Monday, 12 November 2007

Get a good night's sleep on the right mattress

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On a recent shopping trip to check out new mattresses, the salesmen was trying to show me differences in firmness. After trying out two or three mattresses that all felt the same to me, he said, "Here, try this one." I immediately sank into the softest mattress I have ever felt. It was like lying on a huge bed of feathers, and it felt like Heaven. But I knew I could never get a good night's sleep on it.

Though people are too diverse in their mattress preferences to be properly studied, most sleep experts agree that firm is better. That's because a too-soft mattress won't support your hips and spine, and you could wake with pain in the morning. Instead, try to find a balance with a mattress that's firm enough to support your weight, but still has plenty of cushion and bounce for comfort.

WebMD recently interviewed sleep experts to find out what things to consider when shopping for a new mattress. If you're in the market for one, you may want to take a minute and see what they had to say.

Nicotine vaccine may help smokers quit the habit, Part 2

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After reporting on this story a few days ago, I asked a friend of mine about his feelings on taking a shot to get rid of the "nicotine buzz" that is what makes smoking cigarettes so satisfying.

Basically, the new shot counteracts the nicotine ingested by a smoker and separates the act of smoking from the pleasure it provides. Would this actually help some smokers quit? My friend indicated that there would be a possibility, but that there is more to the equation than nicotine.

Smoking can be a shared social activity that does not take into consideration the addictive effects of nicotine. With that connection broken by a shot in the arm, would make people still smoke? My friend says yes, unequivocally. What do you think?

Some women risk 'risky' sex at the worst possible time

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In a new Kinsey Institute study, women that are most attracted to the masculine (and often, high-risk) male during ovulation are more likely to become pregnant. Sounds logical to me.

First off, women in the midst of ovulation who have sex without protection of some sort are gambling regardless, unless pregnancy is the goal. If not, finding the more potent male around doubles or triples that pregnancy risk. Doesn't anyone think here? Apparently not.

The study used computer-generated images of men with varying masculine features as well as data like sex partners and condom use. The study revealed that when women who were ovulating took the test in the study, their brains showed more activity in areas linked to reward and risk taking.

In other words, they were set to get some sex on and wanted the riskiest partner to get it on with. Interestingly, the area of the brain that defied normal logic here was the same area linked to drug addiction and gambling (among other things).

A real vegan bodybuilder

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Kenneth G. Williams. That's him in the picture. Pretty big guy. More than just a little ripped. Body builder. Vegan.

Wait, what?!? A bodybuilding vegan? That's right.

Williams hasn't always been a vegan, in fact back when he first got started in body building he was very much into the usual fare of meat, eggs, and dairy. But then one day, in the middle of the night, he had "a moment" and has been a vegan ever since.

Just goes to show that you don't need to eat meat to feel "tough" and to be healthy and fit. If you want to eat meat, then by all means go ahead. But if you've been leaning towards vegetarianism or veganism then don't let stereotypes be the thing that holds you back.

Easy ways to go green

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As someone who works every day to lower her impact on the planet, sometimes I get a little frustrated. It can seem overwhelming at times, while I recycle every last piece of paper and obsessively turn off lights in the rooms we aren't using. Are we really having any effect? Are we doing enough? I don't know the answer to those questions, but I do believe that as more people contribute in the small and big ways that they can, we'll see a ripple effect.

There are big things you can do to effect change. But for some, those bigger things just aren't realistic. If you still want to do your part, however, you can try one of many smaller lifestyle changes that may help. For instance, you can:
  • Lower your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees. It'll be hot enough for you to use, but save you 3 to 5% a year on your energy bill.
  • Change the direction of your ceiling fan. Set it to go clockwise in the winter to bring warm air down, and vice versa in the summer. If you don't have a ceiling fan, don't buy one.
  • Try to upgrade electronics rather than replace. Electronics are a huge source of waste.
  • Turn off your TV and other appliances, but unplug them as well. Appliances can be a drain on electricity even when they aren't turned on.
What about you -- what's your favorite small step toward greener living?

Don't forget to visit Green Daily for more green living tips!

Medicaid a strain on emergency rooms

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Medicaid programs may be straining the capability of main emergency rooms these days, but not in a personnel sense.

A new study says that the Medicaid patients of the U.S. may be financially straining ERs more than the 47 million of us who are uninsured in the U.S. Sounds weird, doesn't it? How can Medicaid be straining the system more than the uninsured?

The result will sound normal to medical billing specialists, I'll bet. According to the study, uninsured patients paid 35 percent of their overall emergency room bills in 2004 while Medicaid patients paid just 33 percent.

Cognitivity-enhancing drugs seeing more ethical debate

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Have you ever taken or known someone who has taken a "brain boosting" drug? These products are designed to raise performance for exams or work (or both, plus more), but according to some doctors this past week, their use does indeed raise long-term ethical and safety concerns.

Ethical concerns surface when drugs are given to people who are not ill, but who are willing to pay for the product regardless. Is this something the medical establishment should do?

It it may become worse, as it's estimated that the ability of prescription drugs and medical procedures to improve intellectual performance will probably see huge increases in the next few decades.

Week in Review: November 4 to 11

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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.

Lest we forget. Today, November 11th, is a day to remember those who sacrificed their life for our freedom. And when we've paid our respects, we can also remember some great posts from the previous week:
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Are shock-absorbing shoes bad for us?

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For those of you who are fans of the Nike Shox and other running-designed shoes, new research shows that if you have arthritic knees, you may want to step away from these products.

When shock-absorbing footwear was looked at in relation to knee osteoarthritis, the conclusion from the research was that the bare foot put less pressure on the knee compared to shock-absorbing shoes or ones hat are designed for foot stabilizing.

For those without arthritic knees, I still believe that this type of footwear offers great protection from knee and back breakdown. Do you?

The Daily Turn On! Search Engines That Make A Difference

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Life is too short not to be fully "turned on." The Daily Turn On! energizes all aspects of "you." Every Monday The Daily Turn On! with That's Fit Life Fit expert Laura Lewis will provide you with ideas and tips to awaken your mind, your body and your life as you journey through each day of the week! Check in each Monday to get your tip for Turning On every day of your life.

Want to do something good each day? Maybe raise some money for an important charity? Check out www.goodsearch.com. This Yahoo search engine donates $.01 to your charity of choice each time you make a search on the Internet. Think about how many times you log on to the Internet to check out the calories in the snack you just ate, the number of calories you burned in your spin class or the countless other times you search the Internet looking for various tidbits and factoids. GoodSearch.com literally rains free money on your charity of choice, and all you have to do is use it--something you already do every day anyway!

If you don't have a charity you want to support, but you want to "be good" anyway, checkout The Writer's Garret--a non-profit organization that supports writers in the contemporary literary community. You can choose from any of the organizations currently listed on the site or add one of your own. GoodSearch has been reviewed by dozens of news organizations, and the consensus is that this search engine is indeed a good thing.

Start your good search today, and start making a difference every time you surf the net.

Be good. Search Good!

Jumpstart Your Fitness: These roadblocks may surprise you

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Feeling derailed from your fitness and weight loss plans but the usual culprits aren't to blame? Consider these 10 roadblocks that you probably didn't think of:

Roadblock #1: You diligently stick to your 6am workout

Although as a general rule working out in the mornings statistically means you'll be more likely to stick with your plan, if you don't make a point to get enough sleep you're most likely secretly sabotaging yourself. It's no problem if you get 7-8 hours of sleep each night (that means in bed and sleeping by 10pm), but if you're getting more like 6 or less then you're at greater risk (as much as 30%) of gaining substantial weight and having a higher BMI -- 6am workout or not.
Roadblock #2: You avoid alcohol like the plague
Alcohol is one of those things that is best not done in extremes. Avoid it completely and you may miss out on some awesome heath benefits (people who indulge in 1 drink a couple times a week generally weigh less/have lower BMIs), but overdo it and you'll only tip the scale the other way (and increase your chances of developing obesity).

Continue reading Jumpstart Your Fitness: These roadblocks may surprise you

Daily Fit Tip: Shop on Black Friday just to get exercise!

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If you're one to get up at the crack of dawn (or way earlier) the Friday after Thanksgiving, then I salute you. The madness seen across the retail landscape on that morning is nuts -- it's a race I gave up to others a decade ago when the Internet became available to the masses.

But I may do something this Black Friday instead of shopping for bargains. How about visiting a local discount retailer and using it as an excuse to exercise? It's nowhere near easy trying to get that cart around a billion people and dodging things left and right that morning -- why not make a game of it?

Yes, this sounds ludicrous, but it may be something to try if you want to feel invigorated by that Friday afternoon. Get up at midnight and shop on the net then head of at 6am to get your exercise.
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U.S. still has high infant death rate

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Although the infant mortality rate has dropped in a large way in the last 50 years, the U.S. still pales in comparison to other industrialized nations, and there are still significant differences in racial groups when it comes to the infant death rate as well.

According to a recent report by the CDC, seven babies died for every 1,000 born in 2004 (the latest year where stats were available), and before reaching the first birthday.

Although that figure is down from 26 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1960, it's odd that black babies died at a a rate of two-and-a-half times the infant mortality rate of white babies. Again, disparities in health care access are being suggested as the main reason for such a large spread.

Do-gooders give themselves better health

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Feeling charitable? Then get out there and give of yourself. It's good for others, and it's good for you too.

Studies investigating the link between health and volunteering show that givers live longer and have lower rates of depression than those not engaged in altruistic acts. Seems right. I know I aways feel better when I help someone. The feeling of brightening someone's day works wonders on my spirit. It also distracts me from my own issues.

Check out this article supporting the scientific evidence that helping out produces health benefits. And take a look at this website to locate volunteer opportunities near you.

Fasting linked to heart health

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While fasting isn't usually recommended for losing weight, a recent study found that regular fasting may actually help the heart. When scientists reviewed the records of 4,500 men and women -- 90% of them Mormons -- they found that those who fasted regularly were over a third less likely to develop coronary heart disease.

Though the research is certainly interesting, health experts aren't recommending that people start fasting for their heart. No one is sure why fasting seemed to help the participants in the study -- whether it was just a marker of a healthy lifestyle, of eating less overall, or if something different is going on. There's also concern that people with certain conditions, like diabetes, may have complications if they begin going long periods without food.

Brian recently wrote about a study that found that restricting calories can lead to a longer life. This study seems to complement that research, but it might be some time before we understand what it really means.

Going organic for a night

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We ate at a new restaurant on Saturday night. Everything we ate was organic. I had an organic salad, organic bruschetta, organic wild salmon, organic veggies, and organic rice. My husband had what I had, and our kids -- who were a little hesitant about the menu at first glance -- ate quesadillas made with organic tortillas and organic cheese. They had organic apple juice and organic fruit bars for dessert. Everything was organic. Everything.

Our Saturday night meal was delicious, and filling, and while it was a bit expensive, it was grand. My husband remarked that he could get used to eating like we did for that one meal. I could too. And so I've revised my wish for a personal chef -- not only do I want my very own chef, I now want my very own organic chef.

It's common sense for many that eating organic -- this means consuming foods grown and prepared without pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, hormones, irradiation to prevent spoilage, and microwave cooking -- is healthier for the body and better for the environment. Make sense to you? If not, check out this article, which provides a few arguments about why you should bother to eat an organic diet.

Walk this way

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Now here's a way to walk, and it comes straight from Mark Fenton, author of The Complete Guide for Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness. It's a simple six-day schedule -- you get the seventh day off -- and it's intended to boost the intensity of walking workouts for a greater benefit in less time. Check it out, try it, and tell us what you think.

Three days of the week: Engage in 30-60 minutes of purposeful walking. Walk the kids to school, walk to the store for milk, or walk with a colleague at work -- call it a meeting and you'll kill two birds with one stone. Break up your walking if you wish -- 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there -- but walk with a mission. Walk as if you're not late but have no time to spare.

Two days of the week: Get moving for 25-45 minutes of high intensity walking. Walk very quickly and tackle some hills while you're at it. Do this walk all at once and not in mini-chunks of time, and be aware of your breathing. Make sure you aren't gasping for air.

One day per week: Take a 90-minute walk. It can be a hike or even a family excursion in a park. Speed isn't important for this one. Just go long.

Thinking of bleaching your teeth at home? Things to know

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We've all seen the ads for over-the-counter teeth whiteners, and I'll admit to being curious about them myself. I've never taken the leap, however, because I'm concerned about safety and the long-term health of my teeth. But then I read this article from the Seattle Times.

According to them, if the directions are followed closely and you don't try to whiten too frequently, then bleaching your teeth with an OTC whitener can be safe and effective. However, though these methods are inexpensive compared to having your dentist do the procedure, they don't last nearly as long -- one to six months, compared to six to twelve months when done professionally.

Additionally, OTC whiteners don't work on things like caps, crowns, veneers, or dentures, and they also aren't effective on certain stains. So if you're willing to accept those conditions and don't try to over-whiten your teeth, it appears to be a safe enough procedure.

Does zinc really help beat a cold?

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For years, I've popped Cold-Eeze zinc drops whenever I get that telltale tickle in the back of my throat that tells me a cold is coming. Sometimes, my cold is mild, and sometimes it's not. I couldn't really tell you if zinc works or not based on my own very unscientific observations, but I always felt like it was doing something.

That something may have been a placebo effect...or maybe not. A recent exhaustive review of studies involving zinc vs. the common cold produced mixed results. At best, zinc gluconate lozenges may have a moderate effect on a cold bug, but zinc acetate lozenges were deemed worthless.

I ran out of Cold-Eeze before my last virus and it was really, really bad. Was it because I didn't have my zinc? Or would it have been a bad cold anyway? The jury continues to be out on zinc. What do you think?

Keeping that appetite in check with a strategy

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Although many of us may have that junk food and candy out of sight, we always know where it is. It could be hidden under the bed or way behind in the pantry somewhere.

The thing with 'feeling' hungry has nothing to do sometimes with the hunger signals from your stomach going nuts on their way to the brain. According to experts, everything from stress to hormones to people, places, and situations can kick your appetite into overdrive.

What to do when there are so many forces out to get you? That's where a strategy and willpower come into play. But then again, there are food-based strategies as well, like potatoes (believe that or not).