Thursday, December 31, 2009

50 Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day

Here's the simplest (no-diet!) way to slim down.

By Shaun Chavis, Health

If you ate too many chocolate-covered cherries, or indulged in more eggnog that you shoud've, you're not alone. If you fell off your diet wagon over the holidays, don't panic. Jump back on and get rolling again with these great ideas to recover from your indulgences.

The most basic way to lose weight is to slash calories. That’s Diet 101. But how many do you really have to cut or burn to see results? It’s simple: You can drop a pound a week by trimming 500 calories each day. (Calories burned are based on a 150-pound woman.)

In fact, do a couple of swaps a day and you can drop 10 pounds in five weeks! So try these 50 easy tweaks—and get the slim body you want in no time.

1. Shake your groove thing. Dance for just two hours and torch 500 calories. (A little air guitar will burn a few extra calories, too.)

2. Get enough sleep. A lack of shut-eye can make you snack, new research from the University of Chicago shows. People who got only 5 1/2 hours of sleep noshed more during the day. Snooze more and save about 1,087 calories.

3. Don’t eat in front of the TV. You’ll eat up to 288 calories more, according to research from the University of Massachusetts. Instead, eat at the table, and trade one hour of TV for a casual walk. Together, that’s 527 calories burned.

4. Get in tune with your tummy. Pay attention to how full you feel, and put down your fork when you’re satisfied. Listen to your body’s cues—instead of looking at whether the plate is clean—and save up to 500 calories a day.

5. Limit dinner guests. Eating with seven or more other guests can make you eat 96 percent more food, says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating. That’s like doubling your dinner! Dine with fewer guests to save 500 or more calories.

6. Simple tricks to fill up (with less!). For breakfast, eat two boiled or poached eggs. (You’ll feel fuller and eat about 416 fewer calories the rest of the day.) Before lunch and dinner, enjoy 1 cup low-cal soup. (You’ll eat about 134 calories less at each meal.) And save a total of 684 calories for the day.

7. Limit salad toppings. A big salad might seem healthy, but all those goodies on top can make it more calorie-laden than lasagna or fettuccine Alfredo. Cheese crumbles, caramelized nuts, bacon, avocado, dried fruit, croutons and vinaigrettes can add lots of calories. Save 500 or more calories by having just one topping, adding flavorful but lower-cal veggies (roasted bell peppers, grilled onions, or mushrooms) and using half the dressing.

8. Don’t clean your plate. Leave 25 percent of your food on the plate at every meal, says weight-loss expert James O. Hill, Ph.D., author of The Step Diet. If you normally eat 2,000 calories or more each day, you’ll cut 500 calories.

9. Use smaller plates. Swap your 12-inch plate for a 10-inch one. You’ll eat 20 to 25 percent less—and save up to 500 calories. You won’t feel any less full, either, researchers say.

10. Serve and sit. Family-style meals, with platters and bowls of food on the table, invite people to go back for seconds and thirds. Cut hundreds of calories by filling plates before bringing them to the table; leave serving dishes in the kitchen, too.

11. Make a swap. Use 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt instead of 1 cup heavy cream in a favorite baking recipe. Save 684 calories.

12. Make mine a mini. Check out menus for small versions of great desserts, so you can dodge calo­ries and end your meal on a sweet note. P.F. Chang’s Great Wall of Chocolate (designed for one diner!) is 1,440 calories. The Mini Great Wall? A chocolatey yet svelte 150 calories. You’ll save 1,290-calories.

13. Ditch that buttered movie popcorn. Yes, the large popcorn at the concession stand weighs in at a whopping 1,005 calories. Smuggle in your own (microwave-popped, 94 percent fat-free, of course) and save more than 700 calories.

14. Count your chips (and crackers). No, you can’t eat your snacks from a large bag or box because it’s waaaay too tempting to eat until the bag is empty. (Remember Oprah’s blue corn–tortilla chip confession?) A chip-bender to the bottom of a 9-ounce bag is 1,260 calories sans the dip. So stick to one serving, about 15 chips—that’s 140 calories—or pick up some 100-calorie snack packs and save 1,120 calories.

15. Step away from the nuts, especially if they’re in a big bowl. The bigger the serving bowl, the more you’ll eat, Cornell University researchers say. Nuts have heart-healthy fats, but they’re also high in calories: One handful (about 1 ounce) of oil-roasted mixed nuts has 175 calories; three handfuls have 525. Cut out nuts altogether and save more than 500 calories. Can’t resist ’em? Eat pistachios: Two handfuls are just 159 calories, and the shelling will slow down your munching.

16. Skip the whip—or at least size it down. Dessert-like coffee creations can contain as many as 670 calories, with large sizes and options like whipped cream, whole milk and syrups. Craving whipped cream? Try it on a shot of espresso for a total of just 30 calories. You save 640 calories!

17. Kick the soda habit. A 12-ounce soft drink has about 150 to 180 calories. If you down two or three a day, you’re getting lots of extra calories. Quench your thirst with water and save as many as 540 calories.

18. Drink sugar-free. A 20-ounce tea with added fruit juices can have 400-plus calories. And Southern-style sweet tea isn’t much better than soda: a 16-ounce bottle of syrupy sweet tea has 180 calories; three of those are 540 calories. Choose sugar-free sips and save more than 400 calories.

19. Skinny up cocktails. Syrups, sour mix, sugary fruit juices and creamy additions turn drinks into desserts: an indulgent Mudslide can have more than 800 calories. Order drinks mixed with club soda, tonic water, cranberry juice or a squeeze of citrus; or try distilled liquors on the rocks. You’ll save up to 800 calories.

20. Eat less pasta. One cup of pasta is just 220 calories. But typical dinner portions at restaurants can be as much as 480 percent larger than that 1 cup, according to New York University research. That’s 1,056 calories. Even if you eat 2 whole cups of noodles, you’ll still save 616 calories.

21. Get out your knitting needles. An afternoon of knitting can burn more than 500 calories (at a rate of about 100 an hour).

22. Clean house. Tidy up for 2 1/2 hours and burn 510 calories.

23. Check the number of servings in a dish. The calorie count on the menu for shrimp fried rice may say 350 calories per serving, but what’s set in front of you may actually contain four servings. Split it with three friends, and save 1,050 calories.

24. Beware the healthy-food trap. People let their guard down when the menu is full of healthy fare, underestimating calories by as much as 35 perecnt, research by the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab shows. You’re also more likely to order drinks, sides and desserts with up to 131 percent more calories when you have a healthy entrée. Skip caloric sides—a cookie, chips—to save 500-plus calories.

25. Build a lean burrito—and you’ll save 630 calories. Here's how:

  • Instead of a flour tortilla, order lettuce.
  • Instead of cheese, order guacamole.
  • Instead of ground beef, shredded pork.
  • Instead of black beans, order pinto beans.
  • Instead of rice, order corn salsa
  • Instead of salsa, order pico de gallo

The reduced calorie options add up to 490 calories—down from 1,120.

26. Think small at the ice cream shop. Even if you indulge in your favorite full-fat flavor, you’ll save as many as 550 calories with a 5-ounce size instead of a 12-ounce.

27. Think thin when it comes to pizza. Eat two slices of a medium thin-crust veggie pizza (360 calories) instead of two slices of a large, meaty deep-dish pizza (940 calories) and save 580 calories.

28. Beware hidden oils. Ask to have your food cooked with a little stock instead of oil, or order steamed or poached entrées: you’ll save 124 calories per tablespoon of oil. Also, have the kitchen skip oils added at the last minute like basil oil or chive oil, and save another 40 calories per teaspoon.

29. Order spaghetti with meat sauce instead of spaghetti with Italian sausage and save 560 calories. Even better: Order mushroom ravioli (670 calories) or pasta marinara (430 calories).

30. Nix that smoothie a day. A large 32-ounce smoothie can have 800 or more calories. That really adds up if you’re having on-the-go breakfast several times a week. Instead, try a filling lower-calorie starter of oatmeal with brown sugar and banana slices, and a cup of black coffee. You’ll save 518 calories.

31. Help a friend move. You’ll burn more than 600 calories in one hour of carrying boxes and furniture up and down the stairs.

32. Shovel snow. Clearing the driveway and sidewalks for one hour and 15 minutes will torch 510 calories.

33. Ice-skate for one hour and five minutes and burn 516 calories. (Or go inline skating and slash 562.)

34. Tap your foot. Your skinnier friends are probably fidgeters, who burn up to 350 calories a day just by tapping their feet or being restless. Try it for a few days. Walk around while you’re on the phone, or tap out a tune with your hands or feet (in the privacy of your own office, of course).

35. Be the hostess with the mostest. Go grocery shopping for one hour, put away your groceries, spend two hours cooking a fabulous holiday feast, set the table and serve. Then toast yourself for the awesome 640 calorie-burn. (A glass of champagne is only about 106 calories, so you’re still ahead.)

36. Go window-shopping. Whether you buy anything or not, an afternoon of walking around and trying on clothes can torch 548 calories.

37. Hit the pool. Do one hour of laps or 55 minutes of jogging in the water to burn 500 calories.

38. Stroll your way slim. Spend an afternoon pushing junior from the giraffes to the sea lions at the zoo (or around the aquarium or museum) and burn 523 calories.

39. Head to a county fair or amusement park. You’ll slash 612 calories in three hours from the casual walking and standing in lines. (Subtract 105 calories if you have cotton candy.)

40. Play a game of touch football or basketball with your kids for one hour and burn 500 calories.

41. Head for the nearest hill. Go sledding with the kiddos for one hour and five minutes. You’ll burn 500-plus calories.

42. Do an hour of circuit training and you’ll burn 544 calories.

43. Tackle the garage. Clearing out junk for 1 hour and 30 minutes will burn 510 calories.

44. Rake the leaves. Do yard work for 1 hour and 45 minutes and burn 512 calories. (Jumping in the leaf pile won’t hurt, either.)

45. Kickbox. Sign up for kickboxing and burn 510 calories in a 45-minute class.

46. Go cross-country skiing for one hour and five minutes and sizzle off 516 calories.

47. Exercise at home. Pop in a one-hour aerobics DVD, and finish with 20 minutes of yoga—500 calories, gone.

48. Walk or run a 10K and you’ll burn up to 680 calories.

49. Go hiking. Just one hour and 15 minutes will burn 510 calories.

50. Cut down your own Christmas tree. Hike out, find the perfect tree, cut it, and take it home. Put it up and decorate it for 1 hour to burn 519 calories.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

5 Questions Men Don't Ask Their Doctors

From hernia exams to tender testicles, here are the answers you may have wondered about.

by Rich Maloof for MSN Health & Fitness

Everyone has questions that go unasked and unanswered at the doctor's office. Whether out of embarrassment or the underlying fear that something may be seriously wrong, men may try to avoid asking about unusual pains or irregular symptoms. From hernia exams to tender testicles, here are answers to five questions you may have wondered about:

Q. Why do I have to turn my head and cough during a hernia exam?

A. Notice that when you cough, the muscles in your abdomen tighten and flex. That increase in abdominal pressure can make a hernia pop out, making it easier for a doctor to detect. Though hernias usually present as a bulge, you could easily have a hernia and not know it.

Another reason is to diagnose varicoceles, which are varicose veins of the testicles. With a good cough, the veins will protrude much like the veins in your neck do. Varicoceles are the most common cause of infertility in men.

The doctor asks patients to turn their heads to avoid being coughed on all day.

Q. Is it true that you never really get rid of herpes?

A. There is not a cure for herpes nor is there a vaccine to prevent it yet.

The herpes simplex virus (HSV1 is oral herpes; HSV2 is genital) remains in nerve cells for life. When active, which can be several times a year, HSV travels along nerves to the skin, where sores become apparent. After a recurrence, the virus travels to the bottom of the spine and remains dormant there until the next outbreak.

But herpes is manageable. Controlling outbreaks is vital both for your comfort and for preventing contagion. Talk to a health-care professional about taking care of sores and the medications available to speed healing.

Women who have had genital herpes and intend to get pregnant should consult their ob-gyn to learn what measures will ensure the baby’s safety and health. Also, the annual Pap smear is a must.

Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease, and a popular one at that. Government statistics from 2003 estimated that one out of five Americans over the age of 12 was infected with genital herpes.

Q. Is it true that there is a male birth control pill?

A. No. There is no male birth control approved for use, and it’s unlikely one will be developed. The best options for men are wearing a condom, having a vasectomy or abstinence.

Interestingly, testosterone—the hormone that gives men sex drive and erections—has contraceptive side effects. When it’s taken as a hormone supplement the testicles get the message that there’s already enough testosterone in the bloodstream, and sperm production is halted. Long-term testosterone therapy will lead to zero sperm count. (This is why steroids make men sterile.)

Testosterone supplements, which come as a gel or by injection, are FDA-approved only for hormone treatment—not for contraception. Also note that the testosterone pills available outside the U.S. can damage the liver and should not be used.

Q. Can stress cause body odor?

A. Indirectly, stress can contribute to BO. But don’t blame it all on your boss, your bills or even your overactive sweat glands.

The body uses different sweat glands for stress than for physical exertion. Anxiety stimulates the glands in the armpits, in the groin and on the scalp, palms and feet. Unlike the salty sweat that covers our chest and back when we need to cool down, stress sweat is fatty—which makes it an especially fine meal for bacteria.

Perspiration is itself odorless. But when bacteria on skin and clothes begins breaking down fatty sweat, that stinks.

The solution? Minimize the bacteria on your body by showering regularly and wearing clean clothes. Use deodorant, which not only masks odor but makes the skin acidic and therefore less inhabitable to bacteria.

It’s not complicated. Perhaps your co-workers will even chip in for soap.

Q. What causes tenderness in the testicles, besides injury?

A. Any noticeable soreness or tenderness in the testes should be brought to the attention of a urologist immediately. It may very well be nothing, but here are some things that could be wrong:

Epididymitis is an infection of the epididymis, the long tube coiled up behind each testicle that acts as a veritable “swimming school for sperm”—sperm enter relatively immobile and exit the other end doing a flutter kick. It’s the most common infection of the testicular area, and the usual suspect is the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia.

Testicular cancer typically presents as a lump on a testicle. Though usually painless, the area will sometimes be tender. TC is the most common but also one of the most treatable cancers in males ages 15 to 45.

Torsion sounds a lot like “torture,” and that’s regretfully accurate. Each testicle hangs on a thin stalk called the spermatic cord, and when no ligaments attach the cord to the scrotum (a condition known as bell clapper deformity), the testicle can spin freely. The cord gets twisted and cuts off blood to the testicle. As you might guess, it’s accompanied by acute pain. Torsion is a surgical emergency because the testicle can die within hours.

Gentlemen, you may be seated.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Your Body's 10 Weirdest Health Clues

Do this quick self-exam for subtle signs of future health problems.

Blood type
People with type A, B, or AB were 44% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those with type O, according to a recent study of 107,503 adults by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and Harvard Medical School. This may indicate that the gene that determines blood type may also carry a genetic risk for pancreatic cancer.
Prevent it: Take a vitamin D supplement. Adults who consumed 300 IU or more daily reduced their pancreatic cancer risk up to 44%, compared with those who consumed less than 150 IU daily in a 2006 study. Fortified low-fat dairy and fish like salmon are the best ways to get D from food.

Calf size
Though it sounds counterintuitive, a French study found that women with small calves (13 inches or less around) tended to develop more carotid plaques, a known risk factor for stroke. The subcutaneous fat in larger calves may pull fatty acids from the bloodstream and store them where they are less of a risk factor, say researchers.
Prevent it: No need to bulk up your gams, but sip green tea to stay heart healthy. In a study of more than 40,500 Japanese men and women, those who drank five or more cups of green tea every day had the lowest risk of dying of heart disease and stroke.
Are you eating the right foods for a healthy heart?

Bra size
A D cup may also spell diabetes: Women who wore a bra size D or larger at age 20 were 1.5 times more likely to develop type 2 than those who wore an A or smaller, even after researchers adjusted for obesity, diet, smoking, and family history, in a 10-year study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It may be that the fat tissue in a woman’s breast is hormonally sensitive and influences insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes, say researchers.
Prevent it: Incorporate high-intensity intervals into your exercise routine. In one study, adults who did six 30-second sprints on an exercise bike (resting 4 minutes in between) improved their body's ability to metabolize blood sugar by nearly 25% after six sessions—enough to lower their risk of diabetes.
For more ways to avoid diabetes, read this.

Jeans size
Adults who have larger abdomens in their 40s are up to 3.6 times as likely to develop dementia in their 70s, even if they weren’t overweight, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. One possible reason for the link is that compared with subcutaneous fat (the noticeable fat that lies just below the skin), visceral fat (the dangerous fat that surrounds the organs) secretes more of the inflammatory hormones that are associated with cognitive decline.
Prevent it: Eat a portion-controlled Mediterranean-style diet. Research shows that the monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) in foods such as olives, nuts, seeds, avocado, and dark chocolate prevent the accumulation of visceral fat.
Flatten your belly fast with these 28 MUFA-containing meals

Earlobe crease
Linear wrinkles in one or both lobes may predict future cardiovascular events (heart attack, bypass surgery, or cardiac death.) A crease on one lobe raises the risk by 33%; a crease on both lobes increases it by 77%, even after adjusting for other known risk factors. Though experts aren’t exactly sure, they suspect a loss of elastic fibers may cause both the crease and the hardening of arteries.
Prevent it: Keep your heart healthy in other ways: Slim down, and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.

Arm length
Have a hard time reaching the top of your kitchen cabinets? Women with the shortest arm spans were 1 1/2 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those with longer reaches, found a recent study. (Find yours by spreading your arms parallel to the floor and having someone measure fingertips to fingertips; the shortest spans were less than 60 inches.) Nutritional or other deficits during the critical growing years, possibly responsible for shorter arms, may also predispose a person to cognitive decline later in life, say Tufts University researchers.
Prevent it: Put your appendages to good use with a hobby such as painting or pottery. A 5-year study from the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center found that adults who spent the most time engaged in engaging leisure activities were more than 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who spent less time challenging their brains.
Surprising ways to boost your brain power.

Sense of smell
Older adults who couldn’t identify the scent of bananas, lemons, cinnamon, or other items were five times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease within 4 years, according to a 2008 study. The researchers believe that the area of the brain responsible for olfactory function may be one of the first impacted by Parkinson’s disease—somewhere between 2 and 7 years prior to diagnosis.
Prevent it: Take fish oil supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids can boost your brain’s resistance to MPTP, a toxic compound responsible for Parkinson’s.
16 unexpected things that could cause body odor.

Leg length
If your legs are on the stocky side, you may need to take better care of your liver. In a 2008 study, British researchers found that women with legs between 20 and 29 inches tended to have higher levels of four enzymes that indicate liver disease. Factors such as childhood nutrition may not only influence growth patterns, but also liver development well into adulthood, say researchers.
Prevent it: Avoid exposure to toxins your liver has to process, which will keep it healthier, longer. Wear a mask and gloves while cleaning or working with any type of harsh chemical. Limit alcohol intake to one 5-ounce glass of wine or 12-ounce bottle of beer daily.
10 budget-friendly ways to eat clean.

Women taller than 5-foot-2 may be missing a gene mutation that helps them reach their 100th birthday, according to a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Prevent it: Take a page from the habits of California’s Seventh-Day Adventists, who have one of the highest concentrations of centenarians: Quit smoking, and cut back on alcohol and eating meat.
Will you live to 100? Surprising signs you might live longer than you think.

Finger length
Women whose index fingers are shorter than their ring fingers may be twice as prone to osteoarthritis in the knees, found British researchers. Those with this predominately male characteristic tend to have lower levels of estrogen, which may also play a role in the development of osteoarthritis, say researchers.
Prevent it: Strengthen the muscles surrounding your knees. While sitting, straighten each leg parallel to the floor 10 times; hold each rep for 5 to 10 seconds.
Ease joint pain and headaches with these natural cures.

What size bra do you wear? How’s your sense of smell? Can you still fit into your college jeans?
The answers to these questions—plus other weird body clues—may be a surprising predictor of potential future health problems. According to an array of psychic-worthy research, scientists are discovering more and more physical quirks and clues that may be early signs of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cancer. Whip out a mirror and a tape measure, and use these 10 DIY tests to forecast your health; plus, the best strategies to change your destiny.
Do you have any of these weird body quirks?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Getting Meds Out of Your System

How long should it take? By Michael Fischer, M.D., M.S., Harvard Medical School, for MSN Health & Fitness

Q: I started having side effects of a drug that was prescribed to me. I stopped taking the drug but the side effects are still there. How long does it take for a drug to be out of your system?

A: Most drugs will be out of your system relatively quickly, but the symptoms of side effects may remain for quite some time, depending on what kind of side effect has developed.

The vast majority of prescription drugs are cleared out of your body rapidly by your kidneys and liver. Trace levels of a medication may remain in the system for a long time while the liver and kidneys finish their job of filtering, but these levels are usually too low to have any noticeable effect. Patients with kidney or liver disease, however, can continue to have elevated medication levels even after stopping a drug.

Side effects of a medication can be thought of in two ways:

  • As symptoms that result directly from the medication
  • Or as symptoms that result from damage the medication has done to a part of the body

An example of the first kind of side effect would be nausea that results directly from taking a medication. In this example, you would expect the nausea to clear up once your liver and kidneys have cleared the medication out of your system. Generally this will occur in a matter of hours to days; if the medication stays in your system for a longer time for any of the reasons mentioned above, then the symptoms will be slower to resolve.

An example of the second kind of side effect would be muscle damage resulting from a medication, or a stomach ulcer caused by a medication. In these examples, stopping the medication should prevent further damage, but symptoms from the damage that is already there (muscle pain or indigestion, in these examples) could persist until your body is able to heal the damage.

If you have symptoms that seem to be side effects of a medication that are persisting for a long time after stopping the medication, it is important to seek medical evaluation. Your doctor will need to determine whether there is still some damage from the medication that may require treatment, or whether your symptoms are resulting from some other cause unrelated to the medication.

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Michael Fischer, M.D., M.S., is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. He is a practicing primary care physician at Brigham Internal Medicine Associates and does research on prescription drug utilization and policy in the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Do you have a health question you'd like to ask Harvard Medical School's experts? Send an e-mail to Please include Ask Harvard in the subject line.

Our experts respond to one question each week and the responses are posted on Mondays on MSN Health. We regret that we cannot provide a personalized response to every submission.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

10 Common Medication Mistakes That Can Kill

Ten common but preventable errors to watch for.

By Melanie Haiken,

The numbers are simply staggering: Every year 1.5 million people are sickened or severely injured by medication mistakes, and 100,000 die. And yet all of those deaths are preventable. What's the answer? We have to protect ourselves. Here are the ten medication mistakes experts say are most likely to kill or cause serious harm:

Confusing two medications with similar-sounding names

It can happen anywhere in the transmission chain: Maybe the doctor's handwriting is illegible, or the name goes into the pharmacy computer incorrectly, or the swap occurs when the wrong drug is pulled from the shelves. "Most pharmacies shelve drugs in alphabetical order, so you have drugs with similar names right next to each other, which makes it even more likely for someone to grab the wrong one," says Michael Negrete, CEO of the nonprofit Pharmacy Foundation of California.

According to the national Medication Error Reporting Program, confusion caused by similar drug names accounts for up to 25 percent of all reported errors. Examples of commonly confused pairings include Adderall (a stimulant used for ADHD) versus Inderal (a beta-blocker used for high blood pressure), and Paxil (an antidepressant) versus the rhyming Taxol (a cancer drug) and the similar-sounding Plavix (an anticlotting medication). The Institute for Safe Medication Practices's list of these oft-confused pairs goes on for pages.

How to avoid it: When you get a new prescription, ask your doctor to write down what it's for as well as the name and dosage. If the prescription reads depression but is meant for stomach acid, that should be a red flag for the pharmacist. When you're picking up a prescription at the pharmacy, check the label to make sure the name of the drug (brand or generic), dosage and directions for use are the same as those on the prescription. (If you don't have the prescription yourself because the doctor sent it in directly, ask the pharmacist to compare the label with what the doctor sent.)

Taking two or more drugs that magnify each other's potential side effects

Any drug you take has potential side effects. But the problems can really add up whenever you take two or more medications at the same time, because there are so many ways they can interact with each other, says Anne Meneghetti, M.D., director of Clinical Communication for Epocrates, a medication management system for doctors. "Drugs can interfere with each other, and that's what you're most likely to hear about. But they can also magnify each other, or one drug can magnify a side effect caused by another drug," says Meneghetti.

Two of the most common—and most dangerous—of these magnification interactions involve blood pressure and dizziness. If you're taking one medication that has a potential side effect of raising blood pressure, and you then begin taking a second medication with the same possible effect, your blood pressure could spike dangerously from the combination of the two. One medication that lists "dizziness" is worrisome enough, but two with that side effect could lead to falls, fractures and worse.

Be particularly careful if you've been prescribed the blood-thinner Coumadin (warfarin), "the king of drug interactions," according to Pharmacy Foundation of California's Michael Negrete. "You need just the right amount of Coumadin in your system for it to work properly; too much or too little and you could have serious heart problems such as arrhythmias or a stroke. But so many other drugs interfere with its action that you have to be really careful."

How to avoid it: Ask your doctor or a pharmacist about potential side effects when you get a new prescription, and make sure the pharmacy gives you written printouts about the medication to review later. Keep all such handouts in a file, so that when you get a new prescription, you can compare the info provided with the handouts from your older prescriptions. If you see the same side effect listed for more than one medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether it's cause for concern.

Overdosing by combining more than one medication with similar properties

Think of this one as the Heath Ledger syndrome, says Negrete. It's all too easy to end up with several medications that all have similar actions, although they were prescribed to treat different conditions. "You might have one medication prescribed to treat pain, another prescribed for anxiety, and another that's given as a sleeping pill—but they're all sedatives, and the combined effect is toxic," explains Negrete.

The risk for this kind of overdose is highest with drugs that function by depressing the central nervous system. These include narcotic painkillers such as codeine; benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Halcion, Xanax, and Valium; barbiturate tranquilizers such as Seconal; some of the newer drugs such as BuSpar, for anxiety; and the popular sleeping pill Ambien.

But oversedation can also happen with seemingly innocent over-the-counter drugs like antihistamines (diphenhydramine, commonly known as Benadryl, is one of the worst offenders), cough and cold medicines, and OTC sleeping pills. This type of drug mixing is responsible for many medication-induced deaths, especially among younger adults.

How to avoid it: Pay attention to the warnings on the packaging of over-the-counter medications, and the risks listed in the documentation for prescriptions. Key words are sleepy, drowsy, dizzy, sedation and their equivalents. If more than one of your prescriptions or OTC drugs warns against taking it while driving, or warns that it can make you drowsy, beware. This means the drug has a sedative effect on the central nervous system and shouldn't be combined with other drugs (including alcohol) that have the same effect.

Drugs are prescribed in a variety of units of measure, units that are usually notated using abbreviations or symbols—offering a host of opportunities for disaster. All it takes is a misplaced decimal point and 1.0 mg becomes 10 mg, a tenfold dosing error that could cause a fatal overdose.

Some of the most extreme dosage mistakes occur when someone mistakes a dose in milligrams with one in micrograms, resulting in a dose 1,000 times higher. This mostly happens in the hospital with IV drugs, but it's been known to happen with outpatient meds as well. Insulin, the primary treatment for diabetes, causes some of the worst medication errors because it's measured in units, abbreviated with a U, which can look like a zero or a 4 or any number of other things when scribbled.

Another common problem, says pharmacist Bona Benjamin, director of Medication-Use Quality Improvement at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, is getting the frequency wrong—so, say, a drug that is supposed to be given once a day is given four times a day.

How to avoid it: Make sure your doctor's writing is clear on the original prescription; if you can't read the dosage indicated, chances are the nurse and pharmacist will have difficulty as well. When you pick up the prescription from the pharmacy, ask the pharmacist to check the dosage to make sure it's within the range that's typical for that medication. In the hospital, when a nurse is about to administer a new medication, ask what it is and request that he or she check your chart to make sure it's the right one for you and that the dosage is indicated clearly. Don't be afraid to speak up if you think you're about to get the wrong medicine or the wrong dose.

Mixing alcohol with medications

There are plenty of drugs that come with that cute bright orange warning sticker attached, telling you not to drink when taking them. However, the sticker can fall off, or not get attached in the first place, or you might just really need that cocktail and figure it'll be OK "just this once." But alcohol, combined with a long list of painkillers, sedatives, and other medications, becomes a deadly poison in these situations. In fact, many experts now say you shouldn't drink when on *any* medication without first checking with your doctor.

Alcohol can also have a dangerous interaction with OTC drugs such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and cough and cold medicines—and if the cough or cold medicines themselves contain alcohol, you can end up with alcohol poisoning. Alcohol can also compete with certain medications for absorption, leading to dangerous interactions. Mix alcohol and certain antidepressants, for example, and you have the potential for a dangerous rise in blood pressure, while alcohol and certain sedatives such as Ativan or Valium can depress the heart rate enough to put you in a coma.

How to avoid it: When you get a new prescription, ask your doctor or a pharmacist if the medication is safe to take while drinking alcohol. If you're a heavy drinker and you know it's likely you'll drink while taking the medication, tell your doctor. He or she may need to prescribe something else instead. Also, read the handouts that come with your prescriptions to see if alcohol is mentioned as a risk. And read the labels of all OTC medications carefully, both to see if alcohol is mentioned as a risk and also to see if alcohol is an ingredient in the medication itself.

Double-dosing by taking a brand-name drug and the generic version at the same time

With insurance companies mandating the use of generic drugs whenever they're available, it's all too common for patients to get confused and end up with bottles of a brand-name drug and a generic version at the same time without realizing it. "For example, a common diuretic is furosemide. The brand name is Lasix. A patient might have a bottle of furosemide and a bottle of Lasix and not know they're the same thing," says internist Bruce Mann, M.D. "In essence, the patient is taking twice the dose." Since generic drugs don't list the equivalent brand name on the label, you might not spot this unless your brand-name version lists the generic name in the fine print.

How to avoid it: When your doctor prescribes a new medication, make sure you have a chance to go over all the details you might need to know later. Have the doctor write down the name of the drug (brand and generic, if available), what it's for, its dosage, and how often and when to take it. Try to remember both names for future reference. Also, look up the generic names for each of your brand-name prescriptions and vice versa; then line up all of your medicine bottles and see if you have any duplications.

Taking prescription drugs and over-the-counter or alternative medications without knowing how they interact

It's easy to think that something you can grab off the shelf at your local grocery or drug store must be safe, but some of the most common OTC drugs can cause serious reactions. A top contender is medicine-chest staple Maalox, meant to calm digestive upset. A new and very popular version, Maalox Total Relief, contains an ingredient called bismuth subsalicylate that can react dangerously with anticlotting drugs, drugs for hypoglycemia, and anti-inflammatories, particularly ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDs.

Another standby to watch out for is aspirin, which thins the blood. If you forget to stop taking aspirin before a surgical procedure, the result can be life-threatening bleeding.

Then there's the herb Saint-John's-wort, which many people take for depression. The fact that Saint-John's-wort can interfere with prescription antidepressants has received a fair amount of attention, but few people know that it also interferes with the liver's processing of blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) and heart medications such as Digoxin.

How to avoid it: When your doctor is writing out a new prescription, this is also the time to mention or remind him or her about any OTC meds or supplements you take. Never add a medication without discussing how it interacts with what you're already taking.

Not understanding interactions between medications and your diet

The most serious culprit in this situation is grapefruit juice, which has unique properties when it comes to inactivating or overactivating medications. Grapefruit juice inhibits a crucial enzyme that normally functions to break down and metabolize many drugs, such as antiseizure drugs and statins used to lower cholesterol. The result? The overloaded liver can't metabolize the medication, resulting in an overdose, with potentially fatal consequences.

Other less serious interactions to be aware of include coffee and iron; the coffee inhibits absorption. Doctors say they frequently see coffee drinkers who take their iron in the morning with breakfast, yet their anemia doesn't go away because the iron isn't absorbed. Grapefruit interactions are serious enough that they're often listed on medication handouts, but many food and drink interactions aren't mentioned.

How to avoid it: When you get a new prescription, ask your doctor or a pharmacist whether you should take it with food, without food, and if there are any particular dietary issues to watch out for.

Failing to adjust medication dosages when a patient loses kidney or liver function

Loss of liver or kidney function impairs your body's ability to rid itself of toxins, or foreign substances, so medications can build up in the body at higher dosages than intended. According to Bona Benjamin of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, a common—and often serious or fatal—mistake that doctors make is not decreasing medication dosages when patients begin to suffer impaired kidney or liver function. There are many medications that doctors shouldn't prescribe without first ordering liver and kidney function tests, but safety studies show that's often not happening.

How to avoid it: When you bring home a new prescription, read the fine print to see if liver or kidney function is mentioned. If so, ask your doctor if you've had recent liver and kidney function screenings.

Taking a medication that's not safe for your age

As we age, our bodies process medications differently. Also, aging brings with it an increased risk of many problems such as dementia, dizziness and falling, and high blood pressure, so drugs that can cause these side effects are much riskier for people over the age of 65.

Since the early 1990s, a research team led by Mark Beers, M.D., has compiled criteria for medications that should no longer be considered safe for those over 65. This list of Inappropriate Medications for the Elderly, known informally as the "Beers List," is a great resource if you or someone you're caring for is over 65.

How to avoid it: Take the Beers List to your doctor and ask her to check it against all medications prescribed. Sadly, a recent Beers survey found that among those over 65, more than 16 percent had recently filled prescriptions for two or more drugs on the Beers list, suggesting that many doctors are still uninformed about the risks of these drugs. If you discover that you or a family member over 65 is taking medications that are considered risky, you may need to be proactive and ask the doctor to find alternatives.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cell Phone May Reduce Bone Density in Hips

Wearing a cell phone on your hip may reduce bone density in an area of the pelvis commonly used for bone grafts, a new study suggests.

Turkish researchers used dual X-ray absorptiometry to measure bone density at the upper rims of the pelvis (iliac wings) in 150 men who carried their cell phones on their belts. The men carried their phones for an average of 15 hours a day, and had used cell phones for an average of six years.

Bone density was slightly reduced on the side of the pelvis where the men carried their cell phones, the study found. The difference wasn't statistically significant and didn't approach bone level density reductions seen in people with osteoporosis. However, the men were relatively young (average age 32), and further bone weakening may occur, said Dr. Tolga Atay and colleagues at Suleyman Demirel University in Isparta.

The study, published in the September issue of the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, suggests that electromagnetic fields emitted by cell phones may have a harmful effect on bone density.

However, the researchers emphasized that their findings are preliminary and noted that future generations of cell phones may reduce users' exposure to electromagnetic fields. In the meantime, it "would be better to keep mobile phones as far as possible from our body during our daily lives," Atay and colleagues concluded.

The iliac wings of the pelvis are widely used for bone grafting, which means any reduction in bone density there may affect reconstructive surgery. In procedures where bone density is important for good outcomes, surgeons may want to consider the possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields from cell phones, the researchers suggested.

Friday, December 25, 2009

6 Tips to Build Your Strongest Bones

Nurture your bones and ward off osteoporosis.
By Dr. Maoshing Ni, author of Second Spring

The trace mineral connection to strong bones
Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D get all the credit for maintaining good bone health, while trace minerals essential to bone formation like boron, manganese, copper, zinc and vitamin K are often overlooked. These trace minerals act as cofactors in the bone-building process. For instance, the trace element boron positively affects the metabolism of calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and vitamin D in bone formation. Studies show that supplementation with boron reduced the loss of calcium in the urine. Boron is found in fruits, vegetables, and nuts and seeds. Vitamin K, on the other hand, found in leafy green vegetables, has been shown to be essential for specific proteins that are building blocks of bones. These are called trace minerals because very minute amounts of them are needed, so the supplemental dosage is very small.
Daily intake of the following amounts—along with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D—are optimal for maintaining good bone health: 10 mg boron, 5 mg manganese, 5 mg copper, 25 mg zinc and 150 mcg vitamin K. Make sure your daily multivitamin contains these trace minerals.

Buy the Book
About the Author
Dr. Maoshing Ni, popularly known as Dr. Mao, is a 38th-generation doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and an authority in anti-aging medicine. At the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, Calif., Dr. Mao and his associates have treated more than 25,000 women. Known on "Sex and the City" as “Dr. Wow,” Dr. Mao lectures internationally and has been featured on radio and television as well as on the pages of The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and many other publications. He is the author of Second Spring: Dr. Mao's Hundreds of Natural Secrets for Women to Revitalize and Regenerate at Any Age (text copyright © 2009 by Dr. Maoshing Ni).

Sunbathe early and late—not in between
Throughout history, Chinese women have sunbathed indoors through thin rice paper screens that filter out damaging UV-A rays but admit beneficial UV-Bs. Outdoors, the women used parasols to shield their skin from the penetrating rays of the sun.
Chinese tradition has always understood that sunlight is a double-edged sword. Sun is necessary for your body to produce vitamin D, essential for bone health, proper immune function and resistance to cancer.
In the West, heliotherapy is used to speed recovery from illness and treat conditions ranging from rickets to tuberculosis. But it is crucial to avoid overexposure, which can lead to premature skin aging and even cancer.
To receive the benefits of sunlight, spend time outdoors before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. during the summer or before 10 a.m. and after 3 p.m. in winter, without sunscreen. However, if you are out in the sun in the midday hours, do use sunscreen, and if possible wear a hat and long sleeves.

Taking calcium supplements: how to do it right
To avoid the stooped posture and broken bones of osteoporosis, act while you are still in your prime. Get regular weight-bearing exercise—that’s smart for good health in general. But also, beginning at age 35, take proper calcium supplementation.
It’s not quite as easy as popping a pill, so follow these guidelines. Make sure you take calcium carbonate, the easiest type to absorb, because many forms are not really bio-available. It must also be formulated with magnesium, preferably 1,200 mg of calcium to 600 mg of magnesium, and you will need trace amounts of boron, copper, zinc and vitamin B3 (often included in your daily multivitamin/mineral pill). Liquid calcium in a citrate base is an excellent choice, easy to add to juice drinks or power shakes. Remember to take your calcium in several doses throughout the day, as the body cannot absorb it all at once.

Soft drinks are hard on your health
It may be satisfying to down a soft drink on a hot day—you may even feel “safe” because you’re drinking the diet kind, avoiding calories so you won’t put on weight. But calories aren’t the only drawback in colas and other carbonated beverages—they can deplete the calcium in your bones, because they contain phosphoric acid, which makes calcium pass out of your system in the urine.
Now more than ever, when you are at increased risk of osteoporosis, you want to avoid soft drinks. If you crave a bubbly refreshment, drink carbonated mineral water and add a slice of lemon!

Approximately 50 percent of American women will be afflicted with osteoporosis in their lives. One out of four women has osteopenia, a stage of bone loss before true osteoporosis sets in. Dr. Maoshing Ni, author of Second Spring, provides the following six ways to nurture your bones and ward off bone loss:
Got greens?
Most dairy products that come from cows, such as milk and cheese, have nutritional elements that you want: calcium and protein. But when you consume cow’s milk and its derivatives, there’s a catch. The high protein content in dairy items acidifies the blood, causing the body to draw calcium from the bones to balance it out. The net effect of this is to leach more calcium from the body than you gain.
Additionally, the protein molecules in milk are larger than the molecules a human digestive system is meant to handle, so the immune system may reject them as foreign, or allergenic. That’s why many people experience fatigue, lowered ability to concentrate, and overproduction of mucus when they eat dairy. Some people lack enzymes, such as lactase, to properly digest dairy sugar; for them, consumption of dairy causes stomach pain, gas and diarrhea. For the best protection against osteoporosis, take advantage of the absorbable calcium found in leafy greens, beans and seeds.

Orange juice does a body good
Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health. While the calcium is necessary to build and maintain bone, vitamin D is needed because the body cannot absorb calcium without it. Cow’s milk has traditionally been credited as the best food for strong bones, but new studies show that your body is able to absorb both calcium and vitamin D from orange juice as readily as from milk, if not more so. (Because citrus juice’s acetic acid can erode teeth enamel, don’t brush your teeth for an hour after drinking juice.)
Another bonus: Orange juice is full of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that also helps facilitate calcium absorption into the body, a double benefit. So enjoy the fresh nectar of the citrus fruit while you bulk up your bones.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best and Worst Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

Find out which immune-boosting supplements really help—and which are just hype.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What Pain Relievers Are Safe With Alcohol?

Acetaminophen may not be safe for those with impaired livers.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Fastest Cardio Workouts Ever

Use these high-voltage routines to burn away belly flab and finally reveal your abs.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Your Personal Power Foods Plan

New research into everyday foods reveals what you should specifically eat to reach any health goal.

Other blog by ShIn

This blog talk about phones, share the lastest model's phone and it technology. ( Grand Opened )