Thursday, 31 May 2007

Memory boosters: tea and chocolate?

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A plant antioxidant called epicatechin has been found to help boost memory power -- something many of us look for the first time we forget where the remote control or that favorite book is.

Are pills the answer to boosting memory in humans? I won't touch that subject, but I do search for natural methods of boosting memory retention and grasp using products like ginseng and others. What about chocolate? Sound like a dream come true?

I'm not talking processed milk chocolate, but raw and sweet chocolate. That and blueberries, grapes and tea contain epicatechin and may lead to increased spatial memory. Although one of this study's researchers works for Mars, Inc. (maker of many candy bars), one has to wonder how much bias (if any) is in play here. Regardless, raw chocolate is something I'll eat whether it helps my memory or not. Now, where's that tea I just had?

Eek -- don't gain weight on vacation!

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Vacation is a time to get away and enjoy oneself without the stresses and trials of everyday living. In most cases, we splurge on vacations -- on travel, extravagances and ... food.

Are there ways to prepare for a vacation that won't wreck your diet and figure at the same time? Sure -- and a little planning now can save you a ton of headaches when you return from vacation and have to face reality again.

Now, don't get me wrong -- there's nothing wrong with indulging in some goodness (food goodness) while in vacation, but you have to temper yourself and not go overboard. If so, you'll pay handsomely for it later. For five specific tips on planning a "healthy" vacation, see this. Yes, it is possible.

Missing link between Americans' health knowledge and diet

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According to a recent study conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), Americans' "health IQ" and their diets are out of sync. While many of the 1000 adults surveyed knew at least the basics of healthful eating--always eating breakfast, for example--surprising numbers did not, and even fewer were likely to follow sage advice they believed to be true.

Many polled didn't know the appropriate amount of calories to consume on a daily basis to maintain a healthy diet. Still others were confused about which fats are good, such as mono- and polyunsaturated fats and which are bad, such as saturated fats.

More than anything, the study seemed to indicate that while individuals had the knowledge, they did little about it. In other words, they knew what healthy habits were but were not employing them.

I thought about how this applied to me. I've always thought of myself as a healthy person. I try to eat "right" and exercise "enough," but what does that REALLY mean? What is the right type and amount of food for me personally, and what constitutes enough exercise for me? While I was reading this article I thought about what I'd eaten so far that day.

Continue reading Missing link between Americans' health knowledge and diet

Have you taken your daily dose of confidence?

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This morning as I headed out for a run my iPod died after one song--dang! So it was that I had the opportunity to overhear a group of women passing me in the opposite direction. I didn't quite have the time to catch the whole gist of their conversation but I did hear one woman say, "well, we all have our hang-ups."

That got me thinking. Yes, we all do have hang-ups. I certainly do. I don't plan to bore you with them here, but assume mine are similar to your own. Afraid to ask that gal out on a date? Nervous about donning that two-piece? Not sure whether you'll ace that test? So it would seem that no matter who you are hang-ups are a part of your life. For many, those hang-ups bog us down like ankle weights while we tread water.

For me, though, I see hang ups as a challenge. They provide the opportunity to realize what you want and to go out and get it--and to achieve success, if you're willing to accept the challenge. Many folks never accept that challenge because they lack one simple thing. No, it's not a certain pill or consistently eating a certain type of food (cabbage soup diet, anyone?). It's not 6 minute abs or B12 shots. It's confidence.

Continue reading Have you taken your daily dose of confidence?

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Chinese scientists look at male infertility

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It's an ego bruiser and depressing when a low fertility count is found when a man visits the doctor. But, are there ways to prevent the problem using lifestyle choices as a way bring fertility back? A recent discovery may soon lead to that.

Chinese medical scientists believe so -- and they've discovered a protein in sperm that explains many cases of male fertility that have baffled men and doctors alike.

The protein known as epithelial ion channel has previously been linked to female infertility but is now being looked at as a cause of male infertility as well. This particular protein is involved in the transport of bicarbonate (a requirement for sperm activation).

While this won't give a solution (yet) to unexplained cases of male infertility, it may lead there soon -- much to the enjoyment of many men around the globe.

Soy Nuts gets that blood pressure under control

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Tree and pant nuts are generally some of the healthiest things one can enjoy these days. Although soy nuts are not generally mentioned alongside healthy nuts like walnuts and peanuts, they are a very tasty snack indeed.

Hypersensitive women who substituted soy nuts for non-soy sources of protein were found to have lower blood pressure levels along with a lower LDL level (bad cholesterol) figure.

This comes as no surprise, really. Healthy foods seem to always have a positive impact on health -- some more in men and some more in women. Moral of the story: eating healthy is a good thing.

How much do you know about alcohol?

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Talking Lindsay Lohan yesterday, one of my friends and I launched into how many misconceptions about alcohol we bought into as college kids hitting the keg party scene.

You may know a few yourself, like "Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you're in the clear." We naively strategized trips to the bar based off of what is essentially an alcohol nursery rhyme.

Now that we have moved on in our lives, well beyond that brand of partying, we no longer debate (mis)information of the beer and wine kind. It's not that I am against imbibing, it's just that I am more concerned about enjoying each drink (and the alternating glasses of water) than slamming in as much as possible and then wondering why I'm hungover. It made me wonder: How many people's understanding of alcohol grows up when they do?

If you'd like to test your knowledge about alcohol and its use and abuse, take this simple quiz that may just help you get your facts straight before you indulge.

Load up on these Zero-calorie snacks

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My Email inbox was full of promise when I received this article enticing me with calorie-free snacks! Are there even such things as calorie-free snacks? I mean, even chewing gum has calories. Turns out there are a few things that really are calorie free -- namely tea and water -- but can you really fill up on these? To a point, I suppose, but if you're having water or tea to replace a meal, you need help.

The other suggestions are not so much calorie-free as they are very low in calories and/or good for you. These items are veggies, berries, sugar-free jello, egg-whites and citrus fruits. You could eat these things to your hearts content and not see any significant weight gain, so next time you reach for that bag of chips to fill the mid-afternoon rumblings, remember these items.

What calorie-free or low-cal snacks do you enjoy?

Greece joins other countries in wanting no public smoking

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Smoking bans seem to be getting attention in every corner of the globe these days, and the world can now add Greece to that list. The country is thinking of banning smoking on all forms of public transport, including buses, trains and taxis, in shopping malls, on beaches and in private firms.

Now that is what I would call comprehensive, yes? Although you may not agree with it, the attitude of smoking in almost every country these days is taking a hit by local and national governments.

Is the cigarette slowly becoming a thing of the past? It's won't be easy, although the positive effect on global human health is staggering as these bans are suggested (and then implemented).

Wrinkles scarier than skin cancer

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Despite the fact that cancer is the second most common cancer for 20-29 year-olds, young people are still spending their summer afternoons lounging in the sun, working on their tans.

So, with melanoma rates rapidly increasing, health professionals have been desperate to figure out how to convince teens and 20-somethings to take better care of their skin. Fortunately, they may have found the solution, but it doesn't have anything to do with cancer.

Apparently, most young people are more afraid of wrinkles than they are of melanoma.

Subsequently, one professor is using vanity to try keep college kids out of the sun. By showing them photos of people with heavy wrinkling and age spots, and comparing those images to Polaroids of the students' sun-damaged faces (taken with an ultraviolet camera), the professor reveals the places age sports and uneven pigmentation will eventually appear. As you might suspect, most students are "visibly shocked when they see the photos, and it seems to have an immediate impact."

While the dangers of cancer are still the same -- regardless of whether or not people accept them -- if vanity is what it takes to convince people to protect themselves, then I'm all for this approach.

Buying organic: Which items should you splurge on?

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I'm a supporter of the organic movement and if I could, I would load my kitchen with organic, free-range and locally-produced items. Unfortunately, buying organic is more expensive than buying just the regular, run-of-the-mill foods, so I limit my organic-buying to mostly just some produce produce (the stuff you eat as-is, like apples and strawberries) and some dairy items. But I wonder -- should I be splurging on the organic version of other items? Or am I making the right choices when it comes to what organic items I buy?

This article lists what you should splurge on, organically speaking. Tip: start at the top of the food chain and make your meats and dairy free-range. The regular versions usually have hormones (ick!) As for produce, they list what items usually have the highest amount of pesticides, like apples, bell peppers, cherries, potatoes and strawberries to name a few.

What do you splurge on when buying organic?

Go ask your mother: 7 health questions your mom can answer

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For most kids the phrase "Go ask your mother," or conversely, "Go ask your father" was an annoying tactic that parents used to delay denying or consenting to a request. There are some important health-related questions, though, that only your parents can answer and as such, it's important to go ask both your mom and dad about the family history of a range of health problems.

A number of physical conditions tend to run in families and knowing whether or not you are genetically predisposed to these conditions can help when diagnosing, treating or even preventing them. This article lists seven important questions to ask both parents in order to gain insight into your family's health history. These include whether there is a family history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and melanoma. While there are a range of ways to protect yourself against such conditions, it is always helpful to know whether you may also be predisposed.

Smoking can harm the heart's aorta

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In another knock against smoking, researchers report that the heart's aorta can be damaged by the habit. This is kind of significant, as the aorta is the main artery carrying blood to the body.

Aortic inflammation, which is linked to smoking, can promote hardening of the arteries. An end results here can be manifested in the formation of aneurysms.

This chain leads to possible heart attacks, conclude the researchers. s if smokers did no need another reason to give up the habit, here's another one. You know, since none of us can live without the heart's efforts inside each of our bodies.

Take advice from your kids

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Obesity wasn't a problem when I was a kid. My friends and I spent our days running around, pausing only to have a snack when hunger got the best of us or our moms told us it was time to eat. TV time was restricted and besides, it wasn't as fun as water fights with the neighbours and bike rides to the 7-11 to load up on whatever candy our $.50 could buy. Those were good days.

In this article, Gabby Reece encourages us to channel our inner child, for our physical and mental health. Play. Sleep lots. Say what's on our minds. Eat only when we're hungry. Laugh. Live in the moment. That's what kids do, and I agree that we'd all be happier, healthier and more well-adjusted as adults if we tried to live life as simply as we did when we were young. Underneath all the corporate mumbo-jumbo that comes with being an adult, life really is simple, you know. Most of the time, though, we're too caught up in all the red tape to notice.

How do your kids inspire you?

Golden Retriever becomes a cancer hero

As Bethany wrote on earlier, dogs have been used by many people to seek out cancer. While shunned by many in the medical community, the use of canines to "find" cancer is well-documented. But, it can go beyond that.

Alex, a Golden Retriever, has become the first dog to have tissue samples submitted to a new "canine cancer repository" that sits right next to the U.S. National Cancer Institute's own library of human cancer samples. Why is that, you may ask?

Cancer researchers have determined that the way cancer malignancies occur in dogs may indeed hold vital clues to human cancer. With dogs and humans both being mammals, this makes sense, and the mapping of the canine and human genomes have made more detailed comparisons possible recently. Perhaps dogs really are "man's best friend."

Longer workouts raise good cholesterol

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If you are into fitness, did you know that the longer you work out, the more "good" cholesterol your body will produce? This new finding comes from researchers in Japan.

Although "bad" cholesterol is not good for human health, "good" cholesterol (the HDL kind) is good for the body in moderate amounts.

Cholesterol can be consumed in food or produced directly in the body, so if you're into workouts that last longer than 30 minutes (say, 45 minutes or an hour), you'll get more calories burned while producing more good cholesterol. That is a great double-whammy!

Children's items in resturants set up bad habits

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Have you noticed that the "kid's menu" in many restaurants is just filled with standard-fare, low-nutrition food items? The staples seem to be mac and cheese, cheeseburgers and fried chicken fingers.

Why aren't there more nutritious foods offered in nice restaurants for parents wanting to give their kids a good meal? Pretty simple -- the average American parent just fends off junk food on their children. Well, that's the impression one gets when viewing a children's menu.

Some parents I know order healthy meals and then just share with their kids, even in nicer restaurants (unless those kids love huge portions). Do you like to always have the same semi-junk food choices for your kids or would you rather have healthier options?

Can a person live to 138?

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According to India's "Lima Book of Records," Habib Miyan is the oldest man in the world -- having just celebrated his 138th birthday this past weekend. That's 24 years older than the woman Guinness recognizes as the world's oldest person, and 32 years older than the world's oldest league bowler (just in case you were wondering).

The question is: is it true?

It's a little hard to believe, but doesn't seem impossible. The oldest authenticated "Supercentenarian" (the name given by scientists to exceptionally old people), was born in 1875, and was 122 years old when she died in 1997.

No news on if and when anyone is going to try and authenticate Mr. Miyan's claims, but I hope it turns out to be true. I can't imagine the knowledge, wisdom and insight a person would acquire after 138 years of life -- plus I like the idea that I might live for another 100 years or more.

Are the ups and downs of dating the reason your clothes are too tight?

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There is nothing like the ups and downs of dating to sabotage a healthy eating plan and work-out schedule. Whether you love it or hate it, it is an unhappy fact that for many people dating can be very dangerous for the waistline. Gaining weight while in a relationship does not have to be inevitable.

According to this, there are several stages for both singles and those with mates that can be dangerous. While many people who are looking for a soulmate will hit the gym in order to look their best, those who are single and feeling lonely may be more likely to overeat as a way of dealing with their feelings.

At the same time, those who are in a relationship tend to eat out more, indulge in desserts or wine and, after being in a relationship for a while, get comfortable and begin to neglect how they look. And there is nothing like a bad break-up to drive a normally healthy eater to seek comfort at the bottom of a carton of Haagen Dazs. If any of this sounds familiar and you want some advice and motivation, have another look at the article for tips and suggestions on staying fit while dating.

Toxic Chinese food even has Chinese citizens worried

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With all the attention surrounding the quality of Chinese food imports into the U.S., one has to wonder if actual Chinese citizens are up in arms about the food they eat daily as well. Some are, it appears.

Although the recent melamine pet food scare really brought the American public into the debate on Chinese food imports, citizens of that country may be just as concerned. After all, China has over a billion people to feed, and there are inherent risks in that kind of undertaking, yes?

Food safety breaches is making some Chinese citizens -- many of whom are very poor -- think twice about what they purchase and consume. All things considered, do you think the U.S. is better as protecting the safety of its citizens when it comes to food?

Get rid of the TV for an entire month

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What would you do without a TV for an entire month? Many families probably cannot imagine that scenario, but I would venture to guess that more constructive reading, physical activity, family communication and overall happiness would be a result.

Don't believe me? There are many studies that confirm just that. In fact, many psychologists have challenged American families to stash the TV in the garage for a month and just watch their family lives improve.

After seeing the programming junk on network (and some cable stations) television, I am amazed that kids are even allowed to watch such nonsense these days in many cases (yes, CW network, I'm pointing at you). Who knows -- maybe a TV-less month will turn into a TV-less environment for good.

FitBeauty: Loving it! Five summer faves I'm adoring right now

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Now that the heat's turned up, the holiday BBQing has begun and summer's nearly here, it is time for a little light reading. Here's who I am raving about to my grrrlfriends and what I'm already packing in my soon-to-be beach bag:

1. Jordin Sparks, American Idol winner and teen singer with the big voice and bit of sass, says she is very happy with the curves she has. And to that, I say, Amen, sister! Although she wasn't my first choice for the Idol trophy (but just behind Melinda and my reality TV crush Beat Box Boy), I do love that her metamorphosis over the season didn't mean shrinking sizes, over-inflated self-confidence or hyper-sexy styling. Go on, hot stuff! You are a much better role model than the ghastly underweight, smoking, snorting, drinking, Starbucks inhaling young women who make the news every single day. As I gear up to get into my (inhale) swimsuit, I am going to remember to strut all of my stuff à la Jordin.

2. Burt's Bees Coconut Foot Creme. I bought this as a plea for my husband to please tend to his training-weary feet but I've stolen it back more times than I can count. After long days in my flip-flops, a few evenings in shoes that should not really be worn more than ten minutes at a time, and some training walks of my own, the blistered toes, scaly heels and calloused balls of my feet are in need of some serious love. This cream smells like a piña colada and is the thick, smeary remedy to feet in need. I recommend pulling a pair of light-weight cotton or pedicure socks and letting the cream go to work overnight.

3. This great guide to spring-trend skirts and dresses by The Fashionable Housewife. There are so many tempting but potentially eek-ifying trends this season that call to many of us (oh, darlings, my recent time in the H&M fitting room experimenting with leggings was definitely a fashion low-light). The Fashionable Housewife breaks down the skirt and dress styles by body and offers up adorable, affordable options along with her trendy tips. Print and stick in your purse to have handy for those spontaneous trips to the mall.

4. Exuviance CoverBlend. I was ecstatic to stand up with my brother at his wedding last weekend but was so frustrated about how to pull off the strappy little dress the bride chose. I developed a rashy, red skin condition while I was pregnant with my son that has made summer and formal wear out of the question while I receive treatment. A clerk at Ulta recommended Exuviance CoverBlend and I felt the spark of wedding fabulousness ignite. It worked so well, I was even shocked to see how natural and well-covered by arms were under one light application. It did smudge a bit on my brother's tuxedo but it stayed on through reception dancing and late-night recap of the whole event (and expect to give it a good scrub to remove). This body cover-up was lighter than icky pancake make-up, looked better than regular foundations and worked really well for a quick beauty fix.

5. Glorious sunless tanning. Even though all this lovely weather means lots of outdoor time, I am thrilled to get all my tanning out of a tube. I feel like I am taking care of the skin I'm in without losing out on my favorite time of year. I never quite get over the chemical smell, but I do like the moisturizer-infused stuff so I don't have to double up on products. I also like the idea of being a sun goddess without all those nasty little (ahem) premature wrinkles.

Now you: Be a friend and share the beauty and style finds you are into right now!

Daily Fit Tip: Pick 10 healthy habits and stick to them

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I came across this article from Yahoo Health a while back and bookmarked it right away because it's full of useful tips to help you live a healthy life. One point in particular stuck out to me: #6. Create and use 10 Daily Habits. I started to think about what an impact 10 daily habits, even small ones, could make. I'm not suggesting you make habits that are grand and a huge change and hard to follow every day, just 10 simple things that will help you stay happy, healthy and motivated.

Here are mine, in no particular order:

Continue reading Daily Fit Tip: Pick 10 healthy habits and stick to them

Bellydance your way to fitness

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Anyone who loves to dance knows that not only is getting a good groove on a lot of fun, it is also a pretty great workout. Fitz posted recently on the hot bodies gliding across the floor on Dancing with the Stars and Martha wrote about how dancing is becoming a hot new fitness craze.

One type of body-moving I'm interested in, but haven't yet had the chance to try, is belly dancing. Every time I see a group of women moving their hips and tummies to a Middle Eastern beat, I'm incredibly impressed by both their self confidence and how hard they work.

Are you interested in trying out this exotic craze but are intimidated or want to know a bit more about it? Take a look here for some history, cool details about the dance -- including the fact that belly dancing is good for both aerobic fitness as well as toning -- and information on how to get started. If you're already addicted to the dance, why do you like it and how did you get started?

The 'Feldenkrais Method' helps change the way you move

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It's not exactly new (first developed about 50 years ago) but the Feldenkrais Method is still being used today to help people "promote more efficient movement with less pain, enhance flexibility and stability, and improve well-being." It's used for a variety of different people including those fighting serious diseases to average adults just looking to maximize fitness and body awareness. It focuses pretty heavily on becoming deliberate and conscious in how you move your body, and is available in both group classes and individualized lessons.

This sounds like it would be good for me, and if you want more info too try this link to learn more and find a Feldenkrais Method class or instructor near you.

Moms can suffer from mental declines if stressed

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If you're a single mom who has dealt with (or is dealing with) small children on a daily basis, you may have up to three times the risk for mental health issues if there is a lack of support in the picture.

That support can come in the form of monetary and emotional support, but often arrives in both packages from what I've experienced with friends. A strong support system is vital when kids are small -- something many moms can probably attest to.

In addition to an overload of stress, moms can see their own mental health having a "strong influence" on their child's health and development according to newer research.

We love to gawk at fit celebs: Jessica Simpson...seriously?

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And you thought your workout gear was bad? Baggy-bottom sweats look drop-dead sexy compared to this roller derby fashion explosion that Jessica Simpson walked into on her way to the gym in West Hollywood last week.

These satin shorts (they are satin -- aren't they? -- with that two-tone shine) totally take me back to third grade when I used to cruise up and down the block in my sneaker-style roller skates with my big old yellow earphones. Who knew that the singing, reality TV and (ahem) "acting" sensation would be rocking the same style on this side of the millennium?

My vote is that she gives the t-shirt back to John, the knee-socks back to Jaclyn and gets on with the fitness.

[via People]

Eight diet tips for a slim, sexy summer

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beachNeed a little jump start to motivate you to stick to your diet this summer? If the prospect of bikini-covered beaches and shorts-up-to-there don't do it for you, Web MD has some no-nonsense tips that just might do the trick.

They may not be original, but ideas like having a diet buddy and not striving for perfection are nice reminders. The reminder of being patient also spoke to me. One of the best bits of advice was to make sure you have a maintenance plan, because sometimes keeping the weight off is actually harder than losing it.

Whether you are a die-hard dieter, thinking about getting started, or bemoaning the too-small bikini and begging for help, Web MD will have some good advice for you.

What are some things that help you stick to your diet?

Europe follows U.S. -- more citizens becoming obese

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It's pretty well-known that there are tens of millions of people living in the U.S. who are obese, and that disturbing trend is now being seen more and more in Europe.

In fact, the European Union's top health official said yesterday that "a majority" of adults in all EU countries are now obese. That includes Germany, France, Italy and other countries.

In addition to that, many kids are becoming obese in these same EU countries as well. This sounds like a mirror image of what has happened in the U.S. This says it all: "UE Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou stated that 'bad diets based on fatty and sweet ingredients combined with physical laziness' by now account for six of the seven top factors leading to bad health."

Yep -- that will do it all right.

Hacking into a child's brain

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Mark Woodman has a seven-year-old son named Caleb who exhibits a unique issue involving the brain. Caleb has SPD, or sensory processing disorder, and has been going through an extensive program intended to "hack" his neurological interpretations. So what does that mean? Well, his son's brain does not interpret what he hears, sees or feels like other people's. In fact, some senses are ignored altogether.

SPD can also be seen in some individuals who are in the autistic spectrum. Since we know that autism is a lot more prevalent than we thought, this type of "brain hacking" treatment could become a routine means of therapy in the future. The author confides, however, that his desire to help his son in this way has not gone uncriticized by some readers. Opponents of this method say he is trying to "fix" his son's brain when nothing is really wrong with it in the first place. They think he is just unique.

Continue reading Hacking into a child's brain

Cancer set to explode in Asia

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Cancer rates are seen increasing in dramatic fashion as longer lifespans and the adoption of poor Western eating habits take hold of Asian citizens in the coming decade.

Lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking and eating unhealthy foods may increase, and since all are linked to various forms of cancer, the rate of several cancers is most likely going to see a significant increase.

Why are Asian citizens adopting our bad habits in increasing numbers? Who knows, although the effect cultures have on each other is now slowing down due to how global all our lives have become. Want to abstain from the possibility of cancer? Don't use tobacco, eat healthy and get regular exercise.

Nicole Richie's 100lbs and under party sparks controversy

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One of the most prominent stars singled out for having an unhealthy obsession with staying trim is Nicole Richie. Now the socialite has caused even greater controversy after word was leaked that she'd organized a Memorial Day party for only her skinniest friends.

Her email read: "There will be a scale at the front door. No girls over 10 pounds allowed in. Start starving yourself now."

The public is already bombarded with unrealistic, unobtainable, and downright unhealthy ideas of what it means to be fit and attractive. Whether she likes it or not, Richie and her unnaturally slender frame are contributing to that. She's since claimed the email was a joke, but -- especially for someone in her position, I can't imagine how it could've been funny.

Get your low-impact exercise on: swim!

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Want to get some exercise this summer without wearing out your joints and causing pain? While jogging and walking are great exercise (while trying to be low-impact), there are few exercises that are as safe and invigorating as swimming.

Although swimming is available year-round inside many health clubs, the outdoor kind is now in full swing as pools across the country open for business.

The low-impact and high-resistance nature of swimming makes it perfect for many people needing a full workout spectrum but need to be extra careful when exercising (like pregnant and overweight people). It's a great summer choice that could lead to a great new habit.