Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Many Benefits of Breastfeeding

I'm a strong supporter of breastfeeding and I don't see why any woman would choose NOT to breastfeed. At the same time, I do understand that there might be a lot of pain involved and that some are just incapable of doing it. I myself might run into problems with it when the time comes but that's another matter. I still fully support it. Not only does it benefit the baby in so many ways but it also benefits the mom! The following article in Women's Health is just one example of the benefits of breastfeeding:

Wonder-Twin Powers
You may have heard that nursing is best for a baby, but new evidence shows that it can offer major benefits for Mom too. Experts had speculated that breastfeeding might provide some protection against breast cancer, but according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, its cancer-fighting power may be more potent than anyone previously imagined. Researchers found that among women with a family history of the disease, those who had breastfed were 59 percent less likely to develop breast cancer as those who had not. The reduction in risk was similar whether the women nursed for a lifetime total of just three months or for more than three years and regardless of whether they supplemented their breast milk with other foods.

Thanks to a friend of mine, who is a strong supporter of breastfeeding and a breastfeeding mother to a two year old son (yes, you can breastfeed for as long as you want!), I have found other very informative articles about breastfeeding that I'd like to share with you. The first one is about the many health benefits that mom's get from breasfeeding and you can view it here. The second one is comparing breast milk to formula. It can be found here. Very informative.

Speaking of formula, did you know that infant formula is nearly a four billion dollar industry in the U.S.? Why is this? Most likely because women aren't being educated enough about the benefits of breastfeeding and give up way too soon when it doesn't go smoothly for them right away. We are a lazy nation after all . . . Well, here to help us all is a new documentary called Formula Fed America and you can visit their website for more information. Check out the little clip at the beginning as well. (No, I'm not getting paid to advertise this. I'm simply doing it because I think it's ridiculous that so many people are resorting to formula without any thought.)

At the end of the day, no one can tell a mom what she should do with her infant or how she should feed him/her. But before you make any decision, at least inform yourself of all the options out there. Who knows, you might just learn a thing or two that will benefit you and your family in more ways than you could ever imagine.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Your Skin Colour May Be Telling You

Attractiveness Based Partly on Skin Color
By Jeanna Bryner, Senior Writer

When it comes to an attractive face, color can make all the difference, suggests a new study.

The research focused on facial skin color among Caucasians, finding a light, yellowish complexion looks the healthiest. The skin color could indicate a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, whose pigments are known to change the skin's hue, researchers suggest.

(The researchers predict the results would hold for other ethnicities as well.)

"Effectively health and attractiveness are pretty much the same thing," study researcher Ian Stephen of the University of Bristol in England told LiveScience. He added that past research as well as some of his forthcoming research shows as much.

Other studies have shown that shape and symmetry of a person's face are also cues of attractiveness.

"Most previous work on faces has focused on the shape of the face or the texture of the skin, but one of the most variable characteristics of the face is skin color," Stephen said.

Stephen and his colleagues asked 54 Caucasian participants to change the skin color of about 50 male and female faces on a computer screen to make them look as healthy as possible. Hands down, the participants tended to increase the rosiness, yellowness and brightness of the skin.

Here's how the researchers think the health-coloring connection works: The preference for more golden or yellow-toned skin could be related to the carotenoid pigments from fruits and veggies. These plant pigments are considered antioxidants, as they protect cells from damage caused by so-called free radicals and are also thought to be important for the immune system.

As for skin color, Stephen notes that if someone were to eat just carrots for a stint, the person's skin color would certainly turn orange-ish. He doesn't recommend such a diet, of course.

And rosy coloring can be the result of skin flushed with blood and oxygen, suggesting a strong heart and lungs, the researchers say. For instance, smokers and diabetics and those with heart disease have fewer blood vessels in their skin, and so their skin would appear less rosy.

If you think you can ditch the rabbit-like meals and just head to a tanning bed, think again. The researchers found lighter skin was better.

"In the West we often think that sun tanning is the best way to improve the color of your skin," Stephen said. "But our research suggests that living a healthy lifestyle with a good diet might actually be better."

Another tip: Eating only fruits and veggies won't work either, so forget about nibbling your way to an attractive face.

"If you're starving yourself then you'll look unhealthy for other reasons," Stephen said. "I wouldn't suggest you eat nothing but salads, because you won't be getting enough calories and [would] lose a lot of weight, and that in itself doesn't look good. If you end up anemic you won't have the red component in your face."

The results would likely hold for other ethnicities as well, Stephen said. For instance, his past research has shown black South Africans tend to judge rosier faces as healthier. And forthcoming research suggests the same may hold for yellowness and lightness of facial skin.

The study, which will be published in the December issue of the International Journal of Primatology, was funded by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, and Unilever Research.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Keep Those Toilet Lids Down!

I found a short article in my favourite magazine, Women's Health, that I wanted to share with everyone. Habits are hard to break, I understand, but once you read how disgusting this really is, you'll change this habit fast!

There are more than 3 million bacteria per square inch inside the average toilet bowl. When you flush, those bad boys get ejected into the air and land on everything in the room, including that innocent bystander otherwise known as your toothbrush. Can you say "ick"? Always close the lid before flushing, and store your toothbrush in a drawer, advises Donna M. Duberg, M.S., assistant professor of clinical laboratory science at St. Louis University.

There's also this article that I found about putting down the toilet seat before flushing which includes a more scientific viewpoint. It's a bit long but very informative!

So, think you can do something as simple as putting the toilet seat down before flushing? Oh and you can also apologize to your "nagging" girlfriend/wife/mother/etc. for always telling you to do so in the first place! Looks like they had a point, after all.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Health TV Shows

I rarely watch TV. I like to use my brain for better things, such as reading books/online or listening to music. Living with my sister, who is an avid TV viewer, has changed some things around. Whether it's for the best or not is another case. Reality TV anyone? Although it would be very me to watch The Biggest Loser for reality TV. Heh. As well, House happens to be my favourite show. Can one possibly fit anymore health into their life? Why yes, yes they can. With health TV shows! I have recently become addicted to two of them, which conveniently run one after the other for me . . . I live in Toronto but pick up Buffalo stations. Don't ask me how it works, it just does.

The first show is The Dr. Oz Show. His elf-like ears may be distracting at first but the crazy amount of knowledge this guy has to share with everyone is pretty amazing. He covers all the topics of health that you can imagine. My favourite part is when people ask him questions. There's always a random tidbit of information that you learn from those. As if I need to give my friends anymore random health knowledge . . . This show can be seen on CTV at 5 p.m for the Canadian folks. As for the U.S. viewers, click here to see local listings of the show.

The second show is The Doctors. If not for any other reason, you need to see this show for dreamy Dr. Travis Stork! He makes it hard to pay attention but this is another show full of health information about all sorts of topics under the sun. I've noticed that the format is very similar to Dr. Oz's show. So, who copied who? Not important. They both give very valuable information. Click here for local listings.

Also, make sure to check both of their websites for more information about some of the topics they have covered in the past. If you miss an important episode, you'll be sure to find some of the highlights in video on both of their websites so there's no excuse not to watch it!

Educate yourself and others! =)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Adding Years To Your Life

12 Surprising Signs You'll Live to 100

By Sandra Gordon, Prevention
What you're doing right, and how to do it better to stay healthy, happy, and strong for years to come

You're the life of the party.

Outgoing people are 50% less likely to develop dementia, according to a recent study of more than 500 men and women age 78 and older from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Participants also described themselves as not easily stressed. Researchers speculate that their more resilient brains may be due to lower levels of cortisol — studies show that oversecretion of this "stress hormone" can inhibit brain cells' communication. Science-backed ways to cut cortisol levels: Meditate, sip black tea, or take a nap.

You run for 40 minutes a day.
Scientists in California found that middle-aged people who did just that — for a total of about 5 hours per week — lived longer and functioned better physically and cognitively as they got older; the researchers tracked runners and nonrunners for 21 years. "What surprised us is that the runners didn't just get less heart disease — they also developed fewer cases of cancer, neurologic diseases, and infections," says study author Eliza Chakravarty, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. "Aerobic exercise keeps the immune system young." If you don't like to run, even 20 minutes a day of any activity that leaves you breathless can boost your health, she says.

You like raspberries in your oatmeal.
Most Americans eat 14 to 17 g of fiber per day; add just 10 g and reduce your risk of dying from heart disease by 17%, according to a Netherlands study. Dietary fiber helps reduce total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity, and boost weight loss. One easy fix: Top your oatmeal (½ cup dry has 4 g fiber) with 1 cup of raspberries (8 g) and you get 12 g of fiber in just one meal.

Try some of these other potent fiber-rich foods: ½ cup of 100% bran cereal (8.8 g), ½ cup of cooked lentils (7.8 g), ½ cup of cooked black beans (7.5 g), one medium sweet potato (4.8 g), one small pear (4.3 g).

You feel 13 years younger than you are.
That's what older people in good health said in a recent survey of more than 500 men and women age 70 and older. "Feeling youthful is linked to better health and a longer life," says researcher Jacqui Smith, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. "It can improve optimism and motivation to overcome challenges, which helps reduce stress and boost your immune system and ultimately lowers your risk of disease."

You embrace techie trends.
Learn to Twitter or Skype to help keep brain cells young and healthy, says Sherri Snelling, senior director for Evercare (part of United-Healthcare), a group that sponsors an annual poll of US centenarians. Many of the oldest Americans send e-mails, Google lost friends, and even date online. Researchers say using the latest technology helps keep us not only mentally spry but socially engaged: "Stay connected to friends, family, and current events, and you feel vital and relevant," says Snelling.

You started menopause after age 52.
Studies show that naturally experiencing it later can mean an increased life span. One reason: "Women who go through menopause late have a much lower risk of heart disease," says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine.

You make every calorie count.
Researchers in St. Louis reported that men and women who limited their daily calories to 1,400 to 2,000 (about 25% fewer calories than those who followed a typical 2,000-to 3,000-calorie Western diet) were literally young at heart — their hearts functioned like those of people 15 years younger. "It's about not just eating less but getting the most nutrition per calorie," says study author Luigi Fontana, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine. Study subjects stuck to vegetables, whole grains, fat-free milk, and lean meat and nixed white bread, soda, and candy. If you cut empty calories and eat more nutrient-rich foods, your health will improve, says Fontana. To find out how many calories you need to maintain a healthy weight, go to

You had a baby later in life.
If you got pregnant naturally after age 44, you're about 15% less likely to die during any year after age 50 than your friends who had their babies before age 40, reports a recent University of Utah study. "If your ovaries are healthy and you are capable of having children at that age, that's a marker that you have genes operating that will help you live longer," says lead researcher Ken R. Smith, PhD, professor of human development at the university.

Your pulse beats 15 times in 15 seconds.
That equates to 60 beats per minute — or how many times a healthy heart beats at rest. Most people have resting rates between 60 and 100 bpm, though the closer to the lower end of the spectrum, the healthier. A slower pulse means your heart doesn't have to work as hard and could last longer, says Leslie Cho, MD, director of the Women's Cardiovascular Center at the Cleveland Clinic. To get the healthiest heart rate, see "From the Heart Doc".

You don't snore.
Snoring is a major sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that causes you to stop breathing briefly because throat tissue collapses and blocks your airway. In severe cases, this can happen 60 to 70 times per hour. Sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, memory problems, weight gain, and depression. An 18-year study found that people without OSA were 3 times more likely to live longer than those with severe apnea. If you snore and have excessive daytime drowsiness or mood changes, talk with your doctor about a referral to a sleep center.

Click here for 14 more signs you'll live longer than you think.

You have a (relatively) flat belly after menopause.
Women who are too round in the middle are 20% more likely to die sooner (even if their body mass index is normal), according to a National Institute on Aging study. At midlife, it takes more effort to keep waists trim because shifting hormones cause most extra weight to settle in the middle. If your waist measures 35 inches or more (for men, 40 inches or more), take these steps:

1. Work two or three 20-minute strength-training sessions into your weekly exercise regimen to preserve lean muscle mass and rev metabolism.

2. Eat a daily serving of omega-3s to help combat inflammation and seven daily servings of fruits and vegetables, loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants.

3. Get 25% of your daily calories from healthy fats — such as monounsaturated fatty acids — which protect your heart and may help you store less fat in your belly (for a 1,600-calorie diet, that's 44 g).

You get your blood tested for vitamin D levels.
For optimal disease protection, we need at least 30 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood, reports a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Nearly 80% of Americans have less than that. Vitamin D not only helps bones ward off osteoporosis but may also reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and infection, says lead researcher Adit A. Ginde, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. If needed, you can take a daily supplement to get your numbers up. Doctors can measure your levels with a simple blood test, but periodic monitoring may be necessary — vitamin D turns toxic at 100 to 150 ng/mL.

More Longevity Signs
Discover the "Longevity Zones" — places around the world with the highest rates of 100-year-old-plus residents. Adopt their habits, and you may add years to your life and life to your years.


I thought this was really interesting. It applies more to women than men but there are some things in here that both can learn from and continue/start following. Do any of these apply to you?

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Benefits Of Quitting Smoking Occur Faster Than You Think!

The Health Benefits of Giving Up Smoking

It is never too late to give up smoking. The sooner you can free your body from the constant punishment of smoking then the sooner it can recover from years of abuse. The body has amazing recuperative powers. Once you stop smoking, your body will show some immediate improvement as it adjusts to no longer having to accommodate smoking and its effects. The longer you have smoked, the more the body will have to overcome to return to a more natural, healthier state.

To give you a better idea of how your system gradually recovers from smoking, the American Cancer Society has outlined these changes in a timeline. While the timeline may be different for different people, just as some people are naturally healthier to begin with, the fact remains that your body will be better off once you quit smoking.

Only 20 minutes after your very last cigarette your body will begin to return to normal. Both your blood pressure and your pulse rate will have stabilised at a more natural level. As your circulation improves, the temperature in your hands and feet increases to a normal level as the arteries recover.

About 8 hours after you have stopped smoking, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops as the amount of oxygen carried throughout the body increases. Smoking hinders both brain and muscle functions by reducing the amount of oxygen available to inadequate levels. The levels of carbon monoxide will now be reduced to a level about 50% of what they used to be when you smoked. Another benefit, probably more noticeable to people other than the ex-smoker themselves, is that "smoker's breath" becomes less pronounced.

After 24 hours you begin to see some of the long-term benefits. Not only is your body now functioning more efficiently, the chances of enjoying your improved health are also increased. Not smoking for a day is all it takes to reduce your statistical chances of suffering a heart attack and improve your chances of surviving one. It also takes about 24 hours for the last of the extra carbon monoxide from smoking to be eliminated from your body.

About 48 hours after you have stopped smoking you will probably notice that your senses of taste and smell have become much keener compared to their previously dulled state. Excess mucus and toxic debris that has collected over time will begin to be cleared from the lungs. Although there will initially be an increase in the amount of mucus dislodged from the lungs, breathing will gradually become easier. Amazingly, those nerve endings that were damaged by the smoking habit will begin to regenerate once you quit.

After 72 hours of not smoking, your bronchial tubes become more relaxed and less constricted, making it easier to breathe. The risk of thrombosis is reduced as the blood's clotting agents return to normal.

Some 2 weeks to 3 months into the non-smoking recovery your lung capacity will have increased by up to 30%. In combination with improved circulation, this means that you will find it easier to engage in physical exercise.

In a period from 1 month to 9 months after you have ceased smoking many of the noticeable adverse symptoms of smoking will have improved. You will experience less coughing, wheezing, sinus congestion and shortness of breath. The fatigue associated with these symptoms will decrease as your overall energy levels continue to rise. As the microscopic, hairlike cilia regrow, they increase the lung's ability to purify the air by once again filtering out impurities and clearing mucus. This also reduces the chances of developing an infection, especially in the sinuses.

One year without smoking will mean that the excess risk of coronary heart disease is now approximately half that of a smoker. After 2 years the risk of a heart attack drops to a more normal level.

After 5 years of staying smoke-free the average smoker who smoked one pack of cigarettes a day will have decreased their lung cancer death rate by almost a half. The risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat or oesophagus will now be half that of a smoker. Abstaining from smoking for between 5 to 15 years will mean that you have reduced your risk of having a stroke to the equivalent of a non-smoker.

Approximately 10 years after you stopped smoking, your lung cancer death rate will now be equivalent to that of a non-smoker. The risk of developing other cancers, such as cancer of the kidneys, pancreas or bladder, is decreased. Healthy cells gradually replace pre-cancerous cells in the body.

After you have refrained from smoking for 15 years, your risk of developing coronary heart disease will be the same as that of a life-long non-smoker.

These are only some of the physical improvements that you will experience when you quit smoking. Obviously, the longer and heavier your smoking habit was, the longer it will take for your body to recover. This does not even touch on the social, psychological, and emotional positives that come for giving up smoking. Quitting smoking at any time in one's life is beneficial. Some people wait until they are ordered to do so by their doctor or surgeon but even the recuperative capacity of the body has its limits. You are much better advised to quit smoking before you develop any serious health problems. Generally speaking, giving up smoking makes your body healthier and increases the chances that you will stay that way.


A friend of mine showed me this today and I thought I'd share it with the rest of you. I know that smokers constantly hear/are told about the health benefits of quitting smoking (blah, blah, blah, right?) but this is a new and very interesting way of looking at just how quickly you start reaping the benefits! So what are you waiting for?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Soda Pop Is Bad For You! (As If You Needed Me To Remind You . . . )

Chugging liters of cola may cause muscle harm

Greek doctors say swilling huge amounts of soda daily is not so uncommon


NEW YORK - Drinking several liters of cola-containing soft drinks per day can cause a chronic depletion of potassium in the body, leading to muscle weakness and even paralysis, according to Greek doctors.

While you might think that "excessive soft drink consumption at this level is so rare that it is not a public health issue," writes the author of an accompanying editorial in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, "we have every reason to think that it is not rare."

Dr. Moses Elisaf and associates at the University of Ioannina, Greece identified six reports of cola-induced potassium deficiency published since 1994. Quantities of cola consumed ranged from 2 to 9 liters per day.

Muscle complaints ranged from mild weakness to profound paralysis, and all patients had abnormally low potassium levels in the blood.

"Fortunately," Elisaf and colleagues write, "all patients had a rapid and complete recovery after the discontinuation of cola ingestion and the oral or intravenous supplementation of potassium."

In his editorial, Dr. Clifford D. Packer at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, comments that "there is very little doubt that tens of millions of people in industrialized countries drink at least 2-3 L of cola per day."

Packer stresses that "the soft drink industry needs to promote safe and moderate use of its products for all age groups, reduce serving sizes, and pay heed to the rising call for healthier drinks."


Thankfully, I don't have this problem. You'll rarely see me drink soda pop and when I do, there's not much of it. Believe me, when you stop drinking soda pop for some time, it tastes horrible when you start again. It's better to just avoid it all together. And when you run out of toilet/sink cleaner, just remember that your coke will do the job for you. ;) Gross.

It's probably rare to get to that point of drinking so much soda that you become paralyzed because of it but the point is that it isn't healthy (duh!) and there are better options out there (which taste a million times better!). Juice anyone? Chocolate milk? Tea or coffee? Everything in moderation . . .

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tips On Keeping Your Brain Young

7 Surprising Ways to Keep Your Brain Young

By Elizabeth Svoboda, Prevention
Get the cognitive power of some one decades younger. (It doesn't get easier than this!)

Around the time we hit 30, our brains begin a slow, steady downward trajectory — or so popular wisdom would have it. But cognitive decline is by no means an inescapable side effect of aging. In fact, according to a flurry of new reports, you can counteract age-related changes in the brain with a surprisingly simple regimen of activities guaranteed to nurture and fortify your mental musclepower. Here are seven easy ways to keep your brain quick, sharp, and bristling with youthful vigor.

1. Google
When you search the Internet, you engage key centers in your brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning — and these few clicks may be more mentally stimulating than reading, say UCLA scientists. Their studies found that Internet searching uses neural circuitry that's not activated during reading — but only in people with prior Internet experience. MRI results showed almost 3 times more brain activity in regular Internet searchers than in first-timers, suggesting that repeated Googling can be a great way to build cognitive strength over time.

Spend around 20 minutes a few days a week searching topics you've always wanted to learn more about — regardless of how seemingly frivolous: Whether you're researching a celebrity's latest pratfalls or musical harmony, the benefits to your brain are the same.

2. Exercise
Yes, exercise can stave off or delay dementia — but did you know that regular workouts can actually reverse aging in the brain? A team from the University of Illinois' Beckman Institute recently reviewed dozens of past studies and found that aerobic exercise boosts not only speed and sharpness of thought but also the volume of brain tissue.

As little as 50 minutes of brisk walking 3 times a week was found to have this brain-expanding effect. For an added boost, walk in the park: University of Michigan researchers found that volunteers whose course took them through a tree-filled setting performed 20% better on memory and attention tests than those who walked downtown.

3. Brush and Floss
Here's yet another reason to practice good dental hygiene: Oral health is clearly linked to cognitive health, according to a team of British psychiatrists and dentists. After studying thousands of subjects ages 20 to 59, they found that gingivitis and periodontal disease were associated with worse cognitive function throughout adult life — not just in later years.

Follow your dentist's advice — floss daily and brush your teeth for 2 minutes at least once a day.

4. Drink Sparingly
Keep your alcohol consumption within the safe and healthful limit: no more than one drink a day. The more alcohol a person drinks, the smaller his or her total brain volume becomes, according to a recent Wellesley College study. The link between drinking and reduced brain volume was stronger in women — probably because smaller people are more susceptible to alcohol's effects.

If you like a glass of white wine with dinner, make a spritzer by replacing some of the wine with sparkling water. You'll cut your intake even more.

5. Eat Blueberries
New research shows that blueberries may help sharpen your thought processes. After National Institute on Aging and Tufts University researchers injected male rats with kainic acid to simulate the oxidative stress that occurs with aging, rats that had been fed a diet containing 2% blueberry extract did better navigating a maze than rats that didn't get the compound. In another study, the same researchers found that rats that ate blueberries showed increased cell growth in the hippocampus region of the brain. The researchers theorize that anthocyanin — the dark blue pigment found in blueberries — is responsible for these cognitive changes; it contains chemicals that may cross the blood-brain barrier and lodge in regions that govern learning and memory.

Stock up on blueberries when they're on sale, and sprinkle them over your cereal or yogurt or fold them into your smoothie. Off-season, buy them frozen; they're every bit as nutritious as fresh.

6. Play Sudoku
Amazingly, you'll knock a decade off your cognitive age. In a University of Alabama study of nearly 3,000 older men and women, those who participated in 10 60-to 75-minute sessions of brain-boosting exercise sharpened their mental abilities so much that their brains performed like those of people more than 10 years younger.

Start small — whip out a booklet of basic puzzles when you're riding to work on the train or waiting in a long checkout line. As your skills improve, graduate to more challenging brainteasers.

7. Meditate
More than just a great stress reliever, meditation can also enhance your gray matter, says a new study from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Participants appear to have experienced growth in the cortex, an area of the brain that controls memory, language, and sensory processing. In addition, meditators in a University of Kentucky study performed better than their non-meditating counterparts on a series of mental acuity tests.

Make the practice a regular habit — the participants in a recent study meditated an average of 40 minutes a day. But you can start with 15 on your lunch break or before you leave for work. Sit upright, close your eyes, and focus on whatever you're experiencing in the present moment, whether it's birds chirping in the distance or just the sound of your own breathing.


I do six of the seven activities listed above. Looks like I'm on the right track! I'll have to work on the meditation part . . .

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Seasonal Allergies On The Rise

Attack of the Killer Spring

If you feel like you're sneezing more this allergy season, you're probably right. Thanks to global warming, this could be your stuffiest year yet—and it's getting worse.

Virginia Sole-Smith

Spring is here, and you know what that means: no more marshmallow coats, no more wiping out on icy sidewalks, no more 48-hour Monk marathons on frigid weekends. But for nearly 36 million Americans, throw-open-the-windows season comes with a major buzzkill: allergies. And they're only getting more severe. Allergies to pollen, ragweed, and other common airborne triggers have doubled in the past 20 years—a 5 percent per decade increase since the 1970s—clogging up even those who've always been sniffle-free. Here are the three reasons your tissue box needs replacing more often—and how you can get some relief.

1. Allergy seasons are longer. "Hay fever is typically caused by trees in the spring, grasses in the summer, and ragweed in the fall," explains Paul R. Epstein, M.D., associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. But thanks to global warming, our growing seasons are lengthening. "In some states, spring is coming 10 to 14 days earlier than it did 20 years ago," says Kim Knowlton, Dr.P.H., a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council's Health and Environment program. And that trend is likely to continue.

2. Pollen is growing out of control. In case you've erased ninth-grade bio from your brain, here's a recap: To grow, plants require sunlight, water, warmth, and carbon dioxide. But these days they're getting way more of those last two than they need. "Ten years ago we thought, OK, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means more energy for plants, so they'll grow better," Epstein says. Weeds (such as ragweed), however, aren't merely flourishing; they're reproducing like jackrabbits. And there's not just extra pollen circulating around your schnoz—the CO2 overload has also led to a kind of superpollen that's more allergenic, so that just a teeny amount can get your nose running.

3. Allergens are invading your body more aggressively. Pollution and smog add ozone and billions of diesel particles to the air, and pollen and pollution are not a good combination. "Pollen grains hitch a ride on these particles, which carry them deeper into your lungs, where they can get lodged inside," Epstein says.

Your Breathe-Easy Battle Plan

Step 1: Crush the Culprits
Strapping on a gas mask and inflating the sterilized bubble that will soon be your new abode? Stop, put down the bicycle pump, and take these easy steps first.

Check the forecast.
Find your area's pollen, mold spore, and ozone levels at the sites of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology ( or the public-service organization AirNow ( On days when the Air Quality Index is above 150 (100 if you know you're allergy- or asthma-prone), stay behind closed doors as much as you can.

Keep windows shut on bad air-quality days.
If things get stuffy, "consider running an air conditioner with a good filter, which traps allergens from outside air," says Jeffrey Siegel, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of civil, architectural, and environmental engineering at the University of Texas. "Just change the filter often, and avoid devices that emit ozone, like ion-generating air purifiers."

Make a costume change when you come inside.
That way you won't trek pollen and dust all over your house after gardening or hiking. On laundry day, wash your grubbiest duds in hot water (140˚F) to kill 100 percent of allergy-causing dust mites and most pollen. (Run regular loads on warm then rinse in cold water twice to kill at least 65 percent of dust mites.)

Slip on some shades.
Do you spend the spring months looking like an extra in Harold and Kumar's last adventure? Sunglasses can clear things up by keeping pollen off your lashes and lids.

Don't be so rough on yourself.
A 2007 study published in Trends in Immunology found that scrubbing with harsh, abrasive soaps and other products can strip away a layer of protective cells on your skin and actually allow allergens to penetrate.

Step 2: Pop a Pill
All that wheezing occurs when your immune system starts to treat harmless substances like pollen, dust, or pet dander as if they're sinister invaders armed with WMDs. Your body's defense is to produce powerful antibodies, which glom onto your cells and start churning out histamine. Histamine keeps the allergens from burrowing further into your body—shutting them out with inflamed nasal passages, expelling them with sneezes, or washing them away with watery eyes. But allergy treatments can interrupt the chain reaction—or even stop it before it starts.

Take an antihistamine
at the first sign of a sniffle if you're prone to allergies. "Even nonprescription meds [like Allegra, Claritin, and Zyrtec] can relieve most people's symptoms by blocking the effects of histamine," says Linda B. Ford, M.D., director of the Allergy and Asthma Center near Omaha, Nebraska. "And they're safe to use long-term."

Try a new pharm-free solution
if you're pregnant or if regular allergy meds make you fall asleep at your desk. Chloraseptic Allergen Block ($15 for 150 applications, is a clear gel you apply to the outside of your nostrils. "The gel attracts the particles and then traps them before they can enter your nose," says allergist Paul Ratner, M.D., medical director of Sylvana Research, which spearheaded clinical trials for the product.

See your doctor for allergy testing
if OTC meds don't cut it. "First-time allergy sufferers usually chalk up symptoms to a cold, since the symptoms—congestion, itchy eyes—are similar," Ford says. "But if you still feel miserable after a week, you need a new diagnosis." A skin test can determine what's causing your allergies so you can get the best course of treatment. You may need prescription antihistamines or a steroid nasal spray, which works by decreasing swelling inside your nostrils.

Ask about allergy shots
if you're looking for a permanent solution. "Injecting tiny amounts of an allergen over a period of time will build up your tolerance to the substance," Ford says. It's a long process—shots take three to five years to reach peak effectiveness—but the benefits are usually long-lasting. Needle shy? The FDA is reviewing clinical trials on a course of immunotherapy drugs that dissolve under your tongue. "They've been used in Europe for several years, but the jury is still out on whether they're as safe and effective as the injections," Ford says.


I seem to have spring allergies. This wasn't always the case. If I recall correctly, it started two years ago. It is very annoying when you can't enjoy the warmer weather after a long cold winter. The constant sneezing and eyes watering gets annoying quite quickly. But I'm too stubborn to take an antihistamine. I don't like taking anything that's unnatural. So, instead, I will brave the allergies and follow the tips above.

But there is something we can all do to slow down the increase in allergies . . . protect your environment!

Monday, March 16, 2009

And I Thought I Was Hitting Puberty Again . . .

Acne is another bump from the recession; stress a leading cause of breakouts

Samantha Critchell, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Here's another bump in the landscape of economic meltdown: adult acne.

Stress is a leading cause of breakouts, and there's no shortage of that these days in the office of Oakland, Calif.-based Dr. Katie Rodan. Many of her clients are either in the financial field or have husbands who are.

Meanwhile, Manhattan dermatologist Dr. Cheryl Karcher is performing far fewer liposuctions or Botox injections but is seeing more patients than ever. "They're all insurance patients for eczema, acne and warts - they're all another hit from the immune system," she says.

Karcher explains that the nervous system and hormone systems work together. "They are tightly intertwined and the nervous system is stimulated by stress. ... I am seeing more acne than you can believe."

A traffic jam or a spat with a significant other can set off a rise in cortisol that causes a breakout, but there isn't usually a collective mass of people experiencing a high-anxiety event like there is right now with the recession.

With a 16-year-old daughter to care for - and college to pay for - as well as elderly parents, Zondra Barricks says the economy weighs on her almost every day.

"My skin is a barometer of my emotional state," says Barricks, a patient of Rodan. "I am trying to take care of myself, behind the scenes I'm taking care of my skin. ... I have to cut back, but I don't want to look the raggedy way I'm feeling."

Dr. Kathy Fields points to a widely circulated Stanford University study from 2002 that found students had more severe acne during exam periods than other times of the year.

"When your cortisol levels go up - and we're having so many spikes during the day - that aggravates acne. Your cortisol levels go up more in one day than a caveman had in one year," says Fields, a co-founder with Dr. Rodan of the anti-acne formula Proactiv.

Makeup - oil-free and noncomedogenic concealers - can be a quick fix without exacerbating the problem. Rodan says mineral makeup is OK and some concealing products contain salicylic acid, which would at least mean that if some makeup is creeping into the pores, some medicine is going with it.

Still, it's easier to minimize acne if you get to it before it's fully developed, she says.

If you're not sleeping or if you find yourself picking at your skin even before a pimple appears, she says, you might be helping to trigger a breakout. Instead, use an anti-acne product and manage the stress.

"Try a yoga class," Rodan suggests.

"If you're so stressed that it's affecting your skin, then it's affecting the rest of your body," adds Karcher, who consults for Avon. "It would be a disservice if you're just treating your acne, although you do want to treat it. Not doing it would cause even more stress."

Karcher recommends over-the-counter products with salicylic acid or glycolic acid, which can help unclog pores. If pimples are already visible - and especially if you have an upcoming event for which you feel appearance matters, such as a job interview - consider a cortisone injection at a dermatologist's office, Fields says, or try over-the-counter cortisone products.

Some products also contain sulphur, which is an old-time remedy for redness and swelling.

If there's still no improvement, then it's time for benzoyl peroxide, Rodan says.

The single worst thing you could do, according to Rodan: pop your pimples. "Infections also increase when cortisol levels are high and wound healing slows down."


Sadly, I've become a victim of adult acne due to stress.

Considering I've never had bad acne even through puberty, I knew that this wasn't normal. My doctor told me it was hormones and that I should go on birth control. That answer wasn't good enough for me. Oh and let me tell you how I'm now on my third month of an expensive birth control (Diane-35) that's specifically catered to those affected by severe acne and my acne looks a tiny bit better than it did three months ago. It all comes down to what the article suggests . . . stress.

The acne started last summer (ironically after I got myself into a long distance relationship, which is all kinds of stress on its own) and continued to get worse. Because I didn't want to go with my doctor's "quick fix" right away, I decided to use a cream she suggested. All that cream ever ended up doing is making my clothes smell . . . months later, I still can't get the smell off of my clothes and I stopped using it months ago! Disgusting and a waste of money. Then I decided to give the Pill a chance and it's very slowly starting to work. I'm going to go flat broke before I start seeing any results. With the health risks involved with taking this specific birth control, I won't be using it for much longer.

This past fall, my workplace went through layoffs and a pay cut (ouch!). Although I was a "survivor", this caused a lot of uncertainty around the office which resulted in a lot of stress. I had moved out of my parents' house only a few months before and was now supporting myself, while trying to pay off loads of student debt at the same time. A pay cut never helps to make these situations better. Although I knew I had it better than most people, it was still a struggle and something to adjust to.

I also never get enough sleep during the workweek. I blame this on being a night owl and there not being enough hours in the day to do everything I need/want to. Add to all of this the daily stresses of life and you have a complete mess.

After reading this article, I have decided to start doing some yoga at home. Although I can't control all stress (such as worrying about work and the economy), I am trying to lower the stress levels in other aspects of my life.

Most importantly, I need to stop picking at my acne. Can someone write an article about how I go about doing that without having to tie my hands up? Really, this is a terrible habit and it clearly isn't helping the situation. Sadly, I have lots of acne scars to prove it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Easiest Workout You'll Ever Do!

A friend of mine told me about an amazing website for the simplest, yet very effective, workout. Push ups!

Today, I decided to start the challenge . . . one hundred consecutive push ups within six weeks! You take an initial test to determine what level you're at and then you do push ups three non-consecutive days a week (i.e. Mon, Wed, Fri). It only takes 10 minutes so there's no excuse! The best part of it is that you can also log your scores on the website!

If you're up for another challenge (and have another 10 minutes to spare), you can also do the sit ups challenge . . . two hundred consecutive sit ups within six weeks!

It works the exact same way as the push ups challenge and you can also log your scores under the same account.

I decided to do both of these challenges (as my gym membership expired and I'm waiting for spring so I can start jogging outdoors again) and I'll be sure to let you know how it's going in a few weeks. After finishing the first day for each challenge, I'm definitely feeling it in the abs!

Go check the websites out and read about the programs and how effective they are! It only takes six weeks and by then, it'll be second hand and you can tell everyone about your new-found strength! Spring is creeping up on us and before you know it, it'll be summer. Let's get those sexy abs showing on the beach!

Let me know how it goes and good luck!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

White Wine Has The Same Benefits As Red Wine

Good news for white wine

Lisa Hannam

When picking a wine to drink for health, opt for a glass of red over white, right? Wrong. New research shows white wine also has cardioprotective benefits.

A study published in September in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry compared the antioxidant effects of resveratrol (from red) and tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol (from white) on rats. The results suggest that white wine is just as powerful as red in improving heart function and preventing artery blockage. “We tested a variety of wines,” says Dipak K. Das, a professor at the University of Connecticut school of medicine, who led the study. “We found that white wines are rich in a type of antioxidant composition that is similarly present in olive oil.”

But not all white wines pack the same antioxidant punch. Das has tested wines from all over the globe and recommends certain European white wines — those from Italy, France and Germany — as being rich in tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol. “In general, it can safely be said that some whites from Europe are as good as red wine from anywhere for heart health.”

One thing hasn’t changed: Stick to a glass a day.


I was definitely happy to read this today as I prefer white wine over red. I'm especially a fan of Blue Nun Qualitatswein, which just happens to be from Germany. Mmm I think I need to go get myself a bottle . . . cheers!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Smokers Are Jokers . . . They're Not Fooling Anyone But Themselves

Third-hand smoke

Celia Milne

Does the person beside you smell like smoke? The nasty odour that clings to smokers’ clothes when they get in the subway now has a name: Third-hand smoke.

And this invisible stuff is bad for our health.

Third-hand smoke is essentially the residue left on surfaces after the cigarette is extinguished. It lurks on sofas, clothes, carpeting, food, hair and even skin. It can make people wheeze or make their throats scratchy. And it has a stronger effect on children than adults.

“Understanding that third-hand smoke harms infants and children may help insure completely smoke-free homes and cars,” Dr. Jonathan Winickoff from the Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston told Metro. “They’re getting a higher dose when in contact with surfaces that are coated with these toxic layers.”

Dr. Winickoff and colleagues recently conducted a study that showed 65 per cent of non-smokers but only 43 per cent of smokers believe third-hand smoke harms children. Results of the study were published online in the journal Pediatrics on Dec. 29, 2008. Media outlets around the world picked up the new expression used in the study: “third-hand smoke.”

The risks of first-hand and second-hand smoke are well-established. Smoking accounts for about 85 per cent of new cases of lung cancer. There are 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, and 50 of them are carcinogenic.

While the health dangers of third-hand smoke haven’t been studied in detail, second-hand smoke exposure increases your chances of developing lung cancer by 25 per cent and heart disease by 10 per cent.


First hand, second hand, third hand . . . when will smokers realize that they're not doing anyone a favour, especially themselves?

I hate smoking with a passion. Not only is it severely damaging to your health but it affects the health of those around you. Although second-hand and third-hand smoking may not be as harmful to one's health as being the one to smoke, studies continue to show that being around a smoker is just as bad, if not worse, than smoking itself. And parents who do this around children are not giving them the proper chance to develop. (I'm glad that Ontario has passed a new law banning people from smoking in a car with children under 16. Even if a parent has their windows open, smoking still makes the air inside the car 13 times dirtier than the air outside.) As if it weren't bad enough being in a house that's filled with the smell of cigarettes stuck onto everything, including your skin and clothes, it is continuing to damage our health.

There is absolutely nothing good about smoking and the benefits from quitting far outweigh the temporary soothing effect of the nicotine. I can go on and on as my hate for smoking is quite strong. I'm sure we all know the effects of smoking and there are many ways to quit the habit.

If any smokers happen to be reading this, I urge you to read The Easy Way To Stop Smoking by Alan Carr.

Smart Men Have More Sperm

Intelligence linked to sperm count

Josey Vogels

You may think it’s the potential for brilliant conversation that makes intelligence such an attractive trait in a man but it may be that his intellect is a sign of something else: According to researchers, smart guys have higher sperm counts.

The researchers at King’s College London, the University of Delaware and the University of New Mexico compared results from intelligence tests given to 425 guys aged 31 to 44. The men also provided sperm samples and upon analysis, the researchers found the men who scored higher on the intelligence test not only had more sperm per millilitre, but their sperm were also better swimmers.

Previous theories believed that highly intelligent men might score less stressful jobs and make better lifestyle choices, resulting in better health and healthier sperm. But, according to the researchers in this study, even the smart guys with poor health had higher sperm counts, causing them to speculate that indicators of intelligence and good sperm may ride in on the same gene float.

But before all you less-than-brilliant lads get down on your little swimmers, take heart in the fact that semen has some other neat tricks up its sleeve besides delivering super sperm. For example, there is evidence that semen can make a girl happy, and not in ways you might think.

Researchers have found that women who regularly had unprotected sex with their partner were less depressed than women who regularly used a condom. Having ruled out other explanations, they think this is because mood-altering hormones in semen are absorbed through the vagina.

Of course, before you go having unprotected sex as a mood enhancer, it goes without saying that an unwanted pregnancy or an STD would no doubt put a damper on your natural high.

And while the health and vitality of a man’s sperm may be a going concern (especially if he’s trying to have kids), seminal fluid is much more than a spermatozoa carrier. In fact, sperm makes up only about one per cent of its contents. The rest is a complex mix of over 300 components, among them proteins, enzymes, zinc, and fructose and changes in colour, smell, taste or texture may be indicators of health problems, such as prostate infection or other plumbing problems.

So, even if your little tadpoles aren’t the best swimmers, it’s still important to monitor the quality of the pool water.


I always wondered what it was that made me attracted to intelligent guys . . .

I don't know how much I believe this study. There are a lot of factors that affect a man's sperm that it's hard to believe that this could be one of them. Nonetheless, yet another reason to give those cute nerds a chance. ;)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

You Are What You Eat . . . Starting From Day One!

Childhood diet alters hormones


Research shows that childhood diets can alter for life the production of hormones that help us to ascertain when we are full.

Children scarfing down lip-smacking goodies instead of their fruits and vegetables may be setting themselves up for a lifetime of battling the bulge or even Type 2 diabetes, new research suggests.

Researchers at the University of Calgary used rats in experiments to show that diet in childhood and adolescence can permanently alter how genes react and cause changes in hormones that make you feel full.

This suggests that what you eat as a child can have a huge impact on health later in life, said author Raylene Reimer.

The researchers fed baby rats three different diets from a very young age: one with high protein, one with high fibre and one balanced.

When the rats reached adulthood they were fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet mirroring typical North American eating habits — including sugar, lard and soybean oil.

All the rats were allowed to indulge in as much junk food as they wanted. It turned out that those reared on the high-protein diet wanted a lot more — and gained much more weight and body fat — than those rats that were fed the high-fibre diet as youngsters. Those rats eating the normal, balanced diet — which Reimer said would be like following Canada’s Food Guide — stayed almost as slim as the fibre group.

“What we saw was very striking in terms of their body weights,” said Reimer. “We saw that the high-fibre diet was actually protective against obesity, whereas the high-protein diet was very much promoting obesity later on in life.”

Reimer says it comes down to how the genes we are born with are expressed. We can’t change our genetic makeup, but we can influence how our genes will react. For example, someone who is fed well in childhood will probably grow taller than someone who’s malnourished — even if both start out with the same genetic base.

In the study, the high-fibre diet caused an increase in the activity of a gene that controls the release of hormones that make you feel full.

“The diets actually affect your gene expression that then causes your body to react different. It changes the biology of your body.”

The results could explain why some people find it impossible to shed extra pounds despite dieting and exercise, while others never seem to gain an ounce, said Reimer.

A 2007 Statistics Canada survey found 16 per cent of adult Canadians were obese based on their reported weights and heights, and 32 per cent were overweight.

“This might be an explanation, first, of the rapid rise in obesity rates that’s occurred, and also why some individuals find it very much more difficult to control body weight and prevent weight gain.”

Reimer said the message from her study is that everyone, including children and pregnant women, needs to eat a balanced diet full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Most people only get about half the fibre they need in a day, something research has shown again and again can lead to problems, she said.

“That can have implications for body weight (and) for Type 2 diabetes. Cancer, as well, has been linked to dietary fibre intake.”


This article finally puts the question to rest as to why some people have an easier/harder time losing/gaining weight. For those of you thinking that you don't need to worry about your diet until you're older, think again. As for those with young children, do them and yourself a favour and start a healthy diet for them now!

You want to know how to incorporate fibre into your diet? It's a lot easier than you think! Below is a list, put together by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, of ways to add fibre to your diet:

  1. Choose a fibre rich cereal. Choose a cereal that has at least 4 grams of fibre per serving.
  2. Add a high-fibre cereal to your regular cereal. Choose a cereal that has at least 10 grams of fibre per serving and sprinkle it on your regular cereal.
  3. Eat more fruit. Limit juice and try to eat the whole fruit. Have fruit for a snack or dessert. Don’t forget to eat the skin on fruits like apples and pears. That is where most of the fibre is.
  4. Add one more vegetable to your diet today. Vegetables are low in calories and high in fibre and nutrition.
  5. Add beans and lentils. Add beans or lentils to your tossed salad, spaghetti sauce, or soups.
  6. Choose whole grain and whole wheat breads and pasta. Look for terms like “100% whole grain”, or 100% whole wheat”.
  7. Add ¼ cup of wheat bran, oat bran or ground flax to your baking.
  8. Use hummus or other bean dips for spreads on sandwiches instead of mustard and mayonnaise.
  9. Add dried fruit, nuts or seeds to cereal, salads or yogurt.
  10. Substitute half the white flour for whole wheat flour in your favorite recipes.

Remember to add fibre slowly to your diet. Switching from a low fibre to high fibre diet in one day can cause constipation and cramps.

Make sure to drink water when you are increasing your fibre intake. Aim for 6-8 cups per day.

The wonderful thing about fibre is that it keeps you full longer so you're not digging your hands into the cookie jar ten minutes later. Happy dieting!