Sunday, 15 July 2007

Spouses can cause healthier lifestyles

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Do you have a healthy marriage? That term can describe emotional states or physical ones, but on the physical side, it's been found that if one spouse changes, the other might too.

In other words, spouses with healthy partners may become healthier as well over time. Want to stop eating so much fat and want to walk every night to get exercise? Perhaps your husband or wife will follow you and both of you can get healthier at the same time.

The study mentioned here was quite interesting, and should make married couples think a bit. How are you when it comes to being healthy? Has your spouse joined you freely or with begging?

A 12-step program to help you get your zzz's

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I have insomnia. It comes and goes, but when my insomnia is in full-swing sleep is virtually impossible for me. I have my own little routine that seems to help, however. Turning off all the lights relatively early, getting into my comfy clothes, and gradually winding down over a period of hours. Whether you're a long-time insomniac like me or you've just been tossing and turning as of late, this site has good tips for getting your zzz's.

  1. Stick to a schedule. Even on the weekends, it's a good idea to go to sleep and wake up at about the same time.
  2. Create a ritual. Follow a routine that helps you unwind and prepare for sleep.
  3. Turn everything off. Turn off lights, radios, TVs, even clocks that may interfere with your rest.
  4. Create a safe haven. Create a relaxing environment -- clutter free, calming colors.
  5. Get comfy. Fluffy pillows, soft blankets, and comfy pjs can help you get a sound night.
  6. Watch what -- and when -- you eat. Avoid sugar and other unhealthy food in the evenings and don't eat anything within two hours of going to bed.
  7. Get moving. Exercise throughout the day and also 3-4 hours before sleep can help you get more rest.
  8. Use your bedroom for sleep (and sex). Your bedroom isn't a second living room. Keep laptops, work, and other items out of your bedroom. Your room should be a place of relaxation -- not another source of stress.
  9. Try guided imagery. There are CDs designed to help you relax. (Side note -- this one sounds a bit loopy to me, personally... but to each his own.)
  10. Avoid nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine. All three disrupt your sleep and aren't health-promoting (for the most part) anyway. Just one more reason to avoid them.
  11. Get plenty of daylight. Melatonin and some other hormones are triggered by daylight. Spend time outdoors during the day and keep your bedroom as dark as possible at night to balance hormones and help yourself sleep.
  12. Write it down. If you tend to worry and replay the day's events when you're trying to sleep, try writing everything down in a journal before going to bed. Getting it out on paper may help you avoid worrying about it later.

Need to lose weight? Think lifestyle change, not diet

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Are lifestyle changes key to losing weight, or are the foods and drinks you consumer? Try lifestyle, as the components of so many diets are anything but healthy.

Sure, some 1,200 calorie-per-day diets will let you lose weight, but is eating in such a restrictive way goof for you health? In long-term fashion, I sincerely doubt it.

How about eating a sensible amount of calories every day while getting regular exercise? Turn off the television ads, magazine ads and other diet ads and use common sense along with some research. Then, be prepared for changes.

China to food companies: get safer!

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Chinese imports are under the microscope as never before, with all types of food and all kinds of other products being found to be defective and even filled with hazardous chemicals as well.

The Chinese government has, in turn, told food and drug companies in that country to put safety first as well as told the media to give Chinese companies and the country in general a break. Umm, no.

When toxic chemicals are found as components in food items, no company or country should be given a break. As much as most countries import from China, very little latitude should be given when it comes to human safety, yes?

The proper way to indulge like a celeb

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Let's face it -- we all wish we had the life of a celebrity. Living in posh Malibu mansions, shopping without a thought of the credit card bill that will inevitably come, visiting the spa on a weekly basis, getting our hair done at the poshest salons, receiving fabulous gifts from, well, everyone. Wouldn't it be divine?

You can still live a celebrity-esque life, even if you're not pulling in $40M per film. Take care of your hair, your skin and home and you'll feel like a star every day. For tips on indulging like a celebrity, check out this article from eDiets. And here's a tip: When mimicking a celebrity, go with a role model like Catherine Zeta-Jones, not Britney Spears. Yikes!

The Charlie Bite: Keep your mouth closed to eat less

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Despite the leaps and bounds we've made in technology over the last 50 years, the latest in weight loss tools looks more medieval than modern. The Charlie Bite is a metal device that is attached to the lower jaw by cementing it to the teeth. When a user opens their mouth just a little too much, a hinge falls into place and the user must stop and put it back. The idea is that someone who is prone to overeating will chew and eat more slowly. Eating at a slower pace is often recommended for weight loss to give the body time to feel full.

The manufacturers of Charlie Bite claim users lose an average of 1.3 pounds a week and that it's not invasive or unsafe in comparison to weight loss surgery. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Charlie Bite...anyone willing to share?

(Thanks, Diet-Blog!)

Fit Mama: Exercising on vacation

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I'm not so sure that I would call it a vacation, per se, but I did recently take a ten day road trip with my husband and new baby to see both our families. We rented a car and went from Brooklyn, New York to Cleveland, Ohio, down to Louisville, Kentucky (my home town), back up to Delphi, Indiana, on to somewhere in Pennsylvania and then back to New York City.

The entire event was mind-boggling. Trying to juggle dealing with an infant, spotty directions, managing an SUV (and gas) and seeing all our friends and family really put a damper on our efforts to exercise.

That said, I did get a few runs in, all of them in Louisville. There is a one mile track all the way around my parents' neighborhood that I ran around over and over and over. It was so repetitive that at one point I forget where I was and thought I'd gone a lot farther than I had; turned out I had just decided to go the other way for a bit of variety. Sheesh.

I knew going into it that it would be difficult to find time--and places--to run on this trip. Since we were spending so much time in a car, which we're not used to doing, we got less time in walking as well. We sat and sat and sat and sat some more. We tried not to eat too poorly but there were times when we had to eat something and the only thing around was fast food joints.

Continue reading Fit Mama: Exercising on vacation

Forehead thermometers questioned

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I've never had any luck with the ear thermometers that are so popular with parents of small children today, so when I saw a temporal thermometer on sale last winter, I snapped it up. But a recent study found that the easy-to-use, non-invasive thermometer may not be so accurate after all. When 16 subjects had their core temperature artificially raised, the thermometers -- which work by reading the temperature of the temporal artery using infrared sensors -- failed to work consistently.

There are several theories about why the thermometers didn't work. One is that the temporal artery isn't in the same place or at the same depth in every person, and makers of the temporal thermometer argue that the test is flawed because subjects had artificial "fevers."

Most moms know when their kids have a fever just by looking at them and touching their foreheads, but having an accurate picture of just how hot your child is important too.

What would happen if the world's farms went organic?

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One of the principles of supporting organic farms is bouying small, local farmers who preserve the earth where they grow their crops. It's often argued that if farms were to go organic, the more labor-intensive farming practices would not only create more work for farmers, but would also not produce high enough yields to feed the world's growing population.

A recent review of research questions that notion and in fact, found that organic farming may produce higher yields worldwide. In developed countries, the study found, organic farms grow about 92% of what conventional farms grow. But in developing countries, organic farms grow 80% more than conventional farms. Not only that, farmers in developing countries have greater access to the tools necessary for organic farming, since pesticides and fertilizers can be expensive. Worldwide, the world's farms produce 2786 calories per person. The study found that if all farms were to go organic, between 2641 and 4381calories per person could be produced. The study found that small farms also produce more per hectare of land than large farms.

The problem is not that we're not producing enough food, it's that the distribution of food is uneven, say the study authors. What do you think about these findings?

What are you willing to give up?

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Fitsugar asked the following question in a recent poll: What can't you give up when dieting? The choices are: Ice Cream, Chocolate, Pizza, French Fries, Soda, Donuts or Other. Me? I wanted to pick 3, Ice cream, chocolate and pizza to be exact. But that's not an option -- you can only pick one. Maybe I should just pick one to indulge in and eliminate the rest until the extra 15 lbs I've been carrying comes off? Is that the solution I've been waiting for?

This poll made me think -- most people who are overweight say they're willing to do anything to lose weight. Oh, except give up this. And that. And there's no way that they can work out that much with their crazy schedule. I have a friend who has been trying to shed weight unsuccessfully for years and she's desperate, but she steadfastly refuses to give up french fries. And chicken nuggets. And Chinese food. And slurpees. Losing weight shouldn't be about deprivation, but it also should involve some sort of healthy change, and if we're unwilling to give up at least some of our bad habits, we're never going to lose weight. And what are we holding on to anyway? It's just food -- surely our health is more important?

What will you give up? What will you hold on to no matter what?

Nurses unfortunately visiting violence at work

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Nurses and doctors sometimes get to take abuse on the job in an undeserved fashion. It's true that both positions in the medical industry have to deal with unhappy and sick patients (not to mention, emotionally charged). But where does the line need to be drawn at outright abuse.

In fact, should nurses be able to file charges against patients for attacks? After reading some of the stories below, I would think so. Threats and physical attacks are not pleasant for any receiver.

A recent survey stated that 86% of nurses reported being a victim of workplace violence during the prior three years. That right there is astounding. Have hospitals become violent houses of frustration like road rage drivers on the highway? Just like teachers who have to play the role of psychologist to kids with severe emotional problems caused by unbalanced families, nurses must be dealing with similar issues. And, it's no fringe benefit at all.

Your health fears explained

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I'm only 26 but every now and then, when I am absolutely without a doubt positive that I parked my car on the other side of the parking lot, I wonder if I am a victim of early-onset (like really early-onset) dementia. Does anyone else have that problem or am I really losing it?

At least, the readers of Women's Health Magazine share some of the same fears as me. 16% are afraid they might be losing their hair, 35% are afraid their memory's going, 36% are worried they'll lose all their teeth, 27% worry they'll catch a bug overseas, 14% are afraid of going blind and that's not all. But common sense and a bit of medical know-how will ease your fears -- if you live a healthful life and take care of yourself, chances are you'll be fine.

All American foods get sort-of healthy makeovers

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apple pieSummertime makes me crave some of those all-American foods we all love: apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, potato salad and root beer floats, just to name a few.

If your cookouts aren't complete without these classics, check out WebMD before you cook. They have tips on how to lighten up chocolate chip cookies, apple pie and cornbread, just to name a few.

They also have recipes for baked potato chips, potato salad, Waldorf salad and others you may like.

Would I eat any of these "lightened" versions? Personally, not a chance.

Continue reading All American foods get sort-of healthy makeovers

McDonald's feel-good choices: How good are they?

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I was perusing the health stories at MSN this morning and my eye was immediately distracted by a bright, flashy ad from McDonald's, promising food that you can feel good about eating. I don't like McDonald's that much and I try not to eat there more than a few times a years but I decided to check out what their idea of 'Feel-good' food is. So I clicked over to find ...

Four measly choices
. There are only four things on that menu that you can feel good about eating? Give me a break. Here's what they recommend:
  • Fruit and Yogurt Parfait (it's hardly a meal and at 180 calories, it's a bit much to be a side if you're watching what you eat)
  • Southwestern chicken deli sandwich on whole wheat (You need to specifically order grilled chicken, and even then it's still 530 calories, 22 g of fat and 1480 g of sodium. You can get it without sauce to cut extra calories but order a water too because you're going to be thirsty with all that salt!)
  • Chicken McGrill (without the sauce)
  • Oriental chicken salad (Again, you need to specifically order grilled chicken)
What do you think about the 'feel good choices'?

Losing 110 pounds: a success story

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If a 51 year-old woman can lose 110 pounds and shrink into clothes less than half the size of a 22, then can anyone do it? Weight loss is never easy, yet some people have an easy time and others have a tough time.

Immense weight loss (as in, over 100 pounds) has to be incredibly difficult, yet these type of success stories are rare from what I read regularly.

Do you know of someone who has had great success at weight loss recently, perhaps even yourself? Losing weight is not as easy as keeping it off, from stories I have heard. In other words, after the "project" is complete, old habits die hard. Has that been your experience?

Before-and-afters of shrinking celebrities

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Celebrities are so thin these days, it's hard to remember what they looked like at a normal size, before they became such big stars. MSN has put together a slide show of these vanishing celebrities, and it's almost frightening to see how much weight they've taken off. For instance, remember Nicole Richie on the first season of the Simple Life? She was healthy and cute and now she looks like a piece of plywood with a big huge bobble head (complete with ridiculously large sunglasses, or course.)

To see the incredible shrinking act of the stars, check out the gallery. What do you think? Healthy or not?

Testing food for toxin levels not adequate

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Do toxic chemicals accumulate in food? You bet -- from pesticides to nutrients in affected soil to other things, some of the most popular food these days may be tasty, but carrying amounts of components that are not healthy at all.

But, do current testing methods detect the presence of all these potential toxic products? Hard to tell, but with genetically modified procedures common in many foods and the possible outcomes that may happen, I have many suspicions. Do you? I won't even go into pollution's effects.

Tests that search for toxic substances in foods are mainly limited to aquatic life right now, but of course, way (way) more food products need to be tested for the possibility of toxic substance accumulation, right?

Teen pregnancies at all-time low

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As of a report released this past week, there are fewer teen pregnancies than ever before, as the teen birth rate has hit a record low. Are teenage kids having less sex or are they becoming more accustomed to birth control methods?

There is no data either way on what has caused the teen birth rate to lower to an all-time low, but the government reported that stated this news also concluded that more ids are finishing high school and more children are being read to.

This uplifting snapshot of the nation's children is a positive and much-needed lift, although the trend needs to start now and continue for quite a few years. Let's all hope it does.

C stands for caesarean not convenience

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A few years ago a friend of mine was preparing to have her first baby. As most women understandably are, she was pretty freaked out about the thought of labor. During one late night phone call she casually blurted out that she thought she would have a c-section. I asked why. She replied that it was less frightening to her and she just thought it would be better all around. I was so surprised. I had no idea that women could request a c-section; I thought they were only performed when there was a known medical reason or there were complications with vaginal delivery.

It turns out my friend isn't the only one requesting a c-section. A growing number of women are opting for the procedure for the sake of convenience. (Although, if you ask me, a c-section doesn't sound very convenient.) As of 2004 (the most recent data available) c-sections accounted for 29% of all deliveries -- a record high. The "convenience" factor isn't in the surgery itself -- it's major abdominal surgery and can be a difficult recovery, particularly when caring for an infant. But being able to pick the time and date of delivery is tempting for parents. For physicians, a shorter, controlled procedure allows them more flexibility in their already jam-packed schedules.

International studies have shown that a more acceptable rate of c-sections is about 10-15% of births. To combat the growing rate of c-sections in the US, doctors are instructing women in the inherent risks of the procedure.

Drug meant for malaria could help arthritic diabetes patients

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It seems odd to me that a drug meant for the treatment of malaria could help suffers of rheumatoid arthritis develop type 2 diabetes.

The drug, hydroxychloroquine, is sold under the brand names of Planequil and Quineprox right now. Researchers did state that more work is needed to really determine if the drug indeed guards against diabetes.

The inflammation that comes with RA is no picnic and any development that stems from a drug meant for another purpose is welcome I would think. Hydroxychloroquine may be one of those answers.

Baby cereals recalled

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It seems like there's been a rash of food recalls lately, and this time organic baby cereals are the target. Gerber recently recalled all of its organic rice and oatmeal cereals because they may contain clumps that don't dissolve when mixed with liquid. There have been reports of babies choking on the clumps (but thankfully, no one has been hurt.)

The recall includes ALL boxes of these two kinds of cereal and you can contact Gerber for a full refund if you've purchased a box. Click here for contact information and UPC codes.

All chocolate is not the same

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Have you heard lately that chocolate is good for you? Well, not all chocolate. Dark chocolate, which is generally rich in antioxidants, is known to be all-around good for health when eaten in moderate quantities.

Like all things, too much chocolate is not that good for you, and other forms like milk chocolate generally is not good for you just based on the refined sugar and fat alone.

Like anything, do the research before you start munching on those chocolate pieces and bars, and stay away from processed chocolate if possible. The best kind is organic, pure cocoa-laden chocolate. Mmm.

Food label requirements gain momentum

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Here at That's Fit, we often advocate reading food labels to better understand just what's in the food you've chosen to eat. With the recent scare about contaminated foods coming out of China, many people turned to food labels to avoid eating products that may have been imported. But because most foods are not required to put country of origin on their food labels, consumers were still left in the dark.

Current law says that fruit and vegetables, fish, peanuts, and certain cuts of meat must be labeled with country of origin, but until recently, the law wasn't enforced at most meatpacking companies. The bill that required country of origin labeling an all types of meat was delayed until at least 2008, mainly, according to this article, because of Texas senators with strong ties to the beef industry.

But with renewed consumer concern about food safety and with the changing political atmosphere in Washington, those laws are being examined a little more closely and we soon may see the effects on our supermarket shelves. One way to know exactly where your meat is coming from is to buy it from small, local farmers. But if that isn't an option for you, new labeling requirements may help ease your mind about what you're putting on your dinner plate.

Protect your eyes by skipping the sugar

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A recent study found that a diet high in refined sugar was linked to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The condition, which usually comes on later in life, affects the retina and can cause vision loss. The study found that those who had a high sugar diet were more likely to have AMD, while those with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as low-gycemic foods, had a lower incidence of the condition. This doesn't prove that diet causes AMD, but it does show a connection between diet and eye health.

Just one more reason to pay attention to what you're eating!