Thursday, August 30, 2007

Even Moderate Exercise Boosts Health

tidbits that tantalizeExcuse 117 - Inappropriate Footwear...

What's it going to be today? Let' see... OK, how about the car's a bit dirty and you have to search the yellow pages for a good car wash? Or, the laundry detergent is getting low, so you'll be tied up printing out coupons for your trip to the grocery store? Or, how about...

Sure, it's true. There are a million readily available excuses to skip the daily exercise routine. That's no problem. But, though the excuses may buy you a bit more couch time today, they'll certainly not buy you any additional years on down the road. Nor will they help you enjoy those years with vim and vigor. But...

Just a wee bit of investment in your health will reap huge rewards - both today and over the long haul.

A recent study reports that even modest exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. The study followed a group of 106 sedentary people over a twelve-week period. One group took a brisk 30 minute walk fives day per week; a second group walked only three days each week; the final group exercised their wrist and finger muscles, as they continued their daily routine of channel surfing the cable television offerings.

Not surprisingly, the channel surfers showed no difference in their health after 12 weeks. But, both groups of walkers showed positive results. Blood pressure, waist and hip size, and overall fitness levels improved in the walkers.

This is a big deal.

This means that even a little effort - less than the guidelines of exercising fives times each week - is beneficial. Three times each week is all it takes to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

It's worth a try. After all, what better way to develop new excuses to avoid "whatever" than to let your mind wander as you breath in the fresh air on your morning walk...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about the health benefits of walking, see this from The Ramblers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Quick Cord Clamp May Harm Newborns

news you may not knowIt's Cold Out Here...

Welcome to the world!

It's tough being a brand new little guy or gal. One minute you're snug and secure in a warm and quiet womb, and then, ala Emeril Lagasse, Bam! It's out into the cold, harsh light of day. Just as you're trying to make sense of it all, a quick-fingered doctor rushes in and snips away your last link to dear old mom...

The practice of quickly cutting the umbilical cord is being questioned in a new study. Dr. Andrew Weeks, of the University of Liverpool, studied the impact of cord clamping on newborn infants.

Though the practice of clamping the cord within the first minute has no impact on the mother, Dr. Weeks believes the newborn suffers. The practice of quick cord clamping varies widely in Europe, from 17% in Denmark to 90% in France.

But, according to Dr. Weeks, cutting the cord too quickly deprives the newborn of oxygen rich blood. The newborn, while still tethered to mom, receives a vital transfusion of blood within the first minute following birth. The primary benefit is an increase in iron, particularly helpful in regions of the world suffering from anemia.

The solution is, for the most part, rather simple. Take a deep breath and wait a minute. As a matter of fact, Dr. Weeks recommends waiting a full three minutes in normal deliveries, and one minute in deliveries in which the newborn needs immediate intervention or support.

Children grow up so quickly - let's be patient and give them a last minute or two with mom...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about caring for your newborn, see this from iVillage.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

When Mom's Depressed, Dad Can Help Kids Stay Healthy

news you may not knowDads Can Help...

Moms have a huge influence on their children. And, usually, that's a good thing. But, what happens when mom is seriously depressed? When she's doing all she can just to keep her own head above water, and has little time or energy to devote to the kids?

Studies show that children whose mothers suffer from major depression are at an increased risk for multiple emotional problems themselves. The potential emotional difficulties cover a broad range, including depression, aggression, hyperactivity, and anxiety.

"My study corroborates findings from previous research that a child is at increased risk of problem behaviors when the mother is depressed," said Jen Jen Chang, Ph.D., of Saint Louis University School of Public Health. Dr. Chang recently reported the results of her study on the role of fathers in household with depressed mothers.

There is some good news.

Dr. Chang found that children of depressed moms do better when fathers are actively involved. This is welcome news - it's unusual to read much these days that touts the positive role of dads. She assessed the dad's involvement by asking the children a series of questions about their interaction with their dad. She asked if dad talked over important decisions with them, listened to their side in arguments, knew where they were when they were away from home, and other questions.

"Once we factored in a father's positive involvement, I observed that the adverse impact of the mother's depression was attenuated," said Dr. Chang. "The father served as a buffer."

Though a fully functional and healthy family is ideal, this is still very good news.

So, dads, step on up. You've been recast from the role of bumbling dolt to that of effective guide and caregiver. Get busy...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about being an effective dad, see this from the National Fatherhood Initiative.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Big Bellies Are Bad For Hearts

tidbits that tantalizeThe Ultimate Coconspirator

It's sad but true. The easiest way to judge someone's age may no longer be to check their driver's license. A simple look at their waistline may suffice.

In quite predictable fashion, as Americans grow up they also "grow out." Especially around the middle. Now researchers are saying this may not only be a sign of the times, but a sign of things to come. Scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center report a direct correlation between waist size and the risk of heart disease.

Previous studies have shown that larger waistlines increase the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and heart disease. This study takes things a step further by assessing the link of weight and risk. Interestingly, weight alone is not an accurate predictor of cardiovascular risk.

What does this mean?

Well, it means quite a lot. It means that the millions of people walking about with a smug look on their faces will soon be rendered smugless. The study tells us that even lighter individuals with large waistlines are at risk. Yikes! How many people do you see each day without an extra portion around the middle?

Is there a quick fix? Ahem...

As in all things of value, there is no quick fix. A fix certainly, but one which requires effort and persistence. However, the first step in the process is really quite simple, and will have long lasting benefits: Step away from the table and put down the fork...

Ah - you're looking better already.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about a variety of ways to lead a healthy life, see this from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Stroke: Retrain the Brain With Unique Treadmill

news you may not knowThis Is Not Easy...


This is a critical trait of a normally healthy brain. It is the ability of the brain to reorganize itself to accommodate new demands, or to compensate for injuries. The brains of children are highly adaptable. So, for example, a child beset by severe epilepsy may undergo a hemispherectomy - a surgery to remove one hemisphere of the brain - and recover quite nicely, as the remaining hemisphere rewires itself and learns the tasks lost through surgery.

The brains of adults are less pliable. As we age, neural networks become more firmly established and less capable of adapting to overcome traumas. This is what makes recovery from stroke difficult, and why we often see only partial results. But, researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore are challenging this traditional wisdom.

Using a unique treadmill, the scientists are retraining stroke victims to walk without a limp. The process relies on teaching the muscles to respond without a second thought - literally. The researchers have discovered that a network of underlying automatic nerve systems controls the legs. The challenge is to train these nerves at a subconscious level.

To do so, the scientists developed a "split-treadmill." This treadmill has two belts, one on each side, which can be adjusted to differing speeds and directions. So, the right side may be set to move four times faster than the left; or, the left side may move forward and the right side backward. Yes, it sounds like a cruel punishment for someone already struggling to overcome a stroke, but the results are impressive.

After 15 minutes on the treadmill, the patients walk without a limp - for about 15 minutes. It's really quite remarkable, as these are patients with longstanding debilities. The key is now to extend the positive benefits of the therapy for longer intervals, and Kennedy Krieger will begin a new round of studies in the fall.

Though the fancy treadmills are not yet commercially available, don't despair. Mr. W. Coyote, an alternative treatment specialist, claims the Turbo-Power 2000 Remote Controlled Treadmill from the Acme Corporation is the perfect substitute. Hmm...

To read more about the study, see this from CNN. To learn more about the institute, see this from Kennedy Krieger. Photo is courtesy of Emiliano Spada.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Impossible Impulses Explored

tidbits that tantalizeWell??

This is going to be tough.

You love Sally, and your get togethers on Saturday mornings are the best. What a great friend - bright, fun, articulate. And, the cappuccino is fabulous. Really, if it weren't for the scones it'd be perfect. Well, the scones and the raspberry tarts - the chocolate chip cookies, the blueberry muffins, the little cinnamony things...

Ah, that clears it up. Please step to the right; you belong in the Impulsive group. You, in the back, with the bottled water and clean table, step to the left - you belong with the other hungry folks in the Prudent group.

Researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania recently took a look at impulses and emotions. They concluded there are two basic personality types: the "impulsive" and the "prudent." While both may give in to temptation, their responses are distinctly different.

They found that both impulsive and prudent people experience stress when they indulge in an impulsive act, such as eating a sugary dessert. But, the impulsive group quickly forgets the stress associated with their indulgence, and moves on to savoring the wonderful memories they've created. Ah, chocolate cake...

The prudent folks have no such "luck." They respond in virtually the opposite manner. In addition to the stress, they also feel an initial surge of guilt and regret. They then attach themselves to the guilt and milk it for all it's worth. As time passes, they continue to remember the negative aspects of their indulgence. The wonderful pleasures of a luscious double fudge brownie sundae? Gone and forgotten.

As you may imagine, the disparate reactions lead to significantly different choices in the future. The Impulsives are drawn back to their indulgences by the tug of tender memories. The Prudents are driven ever deeper into the land of low-fat fare.

The scientists have no explanation, however, for the tendencies of the prudent individuals to suddenly lose their train of thought, and babble incoherently, whenever a dessert tray rolls past.

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To determine whether you are an Impulsive or a Prudent, take a look at these treats from Just Desserts - you'll know quickly enough...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Breast Cancer Brings Out The Best

news you may not knowReady For The Fight...

Women who face breast cancer are in for the fight of their lives. A recent survey shows they are up to the task.

The numbers are quite stunning. Of women diagnosed with breast cancer, 92% report a positive change in their lives, 63% say they feel hopeful about the future, and 87% say they are stronger as a result of their experience. It appears cancer may have picked on the wrong crowd.

There is also the flip side of the equation. The survey revealed 78% of those surveyed fear a recurrence. It's a delicate balancing act. 30% of the women believe there is nothing they can do to help prevent a recurrence, and an additional 23% aren't sure if they can have an effect. But...

Recent studies indicate there are indeed positive steps that can be taken. Women who eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and exercise six days each week, have a 50% lower chance of recurrence. Think of that. A few simple steps not only fight breast cancer recurrence, but jazz up the rest of your life as well: hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other conditions run for the hills when they see the fruit and vegetable patrol take to the streets.

So, while the scientists continue their pursuit of a cure, keep up the good fight. With family and friends, and a carrot or two, at your side, cancer doesn't stand a chance.

To read more about the survey, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about the diet and exercise study, see this from To find additional resources to help in the fight against breast cancer, see this from, or this from Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Are Kids McBrainwashed?

news you may not knowThe Battle Lines Are Drawn...

This should come as no surprise. After all, McDonald's spends in excess of $1.6 billion per year telling us how fabulous their foods are. While we may do our best to tune out the commercials, some smaller members of our society are all ears. Like earnest young Frasier Cranes, the kids respond to McDonald's advertising with a heartfelt, "I'm listening."

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine put the power of promotion to the test. They enrolled the help of 63 kids, between 3 and 5, to take part in a supervised snack time. They were fed five identical pairs of food, including hamburgers, fries, milk, and carrots.

The only difference in each pair was the package. One item was packaged in a McDonald's wrapper. The other item was in a plain wrapper of the same color and style.

McDonald's won hands down.

Though the foods were identical, taken from the same batch, the kids thought the McDonald's food was tastier. Three to five year-old kids. It's astonishing how perceptive young children are. But, are McDonald's and other fast food giants really the lifestyle mentors we want for our kids?

The battle for the brain is raging. Unless you have a spare billion dollars or so, you'll never compete on the advertising front. But, there are ways to help your kids make the right food choices. KidsHealth recommends having regular family meals and - this is where it gets tricky - being a role model by eating healthy foods yourself. Yikes!

So, the battle lines are drawn. McDonald's with their billions. You with your blood, sweat, and tears - and carrots, peas, and summer squash.

Here's to Parent Power…

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To see the full list of recommendations on helping kids eat healthy foods, see this from KidsHealth.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Is Faulty Liver at Fault in Fighting Fat?

tidbits that tantalizeSome Have Better Burners

"It's not my fault!"

Sure, we've heard it all before. The excuses for being overweight range from, "I really don't eat that much," to the plaintive, "I think I just have a slow metabolism." But, no one really buys into any of that, do they?


Though the claim of minimalist dietary habits may be suspect, don't be so fast to scoff at the idea of an inherently slow metabolism as an underlying cause. Researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia say that certain people are simply predisposed to obesity. And, yes, it has to do with their metabolism - or, at least, their liver's metabolism.

They used laboratory rats that were genetically modified, with one group being predisposed to obesity. Both groups were initially fed a low-fat diet and, during this portion of the study, showed no difference in weight gain. But, after both groups were switched to a high-fat diet, the obesity prone rats gained 36 percent more weight than the other group.

The scientists believe the difference stems from the inability of the obesity prone rats to burn the fat in their livers and convert it into energy. They postulate the same process is at work in humans. So, in the simple pursuit of the energy they need to get through the day, obesity prone people must eat significantly more food to compensate for their faulty liver.

Hmm... Chalk one up for the "excuses that are real" side of the argument.

The researchers are hopeful further studies may shed light on possible preventions and treatments for obesity.

In the meantime, while uncertainty permeates the debate, it may be a good time to try out a new excuse or two...

Or, better yet - read more about the study at Reuters, and find reasonably well-proven approaches to weight control and healthy living at WebMD.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Delicious and Nutritious - Whole, Healthy Foods

resources to rely onCome On - They Won't Hurt You...

Is your idea of health food a double cheeseburger with onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard - hold the mayo? If so, listen up.

While the "hold the mayo" is a laudable start, you've still got a bit of work to do in the healthy eating segment of your life. Yes, of course - you're busy, and the kids, the cat and the neighbors are absolutely no help. Still...

Americans spend over $140 billion each year on fast food. That may, however, be the least costly part of the equation. As our eating habits have devolved over the past few decades, so has our health. Record numbers of Americans are suffering from type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic illness. Countries around the globe with strong, emerging economies are sadly following in our unhealthy footsteps.

How do we break the fast food chain? Well, you can start by checking out to find a pantry full of great ideas on cooking with whole, healthy foods. This dynamic site takes the mystery out of "the world's healthiest" foods - those having the highest nutrient to calorie ratio. Take two minutes and let their Food Advisor software recommend a personalized eating plan.

Tired of Egg McMuffins? Try a healthy breakfast frittata or a toasted whole-wheat breakfast bagel with tomato, arugula, garlic and poached eggs. In depth nutritional analyses, menus, essential nutrient and organic food primers, and seasonal eating tips round out this fabulous site. Hungry? Stop on by for a healthy mid-afternoon snack idea.

You can do this - it's really not an insurmountable step from "hold the mayo" to "gimme some real food."

To read more about eating whole, healthy foods, see the site the world's healthiest foods. To read more about the pervasive nature of fast foods, see this from Wikipedia.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Does Coffee Combat Colon Cancer?

tidbits that tantalizeWhere's The Chocolate?

Is coffee good for you?

Well, adding to its already impressive resume, Japanese researchers now report coffee may protect against colon cancer. Not so fast, guys. The results were only found in the women involved in the study.

The scientists studied almost 100,000 men and women, ages 40-69, over a twelve-year period. They found that those women consuming three or more cups of coffee each day had a 50% lower risk of developing colon cancer than non-coffee drinkers.

Why did the guys fare so poorly? Scientists think it may be the excessive smoking and drinking by the Japanese male populace. With most Japanese men drinking alcohol, and a large percentage of smokers, the scientists believe the study may have been unable to adjust for this impact.

The researchers are unsure of the exact reason the coffee protects against colon cancer in women. They theorize it may be due either to the stimulation of the colon, or to the antioxidants found in coffee.

Previous studies have shown coffee helps reduce the risk of developing several health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, gallstones, liver problems, and Parkinson's disease. It has also been shown to improve cognitive function, increase alertness, and improve endurance performance.

So, combined with the studies touting the benefits of chocolate, it appears to be the perfect opportunity to ask your favorite barista to whip you up a special brew of dark roasted coffee, deep dark chocolate, and - why not? - a shot or two fluffy whipped cream for good measure.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about the health benefits of coffee, see this press release from Harvard Health Publications, or this from positively coffee, an international coffee organization.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Researchers Tout Diabetic Diet

tidbits that tantalizeOpa!

It's a huge health problem. Almost 15 million Americans have a form of diabetes, and recent trends point toward ever-greater numbers in the future. One of every ten dollars spent on health care in the United States is spent to treat diabetes - over $130 billion each year. Worldwide, over 170 million people suffer from diabetes.

In yet another nod to the oil of the olive, Australian researchers say a Mediterranean diet may protect diabetics from heart disease. Diabetes places individuals at greater risk of heart disease and stroke, and over 65% of diabetics die as a result of these two complications. So, take away the red meat, and bring on the fruits and veggies, the red wine and nuts - let the feast begin!

The researchers studied over 40,000 men and women between 40 and 69 years of age, following them for 10 years. They analyzed their consumption of Mediterranean foods through questionnaires. The results showed that those eating the highest proportion of Mediterranean foods fared best.

The study participants eating the most Mediterranean foods had a 30% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The heart protective benefits were greatest for individuals with no history of cardiovascular disease, but also showed benefit for individuals with prior health problems.

On a side note, researchers had no explanation for the persistent shouts of "Opa!" by the high Mediterranean foods group.

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To learn more about diabetes, see this from the American Diabetes Association. To read more about the health benefits of Mediterranean diets, see this from Mayo Clinic.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Is Your State Fit - or Fat?

tidbits that tantalizeMe? Sure, I Could Eat...

America truly is the land of plenty. Plenty of potatoes, pasta and pies. Not to mention the three basic food groups of Fat, Fries, and Fizz. After all, what could be better than a half-pound cheeseburger, an extra-large order of French fries, and a 72-ounce soda? Ah, of course - don't forget the Belly Buster Hot Fudge Sundae for dessert.

Recent reports on obesity in America hold few surprises. Americans are gaining weight at an alarming rate, just as they have been for the past two decades. It's now estimated that 60% of U.S. adults, and 17% of children and teens, are overweight or obese. The future, it appears, is laden with serious weight-related difficulties.

The health and economic costs are staggering. Being overweight places people at higher risk of developing chronic conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. Carrying extra pounds also places individuals at greater risk for arthritis, sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory problems. The CDC estimated that $75 billion was spent on obesity related health care in 2003.

Where does your state fit? To find out, see this Interactive Map. It's an amazing visual presentation of the fattening of America over the past two decades. If watching this presentation doesn't make you drop your Twinkie mid-bite...

To read more about the study, see this from MSN. To learn more about leading a healthy life, see this from Mayo Clinic.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

CPR Crash Course Gets High Marks

news you may not knowYou'll Be A Pro In 30 Minutes...

Sometimes a little bit really does go a long way.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center say CPR can be taught effectively in just 30 minutes. Wow - and you thought Rachael Ray was impressive with her 30-minute meals.

The researchers assessed the difference between traditional and abbreviated methods of teaching both cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use of an automated external defibrillator(AED). The traditional method of CPR-AED training involves 3 to 4 hours of classroom instruction. Students listen to lectures and practice their skills on a shared manikin.

The abbreviated method cuts instruction time to a mere 30 minutes. Students watch a video, produced by the American Heart Association, and practice virtually nonstop on their own mini-manikin. The scientists say it is this continuous practice that makes the training effective. The repetition develops muscle memory. Following the video, students receive 3 minutes of instruction on recognizing and preventing choking and 5 minutes instruction on the use of an automated external defibrillator.

The results are impressive. The students of the 30-minute course perform as well as the traditional students immediately after completion of the course. But, at six months, they actually outperform the students taught by the traditional method.

What's the next step? Well, there are a couple options. If you're a night owl, you're all set. Just grab a good book, wait till your husband dozes off and then pounce! You should be able to get in a good 30 seconds or so of practice before he comes around. Or...

You can find excellent online information, including illustrations and videos, from the University of Washington School of Medicine. You can also buy the instructional video and kit from the American Heart Association.

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily.

Photo courtesy of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Are Diet Sodas Risky?

tidbits that tantalizeGimme Some Fries - And A Diet Soda...

Just when you thought you had this whole diet thing under control, the scientists set about their nefarious studies once again. This time their target is diet soda. Is nothing sacred? Does not the name itself - Diet - vouch for its inherent goodness?

Apparently not...

While studying the effect of regular soda consumption, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine took a bit of a side trip. They decided to take a look at a subset of data that allowed them to analyze the impact of diet soda. The study included data on roughly 6,000 middle-aged men and women.

The news is not good. Like its cousin, the full-caloried soda, diet soda consumption has a down side. Those study participants drinking one or more diet sodas per day showed a 50% increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a conglomerate of risk factors, including additional weight around the mid-section, high blood pressure, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, and other symptoms.

Individuals with metabolic syndrome have double the risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Double... From a can of diet soda?

The researchers are unsure of how this works. They speculate: the sweet taste of the diet soda may predispose drinkers to consume other sweet foods; since the soda is liquid, it may not fill people up, leaving room for more calories; the caramel coloring may, in some unknown fashion, be the culprit.

Or... it may not even be the case. The researchers are quick to point out that further studies are needed to replicate the current findings. Until then, the association between diet soda and metabolic syndrome raises concerns, but proves nothing. Isn't science grand?

What to do? Well, until further proof emerges, it seems reasonable to continue your regular diet. After all, what goes better with a double cheeseburger and onion rings than a sensible diet soda?

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read about the health benefits of drinking plain old, wonderful water, see this from Mayo Clinic.