Thursday, 4 October 2007

Musician Paul Weller lights up on stage despite smoking ban

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I'm not sure what to say about this news item regarding musician Paul Weller lighting up on stage at a recent London gig despite the smoking ban in that country. I think that Weller has every right to smoke cigarettes if he chooses to, but I also feel it's unfair of him to openly flout the ban in front of non-smokers in the crowd.

I even think it's kind of unfair to the smokers in the crowd who may have wanted to have a smoke as well but couldn't afford to pay the fine. According to the piece, the fine for defying the smoking ban is about $400US, which for a regular person in the audience would likely be a hefty chunk of change, but for Weller is likely a mere drop in the bucket.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if one person in the building isn't able to smoke then no one should be able to, but if the only deterrent is a fine, then what's to stop wealthy celebrities like Weller from defying the rules anyway?

Raking leaves: How many calories does it burn?

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Doing yard work when it's chilly out (or even when it's warm) is one of those chores that seems like such a drag. But what if yard work helped you burn extra calories? Good news -- it does. And according to this, you're in luck if you have a big tree or two in your yard -- because raking leaves can burn 290 calories an hour!

And here's a good reason to look forward to the snow falling -- shovelling snow can burn 400 calories and hour.And chopping wood for the fire? 410 calories. So doing your chores just might burn enough calories to work off that pumpkin pie -- though hold the whipped cream.

Wash that yoga mat! And other tips

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Calling all yogis -- Fitsugar has some great suggestions on on yoga mat etiquette. When was the last time you washed your mat? I'm embarrassed to think about how many times I've practiced on mine compared to how many times I've cleaned it. And I never wash my feet before staring my poses. Here are some mat tips, whether you're borrowing or using your own:
  • Let your mat air-dry every now and then -- otherwise it's can breed bacteria
  • Wash your feet before using your mat -- even if you've been wearing socks, chances are your feet still aren't very fresh.
  • Don't step on anyone else's mat -- even if you're just passing through
  • Don't use spray to disguise any funny smells on your mat -- wash it!
How do you take care of your yoga mat?

Stevia: Not as great as we thought?

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I've heard so much good stuff about Stevia, even on That's Fit. So it caught my eye when our friends at Diet Blog asked the question is stevia safe? Turns out the FDA sent a letter to Hain Celestial Group Inc. about their use of stevia as a food additive in some of their products. Now, according to the FDA, stevia is fine as a food supplement, but not as a food additive. Why? Because the FDA considers stevia as unsafe as a food additive. Moreover, they claim that there is insufficient data to support that stevia is safe.

Concerned yet? I am. For more info on stevia,

HIV population sees rising obesity levels

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It seemed that in the 1980s, those infected with the AIDS virus (HIV) lost a good quantity of weight and were thought by many to be "wasting away" more than staying at the same weight they had previously been at. My, how times have changed.

Now, HIV patients are struggling with obesity like many normal citizens, according to AIDS researchers and advocacy groups. Some research peg the number at 66 percent. That is, over two-thirds of the HIV population is overweight or obese. This number is roughly the same as the standard U.S. population.

Are HIV patients falling prey to the same lack of nutrition and intake of junk, processed foods that a majority of Americans continue to eat each and every day? From all indications, yes. Another possibility at the forefront is that HIV patients are overeating for fear of becoming abnormally thin due to their disease.

Kale: Making a comeback

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Until I started to show an interest in healthy living a few years ago, Kale was nothing to me except the name of the cute boy that worked at the same grocery store as I did when I was 19. But kale, once a staple vegetable for families in WWII, is making a comeback, and it's not quite so unappealing this time, according to this article from the Daily Mail -- now it's sweeter.

Want to know more about kale? Well ...
  • It's a relative of cabbage
  • It's high in calcium and carotenoids, which are anti-cancer agents.
  • It's really really good for you
  • Traditionally, it was boiled into a green mush or used as a garnish.
  • But now, there are lots of different varieties of kale and different ways to incorporate it into your diet.
For more information, check out the article.

What do you do with kale?

When you eat is almost as important as what you eat

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Eating healthy meals is important. But timing your meals is really important too. Most people are stuck in an age-old way of eating throughout the day -- very small breakfast, small lunch, no snacks and a huge dinner and dessert right before bed. But we seem to have it all wrong; this article from CBC advises the following:
  • Eat a hearty breakfast as soon after waking up as possible. You might have all sorts of reasons for skimping on breakfast or missing it all together, but keep this in mind: On average, those who always eat a good breakfast are healthier, have a normal BMI and are more productive throughout the day.
  • Don't let a busy schedule annihilate your lunch plans -- those who skip lunch are more likely to have high cholesterol
  • An afternoon snack is a necessary way to keep your energy up between lunch and dinner. Plus, if you don't have an afternoon snack, you're more likely to over-indulge at dinner. Just make sure it's a healthy one -- between 150 and 200 calories is ideal.
  • Don't eat dinner right before you go to bed. And there's no need to make it the biggest meal of your day -- afterall, those extra calories won't be used when you're sleeping.
I'm a firm believer in eating small meals throughout the day when I'm hungry, but I have a flexible schedule that allows me to do that. When do you do most of your eating?

Short intervals of intesnity best for fat burning, an Australian study says

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Here's a tip for making the most out of your workouts that I learned from Fitsugar: Get your heart rate up with an 8-second interval of high-intensity, and follow it with 12 seconds of moderate intensity. Do this for 20 minutes and you'll burn more fat than you would working out as you normally would. This is basic interval training, but it's training in very short bursts, which is sure to keep you from getting bored.

Still skeptical as to how well this can work in burning fat?

Use of heartburn drugs by kids skyrockets

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More kids are obese these days than before, and now -- according to a recent drug analysis -- ore kids are taking heartburn drugs than ever before. Yikes -- this is another sign of how the quality of food many kids are eating has deteriorated in the last decade.

In addition to heartburn, kids are on drugs for other digestive problems as well in increasing rates, to the tune of a 56% increase in recent years, according to a Medco Health Solutions analysis released this morning.

The Medco research looked at prescription drug claims from over 575,000 U.S. children to come up with its conclusion. I'll say this -- analyzing the drug claims of all U.S. kids would probably lead to finding out that we're raising an entire generation of kids using drugs for one thing or another. The funny thing is, much of this nonsense is completely preventable. Yet, many seem powerless to stop this madness.

Introducing ... the Japanese Fitness Phone (for bad breath too!)

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The Japanese always seem to be at the forefront of technology, so it's no surprise that they've devised some ways to incorporate fitness into gadgets we use every day. Take the Japanese Fitness Phone, for example -- it's a phone that can measure your heart rate, act as a pedometer by counting your steps, and dish out fitness and nutrition advice.Guess what else it can do? I can tell you if you have bad breath. Just breath into it and it will tell you whether you're a-ok for that business meeting or whether you need gum or a mint pronto.

The fitness phone is aimed at the middle-aged working men of Japan -- and it's sure to be a hit since men in Japan have been getting larger over the last few years.

What do you think of weight loss and technology -- A good combination or no?

New drug-coated stent set to be approved

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Medtronic, one of the larger biotech manufacturing forms that specialize in medical devices, is set to release a new drug-coated stent for heart patients.

Although the drug-coated stent is not exactly a new idea, Medtronic's offering -- dubbed the Endeavor -- is slated for regulatory approval by the end of 2007. What's so special about it, you ask?

The Endeavor stent has the same potential problems such as artery re-narrowing and drug delivery system as other stent products, but it's safety features are the differentiator.

Endeavor is supposed to be much safer than other drug-coated stents from makers like Johnson and Johnson which have seen numerous safety concerns in recent years, despite being best-sellers in the biotechnology market for patients. Perhaps Medtronics will turn that perception around.

Dropping 95 pounds to train for a marathon

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The triumph of the human spirit over seemingly insurmountable obstacles never ceases to amaze me. If you thought it was hard to lose 10 pounds this summer, was it rally that hard after all?

Compare yourself to Kelly Pless, who weighed 220 pounds last year until deciding to lose 95 of them and participate in a marathon. How did Kelly do it? That old formula that works so well: diet and exercise.

Kelly weighted 215 at her senior prom in high school as the nightmare set in. After more than a decade, though, she slimmed down eight complete dress sizes and started walking as a start to exercise as well as really watching her diet. Is Kelly a model for many of us? Sure -- to millions of us, that is. Way to go, Kelly!

Game created at Canadian university teaches kids not to drive drunk

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A grad student at the University of Calgary in Canada has used the death of a family member in a drunk driving accident as inspiration for a video game that simulates the consequences of driving under the influence.

Created by Lori Shyba, the game named Booze Cruise, lets players experience tunnel vision, flared lights and slow reaction times, and forces them to avoid pedestrians and go through alcohol checkstops. While the game still throws in some silly elements -- apparently obstacles to avoid include Elvis and pink elephants -- it still deals with an important life or death subject and is meant to be taken seriously.

Shyba and the rest of the team that created the game want to give young people the chance to see what it's really like to drive after drinking, while avoiding the potentially tragic consequences. Hopefully, kids that get the chance to play Booze Cruise will realize that drunk driving is never an option.

If the game become widely available, would you encourage your kids to play it?

Quit smoking now and see immediate benefits

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Some smokers I've talked to in the past believed that not only was it too hard to stop smoking, that their health was already damaged; so, why not just continue the habit?

Well, that's not entirely true -- or even close to true. Although long-term lung damage can be the result of years of smoking for some (in the form of cancer at some point), quitting now offers benefits almost immediately.

According to Tobacco Facts, some benefits that almost immediately become apparent once you give up the habit include:
  • Carbon monoxide in the body drops within eight hours
  • Oxygen levels rise to normal after eight hours
  • After two days, your taste and smell is enhanced. Also, the risk of heart attack decreases
Want more? See this, then put down that cigarette for good.

Spouses mimic each other's health habits

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When deciding what to look for in that special someone, you might want to add "healthy" to your list of desired characteristics. A new study has found that you and your future spouse will probably copy one another's choices when it comes to habits like smoking, drinking.

For instance, the odds of smokers putting down the pack were five times higher if their husband or wife had already quit, while others were just as likely to give up alcohol if their spouse wasn't a drinker. The same pattern held true for preventative medicine -- like flu shots, for instance.

I guess that makes sense. Since moving in with my fiance I've changed the movies I watch, the clothes I wear, and the food I eat -- it's only natural that my health habits would follow suit.

New ADHD guide helps parents make medication decision

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Are you a believer in medication for that ADHD-diagnosed child? To many parents, this is the single-largest decision that requires attention when ADHD presents itself in the household.

Some parents take away processed and chemical-laden foods (and drinks), while others use other methods to determine if environmental variables can affect their child's hyperactivity.

In order to help parents make the decision about which course of action to take, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry guide was released this week to guide parents in the right direction. With more parents becoming frightened about prescription medication, the timing of this new guide is perfect, as each case needs to be scrutinized individually instead of 'treated' like a statistic. It's now available at

What's so great about white tea?

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We've all heard about the many benefits of drinking green tea, but what about all of the other varieties available? If you're bored of always drinking the same cuppa but still want to get some health benefits out of your morning brew, why not try white tea?

According to this, white tea offers a range of health benefits and would be a great option for those wanting to switch from the black or green varieties. Among its many benefits:

  • Helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol and so it looks after your heart.
  • Full of antioxidants, which help prevent a range of cancers including colon and stomach.
  • Creates a stronger immune system as it's thought to kill bacteria and viruses, and also lowers stress.
  • Contains fluoride which helps keep teeth strong.
  • Studies have shown that it improves bone density.

Not bad for a cup or two a day!

Get moving: Your life depends on it

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Can't seem to find the time, energy, or commitment to exercise? You're not alone. Nearly 41 percent of Americans don't meet the minimum exercise goals -- 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week -- recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

If you don't get up and get moving, do you know that you share the same increased risk of coronary heart disease as cigarette smokers, people with high blood pressure, and those with high cholesterol? It's true, so as soon as you can, please step away from the couch!

The key is to get moving. Most exercise benefits come from simply doing more than what you're doing right now. Forget the 'perfect' program. Just get up off of that couch. All it takes to reduce that risk is a simple 30-minute stroll around the neighborhood at least five days a week. That half-hour's worth of moderate activity also cuts your risk of stroke. If you're under time constraints, don't let the 30-minute rule prevent you from getting started. You'll still get the same fitness benefits if you break up that half hour into smaller chunks of time. Three 10-minute walks or two 15-minute flurries of activity will work just as well.

Think of it this way ... all it takes is 10 minutes of moderate activity, three times a day, to cut your risk of coronary heart disease.

Former model Iman comments on weight issues and lack of diversity in fashion industry

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The modeling world has been hit with some hefty criticism as of late. Martha Edwards recently posted on comments made by Dame Helen Mirren, who believes that women in the fashion industry are to blame for the too-thin models skulking down catwalks, and I wrote a post on Australian Prime Minister John Howard's criticisms of a fashion show in that country that used a very young model as the face of the show.

Former model Iman is the latest high-profile figure to comment on the industry, saying that the obsession with and focus on weight and thin women is taking the focus away from each girl's individual identity, meaning there are no new 'supermodels' emerging. Iman is also unhappy about the lack of diversity in the fashion industry and isn't impressed that race is still an issue when it comes to models.

I think she makes some pretty valid comments, but what do you think?

Keep cancer at bay with exercise -- and more

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Now more than ever, we know that certain diseases can be stalled, even prevented, by a healthy lifestyle. There was a time when a cancer diagnosis, for example, could be traced to nothing concrete. Today, women who drink as little as one drink per day increase the odds they'll develop breast cancer. That's pretty concrete.

Times have changed. And now that we're in the know, we really must know how to live life so our future days are more of a guarantee. So here's a little cancer butt-kicking know-how for you, compliments of Men's Health magazine.

1. Drink Pomegranate Juice. It contains polyphenols, isoflavones, and ellagic acid. If this means nothing to you, that's OK. All you need to know is that this juice -- try 16 ounces per day -- bolsters your body's defenses and has been shown to inhibit cancer growth.

Continue reading Keep cancer at bay with exercise -- and more

The 'avoid a heart attack' diet

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Like the Atkin's Diet? How about the South Beach Diet, or even the Lemonade Diet? Although some of those eating disciplines are fine for losing weight (I suppose), they may not be enough to really prevent cardiovascular disease. Okay, then -- so what is?

Long-term changes to your overall diet are the keys, and losing weight should be the byproduct -- not the main goal.

In other words, don't focus just on losing weight. And don't focus just on cardio health (although that is very important). I agree with Riska Platt (registered dietician) who says that "people tend to focus on one thing ... there are selected foods that have excellent properties in the management of heart disease but you've also got to look at your total diet."

It's all about balance in every possible way when it comes to diet, right?

Do a funraising walk without leaving the house

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Here's a silly idea if I ever heard one: Do a fundraising walk without actually walking. Gal to Gal Virtual Walk is a multi-city virtual walk that raises money for breast cancer. So far, 1,500 people have participated in the walk, which was designed for people too busy to do an actual walk and those who are physically incapable.

But while I think that a virtual walk is good for people who physically can't, I'm not really buying any other excuses for not doing the actual walking part. What's wrong with walking anyway? It's good for your body, good for your social life and good for your soul. And, ironically, walking regularly can reduce your risk of breast cancer. What's next -- virtual marathons in which you don't even break a sweat?

Still, I guess whatever brings in ever-important funds for breast cancer research is a good idea. What do you think of a virtual fundraising walk?

UK couples trade kidneys and raise awareness about organ donation

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Until last year, people in the UK needing organ donations could only receive a live donation -- or a donation from a still-living donor -- from a member of their family. Recently though, rules have changed and now anyone who wished to donate an organ can do so for a compatible patient.

Two couples have draw attention to the the new rule in the past week, as a man from England donated a kidney to a man in Scotland, and the Scottish man's wife donated one of her kidneys to the English man's wife. A first in the UK, the organ swap not only improves the lives of the patients, but will hopefully also draw attention to the change in donation rules in that country.

I think it's pretty selfless to donate an organ, especially to a stranger. Would you ever consider donating and organ to someone you'd never met?

Few kids take vitamins, according to researchers

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In a surprising find, researchers this week reported that less than 33 percent of kids in the U.S. were taking vitamin and mineral supplements on a regular basis.

That is a very low number. And, although not an advocate of sugary vitamins with very little component content (like those Flintstones vitamins), there are some decent vitamin formulations for kids that are well worth the money.

Multivitamins and multiminerals were the most common taken during the study period of 1992 to 2002, as they were used by 18 percent of U.S. children aged 18 or under in that timeframe.

The greenest countries in the world? China, Australia and Canada

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According to this article, China and Australia have been named the greenest countries in the world -- that is, they're the places where citizens are most concerned about environmental issues like global warming. They're also the countries that are most likely to buy 'green' products and services.

This discovery seemed to come as a surprise to researchers, but while I had no idea that the Chinese were so environmentally-friendly, I predicted Australia would take a top spot. When I was there a few months ago, I was surprised at all the steps Australians took to conserve the environment. Plastic bags, for instance, were nearly unheard of -- everyone carries fabric bags when they do their shopping. And throwing leftover food in the trash? No way -- it goes in the compost.

Another surprise? Canadians also ranked highly on the list because 60% of Canadians say they are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. But where I live in Western Canada, SUVs and constant littering prevail -- much to my chagrin.

How women can deal with thinning hair

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I don't think that anyone would be particularly happy to notice that their hair is thinning. It's got to be upsetting for men, but since it's a more common occurrence among that sex, I think that it would be even harder for a women who is losing her hair.

If you've found that your mane isn't as thick as it used to be, is patchy or even starting to show bald spots, you might want to check out t this gallery, which offers 20 tips on how to deal with thinning hair. The first, and probably most important tip is to head to your doctor. There may be a reason why you're losing hair and a physician can help you find a remedy.

Additional advice includes improving your diet and taking vitamins to improve hair quality, experimenting with a new hair style that will disguise patches and trying out volumizing or other specialty products to improve the look of your hair. To see the rest of the tips, take a look here.

Youth soccer stars sidelined by ingrown toenails

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During puberty, my feet grew so fast my toes were often jammed into tight shoes. The painful result was an ingrown toenail -- where a sharp corner of the toe digs into the skin at the end of or side of the toe. That puffy, sore toe eventually healed thanks to properly-sized shoes.

Soccer moms and dads need to watch for ingrown toenails in their little soccer stars. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS), ingrown toenails in youth are a common malady during soccer season. Oftentimes, cleats don't fit right as used gear is handed down sibling to sibling. Older kids prefer snug cleats to achieve a better sense of the ball and turf. Kicking with squeezed toes can lead to ingrown toenails.

If infection results, a 10-minute surgical procedure offers a permanent cure. The toe is numbed and the ingrown nail removed. Even part of the root can be removed to prevent regrowth. Your junior kicker will be scoring goals the next day. Although I suspect the numbing injection is no fun.

Visit ACFAS for more information on ingrown toenails. Several home treatment myths are debunked, including the one recommending you clip a V-notch in the nail -- a total waste of time.

Serving vs. Portion Sizes

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Most of us are aware that restaurants and food manufacturers have adopted the bad habit of supersizing meals, drinks, and snacks. What may surprise you is this: We're doing the same thing at our dinner tables. Food package, dishware, and even recipes have evolved to encourage us to eat more than we need. And it turns out that we are not good at pushing the extra portions away: Studies show that the more food we're given, the more we eat.

So how do you know how much is enough?

A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat. There is no standard portion and no single right or wrong portion size.

A serving, however, is a standard amount set by the U.S. government to provide advice about how much to eat or to identify how many calories and nutrients are needed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's nutrition labels and MyPyramid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are good sources for serving sizes.

For example, a portion for you might be a sandwich made with two slices of bread and some meat. According to MyPyramid, that portion would equal two servings from the grain group and two servings from the meat group.

Tip: If you don't follow serving sizes, and instead make your own portions try trading in your 11-inch plates for 9-inch ones and you'll eat 18% percent few calories.

Carbo-loading how-tos

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Crisp Sundays in October mean marathon time. Whether you're running in the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon this Sunday or another long-distance-athon, it's time to start loading up on carbohydrates. Here are a few tips:

Start twirling your forks of spaghetti two days before the race. Anywhere from 4 to 5 grams of carbohydrate for each pound of body weight. That's 540-675 grams of carbos for a 135-pound runner. Easily digested carbos low in fiber are a better idea, while proteins and fats should be limited. Bring back the whole grains after the Sunday feat is finished.

According to sports dietitian Monique Ryan, the whole idea behind carbo-loading is to top off your muscle glycogen stores as long-distance events will tap into muscle glycogen for fuel. Read more and check out this sample carbo-loading menu in the Chicago Tribune. Darn, no spaghetti anywhere on the menu.

Healthy food trends worth watching

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It's funny in that what goes around comes around. Decades ago, many of us went to the local farmer's market or produce stand to buy many of our groceries. Then, the large supermarkets came and processed foods became the order of the day. Some say it's because Americans became so busy.

Gone are the nutritious dinners and slow-cooked meals eaten around the family dinner table. Well, although that thought may have seemed appropriate just recently, there is a movement to bring minimally processed foods back to the table and organic food products are growing ever more popular. Even Wal-Mart and Target carry those items now.

Is the country on the way back to 'simpler times' even as the amount of time we have still narrows every day? Priority changes must take place for this to happen, of course, but it's already happening. If you're not willing to sacrifice taste and nutrition, you don't really have to. Plan ahead and save time and you'll be among the growing population who want those simpler times.