Saturday, 15 December 2007

The 10 healthiest jobs

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Is your job healthy? For me, it's a tough answer -- on one hand, I get to read and writer about healthy living during the day, but on the other, I am stuck at the computer and the only part of me that is getting any sort of physical activity is my fingers.

Why do I ask? eDiets recently came out with a list of the healthiest jobs -- that is, careers that provide a balanced, wholesome working environment that hopefully will translate into real life. Here's what made the life (professional athletes were excluded):

1. Activity Specialist
2. Chiropractor
3. Choreographer
4. Florist
5. Massage Therapist
6. Nutritionist
7. Personal Trainer
8. Professor
9. Running Coach
10. Yoga Instructor

What do you think of the list?

Are cold showers good for your health, or bad?

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I love hot showers -- probably a little hotter than is good for me actually. I don't know that I have taken an actual cold shower ever, although often in the summer months I'll take what I'd call "cool" ones. But aside from all the jokes that guys make about 'needing a cold shower,' have you ever thought of taking one for your health? Or how about instead of a cold shower a cold foot soak? This interesting article over at Natural Health suggests that alternating cold and warm foot soaks is like a mini strength-training session for your insides. The cold water (around 70º) constricts and tightens vessels, while the warm water (around 100º) loosens and expands them. Asking them to adjust quickly makes them stronger.

I'm guessing alternating cool and warm showers would do the same thing, but obviously that's not so easy. So are you buying this? The science seems sound enough to me, but then it also strikes me as more than a little unnatural.

Automated reminder calls get people exercising more

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It's amazing that something as low-tech as a daily automated telephone call could be one of the best exercise motivators, but that is just what a new study out of Stanford University is suggesting.

The study looked at the effectiveness of a telephone call to get sedentary adults off their duffs and engaged in some type of exercise. The study took a year and 218 adults aged 55 and over participated.

But, an automated telephone call was not the total saving grace, either. It tied with phone calls from human beings (health educators) for effectiveness. Perhaps just a reminder nudge is all most people need to recognize they need some some of daily exercise? This study sure alludes to that. Would either type of telephone call work for you?

What's the most prevalent eating disorder? Binge-eating disorder

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When we think of eating disorders, the image we conjure is of stick-thin anorexics and bulimics. But the most prevalent eating disorder isn't anorexia or bulimia -- it's Binge-eating disorder. Does it affect you?

Let's be clear here -- everyone overdoes it on occasion, eating more than is comfortable and feeling bad about it. But there's a difference between going back for thirds at the all-you-can-eat buffet and suffering from binge-eating disorder. It's a serious problem. Symptoms include food hoarding, eating to the point of pain or discomfort, regular dieting without weight loss and depression or anxiety over eating habits.

The May Clinic has some great resources on this disorder -- click here to find out more, and of course, see your doctor if you suspect with might have this disorder. And for a first-hand account of the disorder, head over to the fabulous Sunny's Shape-up Blog.

Scientists find out how to switch off internal body clock

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University of California researchers said this week that they have identified a 'genetic switch' that regulates the human body's internal clock. You know -- that one that gets many of us up every morning in lieu of an alarm clock?

The discovery could lead to newer sleep disorder drugs and associated problems, according to the researchers.

In the research, changing a single amino acid in the BMAL1 protein was found to activate certain processes involved with circadian rhythms, otherwise known as the body's internal clock.

Weight watchers coming to a 7-11 near you!

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Annoyed at the lack of healthy fare at convenience stores? Yeah, me too. When it comes to snacking, convenience stores don't offer a whole lot -- there might be a battered piece of fruit, some nuts and maybe a selection of questionable sushi, but other than that, it's all slurpees and fake cheese and sugar and fat. Bleh.

But there's good news on the horizon -- As our friends over at Fitsugar pointed out, 7-11 stores will now start offering Weight Watchers snacks at their stores. In particular, expect to see selection of bakes goods that, until now, were only available at national grocery store chains.

Bush vetoes children's health bill a second time

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For the second time this year, U.S. President George Bush took a health bill related to increasing health insurance for needy U.S. children and vetoed it.

Although Bush declared the bill would have overstepped the bounds of helping poor children who needed health care and into a social state of organized medicine, where is the line drawn when it comes to the health of kids who otherwise could not access such care?

Most Democrats and many Republicans supported the bill, but under a Republican administration, any bill that looks like government-sponsored health care is surely to be axed. But then, I ask again -- does it matter when it comes to the health care of kids? Regardless of your political affiliation, what are your thoughts on this?

It's true, we really do crave carbs in winter

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Find yourself craving a big bowl of spaghetti once the first snow flies? I know I do -- something about the cold weather makes me want to hole up with my comfort foods -- mac n' cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta and so on. And I'm not alone.

Winter controls the appetites of many, according to this article from WebMD, and those extra pounds can really add up. So what's causing this? Is it a side affect of SAD (Seasonal affective disorder)? Maybe, but it's more likely that it's evolutionary -- we're programmed to store more fat in the winter in case of a food shortage.

Want to know more about your winter cravings? Click here.

Survive the mall food court with healthy options

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Many of you will be visiting a shopping mall this holiday season to snatch up some gifts for friends and loved ones. Do yourself a favor, though -- bypass the (fast) food court while at that mall and opt for something more nutritious.

It's tempting to bypass the wafting smell of pizza and cheeseburgers from that shopping mall food court, but in December, even a loaded hot chocolate or candied pretzel can load up more calories than a cheese steak sandwich. What do you do?

Don't blow your calorie budget while shopping at the mall by using these planning tips to help you resist that 15-minute session that could pack 1,000 calories or more:
  • Eat breakfast
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Bring some munchies
  • Be choosy at the food court

Holiday party strategies

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If you've been pretty good about diet and exercise for the past few months, it would be a shame to blow it over the holidays with all those parties. The Sun's Fit Squad recently discussed holiday party eating and drinking strategies that won't de-rail all your hard work:
  • Eat a healthy meal before you party to minimize your nibbling.
  • If you do eat at the party, avoid salty snacks -- they'll just make you thirsty for more alcohol.
  • But do nibble on healthy things -- berries are a great option.
  • Instead of taking a taxi, why not walk to your event? That is, provided it's a reasonable distance and decent weather ....
  • Stick to wine or clear alcohol with a no-calories mixer. Sparkling wine is a great choice because the bubbles fill you up.
How do you navigate the holiday party scene without packing on unnecessary calories?

FitSpirit: Does surgery do the spirit good?

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

So I've got this loose skin on my tummy. I thank my little boys for this curse I can't seem to whittle away. My two whopper guys barreled into the world weighing 10 pounds, nine ounces and 10 pounds, two ounces and no matter how hard I work out or how well I eat, this baby fat just hangs on tight. It's gotten better over the years -- all four and a half of them -- but still, sometimes I wish just a little bit for a tummy tuck to erase my bothersome birthing battle scar.

Would I really follow through with a tummy tuck if money were no object? I'm not sure. That's why I asked my doctor today for his opinion on this surgery. "I think it's a bad idea," he told me. Sure, it's an option, he said. And it would probably clean up my problem pretty neatly. But it's surgery. And while tummy tucks have gotten less and less invasive -- they can be performed in a doctor's office without general anesthesia -- the procedure requires an incision from hip to hip to ensure a tidy final product. And any surgery can cause problems. Infection, mistakes, difficult recoveries, and scarring are just a few worst-case scenarios. These are the very things that cause me to stray from such a seductive surgery.

A flat tummy would undoubtedly lift my spirits. But a surgery-gone-wrong could permanently crush them. So I think I'll rely on good old-fashioned hard work as I try to fix my flab. What would you do?
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Happy stressful holidays

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Are your holidays off to a merry start? If not, you're in good company. Respondents in a recent Mental Health America study indicated this cheery season is downright stressful.

Forty percent of survey participants said finances cause them too much worry, and 34 percent feel they have too many competing seasonal activities in their lives. Time with family, either too much or not enough, is stressing 17 percent. And 28 percent have anxiety about overindulgence or lack of exercise.

Never fear. Here are some stress busters intended to help you steal back some of your sanity.

To ease money woes, sell some of your rarely used holiday gifts from last year on eBay or scale back on the number of gifts you buy. To minimize time commitments, kindly say "no thanks" to some parties and events or drop by for a short bit and then go hang out with family. To combat cookie guilt, vow to walk 30 minutes for every treat you eat. And for the family members who drive you nutty, focus on the positive traits each person in your clan has to offer. Surely, there's something redeeming about those aunts and uncles you so rarely see.

Fertility hampered by obesity

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Fertility was a chameleon cloud over my adult life. When I was single and not in the baby-seeking department, I hardly thought about it. As I reached my late 20s and nearly all my friends were married, I shot worried glances up at that fertility cloud, wondering if I'd ever meet Mr. Right and try for a baby someday. When I hit 30 still single, the cloud turned into an ominous thunderhead -- my eggs were drying up -- motherhood would never be. By the time I married at 32, the cloud was not as dark, but it did shoot a lightning bolt which screamed "Get pregnant now!" Two kids later, I'm not craning my neck as often anymore.

I know, I know ... dramatic, right? But seriously, a woman's fertility is no guarantee. It's this big unknown. Infertility and miscarriage are terribly painful. Women are also often marrying later in life, which can make it increasingly difficult for some to conceive. Now a major new study found an overweight woman's chance of conceiving falls steadily as her weight creeps upward.

Researchers at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam followed 3,000 women trying for a baby to examine the direct impact of body mass index on conception. All participants were ovulating normally, seeking assistance from fertility doctors for "unexplained fertility." For every BMI point between 30 and 35, there was a four percent drop in conception rates compared to women with a BMI between 21 and 29. A BMI of 25 is considered overweight. Severely obese women with a BMI over 35 were 26 percent to 49 percent less likely to conceive.

Last month, the British Fertility Society issued guidelines to its membership requesting fertility treatment be witheld from obese women until they shed weight. Obesity rates are rising. The cloud thickens.

Chemotherapy not for all breast cancer patients

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Good news on the breast cancer front: Doctors revealed Thursday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium that they are backing off on chemotherapy for breast cancer patients. And when the drug therapy must be used, new research reveals there are gentler drug versions that can spare women the toxicity that results from standard drugs like Adriamycin, a mainstay of treatment for decades.

Even better news: Avoiding chemotherapy for some patients -- namely those who qualify for gene tests to predict prognosis -- doesn't adversely affect the odds for relapse and survival. Where was this news three years ago when Adriamycin was blasting through my veins?

These great new findings are sure to speed the growing trend away from chemotherapy and more precisely target the small groups of women who truly need the treatment.

Yes, chemotherapy is not necessary for all breast patients. Such good news, isn't it?

Men carry breast cancer genes also

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Think breast cancer can only strike women? Many men also have the gene for breast cancer as well, giving them a heightened risk for the condition of cancer (not necessarily breast cancer).

It's always a good idea to know the cancer history of your family, from great grandparents on up, both male and female. Knowing that you may have a family history of cancer may make some people take different lifestyle choices to avoid any unneeded risk, which is a good thing.

This is even a standard medical medical question asked on about any form you fill out at a doctor's office or hospital, but my guess is that most answers are somewhat flippant.

J-Lo not happy with her pregnancy weight gain?

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After what seems like years speculation and dreaded 'baby bump' watches, Jennifer Lopez finally admitted she was pregnant, much to the delight of many fans. But with the joyful glow of pregnancy comes another concern to someone who is in the public eye: weight gain.

According to this article, while J-lo is excitedly anticipating the new addition to her family, she is less than impressed with the weight gain that goes along with it. She's apparently gained 42lbs already and has vowed to do a 'Victoria Beckham' by hiding away until after the birth, when she's back in shape.

What do you think -- is it normal to loathe weight gain, or should she try to appreciate her pregnancy?

Middle-aged suicides on the rise, says CDC

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In a surprising piece of news, the U.S. government said this week that the suicide rate among middle-aged Americans was at the highest point in 25 years. That's a bit unnerving.

Specifically, , the suicide rate rose about 20 percent between 1999 and 2004 for Americans in the 45 to 54 age bracket, according to the CDC.

Experts don't have a explanation for why the rate has jumped so much, although most suicide prevention programs focus on teenage and elderly demographics, not middle-aged citizens.

Will baseball bounce back from steroid scandal?

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Unless you live under a rock, or if you're just not all that concerned with sports, you've undoubtedly heard about the already infamous Mitchell Report. This report is the result of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell's investigation into steroid use in major league baseball. And let me tell you ... bobble-heads are already rolling.

Named in the investigation were a total of 89 big league stars, including Barry Bonds (no surprise there), Miguel Tejada and veteran ace Roger Clemens. Bonds had already come under fire for steroid use, but Tejada and Clemens had managed to stay under the radar until the release of this report. Sports writers around the country publicly lambasted these athletes, particularly Clemens, for their use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Baseball is supposed to be a pure game; a ball, a wooden bat, and some good hand-eye coordination. It's the only sport that has its own theme song, and going to a ballpark to see a game has long been a family affair. Will this report be the ruination of the game? Or, perhaps the better question is: Will these players, and their use of illegal steroids, bring the sport to its knees? Or will the wrongdoings of these playrs be forgotten and forgiven by future generations, as was the case with the Black Sox scandal. I suppose time will only tell. But, inasmuch as the future of baseball is in question, the pure image it once maintained is certainly now a thing of the past.

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FDA rejects Mevacor for over-the-counter sales

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After considering whether to allow Merck's Mevacor cholesterol-lowering drug to be sold over-the-counter in pharmacies and drugstores nationwide, the FDA said Friday that it has rejected Merck's proposal.

Citing that too many people without cholesterol problems would have access to the drug, the FDA ruled that Mevacor must remain a prescription product. It's amazing that many people would choose to use Mevacor even though they had no business taking the drug.

Does anyone do research before just buying any drug, or are purchasing decisions made on slick marketing alone? Amazing.