Saturday, 10 November 2007

The scenario

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How familiar does this scene sound:

You eat lunch at work, somewhere around noon or so, only to finish your day at around five. Given that you didn't have the time to grab a quick mid-afternoon snack, it's now been almost five hours since you've last eaten. Then, you drive for about a half an hour from work, spend ten minutes or so settling in at home, and then finally swing open the fridge. Staring you in the face are the tasty leftovers from last night's ravioli dinner, so you wolf them down in about three bites. Minutes later, you finally plop down on the couch and flip on the TV.

That all too familiar scenario alone points to a number of problems with our diets:

1) We generally spend waaaaaaaaaaay too much time in between meals. The less often you eat, the more weight you will gain. Long periods of not eating will cause your body to respond by slowing your metabolism. By contrast, the more often you eat, the more weight you will lose (or, at least, your chances of gaining weight will be diminished). By not allowing your body to ever feel hungry, your body will respond by revving up your metabolism.

2) We stress ourselves fat. Rushing around town, trying to be here and there, worrying about this and that - all of that worry and stress leads to an increased release of cortisol. Put simply, cortisol is a hormone that can affect not only your weight gain and muscle loss, but can also raise blood pressure and be immunosuppressive.

Continue reading The scenario

Eating sweets may age that skin prematurely

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If you're into candy and sugar (you know, with the Halloween holiday just having ended), be prepared to become a wrinkly prune soon. Well, not really -- but maybe in the future some time.

According to recent research, the foods that turn into glucose in the body may also make you look older due to aging your skin prematurely. We're not just talking refined sugar -- but anything that converts to glucose in the body.

Before you go off to research, I'm not saying to quit eating anything that converts to glucose. But if you know about elastin and collagen, this research may warrant further checking into.

Today is D-Blog Day

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Today, November 9th, is official Diabetes Blog Day, or D-Blog Day as the cool kids call it. In the ongoing effort to find a cure for diabetes, the blogosphere celebrates today as their own holiday of sorts.

Having previously been a blogger at the now retired TheDiabetesBlog.com, in addition to being engaged to a proud D-Blogger, I'm well aware of the enormous amount of support this community can provide. From patients sharing stories about their triumphs and setbacks, to parents of diabetic children who wish to simply know that they are not alone in their struggle, the diabetes blogosphere was created, albeit completely organically, to serve those very purposes.

If you're wondering where to find a list of diabetic blogs (D-Blogs), a good place to start is HERE at the Six Until Me Blogroll.

AIDS vaccine fails to work; risk actually increases

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In a sobering realization that came from an AIDS vaccine experiment recently, volunteers who received shots containing an AIDS vaccine were far more likely to become infected with the virus compared to those given dummy shots.

Why? Two reasons float to the top: either the AIDS vaccine given to the volunteers made them more susceptible to the virus or those people, once given the shot, engaged in more reckless behavior of some sort that ended up giving them each increase virus exposure.

Most likely, the medical explanation is the one that holds water -- but that is scary for AIDS vaccine (experimental) manufacturers who had hopes for finding something to help eradicate HIV from the human body once it is there.

Mushrooms may boost immune system

Some mushrooms taste great on pizza. Some mushrooms can kill you. Some mushrooms can make you see purple dragons. And some mushrooms can boost your immune system. In the interest of keeping things healthy, I think I'll focus on the kind I mentioned last.

White button mushrooms, also known as the table mushroom and the cultivated mushroom, have been shown to strengthen the body's defense against the common cold and even cancer. A report in The Journal of Nutrition revealed that mushrooms enhanced the activity of immune system cells.

This immune system boost comes from the high levels of the super-antioxidant ergothianine, which exists in abundance in the white button mushroom variety.

Short on time? Plan ahead for meals

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Too busy to prepare healthy meals for your family? So many of us are. If you learn how to cook the right way, however, you can not only put together hearty food and free up some spare time too. eDiets has some great tips on how to cook quickly and efficiently for the whole family, including:
  • Buy lean ground beef or turkey and mix with your favourite seasoning for hamburgers or meatballs. And make extra so you can freeze some. Enlist your kids to help.
  • When you make a dish like chili or lasagna, make lots -- freeze all of the leftovers so you can use them on another day
  • If you're on the run, instead of heading for fast food, order something hearty from a local restaurant, and divide it up into reasonable portions. And when you eat out, take your leftover home. Either freeze them or eat them within a couple of days.
  • When you freeze chicken part, freeze them with spices, sauces or marinades. Then you can just pop them in the oven without any fuss.
How do you save time in the kitchen?

Get a shot to help you stop smoking

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If you were able to stop smoking by taking a regular shot, would you do it? Many would, and recent testing showed promise that may lay the foundation for some to kick the habit in the future without all the mental willpower and addiction problems that come with it.

This shot prevents the nicotine buzz that is common with cigarettes and other forms of tobacco and helps a smoker more easily quit because that mental withdrawal (and physical also) is made into an easy transition.

This new experimental process produced smoking cessation results comparable to those of already-available aids made to help someone stop smoking. To those who have had problems quitting using other methods, this could be promising soon.

Whole grain advocates to step up awareness

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Instead of eating that refined-flour, sugary doughnut, do you pick up a whole-grain muffin with perhaps some fresh fruit as a topping? Many of us have made the switch and are not only healthier as a result, but we have a breakfast that is just as tasty.

Advocates of whole grains, who have done an admirable job in the last five years making the public aware that whole grains are nutritious and tasty as well as healthy, want to step up those efforts and get more whole grains into kitchens and pantries nationwide. That is excellent news.

The perception many Americans have about the term "whole grains" is one of the pressing issues faced by many groups, but an expert puts it pretty succinctly: "We're pretty sure we've broken down that business about whole grains being preindustrial, or raw from the farm ... the message is clear that they're healthy." Yes, they are.

Chiropractors: A waste of time?

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In university, I worked as an office assistant for a Chiropractic clinic. Perks of the job included free adjustments, an offer I never took up. I sometimes wonder if that was foolish of me but at the time I had no back aches or pains so I really didn't see a point. Now, almost a decade later, I still haven't seen a chiropractor, but I've been considering it.

Not so fast, according to researchers from Australia -- You'll recover from your back pain quicker with exercise and mild pain killers. In an extensive study, it was shown patients who received spinal manipulation or strong anti-inflammatory drugs didn't feel any better than those who took over-the-counter pain killers. These findings raised a few eyebrows because both anti-inflammatory drugs and spinal manipulation are controversial.

Still, I don't think this study properly addressed the long-term effects of treatments -- rather, it was more concerned with who felt better fastest. What do you think? Do you see your chiropractor regularly?

Another risk of binge drinking: Exploding bladders

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Ladies, if you're planning on tying one on this weekend, don't drink too much. Besides the same old risks associated with binge drinking--impaired judgement, destroyed brain cells, a wicked hangover, etc--you're at risk for another problem: you might rupture your bladder.

According to reports, several woman have recently ruptured their bladders as a result of alcohol abuse. The condition is rare, but serious -- if urine leaks into the abdominal cavity, it can cause an infection that could be fatal.

Why is this happening? It's believed that because alcohol numbs sensation, these women didn't quite realize that they had to empty their bladders. Ugh. Sounds awful ... and awfully embarrassing.

Watch out for these foods that cause gas

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Unless you like passing gas in public loudly and proudly, my guess is that many of you like to enjoy foods without having the nasty repercussions of that smell and noise coming out of your rear-end later.

What to do? Why, try to minimize or completely avoid foods that promote gas in the GI tract an hour or more later, that's what. Based on data from the National Digestive Diseases Clearinghouse, here are your 'gas' producers:
  • Sugars found in milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy products, fruits, some vegetables, and sodas
  • Starchy foods -- such as pasta, potatoes, corn and wheat
  • Fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, beans and peas
  • Cabbage, broccoli, onions, artichokes and asparagus
Now, many of those selections are indeed pretty darn healthy -- but they do produce gas. So, be prepared for a little fun if you eat them.

Tips on doctor shopping

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One of the worst parts of moving is finding a trusted doctor when you arrive to town. I always seek a pediatrician quickly for the kids, but then leave my husband and I in a lurch. New to our home a couple years ago, I ended up in the emergency room for a silly sinus infection because I procrastinated on landing a primary care physician.

The Chicago Tribune polled Hal Alpiar, author of Doctor Shopping, and other experts on proper questions to ask in your doctor search. Here are a few interesting suggestions from over a dozen tips:

  • Go with your gut. Do you get bad vibes from the doctor? Could you tell him/her private information? What is more important to you, a good bedside manner or graduating from a top school?
  • If you end up in the hospital, does the doctor perform his/her own hospital rounds or hand them off to hospitalists? Large practices often farm them out -- one expert predicted this will be the norm in ten years.
  • Will the doctor perform stitches or treat a minor injury same-day, or do you have to head to the ER?
  • What is the doctor's theory on "wellness" -- beyond routine tests, will they go further and order a low-dose scan for a former smoker?

It can be wise to interview your doctor thoroughly, although time spent in a doctor interview may not be covered by insurance. I've always relied on recommendations from new friends or acquaintances -- but I may pose a few of these questions to our doc at a future visit.

Carcinogens found in Alberta Oilsands

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Here's a new item that hit home for me: A recent study has found high levels of carcinogens in the water near the Alberta Oil Sands. Alberta's my home province, and it's also a huge source of oil. But land up north, particularly around the oil sands, has been raped and pillaged for so many years and the effects of abusing land for oil without any thought to long-term effects are beginning to surface. Levels of harmful substances are alarmingly high, according to researchers. One even says this could be a worse disaster than the Exxon Valdez.
Still, it's nothing new for people living in these communities. Residents complained of seeing oily scum in their drinking water and they've noticed higher incidences of cancer among residents than in other areas of the province.

I've lived in Alberta for a long time and I've seen the effects of the influx of oil money. But at the expense of our health? That's a mighty hefty price to pay.

FitSpirit: Stop it with the "fat" talk

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FitSpirit explores the mind-body connection and the intangible benefits we gain from our efforts to stay physically fit.

Do you engage in "fat" talk? Many women do. It's the norm, actually, for women to regularly say negative things about their bodies. Research proves it.

A study from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina -- home to great white water rafting, by the way -- reveals that "fat talk" is social currency for women. It goes something like this:

"I'm so fat."

"Oh, no, you look great, but my thighs are HUGE."

"YOUR thighs are huge? Look at MINE!"

And so on.

"Fat" talk is not all bad. It creates a solidarity among females. It allows them to open up. It's a way of sharing, disclosing, and receiving reassurance. But wouldn't it be great if we could bond as women without trashing our bodies in the process?

Let's try to minimize our own "fat" talk and see what happens. I predict we'll boost our moods and may even secure a better chance at making healthy choices, perhaps even trimming down.

A positive attitude can do wonders for mental health. So compliment yourself next time you're about to slip into "fat" talk. Surely, you've got a few redeeming qualities you can acknowledge. I know, it seems like bragging, but give a try. I'll go first. I won't tell you about my least favorite body part, although it's tempting. I'll only tell you this: I like my calf muscles. I consider them my best feature, in fact.

That wasn't so hard. Your turn.

Remember these relaxation techniques

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If you're already into the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season, you probably know that stress comes with the territory. With that, you need a strategy -- a strategy to relax.

Relaxation techniques are a must of the holiday season if you're up to it (and you should be), since they can make the holidays enjoyable instead of feeling like you're on pins and needles all the time.

Try these (thanks Diana!) if you're ready to spend that Saturday evening trying to get back to normal after an afternoon on your toes in all those stores:
  • Invigorate muscles with a visit to a massage therapist.
  • Meditate. Sit quietly or listen to soft music.
  • Practice deep breathing.
  • Imagine yourself in a relaxing place, such as in the mountains or on the beach.
  • Stop stressful thoughts before they spin out of control.
  • When you feel stress, your muscles tense up. Learn to relax your muscles to release stress.
  • Practice yoga or tai chi.

Jennie Garth dances with idea of baby #4

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Jennie Garth, formerly known as Kelly Taylor on FOX's 90210 and current contestant on ABCs Dancing with the Stars, has whipped her body into tip-top shape with all her recent fancy footwork.

"I've lost weight and I'm looking great," she says.

She may not keep her slimmed-down figure for long, though, because she's pretty sure she'll have another baby.

Garth, wife of actor Peter Facinelli and mom to three young daughters, says she secretly looks forward to being pregnant again. Why? "So that she could eat and have ice cream," says her hubby.

Before she focuses on family, Garth, 35, must first finish her ballroom competition. It's down to five dancing couples. Could Garth win it all?

Lower your cholesterol, see possible sleep disturbances

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If you're into lowering your cholesterol due to it being at an abnormally high level, that is great. Just don't expect a solid night's sleep any longer.

Well, that may be pushing it, bu a new report stated that the statin drug Zocor could disturb those nightly sleep patterns when taken by some patients.

The report, whose conclusions were presented this past week at the American Heart Association's annual meeting, did state that the extent of the problem is unknown, but as that more Americans take statin drugs to reduce cholesterol, more sleep problems may crop up.

Ditch the diet foods -- teach kids moderation

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I think this logic applies to adults and kids alike but the blurb I just read in the November issue of Family Circle puts the kid spin on diet foods and drinks. And this is what it says: Diet foods and drinks may actually lead to obesity.

Research suggests that kids who eat low-calorie versions of foods may develop distorted connections between taste and nutritional content. If they never really experience the good stuff, they are more likely to overindulge when they do get a taste of it. So it's best to skip the diet goods and instead teach kids to eat all foods in moderation. Like the kid who never gets to watch TV and then arrives in front of a television set and can't break away, kids who are restricted from regular foods may one day go way overboard.

This makes sense to me -- that's why I think we adults can also benefit from this little diet lesson.

For more on this topic, take a look at this article.

Fartleks along your jogging route

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My two and one-quarter mile neighborhood jogging route is starting to get a little boring. The route isn't 'new' anymore, and my times are consistently the same. If you're in a jogging/running rut, check out this helpful article in Shape. Here are three drills to add to your jog/run -- you'll tone more muscle and increase your calorie burn.

Fartleks: This is not releasing a cloud of intestinal gas and scurrying away down the street! Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play" -- a method of varying your jogging/running speed. Warm-up, then run faster (not at maximum) to the stop sign a couple blocks ahead. Slow down for a bit, then pick out another target ahead and run fast toward it. The guidelines are all yours, just mix it up a bit. I will sprinkle a few fartleks into my jog this morning.

Stride Drills: Improve your power and stride efficiency by incorporating stride drills once a week. After warming up, run while lifting knees as high as possible for 30-60 seconds. Then exaggerate your running stride by bounding as far as possible with each stride (you'll go slower than usual). Finally, take tiny baby steps by placing one foot directly in front of the other. Repeat the series two or three times, then finish your route.

Long Runs: Enough of my two and one-quarter mile route, this article recommends we build endurance by jogging/running for 45 minutes to an hour once a week. You'll burn more calories and make the usual workout easier. How long is relative to your current workout. Take your longest run and add 5 minutes to it once each week.

Affix a laptop to that treadmill

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If you're going to be on a treadmill for hours per week, wouldn't it be nice to get some reading or work done at the same time? Personally, I live to use treadmill time to jam to some tunes and take my eyes off anything for a few minutes.

But for those who live on a laptop and need to have that piece of technology nearby, you can have it with the Netrunner.

Though computer junkies may love the idea of having their laptop affixed to the treadmill while walking on that incline, watching DVDs is about the only activity I can see being useful here. Maybe there is more...