Tuesday, January 19, 2010

For Men Only: Cancer Symptoms You're Most Likely to Ignore

. Upset stomach or stomachache

One of the first signs colon cancer patients remember experiencing when they look back is unexplained stomach aches. Those with pancreatic cancer describe a dull ache that feels like it's pressing inward. Many liver cancer patients say they went in complaining of stomach cramps and upset stomachs so frequently that their doctors thought they had ulcers. Liver cancer patients and those with leukemia can experience abdominal pain resulting from an enlarged spleen, which may feel like an ache on the lower left side.

If you have a stomachache that you can't attribute to a digestive problem or that doesn't go away, ask your doctor to order an ultrasound. Finding a liver or pancreatic tumor early can make all the difference in treatment.

2. Chronic "acid stomach" or feeling full after a small meal

The most common early sign of stomach cancer is pain in the upper or middle abdomen that feels like gas or heartburn. It may be aggravated by eating, so that you feel full when you haven't actually eaten much. What's particularly confusing is that the pain can be relieved by antacids, confirming your conclusion that it was caused by acid in the stomach, when it's more than that. An unexplained pain or ache in lower right side can be the first sign of liver cancer, known as one of the "silent killers." Feeling full after a small meal is a common sign of liver cancer as well.

If you have frequent bouts of acid stomach, an unexplained abdominal ache, or a full feeling after meals even when you're eating less than normal, call your doctor.

3. Unexplained weight loss

If you notice the pounds coming off and you haven't made changes to your diet or exercise regime, it's important to find out why. Unexplained weight loss can be an early sign of colon and other digestive cancers; it can also be a sign of cancer that's spread to the liver, affecting your appetite and the ability of your body to rid itself of waste.

4. Jaundice

Pancreatic cancer, another one of the "silent killers," is often discovered when someone notices jaundice and asks the doctor to do a battery of tests. Jaundice is most commonly thought of as a yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, but darker-than-normal urine that's not the result of dehydration is also a sign. Clay-colored stools are another little-known sign of jaundice. Oddly, jaundice can also cause itching, because the bile salts in the bloodstream cause the skin to itch. Some people with pancreatic cancer say they noticed the itching before they noticed the jaundice itself.

5. Wheezing or shortness of breath

One of the first signs lung cancer patients remember noticing when they look back is the inability to catch their breath. "I couldn't even walk to my car without wheezing; I thought I had asthma, but how come I didn't have it before?" is how one man described it. Shortness of breath, chest pain, or spitting blood are also signs of testicular cancer that's spread to the lungs.

6. Chronic cough or chest pain

Several types of cancer, including leukemia and lung tumors, can cause symptoms that mimic a bad cough or bronchitis. One way to tell the difference: The problems persist, or go away and come back again in a repeating cycle. Some lung cancer patients report chest pain that extends up into the shoulder or down the arm.

7. Frequent fevers or infections

These can be signs of leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells that starts in the bone marrow. Leukemia causes the marrow to produce abnormal white blood cells, which crowd out healthy white cells, sapping the body's infection-fighting capabilities. Doctors sometimes catch leukemia in older adults only after the patient has been in a number of times complaining of fever, achiness, and flu-like symptoms over an extended period of time.

8. Difficulty swallowing

Most commonly associated with esophageal or throat cancer, having trouble swallowing is sometimes one of the first signs of lung cancer, too. Men diagnosed with esophageal cancer look back and remember a feeling of pressure and soreness when swallowing that didn't go away the way a cold or flu would have. Consult your doctor also if you have a frequent feeling of needing to clear your throat or that food is stuck in your chest; either of these can signal a narrowing of the esophagus that could mean the presence of a tumor.

9. Chronic heartburn

If you just ate half a pizza, heartburn is expected. But if you have frequent episodes of heartburn or a constant low-level feeling of pain in the chest after eating, call your doctor and ask to be screened for esophageal cancer. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) -- a condition in which stomach acid rises into the esophagus, causing heartburn and an acidic taste in the throat -- can trigger a condition called Barrett's esophagus, which can be a precursor of esophageal cancer.

10. Swelling of facial features

Some patients with lung cancer report that they noticed puffiness, swelling, or redness in the face. The explanation for this is that small cell lung tumors commonly block blood vessels in the chest, preventing blood from flowing freely from the head and face.

11. Swollen lymph nodes or lumps on the neck, underarm, or groin

Enlarged lymph nodes indicate changes in the lymphatic system, which can be a sign of cancer. For example, a lump or an enlarged lymph in the neck or underarm is sometimes a sign of thyroid, head, or throat cancer. A painless lump on the neck, underarm, or groin can be an early sign of leukemia

12. Excessive bruising or bleeding that doesn't stop

This symptom usually suggests something abnormal happening with the platelets and red blood cells, which can be a sign of leukemia. One man with leukemia noticed that his gums bled when he brushed his teeth; another described bruising in strange places, such as on his fingers and hands. The explanation: Over time, leukemia cells crowd out red blood cells and platelets, impairing the blood's ability to carry oxygen and clot.

13. Weakness and fatigue

"I had to stop halfway across the yard and sit down when I was mowing the lawn," said one man when describing the fatigue that led to his discovery of pancreatic cancer. Generalized fatigue and weakness is a symptom of so many different kinds of cancer (and other ills) that you'll need to look at it in combination with other symptoms. But any time you feel exhausted without explanation and it doesn't respond to getting more sleep, talk to your doctor.

14. Rectal bleeding or blood in stool

"I thought it was hemorrhoids" is one of the most common statements doctors hear when diagnosing colorectal cancer. Blood in the toilet alone is reason to call your doctor and schedule a colonoscopy. Another sign of blood in the stool many people miss is stools that are darker in color.

15. Bowel problems

Constipation, diarrhea, and changes in stools can all be signs of cancer. As with many other cancer symptoms, the way to tell if this is cause for concern is if it goes on for more than a few days without a clear cause, such as flu or food poisoning. People diagnosed with colon cancer say they noticed more frequent stools, as well as a feeling that their bowels weren't emptying completely. One of the early signs of pancreatic cancer is fatty stools, which can be recognized as frequent, large stools that are paler than normal and smelly. This is a sign that your body's not absorbing your food normally, and it should be brought to your doctor's attention.

16. Difficulty urinating or changes in flow

Hands-down, the most common early sign of prostate cancer is a feeling of not being able to start peeing once you're set to go. Many men also report having a hard time stopping the flow of urine, a flow that starts and stops, or a stream that's weaker than normal. Any of these symptoms is reason to call your doctor for an exam and a screening test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA).

17. Pain or burning during urination

This symptom can also indicate a urinary tract infection or sexually transmitted disease, of course, but in any case it warrants an immediate trip to the doctor. This symptom is often combined with the feeling that you need to go more often, particularly at night. These same symptoms can also indicate inflammation or infection in the prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia, the name for what happens when the prostate grows bigger and blocks the flow of urine. However, you need to get checked out to tell the difference.

18. Blood in urine or semen

Men are often warned about blood in the urine, but they may not realize that blood in semen is also a danger sign for prostate cancer. Blood in the urine or semen isn't always visible as blood; urine may just be a pink, dark red, or smoky brown color, while blood in the semen may just look like a pinkish streak.

19. Erection problems

As prostate cancer progresses, another very common sign is difficulty getting or sustaining an erection. This can be a difficult subject to talk about, but it's important to bring it to your doctor's attention. It could be a sign of sexual dysfunction with another cause, of course, but it's a reason to have an exam and a PSA test.

20. Pain, aching, or heaviness in the groin, hips, thighs, or abdomen

One sign of prostate cancer is frequent pain in the hips, upper thighs, or the lowest part of the back. Men with testicular cancer report noticing a heavy, aching feeling low in the belly or abdomen, or in the scrotum or testicles themselves. They sometimes describe it as a feeling of downward pulling or as a generalized ache throughout the groin area. Prostate cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes often makes itself known as discomfort in the pelvis or swelling in the legs.

Monday, January 18, 2010

5 Foods Every Man Should Eat More Of

By Nikki Jong, Caring.com contributing editor

Mollusks comprise one of the largest animal groups on land, in oceans, or in fresh water. Bivalves, the class of mollusks that includes clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops, are extremely rich in a unique combination of nutrients that promote men's health. Think red meat is your best bet for protein and iron? Think again. Bivalves are a superior source of low-calorie protein loaded with iron. In addition, they're virtually fat free and are packed with zinc and vitamin B12.
Consider clams: They're super-rich in iron, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and are a good source of niacin, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, and zinc. Three ounces of raw clams will only cost you 63 calories, but you'll get 11 grams of protein, 66 percent of the daily recommended amount for iron, and 700 percent of the daily recommended amount for vitamin B12. Chinese medicine recommends clams for treating hemorrhoids.
Mussels are high in iron, manganese, vitamin B12, and selenium and are a good source of phosphorus, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin C, and zinc. Three ounces of raw blue mussels contain only 73 calories, but you'll get 10 grams of protein, 19 percent of the daily recommended amount of iron, upward of 50 percent of the recommended amount for selenium, and more than 100 percent of the recommended amount for manganese, which aids in wound healing and optimal brain functioning. In Chinese medicine, mussels are used to treat impotence, low back pain, and goiter.
Six medium raw oysters, which is roughly equivalent to three ounces, provides 31 percent of the daily recommended amount for iron and 6 grams of protein for just 57 calories. Oysters are high in iron, B12, zinc, selenium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. What's more, oysters contain the amino acid tyrosine, which is converted into dopamine in the brain, resulting in a mood and mental boost.
Scallops are an excellent source of tryptophan and a good source of protein, vitamin B12 (cobalamin), phosphorus, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and potassium. To give you an idea how scallops measure up, three raw ounces provide 14 grams of protein and a good amount of B12, all for 75 calories.
Vitamin B12 is a power player in the world of nutrition. It takes on a crucial role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, aids in digestion and proper absorption of nutrients from foods, fights chronic fatigue, and helps expedite the release of melatonin, improving sleep patterns and resulting in better, more restful sleep. B12 also helps maintain red blood cells and nerve cells and aids in the formation of DNA.
Zinc helps balance blood sugar, sharpens smell and taste, and supports immune function. Zinc also plays an important role in supporting male reproductive health. Inadequate zinc has been shown to adversely affect sperm quality, while zinc supplementation has shown benefits in overall sperm health, including higher sperm counts. Other good sources of zinc include sea vegetables.

Jessica Black, doctor of naturopathic medicine and author of The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book, points out that mushrooms are a powerful immune stimulant and immune modulator. "They're great detoxifiers because they thrive on what's decaying around them," she says. Black adds that reishi mushrooms have been shown to reduce cancer-causing free radicals by 50 percent.
You don't have to restrict yourself to the more exotic varieties of mushrooms, though. You'll find health benefits in all types of mushrooms that are available at your local grocery store or farmers' market.
Take creminis, for example. Available at almost any grocery store across America, creminis are an excellent source of selenium, copper, tryptophan, potassium, phosphorus, and the vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B5 (pantothenic acid). They're also high in zinc, manganese, protein, and vitamins B1 (thiamin) and B6 (pyridoxine). For good measure, creminis also provide decent amounts of folate, dietary fiber, magnesium, iron, and calcium.
Here are just a few of the benefits of B vitamins: They combat fatigue, maintain energy levels, help lower cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar, coordinate nerve and muscle activity, aid in the development of nerve cells, and support mood and proper heart function. The essential trace element selenium has been used to treat male infertility and has shown benefit in protecting against Parkinson's disease. It's also been shown to trigger the repair of damaged DNA and to inhibit the spread of cancer and stimulate apoptosis (destruction) of cancer cells.
If that's not enough, consider how much animal protein you consume in your everyday diet. Then ask any vegetarian what he or she makes for die-hard carnivorous friends (the ones who start sweating at the thought of a single meal without meat) at a dinner party. Nine times out of ten, you'll get the same answer: mushrooms. All mushroom varieties have a nice, earthy flavor when cooked and can be used as a base for savory gravies, soups, stews, or casseroles. Portobellos in particular make an excellent and flavorful meat substitute due to their size and robust texture. Make them the star dish: Roast them, barbecue them, stuff them, use them in place of burgers. The options are endless.

Tomatoes and derivative products, such as tomato sauce and ketchup, contain many nutrients that support overall health, but there are two primary reasons they made this list: First, they're a great source of the potent antioxidant lycopene; and second, unlike a couple of other lycopene contenders (namely, watermelon and guava), they're available everywhere year-round.
Research shows a strong association between high lycopene consumption and lower rates of prostate cancerthe second leading cause of cancer death in men. In addition to exhibiting preventive effects, lycopene also seems to inhibit the spread of existing cancer and to decrease malignancy. It has shown protective benefits against pancreatic cancer, which is more common in men than women and is one of the most fatal of all cancers, largely due to late diagnosis. Lycopene is also being studied for its effect on male fertility; research suggests that it may boost sperm concentrations in infertile men.
Finally, tomatoes contain phenolic acids, which combat lung cancer, the second most common cancer in men and by far the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, according to the American Cancer Society.

Whole Oats
Oats are an excellent source of manganese and a good source of selenium, tryptophan, phosphorus, vitamin B1 (thiamin), dietary fiber, magnesium, and protein. One cup of cooked oats provides more than 6 grams of protein, more than almost all breakfast grains, particularly those that are corn- or wheat-based.
Harvard researchers who followed 21,376 participants over a period of nearly 20 years in the Physicians' Health Study found that men who had a daily serving of whole-grain cereal had a 29 percent lower risk of heart failure. Oats contain a soluble fiber known as beta-glucan that provides numerous health benefits, from helping reduce fat in the blood to preventing hardening of the arteries that can lead to heart attacks, stroke, or dangerous blood clots. Not only does beta-glucan protect against cardiovascular disease, it also supports the body's immune response by stimulating white blood cell activity. And it stabilizes blood sugar, lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes.
One of the best things about oatmeal is that it's a perfect canvas for pairing with other tasty, healthy ingredients. Walnuts and flaxseed, for example, are even more concentrated in omega-3s than fatty fish; two tablespoons of flaxseed provides 146 percent of the amount recommended for a man's daily diet, while a quarter cup of walnuts provides 95 percent of the daily recommended amount. Almonds and raisins are rich in boron, which enhances testosterone levels in men, helping build muscle and contributing to bone health. Boron has also shown protective effects against prostate cancer. Other good oatmeal toppers include hazelnuts, pecans, and pumpkin seeds; all three contain a plant sterol that's been shown to ease the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia, a common prostate condition in men over 40. If you like your oatmeal sweetened, try raw honeyit helps lower total cholesterol and is loaded with protective antioxidants.

Fatty Fish
The American Heart Association recommends eating fishparticularly fatty fishat least twice a week. Fatty fish are incredibly nutritious; some of the best picks include salmon, mackerel, lake and rainbow trout, tuna, anchovies, sardines, and herring. All are high in protein, low in saturated fat, and are rich in calcium and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
First, let's talk fats. Ounce for ounce, wild coho salmon has about half the saturated fat content of a 95 percent lean beef patty, and slightly more protein. And unlike the saturated fat in that burger, which greatly increases the body's production of blood cholesterol, the omega-3s found in fish have a cleansing effect on the circulatory system. They reduce blood viscosity and clotting and lower lipid levels and blood pressure. Omega-3s not only minimize your risk of stroke and heart attack by preventing the damage that causes them, they also help heal tissues damaged from poor circulation by promoting better blood flow.
For general health, they're not so bad, either. Omega-3s reduce the bodily inflammation that contributes to many types of disease, and research suggests they may play a role in preventing Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Salmon, mackerel, and sardines have the highest levels of healthy omega-3 fats, although all seven fish listed above are good sources.
Omega-3s aren't the only nutritional benefits you'll find in these fish, though. Tuna is a rich source of such minerals as selenium, magnesium, and potassium, as well as B vitamins, including niacin, B1, and B6. It's also an excellent source of the amino acid tryptophan, which helps regulate appetite and improves sleep and mood. Salmon has high scores in all the same nutrients, in addition to being a good source of B12 and a concentrated source of vitamin D. Fatty fish are the richest food source on earth of naturally occurring vitamin Dsalmon, tuna, and mackerel score particularly high. Sardines offer vitamin D, B12, and calcium (thanks to their edible bones). Herring, a close relative of the sardine, is often sold, packaged, and marketed as sardines. Herring is an excellent source of B12 and selenium, and a good source of B6 and phosphorus.
Oceans Alive, a division of the Environmental Defense Fund, lists many of these fatty fish on its "Eco-Best" list, meaning they're not only good for you but they're being caught or raised in ways that are also sustainable and healthy for the environment. If you're worried about contaminants like mercury and industrial pollutants like PCBs, visit the Oceans Alive website for information on the levels of contamination in all types of fish, along with recommendations about how often you can safely incorporate them into your diet. A good rule of thumb: Smaller fatty fish, such as anchovies, herring, and sardines, tend to be lower in contaminants than larger fish.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Most Expensive Diseases

The cost of treating virtually every ailment is going up.

By Robert Langreth, Forbes.

One way to reduce health care costs would be to find diseases with the most rapidly rising costs and target them for cuts. Unfortunately, the costs for treating pretty much every disease are growing rapidly—and for a bewildering variety of reasons.

In the effort to overhaul America's health care system and the associated costs, this is not welcome news.

It isn't just the high-profile, often terminal ailments that are getting pricier to treat. Sure, costs for treating diseases like colon cancer are growing because fancy new drugs make each case much more expensive (drugs such as Erbitux for colon cancer can cost well over $50,000 per year). Simple, everyday problems cost more to treat too. Diseases like heartburn and high cholesterol are getting more expensive because more people are being treated. Total medical costs grew at a 7 percent rate between 1996 and 2005.

In Depth: Most Expensive Diseases

There are so many relentless forces toward rising costs, says Charles Roehrig, health economist at the Altarum Institute in Ann Arbor, Mich. He led a team that compiled the most-expensive-diseases list earlier this year as part of a study in the journal Health Affairs. Expenses for some diseases are growing because prevalence has gone up, and some are growing because the cost per case has come up," he says. "It is very hard to pinpoint a leverage point.

Behind the Numbers

The list of the 10 most expensive diseases are Roehrig's estimates, based on 2005 data, and is purportedly the most accurate compilation of disease-by-disease health costs to date. Previous government surveys included community-dwelling patients using data from the federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Roehrig's estimate, however, provides a fuller picture by also accounting for costs of treating patients in nursing homes, the military, prisons and mental hospitals.

Nursing-home expenses explain why spending on mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and Alzheimer's disease rise to the top of the list. They accounted for $142.2 billion in spending, vs. $123 billion of spending on second-place heart disease.

Previous surveys with 1997 and 2005 data by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality had heart disease at the top, but these lists didn't include the nursing-home-specific expenses, so may not have captured as much of the spending on Alzheimer's disease.

Trauma edges out cancer to take third place, with $100.2 billion in 2005 spending. While airbags, anti-lock brakes and other safety innovations have made cars safer, costs per trauma case are going up, Roehrig says. He's not sure why, but it is likely due to soaring usage of expensive imaging machines and ever-increasing costs of hospital care.

Fuzzy Math

Of course, how you count determines what diseases appear on the list as expensive.

The costs of treating upper gastrointestinal problems surged to $32.7 billion in 2005 from $10.5 billion in 1996—a 14 percent annual growth rate. The obesity epidemic and exploding use of heartburn drugs mean more people are being treated. But it does not make the list of most expensive diseases because upper GI problems aren't considered one disease according to the government methodology.

Meanwhile, diabetes wracks up only $35.8 billion in annual expenses. Its main complication is heart disease, whose costs are counted separately.

The truly unfortunate part, however, is that Roehrig says he doesn't know whether current versions of health care reform will slow surging health costs or not.

The legislation is bewildering," he says. "It is impossible to know if the elements in health reform that are designed to save money are going to be successful.

The 5 Most Expensive Diseases:

  1. Mental Health Disorders
  2. Heart Disease
  3. Trauma
  4. Cancer
  5. Pulmonary Diseases

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

7 Diet Dos (and Don'ts)

By Joy Bauer, PARADE Magazin

Doesn't it seem like cravings and emotionally driven eating are amped up when you're on a diet? The good news is that there are many tried-and-true methods to help keep you on track. I'm about to let you in on a few.

Do fill up on fiber

Protein is digested more slowly than carbohydrates and fat, so it takes fewer calories to fill you up. Fiber slows mealtime digestion and absorbs water, which expands your stomach and creates a feeling of fullness. Lentils and starchy beans (for example, navy, kidney, black, pinto, and garbanzo beans) naturally combine protein and fiber in very impressive amounts, so consider eating them in soups and salads or as a side dish instead of rice or pasta.

Don't miss out on sleep

Recent studies show that sleep deprivation can make it difficult to fit into your favorite jeans. When you don't get enough shut-eye, your body produces more ghrelin, a hormone that makes you hungry, and less leptin, a hormone that increases satiety. Discipline might enable you to resist, but why not give your body a well-deserved rest?

Do downsize

Scientists at Cornell University and the University of Illinois researched the effect of serving-bowl size on eating behavior and then published their findings in no less an esteemed publication than the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers found that students serving themselves from a large bowl took 53 percent more and ate 56 percent more food (the equivalent of 142 calories) than those who served themselves from smaller serving bowls. If 142 calories doesn't seem like much, try multiplying it by three meals a day for 365 days. If the resulting yearly weight gain of 44 pounds doesn't inspire you to consider a new china pattern, I don't know what will!

Do veg out

Nonstarchy vegetables (anything but peas, corn, acorn/butternut squash, and potatoes) are "filler foods" in the best sense of the term. Low in calories and packed with water and fiber, vegetables fill you up without filling you out. Enjoy them in the form of stir-fries and soups, and munch on baby carrots, celery sticks, green beans, or cauliflower between meals.

Don't eat standing up

Back when people ate most of their meals while seated at their kitchen or dining-room tables, rates of obesity were far lower. Coincidence? I think not. When eating is limited to a particular place, your brain doesn't associate other places with food, and the cascade of bodily signals that stimulate appetite is activated less frequently. So, no more chowing down while leaning over your kitchen sink or strolling down the street, OK?

Do limit your choices

Contrary to popular belief, variety is not all that it's cracked up to be—at least when it comes to snacks. When you have more to choose from, you tend to sample a little of this and a little of that, which can lead to a lot of extra pounds. Besides, research shows that we are generally happier eating our favorite foods repeatedly than experimenting with a wide variety.

Don't eat in the dark

Dining by candlelight may be romantic, but the end result can be anything but. Eating in a dimly lit room tends to make people consume more calories. Simply put, in the light you're more self-conscious of others watching what you eat. Also, in low lighting, you can't see your food as well, which may cause you to lose track of how much you're eating. So, if possible, nix the dimmer.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How Your Home May Help You Lose Weight

A new study shows that what's in your house—including TVs and exercise equipment—influences your ability to lose weight and keep it off.

By Megan Othersen Gorman, Rodale.com

"Home, Sweet Home," takes on new meaning when considered in the context of a study of at-home weight loss just published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. The research found that your home and what's in it can influence your ability (or inability) to lose weight and keep it off.

The details: Researchers under the direction of Suzanne Phelan, Ph.D., assistant professor of kinesiology at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, set out to determine the factors that distinguish those who've lost weight and kept it off from people who can't seem to lose weight. To examine at-home weight loss, they compared 167 people who had lost at least 10 percent of their body weight and kept it off for at least five years with two groups of overweight men and women who had a history of dieting with no success.

Do you know many hours your kids watch TV daily, and how it's affecting their health?

What they found, among other variables, was that the weight-loss maintainers tended to have more low-fat foods, including more fruit and veggies, in their homes than the yo-yo dieters, and fewer high-fat foods, such as high-fat snacks and spreads. Weight-loss maintainers also had fewer TVs in the home and more home exercise equipment. In other words, the homes of the weight-loss maintainers were better equipped to inspire and support weight loss and maintenance than those of the yo-yo dieters.

What it means: Losing weight is hard work, and what's going on at home can help or hinder weight loss. Those trying to lose more than a few and keep 'em off need all the help they can get—including a pro-weight-loss home environment. "We know that long-term maintenance of weight loss requires continued vigilance, monitoring of intake and exercising," says Phelan. "What our study suggests is that by slightly altering your home environment, you may be able to make it a little bit easier to practice these weight-control behaviors."

Here's how to help your home help you to lose weight and keep it off:

Rearrange, and perhaps restock, your cabinets. "What do you see when you first open your fridge?" asks Phelan. "If you want to lose weight and keep it off, your answer should be healthful, low-cal foods." Make the healthiest food the most visible, and keep high-calorie junk food out of the house, or at least hidden.

A little housework can boost your heart rate and burn calories.

Survey your rooms for exercise cues. The weight-loss maintainers in the study tended to have more pieces of exercise equipment in the home than the yo-yo dieters, and they burned significantly more calories per week doing physical activity (2,877, on average, versus 882). Part of the reason may be that having the exercise equipment around cues you to be more active. Of course, you don't want to run out and buy a treadmill you're not going to use. But making sure the equipment you do have, whether sneakers or a stair-climber, crosses your line of sight every day may help motivate you.

No gym needed:7 easy abs exercises you can do anywhere.

Evict one of your TVs. The weight-loss maintainers tended to have one fewer television sets in the home compared to the yo-yo dieters—a total of two versus three. Far fewer of the first group had TVs in their bedrooms, and they watched an average of six fewer hours of television per week, perhaps as a direct result. Time spent in front of the TV is time spent sedentary, plus you're bombarded with advertising cues for consuming high-fat foods (The researchers also point out that television-viewing is implicated as a cause, and treatment target, for obesity in children.)

One way to minimize your own TV time (and perhaps your weight) is to reduce the cues you get to watch it by sticking with just one or two TVs. And "Just make sure none are in your bedroom! exclaims Phelan. "Get rid of your TV there, and you'll catch up on sleep"—and, perhaps, feel energized enough to hop on that treadmill.

Still not getting enough exercise? Getting fit is easier than you think.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Games Might Provide Sufficient Exercise

Playing some video games at higher levels could be considered moderate physical activity.

By Karen Collins, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Do active video games such as Wii count toward recommended amounts of physical activity?

A: Playing video games that involve movement and increase a player’s heart rate and breathing noticeably would be considered moderate physical activity. Moderate physical activity feels like you are exerting yourself to a rating of 5 or 6 on a scale of 0 to 10. Another sign of moderate-intensity activity is that you can talk but not sing.

Researchers are just beginning to objectively study the impact of active video games on overall level of physical activity and fitness, mostly among children and teens. Results are mixed, but a few studies suggest that games such as Wii boxing and Dance Dance Revolution played at skill level 2, do involve moderate activity.

Others, such as Wii bowling and golf and Dance Dance Revolution played at the lowest skill level involve lower levels of activity, though clearly a step up from the more sedentary activity of watching television.

Actually, the intensity of activity considered moderate for any individual depends on his or her level of fitness. So for some people whose sedentary lifestyle, illness or excess weight has led to a low level of fitness, even the less demanding video games involving whole body movement may actually be moderate activity.

Recommendations for lower cancer risk and better overall health advise us all to accumulate 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily; those who seek weight loss will get better results by working up to 60 minutes a day.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Get the Nutrients You Need

It's easy to give your body the vitamins and minerals it craves. By Karen Asp, Redbook

One of the most important things you can do for your health takes only a few seconds each day: Down a multivitamin. "Think of it as nutritional insurance," says Lisa Hark, Ph.D., a registered dietitian and coauthor of Nutrition for Life. True, your body absorbs vitamins and minerals more easily from food, but on those days when you eat more French fries than French-style green beans, your multi will help fill in the nutritional blanks. Here's how to make one work for you.

Look for a multi that contains 100 percent of your daily needs for vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B12, C, D, E, folic acid and the minerals iron and zinc.

It should also have 70 percent of your daily vitamin A requirement and at least 15 percent of your calcium. Most multis don't contain more vitamin A because it's abundant in food -- and getting more than three times what you need may cause birth defects in women who are pregnant. As for bone-building calcium, your multi would have to be the size of a horse pill to contain 100 percent of your daily requirement. Multis formulated for women, however, such as One-A-Day Women's, may have as much as 45 percent. Consume the rest of your calcium via low-fat dairy products (a cup of skim milk has a third of your day's needs) or a calcium supplement.

Except for calcium, you probably don't need to take an extra pill to get a vitamin that's already in your multi.

"Nutrients work in tandem and aren't as effective when taken alone," says Andrew Shao, Ph.D., vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition in Washington, DC. Plus, experts don't recommend getting more than 100 percent of any vitamin from a supplement -- doing so may cause negative side effects ranging from vomiting to kidney stones. If you want additional nutrients, eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; you can't ever overdose on their natural vitamins, Hark says.

Vitamins are sold in opaque containers because light can destroy their effectiveness.

And pay attention to the expiration date, says Laura Biron, R.D., a nutritionist in Stowe, VT. Supplements can lose their potency over time.

Just as your body absorbs nutrients better from food, it also absorbs your multi better with food.

Try taking it with one of these superfoods:

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt (57 percent vitamin B12, 40 percent riboflavin, 37 percent calcium, 20 percent zinc, 15 percent selenium, 10 percent magnesium)

1/2 cup cooked spinach (33 percent folate, 25 percent magnesium, 19 percent riboflavin, 18 percent iron, 17 percent vitamin B6, 12 percent calcium and vitamin C, 9 percent zinc, 8 percent thiamin, 6 percent vitamin E)

1 cup steamed broccoli (205 percent vitamin C, 10 percent folate, 10 percent calcium)

1 oz. almonds (46 percent vitamin E, 20 percent magnesium, 17 percent riboflavin, 13 percent iron).

A plays a crucial role in vision and may protect against some cancers.

B1, B2 and B3 help your body process carbs and protein.

B12 may reduce your risk of osteoporosis and Alzheimer's.

C keeps skin supple and helps your body absorb iron.

Calcium helps maintain strong bones, thus protecting against osteoporosis, and may aid in weight loss. In one study, people who ate three servings a day of low-fat yogurt lost 60 percent more fat than those who didn't eat dairy.

D aids your body's calcium absorption.

E helps your brain and eyes stave off disease. It may also decrease the risk of death from heart disease.

Folic acid may lower blood pressure, and taking it before conception and while pregnant can slash birth-defect risk by as much as 70 percent. Note: This is the only nutrient your body actually absorbs better from a pill than from food.

Iron combats fatigue and increases blood circulation.

Zinc is necessary for maintaining your sense of smell and healing wounds. Some studies have found that taking zinc can shorten the duration of the common cold, too.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Diet Myths That Make You Fat

We reveal the real skinny behind the myths that make you fat.
By Nicole Yorio

Big Fat Diet Lies
Ask 10 people for weight-loss advice, and you'll get 10 different answers: Work out constantly. Set a large goal. Resign yourself to winter weight gain. "Most of us have been following certain rules for how to shed pounds our entire lives," says Nancy Snyderman, M.D., chief medical editor of NBC News and author of the new book Diet Myths That Keep Us Fat. "But much of what we have been told about weight loss is actually false." Here, Snyderman weighs in on the diet myths it's time to ditch — and the surprising truths that will help you get and stay slim.

THE MYTH: The more you work out, the better.

You already know that exercise is one of the best things you can do to maintain your weight and boost your overall health, but overdoing it can actually have the opposite effect. "Working out seven days a week can weaken our immune system, strain our joints, and tire us out," Snyderman says. "Your muscles need time to repair so they can be more efficient during your next session." And if you're exercising with improper form due to fatigue, you'll actually burn fewer calories than if you were exercising correctly, she says. To prevent workout burnout, schedule at least one day off a week, and change things up a bit each session — by doing arm weights one day, say, and leg moves the next — to avoid overusing one set of muscles. Be sure to keep your back straight and not to lean on the handles of cardio equipment, to prevent injury and maximize calorie burn.

THE MYTH: Muscle weighs more than fat.

If you've been working out and the scale reading is higher than you'd like, it's tempting to tell yourself, "Well, that's just muscle weight." After all, muscle's heavier than fat, right? Not so much: There's no such thing as "muscle weight," Snyderman says. A pound of muscle and a pound of fat both weigh...a pound! But because muscle is more dense than fat, having more muscle on your frame than fat makes you look leaner. And there's another benefit: One pound of muscle burns an estimated 50 calories a day, while a pound of fat burns about two calories a day — so the leaner you get, the higher your metabolic rate. "Aerobic exercise, like biking and running, sheds fat, while weight-lifting helps build muscle mass," Snyderman says. "Doing both is a surefire way to rev up your metabolism."

THE MYTH: Fresh fruits and veggies are more nutritious than frozen or canned.

Frozen and canned produce can be equally as healthful as — and even more economical than — the fresh stuff, Snyderman says. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often flash-frozen straight off the vine, which helps them retain nutrients. And some canned produce is actually more nutritious than the fresh, raw kind, since we absorb antioxidants like the lycopene found in tomatoes and the beta-carotene contained in carrots more easily when they come from veggies that have been cooked. Bottom line: "It doesn't matter how you get your fruits and vegetables, as long as you're eating them," Snyderman says.

THE MYTH: You gain more weight in winter.

When the temperature drops, it makes sense that our bodies would inevitably pack on fat for insulation. Except that's not what happens. In fact, our metabolism revs up to keep us warm in colder temperatures, which means we actually burn more calories every day, Snyderman says. So if you're gaining in winter, a change in habits — like exercising less frequently and indulging in comfort foods — is likely to blame. To maintain your weight, try to stick to a balanced diet (even if carbs are all you crave) and your usual exercise routine. Swap indoor activities for your usual outdoor ones — or do some of your workouts out in the cold to boost calorie burn.

THE MYTH: Weight gain is inevitable as you get older.

"This myth stems from the fact that belly fat begins to creep on as we get older, but a bulge is avoidable," Snyderman says. Most of that fat isn't gained — it's weight that's shifted due to hormone changes, childbirth, or weakening bones. And you can slow the shift with strength training, according to a study from the National Institutes of Health: Overweight and obese women who lifted weights just twice a week saw a smaller increase in intra-abdominal fat (7 percent over two years) than those who didn't exercise (their intra-abdominal fat went up 21 percent in two years). The sooner you start pumping iron, the easier it is to keep that belly trim down the road.

THE MYTH: Yo-yo dieting wrecks your metabolism.

It's become common wisdom that depriving yourself of food — a.k.a. dieting — puts you into "starvation mode," in which you burn fewer calories because your body needs to hold on to what little nutrition it's getting; over time, the theory goes, your metabolism slows down for good. But "while extreme low-calorie diets do temporarily lower your metabolism, the effects don't last," Snyderman says. Researchers in Canada compared the resting metabolic rates of women who'd yo-yo dieted for an average of 18 years with what their metabolism should be for their height, weight, and age — and found no difference in 92 percent of the subjects. "Yo-yo diets don't hurt you, but they do frustrate you because they mean you haven't found the right way to keep the weight off," says Snyderman.

THE MYTH: You need to lose a significant amount of weight to see any health benefits.

Meeting your weight-loss goal can be daunting, especially when you have a double-digit amount to lose. But shedding even just a few pounds can have a huge impact on your health. For every two pounds of excess weight you lose, your cholesterol drops an average of 3 points. And in a study from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, men and women were able to bring their blood pressure down after losing as few as nine pounds. "Our bodies can tell when we lose weight, even when it's a minimal amount, and they adjust very quickly," Snyderman says. "So even if you have a significant amount of weight to lose, taking it a few pounds at a time will boost your overall health — and make your ultimate goal more manageable."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Save on Supper: 5-Ingredient Dinners

These family-friendly 5-ingredient pasta dishes can be made in a flash — and for the right price.
By Frank P. Melodia

Spaghetti with Walnuts, Gorgonzola, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Whole-wheat spaghetti makes this dish both rustic and healthy.
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Rotelli with Roasted Asparagus, Chicken, and Lemon Thyme
This zesty lemon-accented dish is easy, elegant, and ready in under 30 minutes!
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Penne with Black Kale, Sausage, and Roasted Peppers
"Pretty good! I added some pepper along with the Parmesan at the end for a little more flavor." -jd0702
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Long Fusilli with Mini Peppers, Zucchini, and Feta
Kalamata olives and feta cheese give this dish a distinctive Greek flair.
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Tortelloni with Butternut Squash, Pancetta, and Sage Butter
There are 600 pasta shapes produced worldwide, but tortelloni may be one of the tastiest! Try the recipe with a pumpkin, cheese, or mushroom variety.
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Spinach Lasagna
"This recipe was excellent and fairly quick to make. I have two children, at the time they were 11 and 1, and they both loved it." –cxk297
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Cavatelli with Eggplant, Sausage, and Peppers
Vibrant bell peppers and zesty Italian sausage add flavor and color to this easy pasta recipe.
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Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
Using items already in your pantry, you can make this easy pasta dish in no time.
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Ravioli with Roasted Squash and Sage Brown Butter
Starting with store-bought ravioli makes this an easy pasta recipe for busy nights.
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Penne with Escarole, White Beans, and Toasted Breadcrumbs
Tasty beans and greens add flavor and nutrition to this simple pasta recipe.
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Fettuccine with Charred Grape Tomato-Basil Marinara
Broiled grape tomatoes and fresh herbs gives this easy pasta recipe a flavor boost.
Get the Recipe!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Do Diet Pills Really Work?

The answer is yes. Metformin can help you lose weight. But there's some scary (and, um, unsavory) info in the fine print. REDBOOK tells you what you must know about weight-loss drugs.

Diet drugs have come a long way since the addictive amphetamines of the 1950s. And while each new generation of skinny pills has so far proven more dangerous than effective — remember fen-phen and ephedra? — experts continue their search for a safe diet pill that works.

But while these pills offer hope for trimming America's ever-expanding waistline, experts caution that there's no miracle potion out there to automatically shrink you back into your college jeans. "These diet drugs work only if you also change your lifestyle, and that means following the same old advice of dieting and exercising," says Caroline Apovian, M.D., of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston University Medical Center. The medications also come with some real health risks, ranging from nausea and diarrhea to hypertension and depression. Here's the scoop on the five newest weight-loss pills on the market.

Alli (orlistat)
THE SKINNY: Created originally as the prescription drug Xenical, orlistat is now available in a lower-dose, over-the-counter version called Alli. The drug, which you take up to three times a day with meals, prevents you from digesting 25 percent of the fat you consume (by attaching to some of the enzymes responsible for breaking down fat from food). The amount of fat calories blocked will depend on how much fat you eat, but most patients block 100 to 200 calories per day.

So, how does that play out in pounds? Subjects who took Alli for six months lost 50 percent more weight — say, 15 pounds versus 10 — than those who only dieted, according to a study done by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare, the drug's manufacturer. It also appeared to inspire positive lifestyle changes: "We found that 80 percent of Alli-takers really stuck to a reduced-fat diet, and 50 percent started exercising for longer periods of time," says Vidhu Bansal, director of Medical Affairs at GSK Consumer Healthcare. A starter pack of Alli — which includes a month's supply of pills, a dietary guidelines guide, a calorie and fat counter, and a food journal — costs about $54.

THE RISKS: If you eat too much fat (more than 30 percent of your calories, or roughly 15 grams of fat per meal), you'll likely experience loose, oily stools, since the excess fat that is blocked from absorption is quickly excreted. "My patients on Xenical often find that when they eat a high-fat meal, several hours later they may have diarrhea or loose stools. In extreme cases, they can't control their bowels — they'll leak all over their pants," says Caroline Cederquist, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP). (People who took Alli were less likely to experience these side effects.) Taking either drug may also put you at risk for vitamin loss. "You need enough fat in your diet to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as A and D," adds Loren Wissner Greene, M.D., an obesity specialist at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City.

IS THIS PILL FOR YOU? Alli is intended for people who are overweight, generally defined as those with a body mass index (BMI) — a measure of body fat based on height and weight — of at least 25. (You can calculate your BMI at nhlbisupport.com/bmi.) "Alli, like Xenical, will be useful for people who eat out often and don't have much control over the amount of fat they are served," says Cederquist. "So if you eat more fat than you intended, you'll get rid of it." The drug also works as a splurge deterrent — the side effects are so unpleasant that you'll want to avoid fatty foods. But experts do have fears about misuse: "I worry that a slim woman who just wants to lose 5 pounds to fit into her bikini will use it as a way to eat anything she wants while still getting skinnied up," says Greene. The problem with this? A normal-weight woman who takes Alli places herself at an unnecessary risk of suffering side effects such as loss of bowel control and vitamin loss, whereas for an overweight woman, the health risks of carrying around extra pounds — such as heart disease and diabetes — may outweigh these side effects.

Meridia (sibutramine)
THE SKINNY: This prescription weight-loss drug acts on the brain's appetite-control center to make you feel fuller faster — so you'll likely eat less, says Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. It works by altering levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, two chemicals that help regulate satiety. People on sibutramine lost about 10 pounds more in a year than those taking a placebo, according to a study review.

THE RISKS: Meridia can raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. In fact, it was temporarily banned in Italy, after 50 adverse reactions. And in 2002, the nonprofit group Public Citizen petitioned the FDA to ban it in the United States, citing evidence that Meridia was associated with 29 deaths and hundreds of reactions such as rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and heart palpitations. The FDA stated that while it wouldn't ban the drug, it would monitor the pill's safety. (Abbott, Meridia's manufacturer, maintains that the drug is safe, based on clinical trials of more than 12,000 patients.)

IS THIS PILL FOR YOU? Meridia is approved for obese people (having a BMI of 30 or higher) and those who are overweight (with a BMI of 27 or higher) who also have other health risk factors such as diabetes or high cholesterol. (Meridia may help these conditions by facilitating weight loss.) "It's most effective in people who complain of never feeling full," says Fernstrom. "It takes away that bottomless-pit feeling." Since Meridia may increase blood pressure, some doctors prescribe it to those under the age of 40 with no other heart disease risk factors. "I'll put patients on Meridia — but I'll check their blood pressure once or twice a month," says Michael Steelman, M.D., a spokesperson for the ASBP. "I also often lower the dose initially to reduce side effects."

The drug isn't cheap — it's about $120 per month. And Meridia, like other diet drugs, often isn't covered by insurance. As a result, some doctors prescribe antidepressants such as Effexor, Cymbalta, or Wellbutrin instead, since they also work by altering brain chemical levels and are more likely to be covered by insurance. But antidepressants might not have the exact same effect: "They help ease any depression that may cause overeating, but they won't necessarily control cravings," says Fernstrom.

Glucophage (metformin) and Byetta (exenatide)
THE SKINNY: These two diabetes drugs are also being prescribed by obesity specialists to aid weight loss in diabetics. Glucophage lowers glucose levels and increases insulin sensitivity, so you'll be less hungry and less likely to overeat, explains Cederquist. It's often used with Byetta, an injectable diabetes drug that delays the movement of food from your stomach into your small intestine, so it may extend fullness and help you to eat less. About 80 percent of women who took metformin while following a modified carbohydrate diet lost about 10 percent of their body weight within a year, a New York Medical College study found. And just over 90 percent of them had kept the weight off four years later. According to another study, diabetics who had a weekly injection of Byetta alone lost 8 pounds after 15 weeks.

THE RISKS: Both drugs can initially cause nausea, upset stomach, and diarrhea — which may be partly responsible for weight loss, says Isaacs.

IS THIS PILL FOR YOU? These medications are for people who are diabetic or those who are overweight (having a BMI of 25 or more) and also have elevated blood sugar levels and diabetes. Since both drugs are approved to treat diabetes, they're more likely than the other diet pills to be covered by insurance. "We also use these drugs in women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal condition linked with insulin resistance that may cause weight gain, acne, and irregular periods," says Fernstrom. "Once we get sufferers' insulin under control, their PCOS symptoms improve and they often lose weight."

What about supplements?
Think these "natural" weight-loss aids are a safe option? Think again. You've heard and seen their benefits extolled on infomercials — from "lose 30 pounds in 30 days" promises to miraculous before-and-after photos — and they're sold everywhere, from your local drugstore to the Internet. But just because these dietary or weight-loss supplements claim to be made with herbs and other naturally occurring ingredients doesn't mean you can take them without worry. "Dietary-supplement companies aren't required to show clinical data on their efficacy and safety to the FDA, which means we have no idea whether they work or if they're safe," says Michael Steelman, M.D., an obesity specialist in Oklahoma City.

Take bitter orange extract, a substance that has replaced ephedra as an ingredient in many weight-loss supplements. (Ephedra was banned in 2004 after causing more than 16,000 adverse events, including several cases of stroke and death.) Two products containing bitter orange — Advantra Z and Xenadrine EFX — were found to increase heart rate, and Xenadrine increased blood pressure by 7 percent to 12 percent in participants in a University of California San Francisco study. What's more, bitter orange doesn't appear to help people lose weight, according to a research review. And while there may be some truth to the weight-loss promises of hoodia, a cactuslike plant said to be used by African bushmen to stave off hunger, a lot of the products that claim to be made with hoodia don't actually contain much or any at all, says Lona Sandon, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Hoodia's a protected plant, and many experts suspect that companies replace some or all of it with another species of the same plant. Whether hoodia itself is harmless is unclear, but products that use it often contain other potentially dangerous ingredients, such as bitter orange.

To find out more about these and other common supplement ingredients such as hydroxycitric acid (HCA, found in Hydroxycut) and chromium (found in Trimspa), visit webmd.com.

There are two supplements that may have some safe body fat– and weight-loss potential: green tea extract and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Green tea contains EGCG, an antioxidant that may help boost metabolism, according to some studies. CLA, found naturally in dairy, was shown to reduce body fat in one small study, though participants' weights stayed the same. But the amounts found in EGCG and CLA supplements vary and some may not be effective, says George Blackburn, M.D., an obesity specialist at Harvard Medical School. Instead, he suggests getting these compounds through food, whether by including green tea at breakfast or by adding an extra glass of skim milk to your daily diet.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Firm Up in 15 Minutes with Gabrielle Reece

Only have 15 minutes? Then you have time for this cardio and strength-training routine from Gabrielle Reece — the volleyball pro, model, mom of two, and (phew!) creator of the Express 15 DVD line (find it at thehoneyline.com). Ready? Go!

Equipment: A set of 3-5 pound dumbbells and a 3-5 pound medicine ball (or a basketball or soccer ball)

Goal: Do two sets of 10 to 20 reps, unless otherwise noted।
By Nicole Yorio

1. Jumping jacks with exercise ball

Cardio warm-up:

With a medicine ball in your hands, perform a jumping jack, lifting the ball straight overhead when your feet jump apart and bringing the ball straight out in front of you when your feet jump together. Do this for 3 minutes.

2. Modified side-bridge arm rolls
Targets: shoulders, core, upper back

Prop yourself up on your left side with your elbow on the floor, positioned directly beneath your shoulder, your forearm lying perpendicular to your body. Stack your right leg on top of your left, keeping your right leg straight and your left leg bent at a 90-degree angle so your foot is behind you. Lift your right hand in the air and then push your upper body and hips off the ground, balancing yourself with your forearm and bottom leg and creating a straight diagonal line with your body. Keeping your right arm straight, rotate your right shoulder and chest toward the floor in front of you until your right hand taps the floor. Then bring your arm back up to the starting point. Do one set, then switch sides.

3. Abs-pose ball taps
Targets: abs, core, shoulders

Sit on the floor with legs bent, feet planted on the floor, and knees pointed toward the ceiling. Hold a medicine ball straight out in front of your face. Raise your feet a few inches off the floor and lean back so you are balancing on your gluteus. Keeping your arms straight, twist your torso to the right, then tap the ball to floor next to your right hip. Return to center. Then twist to the left side.

4. Karate kids
Targets: biceps, shoulders, upper back, butt, legs

Assume a squat position, feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out at a 45-degree angle. Tuck your elbows in to your sides, ball your hands into fists, and bring them up to your shoulders, palms facing in. Punch both arms straight out in front of you, keeping arms parallel to the floor and turning palms down, then move hands back to the starting point. Remain in the squat position while doing the exercise. (To make this harder, hold dumbbells.)

5. Knee push-ups
Targets: triceps, shoulders, chest, abs

Get into modified push-up position — on your knees — with one hand curled around a dumbbell on the floor. Keep your toes on the floor. Perform a push-up, keeping your back flat. After one set, repeat with the other hand on the dumbbell.

6. Heel-touch squats with dumbbells
Targets: butt, legs

Stand with feet facing forward, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, hands hanging at your sides. In each hand, hold the end of a dumbbell so it dangles from your fingers. Sink into a squat, keeping the chest lifted, and continue to lower yourself until the end of the dumbbells hits the heel of your shoes. Slowly stand upright.

Monday, January 4, 2010

4 Lifesaving Vaccines Adults Need

4 lifesaving shots you might be missing.

Kids aren't the only ones who should go in for their immunizations. We grown-ups require vaccines and booster shots too, but many of us aren't getting them. In fact, about 50,000 American adults die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases, says the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases — primarily the flu. Read on to find out if you should go in for one of these vaccines now.

1. Flu vaccine
  • What it does: Prevents influenza, the highly contagious respiratory illness that each year makes up to 20 percent of us suffer fever, aches, sore throat, runny nose, and nausea — and causes an estimated 36,000 deaths annually. This season there could be two separate shots: the regular flu vaccine, out this month, and one for H1N1 virus ("swine flu"), which, if distributed, will be available later in the year. For flu updates, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website: cdc.gov/flu.

  • Who should get it: The CDC encourages everyone 6 months and older to receive the shot. But certain people at high risk for flu complications absolutely must get vaccinated: children ages 6 months to 19 years, pregnant women, people 50 and older, anyone with certain chronic medical conditions, health-care workers, and people who live with or care for anyone else on this list.

  • How often: Once a year between September and February — the sooner, the better. If a swine flu shot comes out, get both vaccines for full protection.

2. Hepatitis B vaccine
  • What it does: Protects against hepatitis B, a life-threatening disease that attacks the liver and can cause jaundice, liver cancer, and liver failure.

  • Who should get it: Everyone, especially sexually active adults who are not in a long-term, monogamous relationship with a person who's hep B-free. It's standard practice for every child to receive the vaccine at routine checkups — but only since 1991. Unfortunately, this means that many people who need it have not been immunized, and many don't realize that hep B is transmitted sexually. (It can also be spread by sharing needles and from mother to baby during delivery.) "It's the least-known vaccine by doctors and the public," says William Schaffner, M.D., president-elect of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases — but it's one of the most necessary if you're sexually active.

  • How often: Three shots administered within a six-month period, taken once in a lifetime.

3. HPV vaccine
  • What it does: Reduces a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer and genital warts by 70 to 80 percent by protecting against four strains of genital human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus.

  • Who should get it: The vaccine is approved and covered by many insurers for females between ages 9 and 26, since girls and women this age are less likely to have already been infected by the virus; the shot can only prevent — not treat — HPV. But there may be good reason for sexually active women over 26 to pay for the immunization. (The cost varies but is often $150 to $200, plus an administration fee.) Even if you already have HPV, for instance, getting vaccinated may prevent infection from more serious, possibly deadly strains with more crippling symptoms. Talk to your gynecologist to determine if the vaccine makes sense for you.

  • How often: Three shots administered over a six-month period provide long-lasting immunity. (Research is underway to determine if a later booster shot is necessary.)

4. Tdap booster
  • What it does: Protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis) — diseases that can result in hospitalizations and even death.

  • Who should get it: All adults 19 to 64 (except pregnant women).

  • How often: Before 2005, adults were advised to get a Td shot — which protects against tetanus and diphtheria only — every 10 years. Since the new booster protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough, make sure to get the Tdap instead of the Td when your decade's up.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

6 Delicious Dinners Under 500 Calories

6 dishes that taste so great, you'll think there's no way they could be good for you — but they are!
By Frank P. Melodia

Vegetable Pad Thai
No need to get take-out with this easy Vegetable Pad Thai. It is healthier than take out too: only 393 calories per serving!
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Chicken and Chard Pasta Fagioli
This is a twist on the classic pasta fagioli soup, using shredded chicken breast, red kidney beans, and Swiss chard. At 345 calories per serving, it is a filling and low-calorie meal.
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Flank Steak Souvlakis
This grilled flank steak wrap sandwich gets a healthy Greek style flavor from tangy garlic-mint yogurt sauce.
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Shrimp Tacos with Warm Corn Salsa
Shrimp and fresh corn salsa combine in corn tortillas for a refreshing and low-calorie meal.
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Grilled Pork with Glazed Apples and Yam Mash
Grilled pork chops make a healthy and satisfying meal when paired with sweet glazed apples and mashed yams.
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Turkey Piccata
This breaded turkey cutlet served with a white wine sauce is low-fat, only 220 calories per serving, and fast to make.
Get the recipe!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

10 Ways to Beat Bloat

Why our bellies get so puffy — and how to deflate, fast.
By Nicole DeCoursy Mead

Prevent Puff
It's Saturday night, and you slip on your sexiest pair of jeans. One problem: Your stomach's so swollen that those jeans barely zip shut. Sound familiar? Bloating's a common but annoying symptom with many causes, says Patricia Raymond, M.D., a gastroenterologist in Chesapeake, VA. "You could be retaining fluids — especially right before that time of the month — or have excess gas because of something you ate, or you could be constipated," Raymond notes. Luckily, there are just as many ways to banish bloat. Try one of these tricks to keep your denim from fitting a little too close for comfort.

Pick Potassium-Rich Foods
This mineral helps regulate the fluid balance in your body, keeping bloat at bay. High-potassium foods include bananas, cantaloupe, mangoes, spinach, tomatoes, nuts, and asparagus — which contains an amino acid called asparagine that (bonus!) acts as a diuretic to flush excess liquid out of your system.

Keep Your Mouth Shut
Beware of habits that cause you to swallow excess air — like chewing gum, drinking through a straw, smoking, and talking while you're eating, Raymond says.

Cut the P.M. Carbs
Starches like bread and pasta may cause you to retain water. Lay off them before bedtime to keep from waking up puffy.

Can the Soda
The bubbles in carbonated drinks will make your belly pooch out. Stick to plain water, says Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Limit Sugar Substitutes
Some people have difficulty digesting artificial sweeteners (especially sorbitol, found in many sugar-free candies and gums — making gum doubly bloat-inducing), which can cause gas and diarrhea, Raymond warns. If you suspect you're one of them, opt for a bit of real sugar instead.

Prep for PMS
If you tend to swell up before (or during) your period, be sure you're getting enough calcium (1,200 mg a day) and magnesium (200 to 400 mg daily) in your diet; both nutrients have been found to help relieve PMS symptoms such as bloating. You can also pop Midol, which contains two mild diuretics.

Apply Pressure
To help evacuate gas, says Raymond, try massaging your abdomen in the direction of your GI tract: Press your fingers near your right hip; slide up toward the ribs, across and down near your colon in a circular motion. Sounds weird — but it works!

Nibble on Parsley
Add fresh, chopped parsley — another natural diuretic — to meals.

Pop a Probiotic
These "good bacteria" (found in supplements and in cultured milk products such as yogurt) can keep you regular and bloat-free, Gazzaniga-Moloo says. In fact, women with irritable bowel syndrome — characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea — who took the probiotic strain B. infantis for four weeks noticed less bloating than those on a placebo, one study shows. Check labels for this strain (which can be found in the supplement Align), or find a similar strain in Dannon Activia yogurt.

Get Moving
Fight constipation by walking for at least 15 to 20 minutes each day to keep food moving through your digestive tract, Raymond suggests. Working up a sweat also releases fluids.

Other blog by ShIn

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