Sunday, 1 July 2007

Smoking ban coming to Mexico City?

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In the global arena that seems to now want smoking in the public forum gone forever, Mexico City has now joined that list. As the latest high-profile city to consider banning smoking in most public places, Mexico City now joins large American cities and cites in Europe who are cracking down on public smoking as the threat to non-smokers continues.

Smoking restrictions are the latest in a wave of public reformation changes in Mexico City, some of which include legalized abortion and same-sex unions.

While I'll stick to the topic of smoking, I am all for bans, anywhere, that would expose non-smokers to the carcinogens that tobacco smoke gives off. Are you for it too?

Avoid getting bulky ... get lean instead

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I used to be fairly hesitant to do any sort of weight lifting because I feared that I would end up looking like those bronzed female body-builders -- while I applaud them for their determination, they kind of give me heebee jeebies. And though I want to be buff, I'd rather be yoga-teacher buff than Arnold Schwarzenegger buff ... strong but without the bulging muscles protruding everywhere. Don't you agree?

But there's no need to fear the weights -- you can get buff without getting built, and Glee Magazine has some tips that will help you do just that. Sure, it involved a little bit of hard work, but burning fat always does.

How you you keep yourself buff and not bulky?

No rights to not breathe cigarette smoke

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Since the United States does not have federal smoking control legislation and each individual state must determine legislative bans, only about half of Americans are covered by a smoke free ordinance of some degree. Efforts to ban smoking have been developing since the early 1990s when research showed that secondhand smoke not only was an annoyance to nonsmokers, but actually was contributing to their death from lung cancer.

So I know some of you feel this subject is beat up but I have to speak out as a cancer survivor and also someone who is presently battling cancer and I am not a smoker. This is my two minutes. Moving back home to Virginia was nice to be around family members and old friends, but it has put a damper on how many times I will actually go out to eat or even go enjoy bowling or other social events. Because it means breathing second hand smoke. Going to a bar or even to a coffee shop to listen to live music is even a health risk and I just won't do it. As a songwriter and performer if I want to get paid shows in this state I have to breathe the smoke that comes with the places I would perform like restaurants, bars, or coffee shops. Could it be the fact that the largest manufacturer of cigarettes, Phillip Morris, is located in the state capital of Virginia in Richmond?

And coincidence or not, to even go south of me 15 minutes into North Carolina is not any relief either because North Carolina is the home of R.J. Reynolds tobacco company located in Winston Salem and legislation to ban smoking in public places has not passed in that state either.

When people talk about freedoms and being able to smoke in public, I think somebody else's freedom ends when it enters my lungs and causes serious health risks and forces me to give up the freedoms of going to places that I enjoy or need to work in to survive. Looking at research it seems for people to escape smoking in public places they have to move to northern states or to the west coast. The R.J Reynolds website states "Adults who smoke should avoid exposing minors to secondhand smoke." Well what about adults? See a map of the states with smoking bans by clicking here.
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Starting healthy habits later in life just fine too

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If you're in your mid-40s and have given up on exercising and doing healthy things because "it is too late," don't count yourself out yet. Taking a healthy lifestyle by the horns, even in middle age, can still lower the risk of heart disease and premature death in years, according to new research this past week.

People of middle age who began eating five or more fruits and veggies every day and started regular exercise of about two-and-a-half hours per week experienced dramatic reductions in the possibility of heart disease and early death just four years after they started becoming more healthy people.

It never ceases to amaze me how the human body is able to adapt to new circumstances and deal with things we throw at it, and this latest research is just that. Just because you were unhealthy in your 30s does not mean you can't feel like 20 in your 40s -- all it takes are changes.

Shaq helps whip kids into shape

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Basketball superstar Shaquille O'Neal, who is known as much for his impressive game as his impressive stature (the Miami Heat center stands at over 7-feet-tall, weighs well over 300 pounds and wears a size 23 shoe), is helping a group of obese kids get into shape on his new reality show, Shaq's Big Challenge.

The hoopster, who's physique proves that being fit doesn't necessarily have anything to do with size, says that some of the biggest problems facing kids today is the amount of fast food they consume on a regular basis, the lack of mandatory physical education programs in many American schools and the fact that most would rather play video games than run around and play outside.

As this article points out somewhat hilariously, Shaq is a bit dated on his knowledge of today's gamers -- he cites Sega and Atari as two of the systems kids are going crazy for -- but otherwise all of his points are pretty valid. And as the latest talk speculates that this generation may be the first ever where kids will have a lower life expectancy than their parents due the extreme rise in obesity, it's good to know that more and more people are willing to bring attention to the situation. Check out the show's website for Shaq's Daily Drills, Shaq's Snack Attack and more.

If you sold your body to science, how much would it be worth?

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It's a common joke amongst broke people that the next step they'll take in earning some much-needed cash is to "sell their body to science." Joking aside, people really do sell their bodies to scientific community (but usually not until they're dead).

This brings up an interesting question: how much is your body worth?

That's exactly what the Cadaver Calculator aims to find out:

"So you've bitten the big one and instead of pushing up daisies your loved ones decided it would be best to sell your body to science. This survey will tell you approximately how much money they'd get for it. Cadaver values are primarily based on overall health and the level of interest your corpse holds to the medical research industry."

As it turns out, my dead body is worth $4475. Not to shabby, if I do say so myself. Take the quiz here, and let us know: what's your cadaver worth?

Death of wrestler's wife and child brings family violence to the forefront

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There are very few things that make me angrier than hearing about yet another woman or child who has been murdered by a husband or boyfriend. Let me also say that I know that women can be just as abusive to their partners and kids. Perhaps the difference is that we just hear about it more when it's men doing the abusing.

Either way, it is totally unacceptable and yet it just keeps happening. The latest case to bring light to the subject is wrestler Chris Benoit who strangled his wife Nancy and smothered his son Daniel before hanging himself. Only after the news of the murder broke did details surface of Benoit's past abusive behavior towards his wife.

According to this article, Nancy had filed for divorce in the past and stated to a judge that her husband had threatened her with violence in the past. She later withdrew the claim. No one knows why Nancy, or other women in similar situations, are willing to stay with abusive partners. I think it's probably a variety of reasons that unless you are in the situation, you may not understand. That is why I think that it is incredibly important not to turn blind eye to the situation. If you know a friend or family member who you suspect is in an abusive relationship, don't just sit by and let it happen. Try to talk to the person involved, provide information and support. I realize that sometimes it doesn't seem that simple, but if your efforts can save a loved one from Nancy and Daniel Benoit's fate, then it is worth it.

If you would like more information on domestic violence, including help for victims and how men can help stop violence against women and children, take a look at the US Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women page.

Even one exposure to secondhand smoke creates body toxins

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This past Thursday, researchers in the U.S. stated that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke resulted in toxin levels inside non-smokers that were measurable by medical instruments.

NNK -- a carcinogen linked to cancer and found in cigarette smoke -- was found in the bodies of workers who did not smoke but were employed in a bar or restaurant where smoking was permitted.

It seems incredibly clear that exposure to secondhand smoke is indeed toxic, and in global cities across the world which are banning smoking in public places, the results of this latest study are no surprise at all.

Superfood 'ban' in Europe

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Foods rich in nutrients, such as blueberries avocados, pomegranates, dark chocolate, etc, are often referred to as "superfoods." It's not an FDA-sanctioned term, like "organic," and doesn't make the food a "cure all." In fact, while these foods are certainly healthy, the term "superfood" is more or less a superlative used by marketers to try and sell their product.

Subsequently, the term has been banned in the European Union, unless it's accompanied by an explanation of exactly why the product it's applied to is so good for your health. The new regulation also effects other commonly-used marketing terms, such as "low in salt" or "light" -- as manufacturers of products with such labels will not only have to explain why their claims are true, but also disclose if their product is high in unhealthy ingredients, like fat or sugar.

This is a big step forward for Europeans who want to stay informed on the foods they're consuming, as opposed to blindly following marketing hype.

The lone wolf: Signs you're spending too much time on your own

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There's nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy a little bit of quality "me" time. Whether you enjoy solo walks with your dog, love to settle into a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine or spend an afternoon on your deck reading a great book, time spent relaxing by yourself can help you deal with life's daily stresses.

It may seem like a funny idea to some social butterflies out there, but there are people who would rather spend the majority of time on their own. It's good to remember that there is such a thing as too much alone time. Visiting with family, chatting with friends, going on dates and socializing with co-workers keeps your brain in gear and helps you stay in touch with the world around you.

If you think you may be in danger of becoming a loner, take a look this humorous and not-overly-serious list of signs you're on your own a little bit too often. While what they say is mostly just funny, it does bring up the idea that there is such a thing as too much "me" time. If you recognize yourself in any of the points, maybe it's time to get and socialize.

Worried about your alcohol intake? Take this quiz to see if you should be

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There are lots of debates out there on the pros and cons of alcohol consumption. Drinking definitely doesn't help with weight loss as it's full of calories, but there is also evidence that a glass or two of beer or wine can be beneficial to your health. I'm of the opinion that, while too much boozing can increase your risk or getting a number of diseases, it's likely fine, if not beneficial, in moderation.

I will also admit that I am guilty of not always sticking to a moderate amount when I socialize with friends. Sometimes it's tough to know how much is really too much. If you're concerned that maybe you go overboard too often, take this quick quiz to find out. While I think that the quiz is pretty over-simplified with its point system and lack of detailed questions, I do think that if you've answered one or more of the questions with the three-or four-point responses, it may be time to reevaluate how much you drink and how often.

Diabetes drug application pulled from U.S. by Sanofi

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European pharmaceutical giant Sanofi is giving up the pursuit of selling the obesity drug rimonabant in the U.S. after several setbacks. Rimonabant was Sanofi's largest new drug geared for sale in the U.S., so the French drugmaker, alas, will have to try another one.

Just recently, rimonabant was connected with increased suicidal thinking and depression and was effectively shunned by a U.S. advisory panel, and that action seemed to be the death knell for the drug, which has been released already outside the U.S.

Sanofi did say that it may reintroduce the drug at a future date after its submits the the drug's application to the FDA. Rimonabant has been on the European market since 2006 and sells well there.

Smoking makes it harder for alcoholics to stay sober

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The numbers vary on the number of alcoholics who are also smokers, but it's estimated that at least 50 percent -- if not 90 percent -- of those who seek treatment for alcoholism are also addicted to cigarettes. While the two addictions may seem to be unrelated, a recent study finds that smoking may actually impede the neurocognitive recovery of those trying to kick their drinking habit.

Obviously any alcoholic that gives up drinking will see significant improvements in their memory and processing speed, but the study found that "abstinent alcoholics without a history of cigarette smoking achieved better recovery of critical mental functions during the first six to nine month of sustained sobriety."

Given this information, it seems like there's more reason than ever to quit all your bad habits at once.

The 11 most common mistakes when training for a marathon

Rookies and old pros alike often make serious mistakes when it comes to preparing and training for a marathon, and surprisingly they're often the same mistakes. Rookies make them because they don't know any better, and the pros make them because they're competitive spirit gets in the way and clouds their judgment. So no matter where you fall on the experience scale, if you're getting ready to run a marathon this summer make sure you're not making these common mistakes:

Phoenix firefighters take a fitness tip from the Russians

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Phoenix, Arizona firefighters can look forward to an unusual piece of fitness equipment entering their gyms. Kettlebells (or girya as they're called in Russian) were traditionally used to train Russian soldiers and bodybuilders. They are heavy cast-iron weights that somewhat resemble a cannon ball with a handle. More than 50 fire stations will receive the new (or old, depending on how you look at it) weight-lifting devices. The kettlebells will range in weight from 7-200 pounds.

Kettlebell exercises include lunges, squats, presses, and push-ups; but according to one Phoenix firefighter the options are almost limitless. Beginners should be careful and follow proper techniques. For more information on using kettlebells, click here.

Muggle migraines

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Are you a Harry Potter fan? I know I'm anxiously awaiting the release of the last book and the newest movie. But when Harry Potter references make their way into health news, I think Potter-mania has gone a bit too far!

In the Harry Potter series, Harry has a lighting bolt-shaped scar on his forehead; if he's too close in proximity or thought with the series' main bad guy, Voldemort, Harry gets searing pains in his head. Research in the recent edition of Headache magazine shows that one in 20 children and teens suffer from migraines. Researchers compared migraine symptoms in Muggle kids ("Muggle" = non-magic in Harry Potter-speak) kids to the pains Harry has.

The primary researcher in the study was a 17-year old high school graduate (and Potter fan). She re-read all 6 released books in the Potter series and extracted any quotes or information pertaining to Harry's headaches. The information from the books was passed to the other authors of the study -- Dr. Fred Sheftell, director of the New England Center for Headache and president-elect of the American Headache Society, and Timothy J. Steiner, a headache specialist at Imperial College of London and chairman of the World Health Organization's Global Campaign to Reduce the Burden of Headache Worldwide. Authors tried to match information describing Harry's headaches to traditional symptoms of migraines.

Continue reading Muggle migraines

California schools are fizzing out soda

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My son likes many healthy foods. He'll often ask for carrots or fruit for a snack. He also enjoys low-fat yogurt, sunflower seeds, and cherry tomatoes as snack foods. He has no problems drinking water or 100% juices, either. But give him the option of eating candy or drinking sugary sodas and I can guarantee that's what he'll choose. I don't like to think of my kiddo having free rein in front of a school vending machine loaded with sugary sodas, chocolate, and candy. No child requires junk food, after all. I'm not the type of person who's a complete stickler about nutrition -- I'm perfectly happy to allow my son treats from time to time. But I prefer the treats to be at home where I can manage them myself.

Two bills that will pass on Sunday will phase out the sale of sodas and impose some restrictions on the calorie, fat, salt, and sugar content in foods sold on California school campuses. A former California senator, Marcia Escutia, has been researching and campaigning for increased nutrition standards in schools for more than 6 years. The bill states that drinks sold before, during, and after school must consist of fruit and vegetable juices without added sweeteners. Bottled water, low- or nonfat milk, and some sports drinks are also allowed.

I applaud California's efforts. I know other states have implemented stricter nutrition guidelines in the past and hope to see my state following suit soon.



6 of the best summer foods for losing weight

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There are all kinds of great things about summer (it's my favorite season) but one thing many people love is that it's naturally easier to eat healthier. Sure, there are Blizzards calling to you from the Dairy Queen down the street and all those holiday get togethers with your aunt's famous potato salad, but some temptations will never go away. Dealing with them in summer is great though because fresh fruit and vegetables are at their peak. They're cheaper and they taste better, which means it's easier than ever to satisfy hunger pangs in a healthy way. Here's a list of 6 of the best summer foods for weight loss and for all-around good health this time of year:
  • Chilled soups
  • Watermelon
  • Grilled veggies
  • Salads (easy on the dressing)
  • Low calorie/no calorie beverages
  • Fruit-based desserts
I have yet to find a chilled soup I really like, but other than that I'm on board with everything else!

Permanent makeup is risky business

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Cosmetic medical procedures are becoming more and more commonplace everyday as technology advances, but there are still serious risks associated with even the simplest of procedures. Permanent makeup, which is basically just tattoos, is one that can easily have serious and devastating side effects. Studies have shown that certain shades of the tattoo ink used for permanent makeup cause allergic reactions in a significant number of patients, with redness, swelling, and even permanent bumps in the skin called granulomas resulting. The especially scary part is that it's possible to develop an allergy to the pigment at any time -- even in a tattoo you've had for years!

I for one would never want something permanent like this on my face, with or without the chance for nasty side effects, but for those who like the idea -- is it worth the risk?

New 'Thrive' nicotine replacement gum approved by FDA

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Smokers looking for a way to quit now have yet another option: Thrive nicotine replacement gum by Novartis. Just approved by the FDA, Thrive is designed to help smokers kick the habit in 12 weeks. The bold mint flavored gum tingles as users chew it and lasts about 30 minutes.

1 in 5 American adults smoke, but the majority of that number admit to being interested in quitting. That's a good thing, and hopefully this new Thrive gum will be also because smoking kills as many as 438,000 people every year. What a horribly large number of people dying from something completely preventable!