Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Poland's baby boom shows limits of free health care

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Poland is finding out the hard way that free health care can overburden a government's resources. Polish health officials are being apparently overwhelmed by the country's largest baby boom in quite some time. That must be the result of the government's promotion of having more children being pushed down to Polish citizens.

People born in the 1980s are choosing to have more kids these days in addition to the government's suggestion to couples to have more kids, and the health care system -- which is not all that changed from 1989 when communism fell -- is struggling to keep hospital resources staffed and ready for all those babies.

More people have died in Poland in recent years than have been born, which prompted the Polish government to promote pregnancy to the entire country. Little did it know that this suggestion would come around to bite it later.

Consumer group urges FDA to reconsider aspartame warnings

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Will the debate over aspartame ever end? Though the FDA seems to firm in their decision not to label the artificial sweetener as dangerous, a consumer group is urging the FDA to rethink their stance based on studies done in Italy that linked aspartame to leukemia, lymphoma, and breast cancer in rats. The study allowed the rats, 4,000 of them, to live out their natural lives and found that the rats, when exposed to aspartame over their life time, were much more likely to develop certain cancers. Other tests on aspartame only lasted two years, after which the rats were killed.

The FDA says it won't be changing its stance any time soon, but the Center for Science in the Public Interest -- a consumer group -- says that because aspartame is easy to avoid, consumers should steer clear. What do you think?

Today is National HIV Testing Day

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June 27 marks the day which many hope will raise awareness for HIV by encouraging high-risk people to get tested. This is an annual recognition started by the CDC and the National Association of People with AIDS. Considering the potential that over 200,000 people in the United States are walking around without even knowing they carry HIV, this cause should mobilize those individuals to find out.

Don't count out men and women who are over the hill either. Nearly twenty percent of the people who have these sexually transmitted diseases are over 50. So what can you do if you're at risk? Stop by a clinic today and have a rapid test or a normal blood test conducted. Because it's National HIV Testing Day after all, many doctor's offices will not charge for these tests.

Of course you can always try testing yourself as well. Home Access provides the only FDA-approved home-testing kit for HIV. However they get you on the name, because the kit only gives you the material to take a blood sample. After that you have to mail it off to a clinic and wait for the results. Whether at home or in an office, today's the day to get tested if you're at risk.

Autism symptom reversal in mice studied

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Autism is sure getting a lot of medical attention lately as the rates of the condition increase (or the rate of diagnosis having increased maybe). Many parents are dealing with autistic children and the underlying cause is under the microscope like never before.

In what could be considered to be an impressive breakthrough when it comes to autism, scientists announced this week that they may have found a way to reverse symptoms of autism and mental retardation in mice.

MIT scientists ended up genetically manipulating mice to look at the role of "Fragile X Syndrome (FXS)". FXS is thought to be the leading cause of mental retardation and the most common genetic cause of autism. It's an inherited condition, and by manipulating the genes behind it could lead to changes in the mentally retarded and autism minds -- hopefully.

Do you have a case of ineffective sleep?

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You know you're sleeping ineffectively if you regularly get enough sleep in terms of hours but rarely or never feel truly refreshed and awake. I think that fits a lot of us, and it means that although you are sleeping you're not getting quality sleep -- it's is a perfect case of quality versus quantity. Men's Health has a list of tips to help everybody (not just the guys) sleep more effectively. It's hard enough to even find the time to sleep, let alone deal with poor quality sleep once you do! Try the tips in the article and see if they don't help, or do you have some tricks of your own that work? Please share!

Via Lifehacker

Make sure you know the directions on those medications

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When you're sick or have a condition that requires a certain medication, does your doctor generally write the prescription on his pad (or computer printout) and send you down to the pharmacist? Most likely, yes. But do you get a good understanding of exactly how to take those medications once you buy them?

Sure, the page-long directions that come with most prescription medications these days have a long lost of detail on how and when to take most medications -- but what about OTC (over the counter) medications? As you may know, many OTC medications are less-potent forms of prescription medications -- but the same level of detail on directions should be part of any OTC drug taking as well, right?

In other words, the level of detail on most OTC drugs is not nearly sufficient enough, although many manufacturers have gotten better at placing a ton of text on tiny little foldout pages inside OTC packages. Should you ask your pharmacist on more real-life detail on the OTC drugs you take? I would say yes -- with questions like this.

How accurate are today's newborn weight charts?

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If you've ever been to a well-baby visit, then you know all about height and weight charts. The nurse plots your baby's growth and you look at those arching lines, hoping it means that your baby is growing well.

Current weight charts are based on average growth for formula fed babies, however, and that can mean that the growth of breast fed babies may not be accurately represented on the old charts. Formula fed babies tend to be heavier, so, in some cases, the charts can make it appear that a breast fed baby isn't growing well. The World Health Organization has been developing new weight charts for nursing babies since 2005 and say they will soon be ready for release, which should help clear up confusion for parents of babies that are affected.

My pediatrician always told me that it wasn't important where my kids fell on the scale, just that their growth followed a normal curve. It was good advice that helped me relax and not fret over weight gain (or lack of). Of course, if you have any concerns about feeding or growth, you should always bring them to the attention of your doctor.

Are blindness and diet connected?

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A recent study published just this week concluded that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (which include DHA and EPA) may indeed protect the human eye's blood vessels from overgrowing.

As such, blindness that occurs in the eye due to abnormal tissue and vessel growth could be avoided if these fatty acids were regularly consumed. Many people I know take flax seed oil or fish oil to get the proper amount of these fatty acids every day, and from the results of this study, those people will probably have good eyesight for a very long time.

In addition to the general health and heart benefits omega-3 fatty acids have, promoting healthy eyes is just another arrow in the quiver of these products. If you're not taking omega-3 supplements or eating a lot of fish, what's stopping you?

Bionic arms available by 2009?

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It seems like science fiction, but fully-functioning bionic body parts may soon be a reality. DARPA, an organization within the Defense Department, is on track to create a bionic arm that works just as well as a real one made from flesh and blood -- as early as 2009.

The first prototype DARPA created was already a revolution. Instead of merely grasping objects, the bionic limb gave it's user direct sensory feedback -- meaning that the user felt the sensation of grip, as if he still had a hand full of nerve receptors. This allows for incredibly precise actions -- like putting a coin into a slot.

Now there's a new arm in the works -- called Proto 2 -- that promises to be faster, stronger and more flexible, while providing additional sensory feedback, such as limb position and temperature.

I remember watching The Six Million Dollar Man on TV when I was a kid, thinking "that's impossible!" Now, 20 years later, we seem to be approaching that reality. Amazing.

Cool Tool: Blast your abs with the Bender Ball

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I just got hold of a cool new tool called the Bender Ball and a few of the videos that go with it. Cool tool! My clients and I have been working with it for the past week, and every last one of them, has been challenged. They all came back in the next day or so griping about abdominal soreness (in a good way!) I've experienced the same thing too.

Not only great for abs, the Bender Ball can be used for a total body workout.. The Bender videos are not the "woo-hoo fun" type, but they are the clear, concise instructional type and that's good enough for this sort of training. The videos are great for those who like to religiously work out at home, but they're also great for those who don't. Use the videos to learn how to use the ball and fill your head up with training ideas. Then, take the ball in your gym bag and use it at the health club. That's what I plan to do. The ball is small and light, and it will be easy to toss in the bag with my mp3 player, so I'll always have it with me.

Best news about the product is that it's DIRT CHEAP! The Bender Method Kit comes with a Bender Ball, the Bender manual, and the Bender Method of Core Training DVD. Only $12.98. Crazy inexpensive. Quite a few other videos are available on the website as well. Oh! And what does Bender mean? Bender is the last name of the woman who invented the product and designed a training method for use of it. Leslee Bender has done a great job, and if you're in search of something new and challenging......give that Bender Ball a try.

Continue reading Cool Tool: Blast your abs with the Bender Ball

Losing weight by tricking the body into starvation mode

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Recent research from Penn State University has shown that depriving mice of a single amino acid caused the metabolisms of the mice to react in a "starvation mode" that caused fat store usage instead of fat synthesization.

Result? These mice lost up to 97% of their own body far. Now, before someone creates a pill to clock the absorption of this amino old in creating a diet drug, this research was performed on mice, not humans.

Fooling the body into "starvation mode" to force it to use stored fats in everyday metabolic processes may not be the best way to lose weight, but this development may prove to be significant regardless.

Green in life, and in death: natural burial grounds

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Part of being fit is the pursuit of a long and healthy life, and no one likes to think about where they'll end up when their days come to an end. But if you've spent a lifetime walking gently on the Earth and doing your best to be an eco-conscious consumer, the thought of being buried in a coffin that's built not to biodegrade, or that may leech chemicals into the Earth might give you pause.

That's why many green consumers are making plans to be buried in green graveyards. In a natural burial ground, the deceased are buried in biodegradable coffins (or sometimes, no coffin at all) and the practice supports the principle of "dust to dust." In addition, say green graveyard supporters, by creating this kind of space in natural areas, they are essentially preserving land from development as well. Funds that would typically be used to pay for lawn services and repairs are instead funneled into land preservation.

This may be one of the most personal choices a person can make, but if you're interested in learning more about natural burial grounds, check out this article from AARP.

Your workout affects what kind of fat you burn

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In an interesting study done recently researchers found that your body burns different fuel during different intensities of activity. During mild to moderate exercise your body is burning mostly fat and some glucose (carbs), but as the activity gets harder that ratio starts to shift to the other end of the spectrum where intense exercise burns almost exclusively glucose and very little fat. This theory could explain why athletes sometime "hit the wall," and researchers hope to figure out how and why this change happens so someday fat burning could be made to continue into the more intense workout sessions also.

This article is confusing and I don't think they were very clear and on their findings. After all, exercise is exercise, isn't it? They make it sound like if you always workout intensely you'll never burn fat, but those calories have to come from somewhere.

Friendly bacteria studied thanks to infants

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Examining the stool of toddlers and infants may be giving researchers great insight into the functioning of "friendly" bacteria that grow in the human gut starting with birth and stay there for a lifetime.

These bacterium end up becoming crucial in food processing and providing the mechanism for pathogen protection, among other things.

Just how this complete mechanism begins and how it grows to a specific size was still a mystery until scientists started looking at the formation of these microbe communities after a baby is born (when the gut is sterile) and just when these communities start to grow. After all, those communities become needed for proper health.

Pack a healthy picnic

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When you think of picnic food, what springs to mind? Potato chips, hot dogs, potato salad, hamburger buns made with refined flour, brownies or cookies for dessert -- there's a lot that can go wrong, nutritionally at least, at a picnic!

It doesn't have to be that way. With a little planning, your picnic can feature some of the greatest tastes of summer -- sweet fruits and crispy fresh vegetables -- and pack in the nutrition as well. Replace those white hot dog and hamburger buns with healthier whole wheat versions and choose the leanest cuts of meat possible. Tweak fat and calorie-laden potato or pasta salad recipes by putting fresh veggies in place of the higher calorie starch ingredients. Finally, satisfy your sweet tooth with a piece of watermelon or other tasty fruit. A light, nutritious meal will give you plenty of energy to toss that Frisbee or go for a post-picnic hike!

Exposing the medical myth: "Don't eat before bed"

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I remember from when I was very young, my parents told me it was unhealthy to eat before bed. They only used it as an excuse to keep me from asking for last-minute helpings of ice cream, but when I got older, I believed in the idea, because the logic seems to make sense. In short, the theory is that your body won't use your late-night snack as fuel because you'll be sleeping -- thus converting it to fat, which would result in weight gain.

Apparently, this is a myth -- our bodies process food in the same way whether we're asleep or awake.

While one doctor notes the possibility of some correlation between late-night eating and weight gain, this is most-likely because it's more difficult to control portions at night than it is during the day, or it's due to the fact that a midnight snack is probably full of calories that you body didn't need in the first place.

So if you're watching your weight, make sure to keep an eye on your calorie intake, and get plenty of exercise -- but don't watch the clock. You can eat whenever you want.

Billions spent on vision problems with employees

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The time employees spend looking at computer screens and spreadsheets these days is bound to be staggering. After all, most of the economy these days thrives on information transfer, and someone's got to be processing all that data.

But maybe too much is too much. A new report finds that U.S. businesses collectively spend about $8 billion a year in lost productivity due to vision problems with employees. Yeah, I can see that (I think).

Are employees not going to the vision doctors (optometrists and such) as much as they should? Probably. The report centered on uncorrected vision problems alone, and the low rate of vision testing and regular eye exams were found to be mostly to blame.

Scientists calculate dollar value of happiness

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In every fable, children's book, and Hollywood morality tale, the message is the same: you can't buy happiness.

But according to a recent study, it's not that you can't, it's just that if you wanted to, it'd be very expensive. In trying to determine just what effect finances and lifestyle have on human emotions, a group of British researchers asked study participants to rate their level of happiness, while also answering questions on wealth and social relationships.

Once they had this data, they were able to calculate how much more money a person would have to earn in order to move up on the happiness scale -- essentially, putting a price on lifestyle factors that are impossible to purchase. For instance, an unmarried person could feel as a happy as someone who's tied the knot -- if they earned an extra £54,000 (a little more than $100,000) a year. Good health was considerably pricier, as it worked out to the equivalent of a £304,000 (about $600,000) per year pay rise.

So, while the answer to the age-old question is "yes -- you can purchase a higher degree of happiness," the joy we get from our social lives is incredibly important -- much more so than our incomes.

Fitku: Summer Swims

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swimmingSummer is here and if you have a body of water nearby, swimming is the perfect seasonal way to cross train. Lose those running shoes a few times a week and instead, head for the wet and wild workout!

Stroke and breathe, turn head
Rhythmic splashing motivates
More laps, more burn . . . swim.
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Pub declares itself an "embassy" to thwart UK smoking ban

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Some people in the UK are really bent out of the shape about the national smoking ban that goes into effect next month. The move that's had overwhelmingly positive effects on the health of citizens in American cities like New York, Los Angeles, Austin and more, was so offensive to one pub, that they've gone to incredibly lengths to avoid it.

And it appears they just might be successful.

By declaring themselves an official embassy for the Caribbean island of Redonda, the pub will be considered "foreign soil," and no longer under British jurisdiction -- subsequently, they won't be affected by the ban.

But what happens when Redonda comes calling? Will the pub's die-hard smokers be lighting up with Redondan diplomats? Probably not. According to Wikipedia, Redonda is a "one mile square remnant of the cone of an extinct volcano," and "The current title of 'king' of Redonda is disputed by at least nine people." So I have the feeling that the pub won't be serving any dignitaries in the near future.

The lengths people will go to just to keep smoking are sometimes amazing.

[via Boing Boing]

Diabetes rates highest with white children

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U.S. researchers stated this week that white children have the highest rates of diabetes in the United States, with the condition appearing to be more widespread than commonly expected.

The researchers noted the rates of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and concluded (as expected) that the rate of obesity and lack of exercise was a main reason behind increasing type 2 accounts.

While both type 1 (known as juvenile diabetes) and type 2 diabetes rates increasing, it appears even more important that kids get some regular exercise (like playing outside!) in addition to, or in replacement of, all that TV and video game time. What do you think?