Sunday, 18 November 2007

Week in Review: November 11 to 18

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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.

Gobble Gobble! It's Thanksgiving week and you know what that means -- lots and lots of food. But Thanksgiving doesn't have to de-rail months of healthy living -- here are some tips for enjoying the season and staying healthy too.

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U.S. health care needs centralizing and organizing

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Health care in the U.S. will most likely be the single largest issue in next year's presidential election outside the 'war on terror,' and experts are already preparing roadmaps of suggestions to feed the candidates.

Areas like more organized care and overall health emphasis (not expensive interventions like drugs) are being brought up, as well as that old bugaboo: ensuring everyone in this country who is a citizen receives access to health insurance.

The insurance undertaking alone will be a monumental effort in policymaking, but a major suggestion so far has been to combine the efforts of federal, state, employer and private coverage to provide some kind of universal coverage.

JK Rowling: 'eat more!'

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JK Rowling has been dodging rumors about her weight and appearance for years. And now the famous author is owning up to her weight, but it's not what you think -- she's admitted to gaining weight, and she's encouraging everyone to eat more. She denies that she "does pilates, yoga, jogs, has botox injections and has cut out saturated fats". And she's joked about writing a revolutionary new diet book on this philosophy. Hmm ... I don't know if her diet philosophy is the healthiest, but at least she's advocating having a healthy weight.

Rowling's also gone on to say that she worries about her daughters in a society where size 0 is considered an ideal weight. She even calls celebs like Paris Hilton "empty headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones".

I can't say I disagree on that one -- How about you?

The kiddie mosh pit rules

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A few days ago I took my two children, and their two best friends to a Wiggles concert in Kissimmee, Florida and am so grateful I did. Along with the incredible fitness video segments I shot backstage with the gorgeous blue Wiggle, Anthony turned out to be one of my children Ginger (4) and Parker's (2) favorite experiences ever.

Before the show, my whole brood got to meet The Wiggles and have a picture taken at the official "meet and greet" session. Traditionally the session is designed for the group to spend time with special needs children. Mine are not, but we were fortunate to have the opportunity. The Wiggles perform about 200 shows each year around the world, but when it came to this special time with the meet and greet children the guys made each child feel really important; the kind of treatment that would bring any Mommy to tears. Bursting with smiles and tender voices, I was impressed at how these men related to the little ones. Hard to describe. The four I took were both shy and excited while meeting the group. Afterward maintained a death-grip on the Polaroid's they were given featuring themselves with the band.

Once we were seated in our 'hot potato" seats on the floor in front of the stage, the real fun began. The atmosphere was electric and the kids were ecstatic. The show is bright, colorful, busy and just full of fun! The music also happened to be perfect. Now, I've seen just about every big name performer on tour in the U.S. and there is something unique about singers/bands who actually sound in person the way that they sound on the radio or television. The Wiggles are like that. You get what you came for, you know? You get to enjoy the songs you love in the way that you know them.

Continue reading The kiddie mosh pit rules

Healthy relationships: Do your eyes wander?

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Have you every caught your spouse's or partner's eyes lingering a little too long over someone who wasn' As offensive as it may seem, scientists are now saying that a little ogling is normal, for men and women.

Called "attention adhesion," it's when an attractive person draws our eye and we just can't look away. But that doesn't mean that you get to stare with your tongue hanging out, while your mate's blood pressure rises. Instead, scientists say that though our eyes may be automatically drawn to a person who catches our interest, self-control should take over very soon after.

Healthy rubbernecking and healthy relationships have the same thing in common -- respect. While ogling may be evolutionary, you have to know what your partners limits are. Lingering over a celebrity might be acceptable to your wife, commenting on her sister's hotness is most likely not. For more do's and don'ts on ogling, check out the side bar in this MSNBC article.

Shoddy nursing homes need stiffer penalties

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This is something we should never hear of -- nursing homes treating citizens like animals and disorganized distribution of medications (among other things). U.S. Senators indicated this past week that they are seeking much stiffer penalties to nursing homes the provide substandard care. Finally.

The corporate "cost savings" mentality has invaded the nursing home industry on a decent scale, with large companies buying homes only then to start squeezing costs out of the system on the way to 'shareholder value' and other petty reasons. Apparently, human health care become a distant concern.

One thing I completely agree with in these recommendations are making it clear to customers (and the public) of nursing homes owned by private equity groups instead of smaller entities. Want an example of a national assisted living company that just keeps on growing by acquisitions? Alterra.

What's in a name? Maybe your success

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Can your name predict your future success? Possibly, according to researchers out of Yale and the University of California, San Diego. They say that our names may unconsciously affect our success in a negative way. Looking at records of hundreds of thousands of individuals, the researchers concluded that people may have a preference for their own name or initials, and that preference may unknowingly lead us to limit our success.

For instance, they found that children whose names start with C or D are more likely to get lower grades than those whose names begin with A or B. Not only that, but baseball players whose last names start with K are more likely to strike out than those with other last names, because K signifies a strikeout on the score sheet. They found that this letter association, or "name-letter" effect was more likely to lead to negative consequences than positive. Kids with names that started with A or B, for example, were not more likely to do better in school.

It's more than coincidence, researchers say, but unlikely to have a large impact on anyone's life. What do you think about this finding?

New respiratory virus has caused 10 fatalities

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U.S. health officials said this past week that a mutated version of a common cold virus has caused 10 deaths in the last year and-a-half. Generally, the common cold is not thought of as a cause of death, except in those with severely weakened immune systems.

This version of an 'Adenovirus' has caused respiratory infections as a variant of a normal cold virus that, to this time, has caused about 140 illnesses in New York, Oregon, Washington and Texas.

The mutation, which was published in a report by the CDC, is not a threat to normal, healthy people, so no new precautions need to be taken by the public, according to the published report.

Skin analyzers: What your skin isn't telling you

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The next time you're wandering by the beauty counter of your favorite department store, you might be asked if you want to have your skin analyzed. Basically, you put your face in the box, have your picture taken, and the machine reveals all of your skin care sins -- wrinkles, large pores, you name it. After this unseen damage has been revealed, the sales person at the beauty counter will be happy to assist you in "fixing" it.

So what's the deal here -- are these boxes for real, or just a big scam? It depends on who you ask, and the NYT has a good article that covers both sides of the story. Many dermatologists think they're invaluable in telling patients about unseen damage, while others take a "if it's not broke, don't fix it" approach. If my large pores and hidden sunspots don't bother me, then do I need to spend hundreds of dollars fixing them? (The machines are not designed to detect skin cancer.)

Read the article and decide for yourself. Have you tried one of these skin analyzers? What did you think?

Eyelash product recalled

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A product that claims to extend the length of your eyelashes, called Age Intervention Eyelash, was recalled this week. The FDA fears that it may cause vision problems in consumers, because it contains a drug that causes increased pressure in the eye. In studies, this drug has been show to increase hair growth (hence its use in a eyelash-growing product). The FDA says that some consumers have experienced decreased vision, and that those who already have elevated pressure in the eye could be especially at risk.

If you own the product, the FDA recommends that you throw it out and contact your doctor if you've had any related health issues.

Yes, you can exercise with arthritis

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Arthritis can be a horrible, crippling condition, and when you're in pain, the last thing you want to do is exacerbate it through movement. But working out can actually help you manage pain, provided you choose the right exercises. Everyday Health recommends the following workouts:
  • Range of Motion exercise. Things like yoga, stretching and even dancing can help you stay fit while having fun.
  • Weight training. Gentle weights can help you build strength, which you will benefit from in every aspect of your life.
  • Cardio and aerobic workouts. Low impact cardio will help get the blood flowing, which will help ward off pain. Make sure to choose something that's gentle on your joints, like working out on an Elliptical trainer or swimming.
If you're dealing with pain, remember to listen to your body, but don't be afraid to challenge yourself too -- you'll feel better!

FDA again weighing drug distribution without doctor's prescription

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Should pharmacists be able to sell prescription drugs -- but without a doctor's prescription? The FDA is considering (for a reported fourth time) to allow this across national pharmacies.

Those drugs designated by a newer "behind the counter" designation would be available to those who ask, but would not be able to be sold 'over the counter' like many drugs are today.

It's another attempt at pharmaceutical companies wanting more sales in light of massive problems in that industry, and it's at the expense of patient health if you ask my opinion. But then again, corporate greed has never stopped the FDA from making ludicrous moves before.

How to keep a food journal

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Keeping a food journal is one of the simplest weight-lost tools out there. But it's not as simple as just writing down what you ate -- According to this article from Super Athlete Gabby Reece, you have to keep track of what time you ate, how much you ate and how you felt when you ate. And don't forget -- you need to keep track of your drinks too!

After time, you might start to recognize patterns in your eating. For instance, did you eat more at times when you were stressed about your job? Did you eat more when you had a drink before dinner? Once you've recognized these destructive habits, you can break them.

For more tips on keeping a food journal, click here.

Nicotine-reduced smokes may make it easier to quit

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A U.S. study this week found that giving smokers cigarettes with decreasing amounts of nicotine -- over time -- made it easier for them to curb their nicotine addiction.

As with all drugs, gradual declines are better for most than a "cold turkey" approach of rapid cessation.

Would you be willing to try smoking cigarettes with a gradual lowering of nicotine levels if it meant the pain of quitting was lessened quite a bit? To many smokers, that would be a welcome way to try and stop quitting.

Peanut butter: nutritious or not?

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I like a little peanut butter now and then, especially smeared on a few multi-grain crackers. My kids like peanut butter too, and a banana with a light coating of peanut butter is a common snack in our household. Is this creamy treat good for us, though, considering a serving contains about 14 grams of fat? Here are a few thinking points, compliments of Prevention magazine and this article, to help us determine whether or not peanut butter is a keeper.

It seems peanut butter is a good source of protein. It has eight grams, in fact, in every serving. It's also a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, with 3 mg per serving. Peanut butter does have some fat, but it's the mono-unsaturated type and that makes it A-OK. If you want to skimp on some fat, though, you can always opt for the low-fat peanut butters, but this will only save you two grams or so and the calorie-content is not much lower either. Two issues to consider about peanut butter are the added sugars and the sodium portions, which might be a problem for some people.

I'm making the call that peanut butter is a pretty nutritious food item, in small doses anyway. What's your call?

Type 2 diabetes can be predicted in childhood

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According to a new U.S. study released this last week, the development of type 2 diabetes in adults can be predicted in childhood.

Somehow, that's comforting, since recognizing problems in childhood would appear to make it much easier to design and integrate treatments into the lifestyles of those who need it.

In the study, it was found that a parental history of diabetes, as well as the presence of metabolic syndrome in childhood were major predictors of type 2 diabetes in adulthood.

Those are two areas that are easily checked in kids (and their parental histories), although the presence of metabolic syndrome in any child is disconcerting. Metabolic syndrome sounds like a collapsing of good health: high blood pressure; high triglycerides; high body mass; high blood glucose; and low levels of "good" high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. You must have three of the five to qualify.

Uh-oh ... winter skin is back

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With all the snow and general coldness, winter has a lot of strikes against it, if you ask me. But one of the worst parts about the cold season is the fact that it's always accompanied by dry, itchy skin. Ugh!

What should you do if you have a case of the winter skin? eDiets has the following suggestions:
  • Consider the cleanser. We usually don't think much about our cleanser, but it can be very drying. Consider switching to one that is gentler on skin, or even one that is designed for dry skin. If you skin feels tight half an hour after washing, you cleanser might be too harsh. And don't over-cleanse, even if you have zits.
  • Switch to rich. Pick up a rich cleanser, possibly one that's specific to very dry skin.
  • Exfoliate. Doing this two or three times a week will keep your skin supple.
  • Embrace the mask. It might make you look like a cave monster, but a hydrating mask will do wonders for you.
  • See a pro. Getting a facial will also help. They might be steep but they're worth it.
How do you keep you skin moisturized in winter?

Deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases fall to all-time low

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A new report from the U.S. government indicated this past week hat the incidence of vaccine-preventable deaths in American has reached an all-time low.

The report, published by the CDC, concluded that childhood vaccinations have severely reduced the death rates from common childhood diseases to the tune of 100 percent.

Looked at in the study were 13 vaccine-preventable deaths: diphtheria; pertussis (whooping cough); tetanus; polio; measles; mumps; rubella (German measles); invasive Haemophilia's influenza type b (Hib); acute hepatitis B; hepatitis A; varicella (chickenpox); Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcal); and smallpox.

Although some parents are against the vaccination of their kids to so many conditions, do you consider this "news" from the CDC to be good or just some sign of the times?

Quick, add pumpkin to your holiday menu

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If it's not already on your Turkey Day menu, you might want to consider whipping up some pumpkin delights for your holiday guests. Nutrition experts say a little pumpkin in your diet could help ward off everything from cancer to blindness.

The low-calorie pumpkin -- also rich in vitamin A, potassium, and fiber -- is a known Superfood with super powers that can help save your sight, lower your blood pressure, even help you drop those unwanted pounds. Both fresh and canned pumpkin work wonders but the canned variety is the most nutritious since canning allows for the preservation of vitamins.

Are your recipe wheels turning? If so, aim for dishes that combine the healthiest of ingredients and minimal amounts of sugar.

How to eat healthy in airports

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If you're busy prepping for your upcoming holiday travels, you may want to consider what nutrition experts have to say about eating healthy at airports.

Definitely avoid the fast food spots, they say. And since flying makes you incredibly dehydrated, they recommend picking snacks with high water content -- like apples and pears. Instant soup works too, but only if sodium levels register at 500 milligrams or less.

More tips: During airport layovers, give dairy foods such as yogurt and cheese a try. They contain amino acids which increase blood flow and tryptophan which promotes relaxation and calmness during air travel. Almonds are another wise choice -- just limit your portion to a healthy one-ounce serving.

Low sodium is key for travel. So pass on the potato chips and try something like low-sodium beef jerky. It's low in calories and carbohydrates and has lots of protein. Optimally, though, whole foods top any sort of processed food. The fewer the ingredients, the better.

Eat grapes, lower chances for colon cancer

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That's right -- eat all those grapes, please! A new study suggested that grape consumption may prevent colon cancer. Specifically, a diet that contains a copious amount of grapes would be a good thing for those possibly predisposed to colon cancer.

Grapes are delicious and nutritious (sorry if that sounds cheesy), and this report confirms what many naturopaths have said for a long time. That is, grapes contain quite a few components that are avid cancer fighters and are also potent antioxidants.

Tofurky: A vegetarian Thanksgiving alternative

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If you're a vegetarian, navigating the Thanksgiving spread can be tricky. Most vegetarians I know simply fill up on meat-free side dishes, but what if you're looking for something more savory? You could always consider putting a tofurky on your table.

Tofurky is a soy-based turkey alternative that serves about three or four people. Though its creators admit that it doesn't actually taste like turkey, they say it is tasty and replaces a big slab of meat at a holiday meal. Sales of the product are up significantly this year, reflecting the growing number of vegetarian in America.

Will Tofurky replace the Thanksgiving turkey? Not in most households. The National Turkey Federation estimates that nearly 90% of households will be serving a gobbler on Thursday. But if you have a vegetarian you're fond of, serving up a Tofurky -- or another vegetarian dish -- is a great way to let them know you care.

Want your veggies to taste better? Give them a good name

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On a recent visit with my brother's family, I was amazed to see my niece and nephew eating serving after serving of asparagus. My kids are fairly well-rounded eaters, but this is one veggie I've yet to conquer. "How in the world...?" I asked. "It isn't asparagus," he whispered, "It's green crayon asparagus."

Renaming a food to sound more interesting doesn't just work with small children, and it can be a simple way to get your family to eat healthier dishes at your next holiday meal. Studies have shown that when food is labeled with a "prettier" name, people are more likely to report that it tastes good. Researchers say that it's because when we hear words like "juicy" or "tender," those receptors in our brain are turned on.

So this holiday season, instead of calling your fresh veggie dish by its proper name, give it a name that makes it worth a second look. "Crunchy roasted green beans with sea salt," sounds better than "pass the beans, please."

Using sweeteners on a low-carb diet

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After having personally lined up all available sweeteners myself in the last year, there are plenty of choices beyond refined table sugar that give a decent (but not stuffed) amount of calories while tasting great. And, they're not synthetic chemicals also.

Agave nectar and stevia are two of my favorites. You can completely replace refined sugar in most recipes with agave nectar and use it in tea and even water. But for sweeteners like maple syrup, avoid them unless you want a huge dose of calories in addition to that sweet taste.

Get up to speed with some of the better alternatives to sugar here. Then, get set to stock your pantry with them.

Fitness Role Models: Do they help or hinder?

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Do you have a fitness role model? I have to say that I don't but I do look to fitness magazine cover models as a sort of source of information for how I'd like to look. But the truth is, not matter how hard I work, I doubt I'll ever had abs as sculpted a Gabby Reece. Still, it can't hurt to dream big, right?

Diet Blog recently looked into the idea of idolizing fitness models. Truth is, looking up to someone who looks that good can be both extremely motivating ... and quite depressing when it starts to seem unachievable.

But we have a realize a few things. First, fitness models get paid to look good. It's their job. You'd look good too if you spent your working hours at the gym. Secondly, fitness photos are professionally done -- meaning they have perfect make-up, perfect hair, perfect lighting, perfect tans and .... perfect air-brushing.

So what do you think? Is idolizing fitness models helpful or hurtful?

Don't eat lunch at your desk

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During my corporate advertising days, I usually ate lunch alone in my cubicle. That cube became a jail during the colder months when jetting across the street for a sandwich wasn't worth the wind chill. Don't let the cold or simply a bad habit chain you to your desk during lunch hour. Here are a few healthy reasons to lunch out of the office:

  • You and your Crackberry need a rest or some exercise. Work outside on yourself. That daily 20 minute walk or longer workout is a mental and physical investment.
  • Your desk is no place to socialize. Head to the lunch room or eat together in a small group. Just don't eat alone -- we all need socialization.
  • Your half-eaten sandwich is hardly professional. One expert says eating at your desk looks sloppy and implies poor time-management. You're also missing the opportunity to network.
  • Lunchtime is prime holiday shopping time!

If dripping mustard on that important report isn't enough, keep reading for more reasons to unleash yourself during lunchtime.