Thursday, 14 June 2007

Asthma not controlled in up to 55% of sufferers

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Asthma is quite the complication these days -- with my guess being that most sufferers from mild cases of asthma not even knowing they have the condition. Well, that is, unless running or some other activity exposes it.

According to a new survey released this week, asthma was not controlled in 55% of Americans with moderate-to-severe forms of the disease. That's over half! Although many of those had health insurance and regularly visited doctors, they were not receiving any treatment for their asthma conditions.

My guess? Most folks don't even know they have asthma, even though mild cases could be kept at bay or turn tragic in some odd circumstance. If you think you may even have a mild case, see your doctor and really try to determine if you have any form -- mild or otherwise -- of asthma.

This years Taste of Buffalo healthier than ever

The Taste of Buffalo is one of the nation's largest food festivals and attracts more than 450,000 people each year, and this year some of the fare will be just a little healthier. Scheduled for July 7th and 8th, the 24th annual Taste of Buffalo has made some healthy changes by requiring all food vendors to have at least one item on the menu that meets pre-set guidelines for fat, salt, and cholesterol.

The idea is not to completely change the flavors of the festival or force people to make healthy choices, but instead to give people the option of trying healthier fare and to show that foods with less salt and fat can still taste good. Some vendors have already been offering low-fat and low-salt options in years past and have had good success, so this year should be no different.

Middle age BMI tied to diabetes risk in women

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Are you concerned about developing diabetes? Obesity is a risk factor for the condition, and a recent study found that -- in women, at least -- carrying excess weight in middle age can be a strong indicator for developing the disease.

Australian researchers who studied women in their mid to late 40s found that those with a BMI over 25 -- indicating they were overweight -- were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes over the next 8 years than their leaner peers. And women with a BMI over 30 had up to 12 times a greater risk than other women.

Diet and exercise seemed to have little effect on the outcome for women in the study, so experts say that the focus should be on lifestyle changes to prevent weight gain in the first place. Diet and exercise can provide a host of other health benefits for your body, so don't skip out on working out just because they weren't a factor in this study! Not sure what your BMI is? Calculate it here.

Healthy secrets of Suzanne Somers

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I know her as Chrissy Snow from after school re-runs of Three's Company but you might know her as a fitness and weight-loss guru. She's Suzanne Somers, and she's slim, sexy and sixty. Wait a minute .... 60? As in 6-0? Holy moses ... she does not look 60. The spokesperson for the thighmaster has a number of weight-loss books out that promise that you can eat really yummy 'real' foods and still lose weight.

The secret is combinations -- Proteins and fats should only be consumed with veggies, carbs should be consumed with veggies and no fat, and fruit should be consumed by itself. Sugar is a no-no. It sounds simple enough but I think it might prove a bit frustrating after a while. I mean, bread with veggies? Chicken without pasta? Hmmmmm.

The plan is pretty popular -- even my mom is doing it! Have you tried it? What do/did you think?

Kellogg's finally making breaskfast cereal more nutritious

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Looking at the ingredients of most common-name breakfast cereals, the amount of disgusting ingredients contained in many of them should make most parents run screaming away from these products as part of a healthy breakfast.

Kellogg -- which is the largest cereal manufacturer in the world -- is realizing that many parents are wanting better nutrition in those breakfast cereal products for their kids -- and so the company is raising the nutritional value of cereals and snacks it markets to children.

This is a great thing to see -- and I hope it trickles down to Post and other breakfast cereal makers as well in the near future. All that sugar and artificial color just won't cut it any longer for many.

Yet another reason not to eat McDonald's

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Anyone who has the slightest interest in keeping themselves healthy knows that -- even if you enjoy the occasional Big Mac -- McDonald's food is awful for you. But just how bad is it?

In the above video, Morgan Spurlock, creator of the famous documentary, Supersize Me (in which he ate McDonald's three meals a day, every day for a month), demonstrates that Big Macs and French Fries don't decompose. It makes me wonder, is it really food?

Beware of fake "Colgate" toothpaste

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Colgate released a statement earlier today warning that fake, potentially toxic "Colgate" toothpaste has been discovered in discount stores in four US states.

The toxic ingredient is diethylene glycol, also known as DEG. It's believed that whoever manufactured the fraudulent toothpaste used this chemical instead of fluoride. DEG is the same drug the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers about 2 weeks ago, when they found it in tubes of Cooldent toothpaste, manufactured in China.

Consumers can differentiate real Colgate from the fake, discount brand by checking to see where the product originated. The fake toothpaste is labeled as being manufactured in South Africa, a country from which Colgate does not important any products to the US. Also, the packaging of the false product contains a number of misspellings.

Negative-calorie foods worth the effort?

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All food has calories -- they can't help doing so. But, some foods take more calories to actually eat than they provide your body be having eaten them. So, the term "negative" comes from the overall net result. Chomp for 20 minutes eating a food containing 45 calories and you'll probably burn 50 calories in the process.

There have been books and countless studies done on "negative calorie" eating, and there are some people I know personally who base a good portion of their diets on eating foods that are tasty, but that require more effort to eat than the caloric count being provided. Hence, weight loss in an easy-to-swallow package.

As one would expect, most "negative calorie" foods fall in the vegetable and fruit ranges -- so no pan-fried bacon or steaks here.

Healthy advice from Dr. Katz

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For those who don't know, Dr. David Katz is a medical correspondent for ABC news and in addition has shared his thoughts on healthy living in 9 books. So, chances are, he knows what he's talking about and after reading this, I would have to agree. His suggestions for living a healthy life make a lot of sense, and I think everyone would be doing themselves a favor by following them. Here's what he suggests:

-Buy organic, locally-produced food when able
-Read the labels. This includes both the nutrition facts and the ingredients. If it has too many unpronounceable ingredients, it's best to skip it.
-Avoid Hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup
-The more fiber, the better
-Don't be fooled by lofty promises on the front of the package

What's your take on these suggestions?

FitBeauty Finds: Alba deodorant ain't all that

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I love Alba products. I happily splurge on their juicy-scented shampoos and luscious creams and I'm actually looking forward to getting back to Whole Foods so I can pick up some of their new Mineral Sunscreen, made with sensitive skin and kids in mind. I am delighted with their commitment to natural beauty products and have seen the difference using their organic Hawaiian line has made in my skin.

With all this good love, you can imagine how bummed I was to try an Alba product that I thought would be just as fabulous as the rest but turned out to be..well, the pits. Enter Alba Clear Enzyme Deodorant Stick.

Let's face it, friends, every active grrrl needs to amp up her deo in the summertime. If you are running along the lakefront, packed into a crowded and un-air-conditioned yoga class or on an extra-long playgroup stroller walk, you can't avoid the warm-weather, heart-pumping body impulse to stay as cool as possible. And if you are meeting a friend for an al fresco dinner after class, chatting up another mommy post-walk at the park or just alone with yourself on a bike ride, I imagine you want to be sure you don't smell like you've just been breaking a big-time sweat.

Because I knew I'd be doing some dancing, practicing yoga and training for a half-marathon this summer, I wanted to find a new deodorant that could stand up to all that activity. I also wanted a hypo-allergenic deodorant that is free of some of the irritants that leave my under-arms itchy, red and overly sensitive. I wanted a nice, summery scent and none of that streaky white stuff we no longer need to put up with on our skin and clothing.

For the first time ever, I was excited by deodorant. Since I've been a loyal Secret user since middle school, I thought Alba's lavender scent made with organic aloe vera, baking soda and alpine lichen sounded earthy (in a good and fresh way, not in a dirt way) and the promise of long-lasting protection without aluminum, preservatives or propylene glycol were good.

For over a week, I applied and enjoyed the non-chemical lavender smell. I wished it would keep me smelling sweet throughout my activities, and day after day, it just didn't. I hate to admit it, but a few times, I was startled at my own self, so much so that I reapplied at lunch time. While I am pro-organic and committed to my quest to detoxify my medicine cabinet, I was disappointed to have to toss the Alba deodorant for good.

After all, we active women need products that are made with great ingredients, feel fabulous and accommodate her life from sun salutation to after-dinner walks. What we don't need are products, organic or not, that aren't worth the money or reapplication and leave us feeling even the teensiest bit stinky about our choices.

Daily Fit Tip: Outta sight, outta mind

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I work in an office ... well, at least I do until Friday, when I walk out that door for one last time to pursue my own path as a freelance writer and photographer. There are things I will really miss about the place -- co-workers, sushi lunches, dental plans and a supply closet that magically replenishes itself -- but there are also things I will not miss. Like? Getting up at 5:45am, recycled air, and the company snack table. Every few days, some kind soul fills the table with goodies and as I walk from desk to desk, office to bathroom, I can't help but stop, especially when there's chocolate. It's sabotage to someone with littler willpower like myself, though it wouldn't be fair to take the snack table away from everyone just because my jeans are a bit tight.

I just had my last bit of snack table chocolate, and though it's sad, it's a relief. I don't keep this kind of stuff in my house, so there's no temptation.

What's my point, you ask? Identify your weaknesses and get rid of temptation. You don't have to quit your job, but perhaps you can look at other times when you're tempted. Say it's the food court at the mall. Avoid it -- stick to the stores. Or maybe it's your own pantry. Stop hitting up the junk aisle. If you're really hungry, snacking on carrots will suffice.

What's your major temptation?
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Can't all dieters just get along?

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Certain diets work for certain people based on how acclimating the diet lifestyle for certain food items fits into the psychological framework of certain personalities. Well, at least that is my opinion -- since I think more diets fail not based on physical issues but psychological ones (like the memory of tasty of unhealthy foods intruding on newer dieting mentalities).

But when the proponents go overboard in attacking diets from competitors, standard mud-slinging just devalues the enter dieting process for all those who witness the nastiness. Yes, some low-carb lifestyles worked for some people (for whatever reason), but that does not make high-card diets (with lower fat amounts) invalid.

Whatever you find that works for you and is known to be good for human health, I say follow it.

Weight loss drug rejected by FDA advisers

As I wrote on a few days ago, a new weight-loss drug by Sanofi-Aventis has ben under heavy scrutiny by psychiatric professionals based on the side effects of the drug on mood, behavior and psychiatric problems.

It seems that the FDA could not overcome the publicity from the drug's side effects, as a panel from that agency unanimously rejected the drug based almost completely on its side effects.

This is not a first time -- as I believe more drugs cause more harm than good these days, as they solve one problem (possibly) while creating a huge other problem. That is certainly the case here.

Commit to the fit!

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Have you ever heard the stereotype about women being desperate for commitment? That stereotype used to really bother me a lot, especially since I was totally independent and never felt I needed anyone to be whole. Now that I am a little older and a lot wiser (I hope), and certainly a lot more fit, I wish that stereotype were at least partially true--but probably not in the way you think.

See, when I was about twelve years old I got tired of being the pudgy kid no one wanted to pick for the kickball teams. I wasn't obese or anything but I wasn't even able to make it around the block. And I was tired all the time. And bored. If I had been in better shape I could've played sports with all the other kids, and probably would've liked it.

When I was twelve I made a commitment to myself to get in shape and to stay that way. It has been twenty years since I made that commitment and I've held to it. I've smoked, I've eaten for therapy, I've lived off spaghetti, I've done it all. But I always came back to fitness. I always reminded myself that no one else was going to give me the body or the lifestyle that I wanted but me. I couldn't hire someone to run those miles or eat that salad. Nope, it had to be me.

Continue reading Commit to the fit!

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Poor sleep = Poor diet

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Not getting enough sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, can not only increase your risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression, but it also affects how you eat. The majority of people who report sleep problems also rarely cook for themselves and eat more convenience and fast foods than people who sleep just fine. These habits can lead to significant nutritional deficits and other related health problems.

I think this study is right on -- when I don't get enough sleep the last thing I feel like do is cooking! In goes the frozen pizza...

What The World Eats: a picture essay

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Imagine what it would look like if you spread every meal, every snack, every bite of every thing you ate for one week across your kitchen table. Would you be proud to show off the fresh fruits and veggies, the whole grains, the lean meats? Or would you be hiding your Snickers bar addiction behind the super size bag of Doritos?

Peter Menzel, author and photographer of Hungry Planet: What The World Eats, shares his work with us through a picture essay at Families from around the world share the foods that they eat over the course of a week, along with their weekly grocery budget and favorite dishes. The differences are stunning: a family in California spends over $300 on foods that include fast food and pizza, while a family in Chad spends $1.23 for a family of six. What struck me was that the pictures of families who stick to a more traditional or local diet are very visually appealing, with fresh produce, fish, or fresh baked bread. I'd love to share a meal with them! It's both educational and fascinating, and yet a little sad. It's easy to see that traditional foods have lost their footing in many developed countries, and processed foods are filling in the gaps.

I'm definitely going to try to get my hands on a copy of Menzel's book. Want to read more? See what other bloggers on our sister sites are saying about the essay.

Rice that carries the cholera vaccine

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It's not ready for human use yet, but researchers have genetically engineered a rice that carries the cholera vaccine. This is a big deal because many underdeveloped countries don't have the means to refrigerate regular vaccines, plus this method of delivery could have some advantages other vaccines don't -- such as triggering immune reactions in mucous membranes.

I generally don't like the idea of genetically modifying food for any reason, even though this one does seem worthwhile. I just worry that GM foods haven't been around long enough for us to really understand the long-term effects they might have.

Lazy days of summer? Wrong!

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The lazy, hazy crazy says of summer sounds like an all-season pass to not do much but sit back and enjoy the season.

For many of us, though, summer is the perfect time to start a fitness program and exercise regimen that hopefully turns out to be a life-changing even from that point forward. In other words, summer is not a lazy season.

I'm all for relaxing in the summertime, but there are also ways to keep your summer busy and scheduled at the same time (trust me, it is not that rigid of a thing to do). Want some tips to help you make that transition from the couch to, well, anywhere? See this.

Best of breakfast: 5 stellar choices

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Just like mom said, Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yet that doesn't mean you have the green-light to chow down on some fat-laden, high calorie junk from the local fast food joint. It's important to eat a healthy breakfast, one that will keep your energy up all day long.

So what constitutes a healthy breakfast? If cereal's your thing, make sure it's low in sugar and high in fibre, and the first ingredient should read 'whole grains.' Craving a smoothie? Make one at home -- the food court ones are loaded with tonnes of sugar. Need something fast? How about Kashi's GoLean frozen waffles -- they're healthy, quick and yummy. For other ideas, check out the article from WebMD.

My favourite healthy breakfast is an egg-white omelet with veggies, smoked salmon and some low-fat cheese. What's yours?

We love to gawk at fit celebs: Geri Halliwell spices it up with a trainer

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Geri Halliwell (you might remember her way back as Ginger Spice) has a trainer who clearly means business. And, whoah. Both of her thighs put together are smaller than his one humongous bicep.

The lovely thing is seeing a celeb working out in public with a trainer, rather than keeping them locked inside a private gym and fueling the insistence that famous folks are tiny because they have extraordinarily high metabolism, have cellulite-resistant genes, keep fit by chasing their kids around their estates, blah blah blah blah.

Whether this is just a normal part of Geri's routine or she's getting back into platform-boot-strutting shape for the rumored Spice Girls reunion tour this winter, I say: Go on, girl, with your working out self and your big old bad-ass personal trainer!

Dove's Pro-Age: What do you think?

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Dove has taken controversial advertising and made it an art form. Their Real Beauty campaign got people talking when they put women in their underwear on billboards across the country -- not one of them a model. Now they're at it again with Pro-Age. The campaign, which centers around their product of the same name, includes a commercial full of older women...naked. The FCC won't let the commercial play on TV and Dove has created a web page for women to discuss the issue.

I suspect the FCC is less concerned with the women's age than with their nakedness. But I am curious to see what kind of reaction the magazine ads create. After all, there are near naked young women in magazine ads every day. What will consumers think about bodies that have stood the test of time being exposed in the same fashion?

Personally, I think the commercials and ads are cute and a little sassy. Check them out for yourself and let me know what you think!

Invest in your health by supporting PHIT

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You'll save bucks and help fight obesity while you and your family get fit if Congress approves the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) act. The bill will allow Americans with a Health Savings Account (HSA) to use up to $1,000 pre-tax dollars a year to pay for gym memberships, fitness equipment and sports-league fees. Depending on your income, you could save up to $350 a year.

It's a very important step in the right direction and that's why we're supporting Fitness magazine's campaign to encourage Congress to approve the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) act. Click here to sign an online petition and help propel the bill forward.

The downside to business conventions -- getting sick

Travel much? If so, you've probably ended up somewhere on your trip (or after you get back) sick or coughing. The more people we're around, the better a chance we have of "catching" something.

There is no worse perpetrator than the business convention. The collection of people in small, confined areas almost makes it a perfect possibility that you'll be exposed to some kind of viral infection of who knows what else.

No matter how healthy one is or how strong that immune system is, there is never a "zero risk" possibility for getting sick while traveling. The best thing you can do, amazingly, is to be healthy as much as possible and let your body to the rest.

The explosion of "baby organics"

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Although there's no doubt that the organics and "green living" industry is growing by leaps and bounds, it seems one of the biggest growth areas is anything related to babies -- be it baby food, baby clothes, baby diapers, or even cleaning products for baby's room. It seems one of the biggest incentives for people to switch to a greener lifestyle is having a baby -- so much so it's earned the name "baby organics."

There is no proof that adopting an organic approach with your children actually makes a difference in their health and wellness, but it certainly doesn't hurt anything either. Limiting your baby's exposure to chemicals, even if they're only potentially harmful, definitely seems like a good way to go.

Human longevity in the hands of a Super Fly?

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Researchers have discovered a fountain of youth, in a manner of speaking, for the fruit fly. At first you're probably thinking why on earth would we want longer living flies? The good news is that the researchers were able to extend the lifespan of fruit flies by modifying only one genetic protein, which means inhibiting the aging process in humans may be much simpler than previously thought.

Fruit flies with the modified gene saw 1/3 longer lifespans with no apparent side-effects (although measuring side-effects in a fruit fly can't be easy or very accurate), so if the same were true for humans we could all theoretically live to around the 110-120 yr old range regularly.

Cool or scary? A little of both, I think.

Remembering the importance of thunderstorm safety

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In the Midwest, where I currently reside, thunderstorms are a very common occurrence. From the earliest days of spring to all throughout the summer, thunderstorms and the nastiness they provide can be scary to some while just mildly annoying to others.

It's never a good idea to be outside when a thunderstorm is in progress (for obvious reasons like lightning exposure), but there are threats inside a home as well.

Here are some tips for ensuring safety inside a dwelling when thunderstorms approach and develop. These sound like common sense, but from many angles, some folks don't take these rules and follow them (from what I have seen).

Vinegar: 20 ways to make it more useful

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Here's a great article on 20 ways to use vinegar for various things. From deodorizing toilet bowls to polishing metal, vinegar goes way beyond cooking. Talk about versatility: did you know that if you add a cup of apple cider vinegar to your bath water, it will sooth itchy and dry skin? And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Apparently vinegar is bad odor's worst nightmare. Pets who mess around with skunks are easily remedied with a cloth and vinegar. Another great way to make the kitchen more sanitized is to use this elixir for cleaning the microwave. Simply douse a cloth with vinegar and nuke it for 15 seconds on high. The evaporated fumes will break up the crusty food particles clinging to your microwave (and yes, deodorize it the process).

On the food front, vinegar still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Add a tablespoon of it when boiling eggs and if the shells crack, you won't lose any of the egg whites through a leak. Vinegar also tenderizes meat and reduces the taste of salt in the event you add too much while cooking various foods. The uses keep going, so check out the full list here for more.

The scoop on fat monitors

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If you're trying to lose weight or just improve your fitness level, buying a scale that has a fat monitor included might be tempting. Fat monitors use a very low level electrical current to measure the levels of lean muscle and fat in your body. Most of your body tissues contain a high percentage of water and electrolytes, and easily conduct the current. But body fat doesn't contain any water, and blocks the current, and you end up with a number that represents the percentage of body fat in your body.

These kinds of scales are interesting gadgets for people looking to improve their overall health and fitness level. But if you're a fitness fanatic or a body builder, you may be interested in a more serious scale. Some scales measure the body fat in each limb and your visceral (belly) fat as well. Some will calculate your BMI for you and others will tell you how many calories you should be eating in a day.

Some fat monitors work better than others, and it's a good idea to shop around. You can read more about fat monitors here, and read reviews of popular models. But as that article points out, you don't have to spend a lot of money to measure your fitness. A simple tape measure around your waist will do the trick too.