Sunday, 17 June 2007

Fighting arthritis

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1 out of every 5 people suffer from arthritis in some form, and that number is so high (it works out to 46 million Americans) in part because the term "arthritis" technically includes any number of diseases and conditions that cause pain, swelling, and inflammation of joints and other body parts. When it comes to reducing your arthritis symptoms treating the inflammation is key, as that's what really causes much of the discomfort and swelling. As many as half of Americans have given up on trying to beat the pain and have resigned themselves to living with it miserably, but there are things you can do to minimize symptoms that have good results for most people:
  • Exercise and lose weight. Less weight equals less stress on joints.
  • Adjust your diet to include plenty of veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Limit sugar, fat, and salt.
  • Get enough rest. Joints will be at their best when you've got a good daily balance between rest and exercise.
  • Be wary of medications. While some can be very helpful, others only mask symptoms and don't attack the true root of the problem, the inflammation.
  • Try taking some natural anti-inflammatory supplements, after speaking with your doctor of course.

What a pain in the... side

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Have you ever gone jogging or played a good round of tennis just to get a sharp pain in your side? I've had them high on my abdomen by my rib cage -- right in the area that (if you've ever studied anatomy, you'll remember this) is called the hypochondriac region. But trust me, I'm not making this up!

Those sharp pains are called side stitches. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), there's no clear-cut reason for these sudden pains. One theory is that they're caused by ligaments being pulled as you exercise. ACE recommends avoiding these pains by exercising at an intensity that suits your fitness abilities, then gradually increasing intensity as your endurance improves.

If you do find yourself with a stitch in your side, try breathing deeply through pursed lips, reducing intensity of physical activity until the pain lessens, or tightening the abdominal muscles while bending forward.

Just what is a calorie?

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I'm pretty sure most of us know the term "calorie" -- or do we? Many of us know that we "burn" them when we exercise, but just what exactly is a calorie? Well, technically a calorie is measurement of the quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1°C.

In terms of calorie burning, people who eat (like, all of us) use calories to measure the amount of energy we need to expend -- to lose weight (in most cases). We all need calories to survive, but the different types and the universe of foods and beverages in the caloric world could fill many small libraries (and it already does).

Calories are de-mystified and explained in great detail over at The Diet Channel here and it's worth your time to know the specifics of a calorie along with how this heat unit measurement relates to weight loss. Information is power, yes?

Stability balls are here to stay

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I remember when I first heard about fitballs and stability balls I thought they looked both hilarious and fun, and so it was great that they had such sound principles behind them. Today you can find stability balls everywhere, along with every kind of workout you can imagine. They're great for strengthening your core, improving balance, and toning pretty much everything, but in order to get the most out of your efforts you should make sure you're doing all the moves and using everything correctly -- even down to having the right sized ball.

eDiets has a handy chart for figuring out what size stability ball will work best for you based on your height (or just sit on it and if your thighs are parallel to the floor it's perfect), plus they've listed some good basic stability ball moves complete with animated pictures.

So if you're not already, get on the ball! And have fun (try not to roll off!)

Natural remedies for garden pests

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There's just something about growing a garden that's restful and rewarding. And if you're growing fruits and vegetables, you're guaranteed the freshest product possible. But gardener's frustration can come in many forms -- from aphids to deer. If you're like me, you hate to pour chemicals all over nature's beauty in your backyard. My gardening nemesis has been those furry little rabbits. It's a good thing they're cute! Last summer, my dad recommended a natural remedy for rabbits and it's worked like a charm. I simply brush my cat and scatter the loose fur in my garden. I've barely seen the rabbits since! Here are some more tips for natural pest remedies:
  • Get rid of slugs and snails by scattering crushed eggshells, leaving out jar lids filled with beer, or scattering coffee grounds.
  • Bait ants with a mixture of 99% sugar and 1% boric acid.
  • Attract aphid-eating ladybugs to your garden by planting parsley, sweet fennel, or spearmint.
  • Dissolve ivory soap in water and spray on insect-infested plants.
  • Prevent deer from nibbling on your plants by mixing 1 tablespoon of dish soap and one ounce of hot sauce with one liter of water and spraying on plants.
  • Add marigolds, mint, garlic, and basil to your garden -- many common pests don't like these plants.

The Fiber35 Diet

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The glut of diets just keeps on coming -- there is this diet and that diet. In books, on television, in magazines and just about anywhere except your couch, different diets are being pushed to all of us every minutes of every day. Are all these diets worth a first look, though? Are there specific, fact-based, clinically-proven and methodical (and sensible) diets that actually promise what they can actually deliver?

Those are some pretty tough pieces of criteria, right? Diets that have the background to back up claims of what they advertise generally get a second look from me. As such, I may suggest them to friends and family along with a discussion of why I suggest them. Hint: it's not because "I saw it on TV." Far from it.

the Fiber35 diet is one I've heard of that actually has a very grounded approach to healthy weight loss along with the data (valid data) to prove itself. For a complete review of the Fiber35 diet, try this review at The Diet Channel and you may just become a fan. It's in my suggestion box, that's for sure.

Believe that you're shaping up (so you don't ship out)

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The mind is a powerful thing, and that is true even when it comes to working to improve the physical condition of your body. In a recent study that compared participants who had been told they were out of shape to those who had been told they were in good shape (by a believable source after testing had been done), those who were told they were in worse shape reported feeling more fatigued than the other group -- which not only reported feeling less tired, but also had better over-all feelings of well-being. So people who believe they are healthier and making progress have more positive energy and more often ignore feelings of fatigue -- which of course means they're more likely to stick to their workouts.

Sounds like there's a case to be made for "believe it, and it will happen."

What is "iridology?"

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What is iridology? I'd never heard of it before now, but it's the study of the iris to determine the overall well-being and health of person. Practitioners of iridology believe that every color, fiber, pattern, and defect in the iris of the eye is a direct reflection of something wrong in the body. At a glance, healers using this method can tell at a glance how well organs and systems are working together by looking at the left eye for the left side of the body, and the right eye for the right side.

Although iridology can be traced back to the days of Hippocrates and is found all over the United States, not all natural and holistic healers believe in it. Do you?

Mineral make-ups: Are they all they're cracked up to be?

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Although mineral make-up has been around since the seventies it's going stronger than ever today, riding the wave of all things natural and chemical free. Mineral make-up is generally made up of finely ground and all natural minerals from the earth, and some who use it swear by the smooth finish, light reflecting properties, and lack of dyes and preservatives. But others aren't convinced, complaining that mineral make-ups irritate skin, make wrinkles more pronounced, and often have ugly ashy undertones.

It's a complicated debate, and one that isn't likely to be resolved anytime soon as both sides have support for their arguments. What it really boils down to is reading labels (not all mineral make-ups are truly 'all natural') and finding what works for you.

Crystal meth users growing in numbers

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Why do some people engage in the use of recreational drugs? Answering that would take more space than this post provides, and I'm sure each and every drug user has a "reason" for taking drugs. Do any of them matter? That's up to the drug user and their human reasoning ability (if it exists).

In recent times, the drug known as crystal meth (crystal methamphetamine) has become popular due to its lower cost, easy availability and the effects it has on the human body (c'mon, there must be some!). A recent study shows that crystal meth use may be higher than previously thought, and that its main user is often a young, poor, white man whose father is in prison. No surprise there.

In a recent study just published this past week in Addiction, it was found that 2.8 percent of those surveyed (a group of over 14,000 young people) said they used the drug in the past year while 1.3 percent used it in the past month. This was in a group of 18 to 1 year-olds taken in 2001 and 2002 (over five years old). Is it worse now? Probably.

Finding Mr. Just-like-dad

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A study published in the recent edition of Evolution and Human Behavior found that women who had a good relationship with their fathers when growing up are more likely to choose partners who resemble their dads. On the flip side of that coin, women who had a negative relationship with their fathers during childhood weren't attracted to men who looked similar to their fathers.

The study had 49 women who were the eldest daughters in their family look at 15 head shots and select the ones they found most attractive. Study participants also completed surveys to rate their childhood relationships with their fathers. The pictures they selected as attractive were then compared to photographs of their dads.

The theory that women sometimes end up with men that are similar to their fathers isn't a new one. But this study shows the selection may be more of an active, conscious choice then previously thought.

Artificial arteries make entrance into modern medicine

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Biomedicine continues to advance at what I would call a blistering rate these days. In fact, it seems more health conditions due to processed foods and a lack of exercise are almost "created" just so more solutions can be "invented" to "cure" all these conditions. Ahh, call it the current economic need for prosperous growth.

Is health care turning to synthetic solutions to help fix conditions that plague millions of U.S. (and global) citizens these days? You bet -- although I'm quite sure the bionic adventures of Lee Majors are quite a ways off. Or are they?

It looks like the latest advance is in the area of "artificial blood vessels" that have been designed to help heart and kidney disease patients. As more and more heart and kidney disease occurs in the future, the demand for traditional vessel grafts may outstrip supply. That, in turn, ripens the field for artificial solutions. Now, where did I place that Titanium heart yesterday?

Can you have an allergy ... to water?!

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We hear all the time about how water is the source of life. But what if we were allergic to water? Is that even possible? I mean, our bodies are 80% water, so how could anyone be allergic to it?

It is possible, though, according to this. It's called aquagenic pruritis, and people who have it can develop a itching or tingling sensation in their skin, or even a rash, when they are exposed to water of any temperature. Symptoms can last a few minutes, or even a few hours. Some specialists argue that this isn't really an allergy but a sensitivity, possibly to some added ingredient in the water, and though I'm not an expert, I'd probably agree because to me, an allergic reaction is much more severe than something that merely causes itching.

What do you think?

More processed foods found in American diets

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Ever heard of a "processed" food? Just about everywhere you look, foods that are nutritionally poor but very tasty abound. I don't generally call these products " foods" at all, but more like fake, tasty creations.

The word "food" should be saved for products and items that have some sort of natural beginning along with having significant sources of nutrition. Think that morning doughnut or fast food burger is "food?" I won't call those items that, but feel free to continue if you'd like!

This review gives a great distinction in the history of processed foods and nutrition -- and how changes in our diets, in the last 100 years, has led to where we are today. It's really no surprise we're fatter than ever and so many health problems plague industrialized nations. The more industrialized we get, the more of a need for quick and easy foods arises. And there we have it -- processed "foods."

FDA says 'NO' to Zimulti

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Zimulti, the drug we posted on last week because it was linked to suicidal tendencies, has been officially veto'd by the FDA because of said connection. Formerly known as Acomplia, a panel of experts voted against adding the drug to the market because they were concerned about the link between it and depression. However, the drug is currently available in several other countries. The drug can help obese people shed extra body weight, and also helps control glucose levels in diabetes patients.

Call me old fashioned but I don't approve of weight-loss drugs of any kind. If someone's obese, I believe they should have to improve their body through good old healthy living. Looking for a 'quick fix' isn't going to solve anything in the long-run. What do you think?

Bird songs may give clues to human stuttering

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Current science doesn't know exactly what occurs in the brain when a patient stutters or suffers from another speech problem. Researchers at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston and the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City believe that some clues to the human brain's behaviors may be found in song birds.

Researchers used a functional MRI to observe the brain response patterns in adult zebra male finches. The sounds of familiar finches, unknown birds, synthetic noise, and their own calls were played back to the birds. When they heard their own song, there was a stronger response in the auditory processing center of the brain. The findings offer a model by which to study similarities in human auditory processing.

Harlem health fair: Real men get checked

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Reverend Al Sharpton promoted a Father's Day health fair entitled "Real Men Get Checked." The health fair encouraged black men to attend and get health screenings and other services. The fair, co-sponsored by Sharpton, AskDoctorV.com, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and North General Hospital. Free screenings for blood glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure, prostate cancer, HIV, and other tests were available for the hundreds of attendees.

As a general rule, men are less likely to visit a doctor unless there is a problem. Regular screenings can both prevent illness and detect it early for quicker treatment. Black men live an average of seven years less than other racial groups. There is a higher incident of heart disease, diabetes, and prostate cancer.