Thursday, 24 May 2007

If a pandemic comes, who will staff the front lines?

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If a health care crisis comes to the U.S. soon, who will handles the front lines of the diseased and afflicted? It would take a very brave and self-assured medical professional to stand up the front lines of a pandemic and treat those who needed it.

A survey says that some of those folks may not be willing to serve on the front lines should a pandemic occur. It's hard to blame anyone for willingly putting themselves at great risk every day. Bu, there are professions all over the place where that happens every day: bio-hazard workers, soldiers and ER surgeons I think qualify here -- among many others.

Moral of the story here? The education of those that would be at the front lines of a pandemic is not where it should be. The precautions and tools are there -- it just takes a very skilled professional to know and use them.

Daily Fit Tip: Fit parents mean fit kids

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Whether you want to admit it or not, your kids mimic your habits, as any parent who has inadvertently cursed in front of their child only to hear it come out of their little mouth later knows. And you want the best for your kids but how can expect them to form healthy habits if you, their main influence, aren't leading a healthy lifestyle? If you spend every moment in front of the screen (computer or TV) and get little outdoor activity, they'll want to do that too. So get out of the house and do something -- go for a swim, a walk, a bike ride, rowing in a canoe -- anything to encourage those little minds to get out too, and to show them that being active is not only important but fun.

Here are some tips on being a fit parent from eDiets. Do you have any other suggestions?

FitBeauty: Under where? Under there. Workout underwear

This is a delicate subject, I know. Many of us are not willing or ready to discuss the delicates we do or don't wear while we are on the yoga mat or tromping away on a treadmill hill. But most of us have -- admit it -- done a little sneaky peeky around the locker room just to check out what the other women are wearing under all that spandex and microfiber.

Those of you who don't want to discuss are probably asking (if you're still reading, that is) why in the world you'd need special panties for Pilates or for jogging laps around the rubber track (which sounds strangely like a euphemism, but I swear isn't). The answer is: You don't.

You are welcome to pull on those granny panties or Victoria Secret specials and go to town. There is no judgement in just going for it everyday-undie style.

It's just that some of us sweat. A lot. Or get chafed in sensitive places. And some of us just like to buy special fitness gear -- down to the skivvies -- to help us motivate from behind the laptop to get the blood pumping and endorphins flying. For all of us who like or are curious about workout underwear, here are a few kinds you might consider slipping into your gym bag:

Boy shorts. I love boy shorts for their comfortable cling and for the seamless styling that eradicates any nasty visible panty lines. For those of who've had babies or even lunch, they are much friendlier than low-rise underwear, holding bellies in without cutting into your waist. Look for a breathable microfiber or similar fabric that will wick away moisture and feels really good to slide on. (Pictured here is the Moving Comfort Solstive Boy Short, $15.)

Briefs. For those of us who wear and love low-rise yoga pants, running shorts and track pants, briefs that sit on the hips are a great way to be sure your backside's covered but your underwear's waving hello at everyone behind in you in class. Just be sure to take the time to find the right size and the cut that's as full as you want it to be. If you end up with briefs that have a saggy bottom or are stretched tight, you may end up with the chafing and other irritations of focusing more on your under-gear than your workout that you were trying to avoid in the first place. (Pictured here are the Patagonia Women's Capilene Hipster Briefs, $18.)

If you have a tolerance for thongs, especially in the middle of step aerobics or strength training, then more power to you, sister! I always seem to end up doing the yanking dance when I wear a thong to exercise. If that's you too, then skip back to the briefs. But if you are confident and comfy in a thong that fits your curves and class perfectly, then choose a brand that boasts some kind of stay-fit design, is tagless and won't shrink. And just in case, I advise all thong shoppers to buy a size up just to ensure they stay tug-free after lunadry day. (Pictured here is the Ex-Officio Seamless Sport Thong, $15)

Inner briefs. Shhhh, no need to worry about buying special workout underwear at all if you opt for shorts that have a hidden brief built in. Before you buy, be sure to check out the weight and fit of the inner brief to make sure it isn't too flimsy or snug for your personal comfort level. If you like a little up-breeze as you run, then you will be all set. (Pictured here is the Danskin Women's 02 Performance Cross Training Mesh Knit Short, $34.)

Some undies are now made out of organic cotton, especially for yoga lovers and people who get eco-conscious down to their drawers. You can find fabric that's not only silky to the touch but also antimicrobial to help prevent infection and dampness. (Pictured here is Gaiam's Silver Lining Bikini, $19.)

Yup, I said it. You know you've done it. And if you haven't, why not give it a try? If you're wearing snug capris or bike shorts or similar, opting out of underwear can be freeing and help you feel flexible. Of course, you will wash your pants every single time you wear then. And of course, you will double-check in a mirror that your poses, squats, stretches and other aspects of your routine won't become a peekaboo for everyone else and an embarassment for yourself. If you're oogied out or need a bit more hygiene in your commandoness, you can always try these.

Whatever really is (or isn't) under there, choose to be comfortable, feel good and at ease in how much you choose to bare. Now gear up and get moving!

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Fewer and fewer doctors bothering to vote amidst health care crisis

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It makes no sense, but it seems that as health care becomes a bigger and bigger issue in this country some of the people who should care about it the most, the doctors, are voting less and less. A study coming out of Johns Hopkins Medical School looked at different professions and much they participated in voting in presidential elections and found that although not at the very bottom of the list (laborers came in last) doctors are shockingly uninvolved in the political process. 1 in 4 doctors haven't bothered to vote in the last 3 presidential elections.

And guess who came in first, with the best turnout of all? Lawyers, of course.

Gardenburger body type survey

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Turns out most of us don't identify with the super-skinny actresses and models that grace the glossy pages. Gardenburger surveyed 500 women; the results include:

What is the best way to get ready for swimsuit season?
2% only plan on drinking water from now on to get ready
6% feel they are ready to wear their bikini now
9% plan on moving to Antarctica
22% have no idea how to get ready for swimsuit season
61% say the best way to get ready is by eating healthier foods

If you fall into the 2% who are swearing off food, the 9% that prefer winter's chill, or the 22% that just don't know what to do, read Lauren's post Get fit in time for summer... without going overboard.

Continue reading Gardenburger body type survey

Being fit when young pays off later

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This came as no surprise to me -- eating well and staying healthier while young can lead to a happier, healthier and more mobile old age, according to new research.

The study looked at 2,800 people who were obese at ages 25 and 50, and those that were scored significantly less on physical performance tests than those who were within normal weight ranges at the same ages.

It's pretty obvious to many of us that eating well, exercising regularly (using any method) and taking care of oneself when young (when it's pretty easy) can lead to less health complications and fitness battles later on. In other words, what are you waiting for?

Break-ups harder on men

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Just like the song says, breaking up really is hard to do. Especially for those who've entered the legal obligation of marriage, ending a relationship can be a real nightmare for everyone.

But, according to a recent study, it's worse for men. Researchers found that men are more likely to suffer from depression for up to two years after they divorce or end a common-law relationship. The depression rate was 6 times higher amongst men who'd divorced as opposed to men that were still with their spouses, but only 3.5 times higher for divorced or separated women.

Researchers also concluded that the depression was "independently associated" with the break-ups, meaning they were able to rule out other possible causes.

As far as I could tell, they didn't draw any conclusions as to why men were more likely to suffer depression in the wake of ending a long-term commitment. Could it be that men are simply less comfortable seeking help after the relationship goes sour?

How fat kills

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In case you needed an extra boost today to help you resist that trip to the vending machine or that jelly donut with your coffee, maybe a little reminder on why it's so important to lose weight will help? I personally prefer positive means of motivation, but unfortunately sometimes the cold hard truth is the most effective! The following are just a few of the ways being overweight kills you, slowly but surely:
  • Fat strains your heart in more ways than one. Blood pressure rises, cholesterol starts to clog arteries, and blood loses some of its ability to clot which increases the risk for stroke.
  • Fat increases male hormones, which for women can have many adverse side effects -- namely increased risk for heart disease.
  • Fat also increases the hormone insulin, which increases the likelihood of developing diabetes, which in turn damages and stresses your heart (among other things!).
  • Fat makes it harder to get a good night's sleep. The most common sleep disorder for overweight adults is sleep apnea, which strains many systems including your cardiovascular system (your heart again!) and your risk for diabetes.
  • Fat strains and damages joints and bones. The simple fact that your body is carrying around more weight than it was designed for will make it "wear out" faster, plus being overweight is linked with thinner and more brittle bones.
It may not be easy to lose weight, but it's definitely worth the effort for both yourself and those who love you!

Does your body language need tweaking?

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Are you anxious in social situations? Chances are that if you are, it's no secret to those around you. Feeling anxious or uncomfortable can make you act anxious and uncomfortable, and you body language will quickly tell others how you are feeling.

There are some situations that are really tough. Job interviews (I'm horrible at interviews, even when I know my stuff.), large gatherings or parties, or situations that require you to mingle with new people are often difficult for those who prefer less stressful, one-on-one situations. But life requires that we get out there and socialize and being comfortable in your own skin can go a long way toward making connections, developing friendships, and even building your own confidence and improving your mood.

Relaxing and taking control of your body language can help you feel more comfortable and appear more confident. Check out this list of 18 ways to improve your body language and see if there are any changes you can make in the way you interact with the people in your life.

Chinese toothpaste imports being inspected

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With the melamine scare from Chinese food suppliers, now comes another scare from the mainland -- toothpaste. Imports from Chinese toothpaste makers are being looked at by U.S.officials as reports of tainted toothpaste products from that country are coming in from various countries.

The FDA has not had any confirmations of tainted toothpaste products in the U.S. yet, but is taking the step of inspecting these products as a precaution. Except for leader Canada, no other country imports more toothpaste into the U.S. than China.

Right now, the possibly affected brands are not known (and there's no confirmation of products being tainted), but should America be losing faith in the quality if Chinese imports? The picture is not a good one at all.

Salmonella testing in meat faster than ever

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With all the recent food poisoning scares and recalls in the news lately I'm not exactly sure where this bit of news fits in, but a new test has been developed that allows for much faster detection of salmonella in meat. Obviously when it comes to perishables like meat, the faster the fresher so that's definitely a good thing. But on the other hand although this new test is faster it's not necessarily better. The results from the new test were "comparable" to the old methods, just quicker. Currently it takes as long as 5 days (why so long?) compared to only 12 hours if they switch to this new method.

Weight loss with your cell phone camera?

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We all do the best we can to stay knowledgeable about the foods we eat, but most of us, no matter how much we learn, will still come face to face with something that looks really good and wonder: "is this bad for me?"

You could pay a nutrition expert to follow you around all the time, guiding you through every food purchase (and some people do that), but if that's not your style, you can still get those pressing questions answered simply by using your cell phone.

At least that's the new trend in Japan. People there are snapping photos of their food with cell phone cameras, and sending those photos to experts who evaluate their eating habits. The experts work with food photos from a few days -- even a few weeks -- and give feedback on what you're doing right, and where you need to improve. It's hoped that this more modern version of a food diary is more accurate than one that relies on patients being accurate in their descriptions or recollections of what they ate.

If it works, we may see it in more countries with plenty of cell phones, and plenty of citizens that could afford to lose a few pounds.

Finger length linked to higher SAT scores

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Is a math scholarship in the cards for your child? Or are reading and writing going to be a larger part of your child's future? Reading the future may be as easy as taking a look at your child's fingers. Researchers recently found a link between finger length and SAT scores.

When a fetus is exposed to hormones in the womb, it affects finger length. Babies who are exposed to more testosterone tend to have longer ring fingers, while babies who are exposed to estrogen tend to have longer index fingers. Besides affecting finger length, the two hormones are also associated with the development of different cognitive skills; testosterone is linked to math and spatial skills while estrogen has a connection with verbal ability. What researchers found was that when children had a longer ring finger when compared to their index finger, they were more likely to have higher math scores on their SATs. An association between a shorter ring finger and higher SAT scores in the area of literacy was also found among girls. Interestingly, it was also found that the greater the difference in length between the two fingers, the larger the gap between scores in the two areas became.

You've probably checked your own finger length by now -- so what do you think? Do your fingers match your ability in math and literacy? Mine don't. On standardized tests, I always scored pretty evenly across the board, but my ring finger is significantly longer than my index finger. Despite checking my own kids' fingers over after reading that article, I think I'll go ahead and let their interests and abilities develop as they will. I may just have a math genius with a short ring finger that's going to blow the whole theory out of the water!

Botox: It's not just for wrinkles anymore

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New research suggests Botox can provide some relief for men suffering with an enlarged prostate. The Botox injection relaxes the nerves and muscle tone in the prostate area to make urinary flow easier. 75% of the study participants experienced some relief from symptoms of their prostate condition.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) most often occurs in men over age 50. By age 80, 80% of men have some degree of prostate trouble. Symptoms include frequent urination, trouble urinating, blood in the urine, and urinary tract infections. In severe cases, the kidneys and/or bladder can be damaged. The most common treatments are medication-based, but surgery is also an option. Botox could add an important alternative to prostate treatment options. The initial study of the effects of Botox on BPH was small -- only 37 men participated -- but the results were promising, so more research is needed.

Light cigarettes safer? Nope.

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When lighting up, the term "light cigarette" does not mean a reduction in calories or fat. Jokes aside, that designation generally means a lower tar and nicotine count. Are those kind of cigarettes safer to smoke, though?

There are many studies that have concluded a big "no" to that question. The National Cancer Institute has weighed in on that question, concluding that these types of cigarettes are no better than the standard kind -- and they pose the same risks.

Makes pretty god sense to me -- smoking is smoking, right? Finding an excuse not to quite but to switch to light cigarettes is like making no move at all.

For an additional viewpoint, see Bethany's take at The Cardio Blog.

Viagra for jet-lag?

There may be a prescription for jet-lag coming on the horizon, and from an unlikely source too. Viagra was shown to reduce or prevent time-change fatigue in recent tests on hamsters, which obviously opens a whole new potential way of dealing with the frustrations of long distance travel.

The active ingredient in Viagra, sildenafil, affects a messenger molecule that has to do with circadian rhythms and the body's internal clock -- higher doses of sildenafil means higher sensitivity to light differences and faster adjustment to changes.

The tests only included male hamsters, so the next step is "co-ed" testing and then on to mice. But maybe not that far off into the future the nasty side-effects of jet-lag will be curable with a little blue pill.

The 5-second rule: how dirty is your food really?

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The other day, I stumbled groggily out of bed and went straight to the kitchen, my stomach rumbling uncharacteristically. I reached for some toast, popped it in the toaster, and as I was buttering it I knocked one slice clumsily to the ground. What do I do, I thought. One slice isn't enough, and I'm in a hurry. Should I eat it? the five-second rule says that it's okay. Or is it the three-second rule. My stomach quieted my subconcsious and I guiltily scarfed it down, only after frantically scrapping off the top with a knife, mind you.

But as I went about my day, I couldn't help wondering .... was that a good idea? Is the five-second rule true? According to this, something left of the floor for mere seconds will have significantly less bacteria than something left for a full minute, but that's not saying it's safe to eat food off the floor -- it can still pick up an alarming amount of gross stuff. I think it depends on the texture --- something moist is more likely to pick up bacteria than, say, a cracker. So eating my (buttered) toast probably wasn't a good idea but I did it anyway and seem to have eluded the illness-inducing bacteria. I won't do it again though. Just thinking about it is making me a bit queasy.

Sleep apnea = higher blood pressure risks

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Suffering from sleep apnea? I would venture to guess that you discovered it from waking yourself up at night or by your spouse or partner waking you up based on noise. What to do? Visit your doctor and see what the cause could be.

Don't let sleep apnea slip under your health radar -- and to further that point, new research states that the condition can lead to a higher risk of diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy. Females, pay attention to this.

With obesity being a main cause of sleep apnea these days, this is yet another good reason to find a way to reduce your weight while maintaining a lifestyle to keep those extra pounds off.

What would happen if you quit smoking today?

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You've heard this a million times, but just to re-iterate, if you're a smoker, the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is to quit. I used to be a heavy smoker, so I know how annoying it is to have people tell you that -- I also know how difficult it can be to put down the pack.

My biggest excuse was: "I'm young. The health problems won't really start for years, and I'll have quit by then." And it's true, I did quit before I experienced any significant side effects. That said, if I'd stumbled across this list of immediate health benefits, I might've been able to give up even sooner.

Did you know that after you make the decision to quit, your blood pressure will drop back to normal in 20 minutes, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood stream will drop by half within 8 hours, and your chance of having a heart attack will decrease in 48 hours? In 72 hours you'll have increased energy, in 2 weeks your circulation will increase -- the list goes on. The point is, your body begins to heal itself -- and you'll feel a difference -- from the very first day you're smoke-free.

For all the benefits, see the full list on Tips for Your Health. Maybe today is your day to give up for good.

Unassisted deliveries on the rise in U.S.

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When I was 8 months pregnant with my firstborn, I ran into an old acquaintance. She showed me pictures of her youngest, then told me that she had delivered her at home. Already nervous about my own impending delivery, I said, "Wow, you're brave!" (Or something that probably sounded equally insensitive, though I didn't mean it to be.) "No," she replied, "If you're planning on having that baby in a hospital, you're the one who's brave."

Delivering a baby at home under the care of a certified midwife is a not-uncommon alternative to hospital births in the U.S. and Britain. But "freebirths" or unassisted deliveries are like an extreme form of home birth, and are on the rise in these two countries. During an unassisted delivery, women have birth at home without any being under the care of a certified professional. And while freebirths are legal, it's against the law for any uncertified person to assist with the birth.

Obviously, there are critics, some of them strong. Many think the practice is selfish, reckless, and dangerous, but freebirthers counter with the belief that intervention causes more complications than anything else during birth. So let's hear it -- are there any freebirthers out there willing to share their thoughts? And if you, like me, prefer a hospital birth, what do you think about unassisted delivery?