Sunday, 7 October 2007

Mini-scanner searches out hidden heart disease

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A new futuristic-looking device is able to find symptoms of heart disease in a painless and non-invasive way. These new scanners, which are actually minature ultrasound machines, can be used to scan the head and neck area to look for blocked neck arteries. Chances are, say doctors, if these arteries show signs of trouble, you can be sure that the heart needs some attention as well.

There are pros and cons to using the device. It can spot trouble in patients who are not yet having symptoms, for instance. But some health experts say that the benefit of using the ultrasound as a screening tool has not been established. Still, heart experts are excited, and one even compared it to a "mammogram of the head." Awkward to imagine, but I think I get the picture.

Week in Review: September 30 to October 7, 2007

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If you missed our daily postings this past week, we invite you to take some time to catch up on our prior week's news and gear up for a new week of healthy living information and inspiration.

September's given way to October and the days are getting shorter -- fall's officially here and what better time to kickstart some healthy habits after the lazy days of summer? Here are some posts to get you started, and by the way, happy thanksgiving from this Canuck to all our Canadian readers!

Do panic attacks = heart attacks?

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If you suffer from panic attacks, which can often feel like a heart attack due to the rapid heart beat and shortness of breath, you should be aware that they can often signal very real heart problems later in life. In a group of women studied those who reported having even just one panic attack were 5 times more likely to report having a heart attack over the next 5 years.

Experts are lumping panic attacks into the same category as other psychological disorders like depression and anxiety, which have already been established as heart risks.

"Fat shots" at a clinic near you: Are they a good idea?

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Anti-fat shots, better known as lipo-dissolve in most cases, are growing in popularity around the country -- but people may be making unsafe assumptions about both the risks and the results. In a strange circumstance of loopholes people are being prescribed and given these injections despite the fact that the FDA has not approved any injections for the purpose of dissolving fat. Experts have serious questions about things like where does the fat go? Is it really being flushed completely out of the body or just moved elsewhere (i.e. increasing cardiovascular risks)?

Of course there are also those out there who love this procedure and swear by it. Where do you fall? I'm not a big fan of cosmetic procedures anyway so it's no surprise I think people should wait until we know more.

Indiana E.Coli outbreak under review

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The state of Indiana has issued an outbreak alert due to E. coli due to the sickening of about 10 people in an Indiana elementary school (seven schoolchildren included), although school cafeteria food has now been ruled out as a possible cause.

With the Topps meat recall still fresh on the minds of millions after this past week's E.coli situation, Indiana officials made an adamant statement that its recall did not originate in the suspect school's cafeteria.

So far, at least three of the cases appear to have been caused from exposure to a sick family member -- but what about the others? This may be a case of spreading through human contact (direct or indirect) instead of food contamination.

Ornish Diet is healthiest for the heart

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According to a new study rating eight popular diet plans, the Ornish Diet came out on top for heart health. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School scored a seven-day menu from each plan across dietary components affecting risk for heart disease -- fruits, veggies, nuts and soy, ratio of white to red meat, fiber, trans fat and ratio of polyunaturated fats to saturated fats.

Here are the rankings, including point totals (each factor was potentially worth 10 points):

  • The Ornish Diet, 64.6 points
  • The Weight Watchers high-carb diet, 57.4 points
  • The New Glucose Revolution diet, 57.2 points
  • The South Beach phase 2 diet, 50.7 points
  • The Zone Diet, 49.8 points
  • The 2005 Food Guide Pyramid, 48.7 points
  • The Weight Watchers high-protein diet, 47.3 points
  • The South Beach phase 3 diet, 45.6 points
  • The Atkins Diet's 45-gram-carbs plan, 42.3 points

The Ornish Diet recommends less than 10 percent of calories from fat. You can eat unlimited beans/legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables, and moderate amounts of non-fat dairy or non-fat/very low-fat commercial products. Avoid meats (or eat as little as possible), oils, avocados, nuts/seeds, dairy with fats, sugar/simple sugars, alcohol, or any commercially-prepared product containing more than two grams of fat. Exercise is also an important part of this diet regimen. The Ornish Diet has both critics and fans.

Dr Ornish pointed out this study focuses on heart disease prevention as the main goal for shedding pounds. Experts agree the goal of a diet is heart health, not solely weight loss.

FDA to pregnant women: eat more fish, not less

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instead of holding back on eating fish and taking fish oil supplements, pregnant women should actually eat more fish in order to get those healthy oils in their system, according to a new recommendation from a coalition of nutrition experts and groups this past week.

Several federal agencies joined the coalition's suggestion that came to challenge government warnings about fish consumption by pregnant women due to mercury contamination in most volume-processed fish.

While that may be true (to a point), the health benefits of eating about 12 ounces of fish per week outweigh possible exposure to small amounts of mercury. A report from 2004 put out by the FDA and EPA is being criticized in the process here as well.

Prevent foot fungus

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Athlete's foot is actually a fungal infection. It loves warm, dark and damp places, making feet a common target. Asymptomatic carriers can even pass it along, as well as your household pet. I contract burning athlete's foot between my fourth and fifth toes usually once a summer. But it can also spread to your toenails, soles and sides of your feet.

HealthDay and MayoClinic offer prevention tips to keep the fungus at bay:

  • Wear those flip flops in public pools, showers and locker rooms -- anywhere the public's feet travel in/out
  • Talcum powder can keep feet drier, as do dry, breathable shoes
  • Thick, absorbent socks with natural fibers or moisture-wicking synthetics are better, and do change them daily
  • Don't borrow shoes

People with diabetes should consult their doctor if they have athlete's foot or anyone who does not see improvement after self-care.

Should the FDA have oversight of tobacco?

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The Food and Drug Administration has regulatory approval over food and drugs (over the counter and prescription) in the U.S. -- so why not tobacco? Maybe it doesn't want it.

This past week, the chief of the FDA (who has a dubious past) stated that he proposed a bill giving oversight authority to the FDA when it came to tobacco regulation.

Eschenbach's reason: regulating tobacco could undermine the FDA's role in protecting public health. I'm not so sure the FDA is doing the best job at that anyway. The FDA does not want to be in charge of products that, when used as intended, 'produce disease rather than promote health,' according to the FDA leader.

Fit Mama: The distance

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As people, and later, as parents, we set many goals for ourselves throughout our lives. Many of these goals are met and subsequently replaced by newer, often grander goals. We enjoy challenge in our lives--it makes us faster, stronger, smarter--kind of like the bionic woman.

But sometimes, every so often, a goal takes on a life of its own. Sometimes it becomes too large and looms out there in front of us as the golden carrot we will never reach. These goals become so enormous and encompassing (especially as we use all our energy to strive to meet them) that everything else gets left in the shadow of that giant goal.

And most of the time it's those smaller things, and the smaller goals, that are just as if not more important than the big goal.

When I first decided to run the New York City Marathon it was really for no good reason. I'd never wanted to run it in the past. I never had that strong desire that haunted my dreams. I enjoyed running, liked being fit, that kind of thing. But never once did I say my dream was to run a marathon, let alone the biggee in NYC.

Continue reading Fit Mama: The distance

A few ways to deal with halitosis

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Halitosis, the technical term for bad breath (aka oral malodour, apparently), can be an embarrassing and touchy subject. Let's face it, nobody wants to repel people with their breath. There are a range of potential causes for bad breath, some of which are medical and may be helped by a simple visit to the doctor. Others though, have more to do with what you eat and various habits.

If you know you suffer from halitosis and want to try to remedy the situation, it might be worthwhile to take some (or all) of the advice suggested here. Avoiding food like garlic and onions might help, but apparently not eating at all may cause bad breath, so make sure eat a regular, healthy diet. Other tips include staying hydrated as dry mouth can cause foul breath, giving up cigarettes and looking after your mouth and teeth by brushing, flossing and gargling with mouthwash.

As mentioned, if none of these things seem to work, it's probably a good idea to make an appointment to discuss the situation with your doctor.

Another inspirational breast cancer site

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Since October is breast cancer month, I recently wrote a post on some of the best websites about the topic and asked readers to contribute their own favorite sites. One response I received directed everyone toward the Survivor Celebration site.

Part of what I like about the site is that it gives information on the 2007 Survivor Celebration Tour, a 23-day cross-country adventure that began in New York on September 23rd and reaches its final destination in Los Angeles on October 15th, after stops in a range of cities including Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

A team of doctors and experts traveling in a pink Survivor Celebration bus are making the trek to raise awareness about breast cancer. If you'd like more information on the tour, visit the website, which also offers survivor stories, personal blogs and photos, information on local support groups and much more.

Doctors say to treat smokers like drug addicts

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According to this, smokers who are trying to kick the nicotine habit need to be treated like addicts hooked on a drug like heroin. Doctors say that those trying to quit smoking need to be given a product that provides a hit of nicotine as strong as one they'd get from a cigarette, much the same way that heroin addicts use methadone to quit that drug.

The article points out some scary statistics -- 100 million people died in the last century due to the negative effects of smoking cigarettes, 150 million will likely die over the next 20 years and a whopping 1 billion people are projected to die of smoking-related causes in the 21st century.

Unfortunately, those who want to quit only have access to products like nicotine gum or the patch, which deliver low doses of the drug, rather than the kind of fix a smoker would get from a cigarette. The solution? The piece mentions that better cigarette substitutes need to be developed to give smokers a better chance of kicking the habit.

5 healthy food trends: Are you on board?

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Of course there will always be a market for convenient packaging and processed foods, but thankfully it seems that food trends are moving more towards natural foods that people prepare themselves in more natural ways. Cooking Light has put together a list of 5 of the healthier food trends we're seeing:
  • Flexitarianism
  • Locally grown foods
  • Functional foods
  • Organic foods
  • Slow foods
If you want more information on any of those (I, for one, had to read what they meant by "functional foods") then see the complete article on CNN.com. Which ones are you already on board with? Are you bucking the trends or happy to be part of them?


Via Slashfood

Chronic disease in the U.S. being driven by obesity

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More Americans are now seeing rates of higher chronic illnesses compared to Europeans, and obesity is a big factor in the profusion of all these chronics illnesses, says a new study.

Jonathon mentioned a few days ago that obesity spending is pushing health care spending in the U.S. way past most European countries, and if chronic (long-term) illnesses continue growing, that divide will only grow larger in the future.

And we wonder who may be to blame for the rising costs of health care in the U.S. Democrats? Nah. Republicans? Doubtful. Obese citizens? There you have it.

We have the power to prevent this madness, yet all that fast and processed food full of useless 'nutrition' is pushing millions of us over the edge. That is, to the tune of $100 to $150 billion in health-care spending each year due to heart disease and diabetes.

DON'T lose weight after a heart attack?

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Ugh, gotta love contradicting health information these days! Seems like it's everywhere, including cardiac health and heart attacks. Where the usual advice for heart attack patients has been to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle, now new studies are showing it may be better for them not to lose weight. It seems once the damage of obesity has been done there is little to gain by losing the extra pounds, and that the additional weight may actually help the prognosis of heart attack patients.

Although I'm not a doctor this seems screwed up to me. Even if it does benefit the heart in recovering from a heart attack, what about all other serious and life threatening problems that can come from obesity?

Money talks when it comes to weight loss

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Money talks, and that's true for weight loss also. A new study has shown that people will lose weight for money, even if it's just a little. The best use of this information may not be for you to necessarily reward yourself at home (although if that works then go for it!) but for your employer to offer you incentives at work. Obviously having healthy employees benefits business in many ways, so by offering money to staff with healthy habits and weight loss everybody wins.

Apparently there are more studies in the works to find what the best dollar amounts are and if results and incentives work in the long term. How much would it take for you to lose weight? Honestly, any amount would encourage me (considering it's something I want to do anyway) but the more the better!

A 4 minute cross-training machine???

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This is ridiculous. It's a cross-training exercise machine that claims to give you an awesome workout in just 4 minutes a day. I guess people with money will buy anything! It's the ROM machine and it's being billed as a 4 minute cross trainer. It supposedly works by exercising 55% of the body's muscles at one time, or 465 calories in 4 minutes. Is that even possible?

Sounds a little dangerous to me, and the phrase "if it sounds too good to be true..." comes to mind. Plus the price tag is definitely not too good to be true, at $15,000 I think I'll stick with something I'm sure will work.

The Daily Turn On! Fiber your life

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Life is too short not to be fully "turned on." The Daily Turn On! energizes all aspects of "you." Everyday The Daily Turn On! with That's Fit Life Fit expert Laura Lewis will awaken your mind, your body and your life!

Did you know: Nine out of ten Americans suffer from clogged colons. Constipation leads to a variety of serious to very serious negative conditions ranging from varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and high blood pressure to cancers of the colon, stomach, pancreas, breast and prostate. If things are rather slow in your "interior," you are setting yourself up for a rather unpleasant health scenario in the future. Many negative health problems associated with fiber begin in childhood and go undetected until they show up in adulthood.

Fabulous Fiber: Fiber is an indigestible part of plant foods. It simply moves through the body without being broken down. Its purposes are many, but in general, it keeps things moving at the rate they are supposed to. Fiber is actually made up of six different types, which are divided into two groups: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber includes cellulose, hemi-cellulose, and lignin. Insoluble fiber serves to move bulk through your digestive track. It also controls and balances the acidity in your intestines.

Food that are good sources of insoluble fiber:
  • whole wheat products
  • wheat oat
  • corn bran
  • flax seed
  • vegetables such as green beans, cauliflower and potato skins
  • fruit skins and root vegetables
Soluble fibers are pectin, gums and musilages. Soluble fiber binds with cholesterol and inhibits the absorption of cholesterol. It also prolongs stomach-emptying time so that sugar is released and absorbed more slowly into the blood stream.

Soluble fiber can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff); therefore reducing the risk of heart disease by regulating blood sugar.

Some food sources of soluble fiber:
  • oat/oat bran
  • dried beans and peas
  • nuts
  • barley
  • flax seed
  • fruits such as oranges and apples
  • vegetables such as carrots
  • psyllium husk
A real team: Insoluble and soluble fiber work together in order to act as your internal safety guards of your digestive tract. You need about three times the amount of insoluble fiber as you do soluble fiber for optimal health effects. The solubles take up where the insolubles leave off and vice versa.

How much? The majority of Americans are barely getting one-fifth of the dietary fiber they need. The optimal daily recommendation is 30 to 50 grams. Thousands of years ago, when our ancestors were extremely active, their bodies needed a lot more calories, especially in the form of carbohydrates for energy. Since snack cakes were not around, fiber rich grains were a primary component of our ancient cousins' diets. Primitive tribes in Africa eat diets close to what our ancient relatives ate. The tribal members have lower cholesterol levels and almost no incident of hemorrhoids or constipation! In this modern age, we are not as active as our ancestors, so our calorie needs are lower. But, our digestive tract still wants that large amount of fiber to be healthy!

Fiber stars: Many breakfast cereals are great sources of fiber. Kelloggs' Fiber One and 100% Natural Oat Bran and 100% Bran both by Nabisco provide at least 10 grams of fiber in one serving. Apples, blackberries, pears and strawberries are rich i soluble fiber.
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Get your kick at a health and fitness spa

I knew long before I did anything about it that there were many changes I could make specific to diet and exercise. Heck, I even knew exactly what I needed to do -- eat less calories than I burn, stock up on fruits and veggies, nix the red meat, soda, and junk food, and work out strenuously. But something held me back. I think it was motivation.

I found just the push I needed at Canyon Ranch spa in Tucson, Arizona. This desert oasis boasts the finest in not only pampering but also in healthy living. For four days, I ate the healthiest foods, indulged in fitness classes galore, and learned from experts how to fine-tune my ways for optimum functioning and survival. It was grand. And for five months now, I have not wavered in my newly disciplined life. As a result, I am leaner, healthier, and happier than ever before. Thank goodness for my trip out west.

Sometimes it just takes a little kick in the pants when it comes to mastering the whole diet and exercise thing. And many are signing up, like me, for their own personal kick.

Continue reading Get your kick at a health and fitness spa

Losing weight is grand, keeping it off is better

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Ninety-five percent of those who lose weight will regain it within a few years, according to Harvard Health Reports. WOW. Not such a hopeful scenario for those about to commit to a weight-loss plan. Unless you consider the secret of those five percent who are successful. It all boils down to maintenance.

A diet won't last for the long-run unless a maintenance plan is implemented. This means cutting out the junk food for a few months and dropping those dreaded pounds won't truly work if you head right back to the cookie jar once the weight is gone. Practicing healthy habits once you shed the pounds, on the other hand, will work.

Research shows that people who maintain weight loss are those who dedicate themselves to healthy, low-calorie eating and regular physical activity. While diet and exercise plans differ greatly, most have theses commonalities: they involve strategies an individual likes, they satisfy a personal goal, and they are easy to stick with. Maybe neighborhood walks are your thing. Or tennis with a friend. Perhaps grabbing a piece of fruit to curb your cravings works well while someone else might read a book for distraction. It doesn't matter what action you take. Just take it. And drop your membership in the 95 percent club once and for all.

Why you should only seek out natural vitamins, not synthetic ones

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When deciding on a vitamin to make part of your daily supplement routine, do you choose the $4 brand at your local grocer, or the $30 enteric-coated brand at the local health food store?

In proper fashion, 'you get what you pay for' -- and nowhere is this more demonstrated than with the vitamin and supplement industry. Think that all Vitamin E is created the same? No chance -- the synthetic version (read: not real) is found in most bargain vitamins.

Think that calcium is created equal across the board? Nope -- there are several varieties of calcium as well, from citrate to ascorbate. Some are much more bioavailable than others, and others are cheaper (filler) ingredients just meant to give the impression that normally comes along with the term "calcium.

Remember to research the ingredients you put into your body, and always bypass the dollar-store vitamin variety. They're usually not even worth that amount. But hey, you may be a pretty bottle.

Gluten may be making you sick

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Gluten is the talk of the town. The six-letter word is no stranger here at That's Fit and now that Hollywood's Jenny McCarthy has revealed that removing gluten from her autistic son's diet is helping him emerge from his disease, gluten-free diets may become all the rage.

The whole gluten topic really has me thinking -- I admit, I was a bit in the dark about the whole topic prior to just now -- and what I'm thinking is this: Do I really need to be eating wheat?

Gluten -- the protein found in wheat products such as breads, pastas, pastries, rye, barley, and some oats -- isn't a problem for many people. But for those sensitive to it, gluten can cause a sickening reaction. In fact, experts believe an underlying allergy to gluten may be to blame for some neurological disorders. It may also be connected to problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Celiac sprue.

Continue reading Gluten may be making you sick

Randy Jackson campaigns for diabetes awareness

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If you're an American Idol fan, then you probably took notice of judge Randy Jackson's dramatic weight loss a while back. But what you may not realize is that the celebrity lost those 110 pounds because of an alarming diagnosis: type 2 diabetes. Nearly 1/3 of people who have type 2 diabetes don't even realize they have it, and Jackson has teamed up with the American Heart Association to raise awareness. In addition to spreading the word about the disease, Jackson also wants everyone to know the heart risks associated with diabetes. Though many people think of kidney and eye problems when they think of diabetes, heart disease is actually a bigger problem.

To learn more, visit the campaign's website The Heart of Diabetes. If you or someone close to you has diabetes, you can also submit your story for a chance to be on a televised public service announcement with Jackson.

16 signs you worry too much

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Do you worry? Let's face it, we all worry sometimes. Worrying is a natural, healthy part of living, but what happens when it takes over your life? Real Simple has 16 signs you're worrying too much and they may help reassure you that your level of worry is normal.

They may also tip you off that you've let worry worm its way in just a little too far. For instance, if you've become so concerned about terrorism that you've grounded yourself; if you're so worried about your job that you've become nearly paralyzed by perfectionism; or if you find yourself micromanaging your children's lives, it may be time to take a second look at how healthy those feelings actually are. Real Simple's tips may help you bring that worry down to a normal level, or if you can't, they may help you realize it's time to talk to someone about your fears.

Campbell's recalls 'Chunky' soup due to choking hazard

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Campbell's Soup has issued a recall as of last this past week on its "Campbell's Chunky" brand of soups. No -- there is no potential food poisoning involved with this recall.

Campbell Soup Co. said that a "choking hazard" is behind the recall of its "Baked Potato with Cheddar & Bacon Bits" chunky soup product, apparently based on the size of the potato chunks.

This sounds odd to me -- hasn't this product been on the shelf for years now, and all of a sudden there is a choking hazard associated with it? Three consumers have reported minor injuries in and around the mouth, according to Campbell's.

Is seasonal affective disorder making you SAD?

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As my kids and I took a bedtime bike ride around the block the other night, I lamented how it was already getting starting to get dark. Soon, our evening trips outdoors will start to be shorter and shorter, and by January, it'll be dark by 5 P.M. I don't know about you, but when it's cold and dark outside, I feel like curling up with something warm to drink and watching Grey's Anatomy.

It's natural to want to slow down in the wintertime, and we often have to work harder at staying true to our health and fitness goals. But if the shorter days of autumn and winter find you feeling unmotivated, uninterested in your regular activities, fatigued, or depressed, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The shortage of sunlight on those cold winter days is thought to cause a chemical imbalance in some people, and up to 20% of people may suffer from the disorder.

The solution is to get outside while it's light out as much as you can -- even if it's cold and cloudy -- and try to expose your eyes to at least an hour of light a day. If SAD gets serious, it can also be treated with antidepressants, psychotherapy, and light therapy.