Monday, 4 June 2007

Keep your pet safe from heat exhaustion

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I have an English Bulldog who, like other snub-nosed breeds, has a really hard time in extreme temperatures. In the winter, he'll ask to go outside and then do a moonwalk away from the open door when he feels the bitter cold. In summer, he goes outside for a little while and opts for the shade of the carport when he can. More often than not, he chooses to stay in my temperature-controlled home and just survey the neighborhood from his perch on the back of my couch. (He's a bit of a pampered pet.) While I sometimes wish he were a bit more energetic, I know that heat can actually be dangerous for him so I have to be careful. We take our walks in the early morning or evening to avoid the hot sun of the afternoon. If, like me, you have a snub-nosed breed (bulldog, shih tzu, pug, Boston terrier, etc.), if your dog has a heavy coat, or if your dog is getting up in years, it's important to take steps to avoid heat exhaustion when exercising them in the summer sun.

This article offers some suggestions for exercising your pet in hot weather. If you normally jog or walk with your dog in the afternoon, consider changing your schedule to the morning or evening when the sun isn't at its hottest. Carry a water bottle and perhaps a collapsible dog bowl with you to keep your pet hydrated. If you notice your pet panting excessively, wet their tongue, ears, and extremities, then their whole body and seek shade immediately. (Better yet, get them indoors or to a vet's office.) For more tips on safely exercising with your pet, see this post by Bethany.

Weight loss surgery: Are you a good candidate?

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As obesity becomes more common in this country so does weight loss surgery, and although it's much safer today than it was years ago there are obviously still serious risks involved like infection, complications, and even death. Too many people think surgery is an easy way to fix their weight problem without any further effort on their part, but that's just not true. Without making a serious commitment to permanent lifestyle changes the surgery will have very little effect. That being said, though, surgery can also be life-saving for the right candidates. So how do you know if it might be worth considering in your situation? Talking to your doctor is only real way, but here are some of the general guidelines according to the National Institutes of Health:
  • A BMI greater than 40, or if it's greater than 35 but you also have obesity-related health problems.
  • You've honestly tried traditional weight-loss methods like diet and exercise and they haven't worked.
  • You're ready to commit to permanent lifestyle changes after the surgery.
  • You understand the risks and benefits of the surgery.
For more details on the above guidelines, as well as other information,

Don't let allergies ruin your summer vacation

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Nothing can ruin the fun of a vacation faster than an allergy attack or an asthma flare-up, and since most of us don't get to take that many vacations it's obviously pretty frustrating when that happens. So try these tips this summer to help keep the fun and lose the sniffles and wheezing:
  • If driving, open the windows and run the A/C for about 10 minutes first to clear out dust mites and mold.
  • Keep the car windows closed if you have pollen or mold allergies.
  • If sensitive to air pollution travel when air is cleaner in the early mornings and evenings.
  • Inquire about allergy-proof rooms at hotels, or get a sunny dry room away from the pool.
  • For those with food allergies always carry an epinephrine injection on your person and be careful when eating airline and restaurant foods as ingredients aren't always listed.
  • Consider seeing your allergist/immunologist before your trip for a physical.
  • If you have a sinus infection (sinusitis) try to delay flying until you've recovered, and if you can't do that try taking an oral or nasal decongestant about an hour before take-off.
  • Use a saline nasal spray to keep your sinus membranes moist on long flights.
  • And obviously be sure to pack all your medications and bring them with you -- but bring more than you think you'll need and store them in their original containers.

What exactly do carb & protein supplements do?

The carb and protein supplement industry is a big one for fitness buffs and beginners alike, and although recent research confirms that they do benefit athletes it may not be in exactly the ways we all expect. If you drink carb and protein supplements before or during your workout hoping for a boost in athletic performance you're probably not going to get it. Research shows that the supplements seem to have no affect on how well athletes work out, but instead helps how they feel after they're finished working out. In a new study the supplements appeared to reduce muscle damage from intense resistance training sessions, therefore allowing the athletes to feel better and workout intensely again sooner.

Who knows, maybe you already knew this? It makes sense, although I think supplements might help some people with actual performance if they use them for a pre-workout energy and calorie boost.

The anatomy of a sneeze

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One of my favorite hobbies is gardening. I have a big perennial garden in my backyard that I've lovingly filled with a variety of plants -- from the tulips and mounds of white candytuft that bloom in the spring, to summer's irises and lilies, to the sedum that bloom in the fall. But one year I planted goldenrod. What was I thinking? Every time I even got near my garden I started sneezing rapidly like a machine gun shooting off rounds of bullets. Finally I donned a mask and pulled that noxious weed out, but it's made a valiant effort to return every year.

Have you ever wondered exactly what's happening when you sneeze? Sneezing is a protective reflex that clears your nasal passages of irritants like dust, pollutants, or pollens like the nasty ones from the goldenrod in my backyard. Nerve endings in the irritated nasal lining stimulate the brain stem which, in turn, stimulates muscles in the chest and throat to contract. Your eyes shut and your palate closes and the irritants are expelled through your nose and mouth. A sneeze can send 2,000 to 5,000 droplets chock-full of bacteria into the air at a pace of 70-100 miles per hour.

What every workout needs

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It's always good to remember the basics, especially when it comes to your fitness and exercise routine. And thanks to our friends over at FitSugar we have this handy reminder of 5 things all good workouts should include:
  • Warm-Up. If you're excited to get started it's easy to jump right in to your routine, but skipping this step could result reduced calorie-burning or worse, injury.
  • Cardio. It has great benefits not only for weight loss and weight management, but also for your heart and cardiovascular system, reducing your risk of disease and health problems.
  • Flexibility training. Stretching and keeping flexible is good for preventing injury, reducing muscle soreness, and getting/keeping healthy joints.
  • Strength training. Also a major player in weight loss and weight management, resistance training also enhances strength and posture, reduces the risk of back injury, and has been shown to help with bone health.
  • Cool-down. It's never good to start anything physical and/or quit abruptly, so a cool-down is necessary to get the most health benefits from any workout. Cooling down helps the heart rate slow down more naturally, can help prevent blood from pooling, and reduces the chances of dizziness or fainting.
Does your workout have all these pieces? Honestly, I don't always do cardio and strength training in the same session, but I'm thinking that's okay. I hope so anyway!

Jumpstart Your Fitness: Use sports to get in shape and have fun!

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Nothing makes time fly like having fun, and what better 'time' to have time flying by than during your workout? Finding something you genuinely think is fun that also burns loads of calories will not only help you get fitter faster, but it will make it easier to motivate yourself to get started every day and stick with your exercise routine. Spring isn't over yet, so take advantage of the season of new beginnings and good weather and join a league or start playing a sport to burn some extra calories and rekindle your fitness regimen and motivation. Here are just a few sports that will do wonders for your physique, (among other things!):
  • Soccer is obviously great for leg and glute muscles, plus all the running around is great cardio for your heart. But what you may not realize is that soccer also gives your core and arms a workout as they keep you balanced, and your hips, knees, and ankles get stronger as they work to keep you stabilized.

Continue reading Jumpstart Your Fitness: Use sports to get in shape and have fun!

Daily Fit Tip: get up early and walk around the block!

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It's here: those nice mornings where it's a shame to be inside. You get up and the weather is just right and the wind is not blowing (hopefully). After having been cooped up in the house all winter, isn't it about time you started spending some time outside?

Take a walk in the brisk morning air as soon as you get out of bed. No makeup or special clothes, just some walking shoes and maybe a hat. Go outside and walk for about 20 minutes.

Not only will this give your morning a kickstart and invigorate your day, but you'll be burning a few calories as well. A bonus is that it will feel so good you may want to start a new habit.

Fresh fruit vs dried fruit, which is better for weight loss?

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In my search to find healthy ways to satisfy cravings for sweets I've landed on dried cranberries -- and I absolutely love them! But how to they stack up the fresh version? This article explains the differences in deep detail, but here's a simple breakdown of the differences between fresh and dried fruit:

Fresh:

Pros- More filling, less calories per volume, more satisfying over-all.
Cons- Less nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants per serving, shorter shelf-life.

Dried:
Pros- Higher concentrations of nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants per serving, long shelf-life, tastes sweeter.
Cons- Higher calories per volume, higher sugar content, less filling, less satisfying over-all.

It pretty much balances out since they both have pros and cons. So as long as you understand what you're dealing with (i.e. the higher calories in dried fruits) it's really just up to your own personal preference. I know what my favorite is, what's yours?

Weight-loss programs focusing more and more on men

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Weight loss programs have traditionally targeted mostly women, and understandably so as women make up most of the market. But the tides are beginning to change and more and more companies are realizing that men are interested in weight loss too. Weight Watchers and NutriSystem are both changing their approaches to make things more "man friendly." Nutrisystem launched its Silver program designed for older men last year, and just a few months ago Weight Watchers also launched a website specifically geared towards men. As a result both companies are seeing record numbers of men signing up.

Is this another sign of the increasing obesity problem, or are weight loss companies just finally wising up?

The secrets of successful flirting

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Whether you're in one, wish you were in one, or are currently avoiding one, relationships are never far off anyone's radar. And whether your cool and confident, quiet and shy, or quirky and carefree, how you present yourself to others makes a big difference in how they respond back to you.

Flirting is an easy way to let the person of your affection know that you're interested, but for many people, flirting definitely doesn't come easily. Sending that "I'm interested" signal means putting yourself out there in a way that can make you feel very vulnerable. If you haven't had your daily dose of confidence today, check out this article for a few tips on successful flirting. Among them:
  • be sincere
  • smile
  • make eye contact (but don't stare!)
  • use positive body language and even gentle touch (if it's welcomed)
  • test your flirting skills on your friends
  • read the other person's body language
  • NO cheesy pick up lines
  • make the other person feel good about themselves
  • don't take rejection personally
  • be kind when you aren't interested
I'd add to the list to eat right and exercise, because taking care of yourself will make you feel great and build your confidence -- a vibe others can't help but see. Flirting isn't just for new encounters either; a little interest can spice things up and add a little heat to even the longest relationship. Good luck and happy flirting!

FDA: Throw away Chinese-mase toothpaste

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In the latest salvo with products made in China, the FDA said at the end of last week that U.C. consumers should immediately cease using toothpaste made in China since those products may contain a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze.

How on earth are products like these getting to market? The inspection process for these products does not apply to Chinese products, and like the recent (and ongoing) pet food/melamine scare, this is another sympton of what I think if profit motive over health for the companies that make these toothpastes.

If you're concerned about your toothpaste, call the manufacturer and get the lowdown on where it is made.In in China, toss in the trash or better yet, take back the product and demand a refund.

Forget about sleepwalking -- some people have sleepsex!

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I've heard of sleepwalking. I've heard of people talking in their sleep. I even had a boyfriend that could deliver a mean kick while sound asleep. But this is the first time I've ever heard of people having sex while asleep. Scientists have coined the phenomenon "sleepsex" and it's part of a range of behaviors called parasomnia where people engage in activities other than sleep while sleeping.

Researchers have concluded that pretty much any basic activity that can be done during waking hours -- including eating, walking, talking, and yes, even sex -- can be done by some people while asleep. 31 people who experienced sexual behavior during sleep were studied. 42% of men studied engaged in intercourse while asleep. Women were more likely to speak, moan, or otherwise vocally express themselves in a sexual manner. Both genders masturbated while sleeping.

Researchers stressed that people who engage in sleepsex do not have a mental disorder. The behavior is unconscious, just like sleepwalking or other more commonly known sleep behaviors. However, sleepsex is obviously disturbing to the individuals and to their partners. Any unconscious behavior leaves people at risk for harming themselves or others. Sedatives can be prescribed for people dealing with any form of parasomnia.

Tension headaches deconstructed

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We all get tension headaches from time to time, but do you really know how and why they happen?

Generally tension headaches are caused when the muscles of your neck, shoulders, and back become tense and tight -- but what causes your muscles get so wound up? Usually it's the strain of poor posture, or sometimes a trauma or injury like a car accident. Dealing with the occasional tension headache is unfortunately a part of life, but making sure they don't become a chronic problem is something well worth your while. The switch from 'once in awhile' to 'chronic issue' basically happens when a person continues on a regular basis to do whatever it is that's causing the headaches in the first place, like hunching over your desk at work everyday. Over time this can wreak havoc on your body and your muscles, compiling and getting worse as time goes by. And nobody wants that!

So stand up straight, try to control stress levels in your life, and take care of yourself before you're dealing with more than just an occasional headache.

Swimsuit anxiety: Why can't we feel comfortable in our own skin?

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Yesterday as I was driving into town I passed a house situated on a corner lot. A mother was outside in a hot pink, one-piece bathing suit running through a sprinkler with her kids. She was far from a swimsuit model and had plenty of imperfections, but my first thought was "Good for her!" I'm quite self-conscious so I know I wouldn't have had the guts to do what she did, but I think it was wonderful that she didn't care if others saw her. It was a hot day and she was outside having fun with her kids. Again... good for her. According to a recent survey sponsored by Lands' End and Fitness Magazine my self-consciousness is more the norm and that woman's fantastic, devil-may-care attitude is a rarity.

50% of women report turning down an invitation because the event required them to wear a swimsuit. (I don't know if I've ever said no to an event, but I have played the old "Oh darn, I forgot my suit" game before.) 45% of women stated they won't walk around the beach or pool without covering up first. 18% would rather walk on hot coals or go to the dentist than put on a swimsuit. 83% state that they have felt judged in their suits and 59% fess up to judging others. 52% of women look for suits to enhance or slim down areas of their body.

I had to chuckle while reading these survey results, because it was basically like reading my own opinions about swimsuit anxiety. (Though I'll wear a swimsuit any day rather than walk on hot coals, thank you very much.) I do wonder why we can't just be comfortable in our own skin, though. Eating well, exercising, and taking care of your health is important; we all want to live long, energetic lives. But does happiness come in a size 2? I don't think so. We are who we are, and it's high time we stop looking for perfection and just accept ourselves... lumps, bumps, and all. So the next time my son wants to run through the sprinkler maybe I'll join him, forget about who may see me, and just enjoy the moment.

Get fresh with me: choosing quality produce

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Have you seen that orange juice commercial, the one where the woman is obsessed with finding the freshest item she can in the grocery store? Then she reaches through her dairy cooler right, where an orange farmer places her fresh squeezed orange juice right into her hand? I am that woman. Well, not that woman, but I'm just like her. I'm obsessed with fresh.

The best way to get the freshest produce, especially in the warmer weather months, is to shop a local fruit market, farmer's market, or roadside stand. You're likely to be choosing a fruit or vegetable that was picked very recently and didn't sit for days on a truck while it was hauled across the country. Sometimes, though, during winter or if you're looking for a specialty item, the grocery store is your only option. It's no secret that -- at the grocery store -- the older foods get put on top, so you'll often find me rummaging through the bin to look at items that are at the bottom or are at the back.

Here is an excellent article, written by a botanist no less, that gives five simple techniques for picking out the freshest, best tasting produce possible. In general, you want to look for pieces that are heavy for their size, are fragrant, and have a firm cut end. You also don't want to pick the biggest fruit or veggie in the bin; small and medium sized pieces have much more flavor. Keep in mind that if you buy something that's ripe, you'll need to eat it in the next day or two, so if you're shopping ahead you might want to choose that item that still looks a little green.

What is your health IQ?

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Do you eat breakfast every morning? Although 90% of Americans realize breakfast is an important part of an everyday diet, only about 49% eat it every day. In other words, doing and saying are two completely different things.

In a new survey, only 11% of Americans knew the daily amount of calories one should consumer to maintain a healthy weight -- which is a staggering low percentage, yes?

The two health-related specifics above just goes to show most of us what the "health IQ" of the nation is -- and it's not a pretty picture. Another bad showing here was the fact that many of the survey respondents were actually cutting down on eating "good fats" while attempting to "eat less fat" altogether. With the consumption of good and bad fats being different here, I think there is a failure to connect the dots here. Some fats are incredibly healthy.

Gastric bypass surgery can cause nerve damage YEARS later

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Although there are certain risks associated with any surgery, gastric bypass has become common enough that it's considered one of the "safer" ones, right? Well maybe not, according to new research. I just covered an article yesterday that went into some of the potential risks of weight loss surgery, and now it seems nerve damage may be a bigger problem than previously thought.

The scary part is that the nerve damage isn't caused by the actual surgery itself, but by a lack of nutrients that slowly builds up over time afterwards. Patients may not even know they have a problem until it's too late and there's permanent damage. To battle this, doctors will begin to adjust their post-op approach by encouraging and teaching patients to take supplements and teaching them about the early signs of neurological damage. Hopefully this risk can be all but eliminated or at least reduced to treatable cases only with some increased awareness and education.

Big Donor show a hoax

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Jonathon recently posted about a shocking Dutch reality TV program, the Big Donor Show, in which a terminally ill woman was going to choose the person who would receive her kidney after her death. Not surprisingly the premise of the show ruffled some feathers.

During the show "Lisa," a woman said to have been dying of an inoperable brain tumor, listened to emotional pleas of people waiting for a kidney transplant. The presenter of the show stepped forth at the last minute and stated that "Lisa" was actually an actress. The whole show was a hoax. He went on to say that the hoax was an effort to raise awareness of the need for organ donors (approximately 200 people die annually in the Netherlands while waiting for a kidney transplant) and to pressure the government to reform organ donation laws. The prospective kidney recipients on the show were allegedly real patients that were in on the hoax.

Men: At-home fertility testing

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When it comes to infertility, women definitely get the short end of the stick and have to deal with far more invasive and uncomfortable procedures. But having to provide a sperm sample in the sterile environment of a doctor's office is no walk in the park for many men either. Because the cause of infertility can be pinned on the male partner about 50% of the time, it just makes sense for a man get screened before his wife or partner has to undergo far more invasive testing.

With the release of a new product, Fertell, however, men can now do their part from the comfort of their own home. The kit is the first to provide an analysis of sperm health and mobility in a home testing package. The test also includes a screening for women, testing FSH levels, which can indicate egg quality.

The kit isn't a replacement for a full evaluation and won't catch all fertility related problems. What it can do is send up a red flag that you may have fertility issues, and give you information you can take to your doctor. Fertell is available in stores today, and sells for about $100.