Saturday, 16 June 2007

Sex dreams: Not just for men

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Other than a fleeting image here and there when I first wake up, I rarely remember my dreams. It's too bad, really... they may be more exciting than I realized. University of Montreal researchers recently conducted a sleep study with 109 women and 64 men. Each study participant submitted journals of their dreams. All in all, both men and women dream about sexual encounters about 8% of the time.

While the amount of randy dreams may be the same, there was a distinct difference in content. Women were twice as likely to dream about sex with public figures and more women dreamed about sex with previous or current partners. Men leaned toward the adventurous side and were more likely to dream about multiple partners or sex in public places.

A similar study was conducted 40 years ago. At that time, women reported significantly fewer sex dreams than men. Researchers at the time assumed that meant women didn't fantasize about sex as much.

The UK's growing problem with teen sex practices

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Although teenage sexual practices have never been very safe in any industrialized country, Britain is facing a major teen sex health crisis, according to an advisory group that focuses on HIV and sexual health.

Higher levels of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and teenage pregnancy are increasingly "disturbing" according to the group, who added that alcohol and drugs play a major role in the behavioral deviancy increase when it comes to sexual practices in the UK.

Surprised? I'm not -- the marketing of teenage apparel and other products is laced with subliminally-suggestive messaging and promotes sex among youngsters. Couple that with trash in the media (like the television and music industries) and look what you've got -- the same thing. The only difference: this is real life.

Celebrating parental differences

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In this day and age, there are more blended families than ever. Divorce continues to be the end result of many marriages, and families are getting used to the "step" word entering the vocabulary. In fact, most of the families I know of today are blended. This can be a great thing or a bad based on how one chooses to deal with it.

In the bad, the breaking of a traditional family is something some moms and dads just can't get over and it affects numerous areas of their lives. On the other hand, some families choose to celebrate what is rapidly becoming the "norm" these days.

Regardless of living situation, there are always going to be parental differences between men and women -- and although differences make the best of relationships stick together, we often don't take time to celebrate them as we should. Call it the yin and yang, opposites attract -- whatever. The point is this: take the time to celebrate differences. You'll be glad you did and you'll never stop learning.

Need an "Alli" to help you lose weight?

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Let me be very clear here -- I am no fan of any kind of pill that "helps" people lose weight. Yes, many of you are sure to agree with me here, but if losing weight does not involve effort at all (as in, physical effort), then in my view the human body was not designed for it. That hasn't stop marketers and drug companies, though, from capitalizing on the naive public who love to hear about quick fixes.

Now, with that in mind, losing weight the proper way can still be a bit distressing. It takes time (months and months) to lose just 10 pounds or so (safely), and that time period can just be too long for some. Something that can give dieters a "boost" would be good in this process, and from appearances, Alli -- the first weight-loss drug ever approved by the FDA -- sounds like a decent alternative. Is it?

This review over at The Diet Channel breaks down Alli into what the drug is and how it works and would be of keen interest if you're considering the drug to assist you with losing weight alongside that exercise and nutrition program.

How to age gracefully

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The phrase "aging gracefully" means different things to different people, but regardless if you're resolved to fight it every step of the way or cruise along and take what life hands you without a second thought, there's no doubt that growing older happens to all of us -- heck, it's happening to all of us right now.

Understanding that all of us have our own ideas, it's still good to at least listen to what the experts have to say. So here are the three biggest things you can do to age gracefully:
  • Accept the inevitable changes of growing older, instead of viewing them as crises. Change will happen, things can't always stay the same.
  • Avoid stereotypes and get over your prejudices and feelings about what "getting old" really means. Define it for yourself!
  • Find meaningful activities, and keep finding them as you get older. Retiring from work isn't a cliff you jump off into nothingness -- it's just a shift from one way of spending your time to another.

Summer safety for kids

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School's out for summer! Yesterday was my son's last day of school and I know he's excited about the long, sunny days ahead of him. Luckily, he's not one to whine about how there's "nothing to do." My kid is more likely to be outside from sunrise to sunset. When kids have more free time and less structure they're a little more likely to get themselves into some sticky spots. The beginning of summer is a good time to remind your kids about simple, common sense safety rules.

  • Teach kids to never play around parked cars.
  • Remind kids how to safely cross streets, and only allow kids at an appropriate age to cross the street alone
  • Pools, lakes, and other water-fun require adult supervision -- and remember the floaties!
  • Sign your kids up for a swimming class. Not only is it a fun and healthy summer activity, it strengthens their swimming skills and increases their safety.
  • Have kids wear helmets and pads when biking and skating.
If you have swings or a jungle gym in your backyard, be sure to put a thick layer of mulch or sand underneath -- and look for the same safety measure at public parks.

Lyme disease cases have doubled in the U.S.

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Do you plan to spend some time this summer camping, hiking or outdoors in some fashion? Many of us do, and all those pesky critters should not be part of the fun. I am, of course, talking about mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers and other annoyances.

Ticks, in particular, are rather dangerous in many cases since they can transmit Lyme Disease to humans. just like mosquitoes can transmit disease, ticks are not as mobile and agile as mosquitoes but can be as dangerous. In fact, the number of Lyme Disease cases has doubled in the United States since 1991.

The CDC even says that estimate is low, and those figures (if accurate) mean that tick-transmitted diseases are the most popular of all diseases transmitted by bug or animal. Watch that skin when you're outside if you can -- and keep those ticks away!

Extra sleep helps athletes perform better

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Although many studies have been done on the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the performance of athletes, not much has been done on how extra sleep affects athletic performance. But recently a small study was done by taking 6 basketball players from the Stanford University team and measuring how stats like sprint times and free-throw percentages were affected by extra sleep. For the first two weeks the players kept with their normal sleeping habits, and for the second two weeks they were asked to get as much sleep as possible. When their individual athletic statistics were compared they all did better in the second two week period compared to the first.

My only question is this: How do the researchers know the athletes were getting enough sleep in the first place? I don't know many college kids that regularly get enough sleep every night, so maybe this was just another test of sleep deprivation (the first two weeks) versus getting enough sleep (the second two weeks) -- not necessarily getting extra sleep.

Oh, cramp!

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As you may remember, I've been trying my darnedest to get back on the running track. For the past two weeks or so I've really been kicking it into high gear. See, I kept getting these emails in my inbox alerting me as to how many days I had left until the New York City Marathon, a race in which I was entered at first solely by luck, and now by determination.

As anyone can imagine finding the time to run with a new baby is difficult at best. Lucky for me I have a great husband who is as committed to fitness as I am and who is willing to sacrifice some of his running time for mine. Generally speaking the baby is OK with my periodic trips around the park although he mentioned to me he can't wait for me to invest in a jogging stroller. After all, the whole time I was pregnant I hoofed it around that park, and baby misses our trips together.

So everything should be going super well, right? Well, mostly it is, but one thing has been plaguing me more than an old boyfriend, and is equally unsuited to my style: cramps. I am no stranger to cramps; in fact, they've haunted me since I first got serious about running way back when.

Continue reading Oh, cramp!

Does sleeping in on Saturdays mean worse grades for your kids?

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Sleeping in is part of what makes the weekend the weekend for most kids, but as it turns out that age-old habit may be hurting their grades. A study recently showed that kids who sleep in later on Saturdays often do worse in school than kids who keep the same sleep schedule all week. Researchers say kids and teens who reset their sleep/wake cycles over the weekend are essentially giving themselves jet lag, which means they're tired at the beginning of the school week and perform worse in their studies.

Obviously the best thing is to get adequate sleep every night of the week, so sleeping in on weekends doesn't happen. And it's also important to note that teenagers usually need more sleep than adults, the recommended is 9+ hours per night.

Test your B-vitamins IQ

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How much do you know about B vitamins? Most people know that they're important, and maybe that they can help boost your mood, but they do so much more than that. B vitamins have been linked with lower blood pressure, weight loss, reduced migraines, and prevention of birth defects (to name just a few). Basically, B vitamins are necessary for life.

Take this quiz to see what you know about B vitamins, and what you don't. I learned a lot actually. Experts recommend getting the majority of your B's through a healthy diet, but supplements can also be effective as long as you take a B complex and not just individual B vitamin supplements (unless of course your doctor says differently).

The most common ailments that men ignore (but shouldn't)

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As a general rule men don't like to ask for directions and they don't like to ask for help, so you can bet heading to the doctor for a health problem isn't on their list of "guy things" to do. I think most men (or their wives at least) are smart enough to schedule an appointment for many obvious illnesses, but there are some common ones that frequently get completely ignored. Issues like hearing loss, back aches, depression, and even preventative tests that should be routine (like prostate exams) often get put off until serious problems develop down the road.

Although some women put off seeing the doctor also, the percentage of men who try to "tough it out" is much greater. Guys just have to realize that help is there for the taking if they'll just take the initiative to ask for it -- and get the sense to know they need it.