be OK!" Bad, bad, bad.
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Adult smartness levels hit before puberty

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There are some the believe that quite a bit of cognitive development happens between the ages of three and five, then there are others that think the 10-12 age is pretty significant. Both answers are really true in different ways, and even new research suggests that adult level of learning are happening at ages 11 and 12.

How do children's brains grow and at what rate does adult learning become possible and achievable? Before that voice changes and those hairy messes start happening.

MRI research is being done on super-healthy kids from super-healthy families, which is a chore since keeping subjects from moving without sedation (not allowed) can be tricky. But, the results are showing interesting results in how fast the brain develops -- even by the age of 12.

Feeling hot, hot, hot! Using heat to smooth cellulite

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As much as we'd like to deny it, most women have some cellulite. It's a common misconception that cellulite is necessarily caused by being overweight -- many women at a healthy weight have dimples beyond the two cute ones on their faces. Despite knowing better, I've shelled out quite a few dollars for creams and lotions that claim to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Not surprisingly, I've had little to no results.

The FDA recently approved a new treatment, called Accent therapy, which uses radiofrequency to minimize cellulite. Supposedly, the process applies heat to reduce the size of fat cells. It also claims to improve circulation and stimulate collagen production to help smooth the area.

I have to admit I'm skeptical. It would be nice if it really worked, but it just sounds like fuzzy science to me. What do you think? Would you give this a treatment a try?

Fad dieting -- will you try anything to lose weight?

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With 41% of the American population on a diet, it's no wonder that fad diets pop up frequently. Whether you need to lose 5 pounds or 50, looking for a magic pill or an easy solution -- in my opinion -- is human nature. But as savvy That's Fit readers know, fad diets never work in the long term. Healthy habits are lifelong habits, and fad diets rarely are sustainable for the long haul.

Here's a peak at some of the latest diet fads, including the Astrology Diet and the Blood Type Diet. The diets in the article most likely will help you lose weight for a while, but do you really want to be checking your horoscope to help you decide what to make dinner for the rest of your life?

So if dieting isn't "in the stars" then what does work? According to dieters who have taken it off and kept it off, it's this:
  • eat a diet low in fat
  • watch your calories
  • eat breakfast
  • weigh yourself often
  • get 60 to 90 minutes of exercise most days of the week
No fads, no gimmicks -- just plain, old fashioned sensibility and hard work. It's not a magic pill, but unlike fad diets, it is a road map to lifelong success.

Celeb diet philosophies: Which do you agree with most?

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In this celeb-obsessed world,we're always interest to know what celebrities think of everything, from politics to war to other celebrities and everything in between. So it's no surprised that we're also keen to know they're eating and exercise habits, especially since they all seem to be so svelte.

So when I saw this quiz from Fit Sugar asking which celebrity diet philosophy I agree with, I had to see which celeb I identified with most when it comes to healthy living. Turns out its Scarlett Johansson, who says, "I'm not really the type of girl who goes jogging at 6 a.m., but I eat well and I walk a lot." I also agree with Gwen Stefani, who says "It's simple math: You put this much food in, you burn that much working out."

Which celebrity do you identify with?Blogsmith :

"Hit a wall" in the Great Wall marathon

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Running a marathon is hard enough, but what if -- in mile 21 of the race -- you were suddenly face with 3,800 ancient steps to climb? That's what racers in the Great Wall marathon faced this past Saturday when they ran the grueling race.

Though the athletes train by running up and down skyscraper staircases, nothing can compare them for the stairs at the Great Wall. Clinging in places to the sides of cliffs, the steps range from tiny to so huge racers have to jump or climb to tackle them. The average race time here is about an hour longer than typical marathons and even the die-hard champions don't run the stairs. In fact, many racers crawl up them.

The marathon -- which is four years old -- follows a four-mile portion of the Great Wall, then arcs out into remote villages that rarely see foreigners. But then, at mile 21, the racers find themselves back at the Wall facing the steps once again. Beautiful, interesting, historical, and incredibly grueling...if that's what you're looking for in a race, than this is the marathon for you!

Get some outdoor oxygen ths summer

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Even have the mental push t get out of the house or office and just do something outside? The time of year where the world is your oyster is already upon us, but making use of what is "out there" is entirely up to you.

Walking outside is a great thing to do these days when the temperature is conducive to the activity and you want to get a breath of fresh air. Personally, hiking is an activity I use to relieve stress and get that incredibly healthy dose of fresh air.

There's nothing quite like walking and hiking in nature: around trees and grounds and through small hills and other obstacles. Breaking out a small sweat is good, and getting exercise is ever better. The real joy, though, is the feeling you get outside. It just can't be beat.

The questions guys don't ask their doctors, but should

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It's hard for a lot of people to ask questions when they're in with the doctor. Whether it's because you feel a little intimidated, you feel rushed, don't want to bother them, are afraid you'll sound stupid, are worried you'll get bad news, or (like me) simply forget once you're in there, it's a real shame. After all, the whole reason that doctor is there is to help you get or stay healthy and to answer your questions and concerns.

So Sarah wrote a post earlier this month on important questions women should ask their doctors, and here's something for the guys: the 5 most common questions men don't ask their doctors, and the answers that go with them.

Answers and everything, it doesn't get much better than that!

Maria Shriver speaks on work/home balance

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Maria Shriver, First Lady of California, visited Google headquarters to speak about finding a balance between work and home life. With four children, Shriver certainly knows what a hectic life is like. In addition to her successful career in journalism, Shriver has written several books. During her speech, Shiver spoke about how difficult it is to maintain a balance between your career and your family. She stated that, at times, her life has been "a blur." She says it's important to follow your passion, but remember to slow down and live life in the present. She suggests not overbooking yourself... keeping time free for what really matters.

Google employees kept their laptops open and clicked away as she spoke (which strikes me as incredibly strange and rude). But perhaps the lack of attentive listening is because Google headquarters seems to do a pretty good job of creating comfort for their employees. A campus food court provides free meals and gyms, pools, and massage rooms are available for employee use.

Fighting the munchies

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Do you have those cravings for things when you just are not that hungry? We all have had that feeling before. Call it a "craving" or whatever you'd like.

Is it healthy for the waistline? Not likely, as cravings generally aren't for healthy foods. Cravings I still have to this day include ice cream. Mentally beating that back is a challenge in and of itself. What can we do to fight the cravings...for everything? Ediets has a nine-step list that may be able to help:

1. Exercise.
2. Get a massage.
3. Read biographies of people who inspire you.
4. Use guided imagery.
5. Listen to relaxing music.
6. Take a bath with aromatherapy.
7. Laugh.
8. Get a pet and love it.
9. Find a passion.

The 'Happy Runner' treadmill for dogs

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You know obesity is becoming an epidemic when it not only affects both adults and children, but now pets as well. So enter the "Happy Runner" treadmill for dogs. I couldn't help but post on this, but not because I like it. It actually strikes me as sad, a little cruel, and just as an all-around bad idea. Sure, some dogs out there might get a kick out of it, but most dogs aren't hamsters and I imagine them being more stressed than happy on this contraption.

Besides, what's the point here? Strap your dog to a treadmill while you sit on the couch?

Wow, I'm usually a lot nicer even when I disagree with something, but for some reason this really rubs me the wrong way. It's just a lot of energy focused in a completely not helpful way.

A vaccine against allergies? Maybe someday...

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Children and adults are often vaccinated against various diseases, but could a vaccine also help people overcome their allergies? A vaccine that could reduce nasal allergies due to dust mites has undergone testing in the UK with surprising success, and some sufferers were up to 100 times more resistant even 6 weeks after getting the shot.

The vaccine works by attempting to train the immune system to have a less powerful response when exposed to a trigger. Allergies are a result of an immune system gone haywire, or when they body perceives a benign allergen, like dust mite feces, as a threat and overreacts. Experts warn that this vaccine is in its earliest stages and much more testing has to be done to see if it truly is effective. But for allergy sufferers, it may be hope on the horizon.

If you're allergic to dust mites, you can reduce your exposure in your home by following these simple tips.

Learning to manage hunger

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Do you know how to "manage your hunger?" That is a central key when starting and maintaining a weight loss plan, and it's pretty important if you don't want to fail in that new diet.

Managing hunger can be as easy as planning your meals (what, how much, what times) as to not make yourself hungry where you may be more apt to eat something outside your diet plan.

You can limit your food intake and still not have hunger pains and associated thoughts and feeling -- but it takes planning and sticking to a schedule? Know a trick I use? Use that little-used calendar or scheduler in your cellphone to send you reminders. If you carry a phone with your everywhere like most folks, it's a great way to have that "nudge."

Overweight women less compliant with cancer screenings

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Being overweight increases a woman's risk of getting cancer, but sadly is also decreases the odds that she'll get screened and tested for it as recommended. A study shows that despite doctors recommending tests like clinical breast exams, mammograms, and pap smears equally to women of all weights as it is indicated, severely obese women are 10% less likely to be up-to-date on the screenings and are also much less likely to follow the advice of a doctor to have it done.

It is obviously now a priority to figure out exactly why obese women are so much less complaint. It's possible of course that women are simply embarrassed and uncomfortable wearing gowns and being examined, or possibly equipment in the clinics is inadequate.