A community for people who want to remain as healthy as possible as we age.

Lose the fat, not the fun during holidays

(UPI) Fifty percent of U.S. adults struggle with their weight, and special family meals, holiday buffets and free drinks can make the struggle harder, an expert says…
To prevent going overboard this holiday season, [weight loss counselor Jeffrey Gersten of Gottlieb Memorial Hospital near Chicago] suggests:
-- Make a plan for holiday eating. Avoid trigger foods that you have trouble eating in a moderate portion. Provide yourself healthy options even if you have to bring them yourself to parties.
-- Get a grip if you polished off the entire carton of French onion dip and the bag of chips. Take control of the situation immediately and don't tell yourself that because you've overindulged, all bets are off and everything is now fair game.
-- Give yourself a timeout by taking a walk to enjoy decorations, playing a seasonal CD, or just taking a deep breath to relax and shake off stress.
-- Talk to a friend, or fellow partygoer, about your desire to eat healthy and enlist their aid in not encouraging you to "just try this."
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Holiday Giving is Good for You

(RealAge.com) Ever wonder why people keep giving to charity, especially when times are tough and you'd think everyone's just hardwired to survive? (Americans donate about $300 billion a year.) No, it's not the tax break, according to a study. In fact, most givers don't itemize and don't get a tax benefit at all. Here's what might be fueling such generosity:
Your brain chemistry holds the key. When you feel especially good -- say, after making love or eating a great meal -- the pleasure center of your brain lights up like holiday lights in December. Ditto if you win at a casino. If you then give your winnings to a charity, that same pleasure center will light up even more than if you keep the cash. Think Times Square on New Year's Eve compared with sparklers on the Fourth of July.
Giving not only makes you feel good, it also makes you stronger. For example, if you squeezed a rubber ball (or shook the hand of an unsuspecting new acquaintance) right after doing something nice for someone, chances are you'd squeeze it 20% longer than on a usual day. (Find out other ways to improve your mood.)
When it comes to love, it's also better to give than to receive. If you're married and you and your spouse go the extra mile for each other, you're likely to live longer than couples who don't take the extra steps, and longer than a spouse who is mostly on the receiving end. (Find out how to spice up your love life with an attitude of gratitude.)
What are you waiting for? Offer your lover a back rub. Volunteer at a school. Send an extra check to a favorite cause. And let the feel-good lightshow begin!
Community: And there are other ways to stimulate the feel-good brain chemicals.
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Hormone may ease social awkwardness

(UPI) First dates or Christmas cocktail parties can be major stressors for some, but an oxytocin nasal spray may make a difference, Canadian researchers say…
"Our study shows oxytocin can change how people see themselves, which could in turn make people more sociable," [senior author Mark] Ellenbogen said in a statement. "Under the effects of oxytocin, a person can perceive themselves as more extroverted, more open to new ideas and more trusting."
Community: But we can enhance oxytocin production in the brain without snorting it.
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6 Ways to Stress Less During the Holidays

(SouthBeachDiet.com) While the holiday season can bring plenty of joy — it can also bring the chaos and stress of last-minute shopping, multiple parties, and gatherings you're hosting for friends and family. What you may not realize is that chronic stress, if not dealt with, can eventually contribute to the development of various ailments, including depression and heart disease — and it can interfere with your weight-loss goals.
Symptoms of chronic stress (generally characterized by long-term pressure, tension, or strain) include difficulty sleeping, poor concentration, and memory problems. People suffering from chronic stress may also become easily irritated and anxious or develop stomach and muscle aches or regular headaches. It’s important to keep stress to a minimum whenever possible and to take measures to effectively manage the stress you can’t avoid — especially during the holidays. Following a healthy eating plan like the South Beach Diet is one way to help reduce your stress, but there are other steps you can take to de-stress as well.
Eat three healthy meals a day and snacks…
Stay active…
Get enough sleep…
Practice relaxation or meditation…
Manage your to-do list…
Make time for yourself.
Community: Dr. Agatston is offering his South Beach Diet Supercharged book, and a two-week free membership in the online South Beach Diet program for only $4.95 for shipping and handling of the book.
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Before holiday travel, have family meeting

(UPI) Traveling may be one of the most stressful aspects of the holidays, and U.S. researcher suggests holding a family meeting even before packing for a trip.
"If you are traveling with a large group or extended family, everyone is going to have a different expectation for their vacation," Amanda Cecil … said in a statement. "It is important to openly discuss your budget, activities and hopes for the vacation with everyone in your traveling party. Be positive. Go into your trip with the right mindset. If you are prepared for the traffic, possible flight delays and crowds, then you are much better off. Have a positive attitude and prepare for the experience."
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Feeling Blue? Try St. John's Wort

(Andrew Weil, M.D.) If the cold weather and reduced sunlight of the winter months are getting you down, consider trying St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum). This extensively researched herb may be effective for supporting optimal day to day functioning, including:
  1. Supporting a healthy outlook
  2. Promoting optimal mood
  3. Supporting healthy sleep
  4. Sustaining optimal appetite
  5. Maintaining skin health
St. John's wort is available in tablets, capsules, tinctures, fluid extract, powdered extract and infused in oil. I recommend products standardized for hyperforin and hypericin. Take 300 milligrams three times a day. To support optimal mood, it may take six to eight weeks to work. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you may want to try St. John's wort in conjunction with a light box or other type of bright-light therapy commonly used for SAD.
Community: St. John’s wort may interfere with some other supplements and medications, however. And there are other practical ways to improve mood.
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Cinnamon-Spiced Pork and Plums
Described as "juicy, flavorful, and tender" in an online review, this dish dresses up pork chops with dried plums. Serve with couscous.
Amazon Bean Soup with Winter Squash & Greens
Shaped like a flattened drum, buttercup squash most closely resembles the local squash used in this comforting hearty soup from northern Brazil. It has a dark green peel, a grayish turban-shaped top and dense orange flesh. Hubbard, butternut or delicata squashes could also be used. Instead of the lip-numbing Brazilian green jambu, we have used spinach. For a more festive look, serve in a roasted squash half.
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Magnetic Brain Stimulation Might Help Some Stroke Patients

(HealthDay News) Stroke patients suffering from a condition that prevents them from sensing or reacting to anything happening to their left -- whether it's noticing food on a plate or recognizing a person sitting to that side -- may recover faster with magnetic stimulation to the nerve cells in their brain, Italian researchers report.
This inability to process and perceive stimuli on the left side of the body, called hemispatial neglect, is common after a stroke occurring on the right side of the brain, affecting up to 50 percent of patients. The researchers say that the current treatment of attention and concentration training through computer and pencil-and-paper tasks is not useful…
Most patients recover spontaneously after about a year, [said lead researcher Dr. Giacomo Koch].
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Robotic Therapy May Help Some Stroke Survivors Walk

(HealthDay News) Using a robotic assist system along with conventional rehabilitation therapy boosts the walking ability of people who've suffered a severe stroke, Italian researchers say.
They tracked 48 stroke survivors who were unable to walk at the start of the study. Half of the patients underwent conventional gait rehabilitation and half had conventional rehab plus robotic-assisted gait training for several months…
Among the patients in the robotic device-assisted group, only those with the greatest degree of disability showed improvement, according to the study…
"After two years, five times more patients who underwent robotic assistance training were able to walk without assistance, but only the most severely impaired," lead researcher Dr. Giovanni Morone [said].
"In others it seemed to make little difference, so the patient selection for this type of treatment is most important," he noted.
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Pelvic exercises help men with overactive bladders

(Reuters Health) A new study shows men with overactive bladder may benefit from pelvic floor exercises long known to help women plagued by the problem.
And the exercises worked as well as medications, researchers found
"Behavioral treatment is just as effective as drug treatment in males with overactive bladder, and that's big," said Dr. Jason M. Hafron, a urologist at the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, who wasn't involved in the new work. "It's safer, cheaper and it's effective. This study will increase awareness that exercise is an option."
Community: The Mayo Clinic tells us how to perform the Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor.
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Baldness Treatments May Mimic Growth of Animals' Winter Coats

(MyHealthNewsDaily) Research into treatments that fight male-pattern baldness might take a lesson from animals that beef up their fur coats at certain times of the year.
In animals, hair growth is triggered not only by hormones in the layer of skin called the dermis, but also by signals coming from elsewhere in the body, said study author Dr. Cheng-Ming Chuong, a professor at the University of Southern California.
These signals vary with the seasons, the research showed, which is why some animals lose and gain coats of hair at different times of the year…
The search for ways to regrow hair has recently turned to stem cells, but the new study indicates that instead, a treatment could aim at altering the environment around hair follicles, rather than implanting stem cells within them.
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Healing Serious Bone Injuries Faster Than Ever Before

(Science Daily) A human-made package filled with nature's bone-building ingredients delivers the goods over time and space to heal serious bone injuries faster than products currently available, Cleveland researchers have found.
Tested on sheep in Switzerland, the surgical elastic "implant device," essentially a wrapping that mimics bone's own sock-like sheath called periosteum, delivered stem cells, growth factors and other natural components of the periosteum to heal a defect that would not heal on its own if left untreated. In experimental groups exhibiting best outcomes, a dense network of new bone filled the defect, from the surgical elastic wrapping on the outside towards the steel intramedullary nail that stabilized the bone on the inside, bridging old with new bone.
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Engineering Cartilage Replacements

(Science Daily) [A] lab discovery is a step toward implantable replacement cartilage, holding promise for knees, shoulders, ears and noses damaged by osteoarthritis, sports injuries and accidents.
Self-assembling sheets of mesenchymal stem cells permeated with tiny beads filled with growth factor formed thicker, stiffer cartilage than previous tissue engineering methods, researchers at Case Western Reserve University have found…
"We think that the capacity to drive cartilage formation using the patient's own stem cells and the potential to use this approach without lengthy culture time prior to implantation makes this technology attractive," said Eben Alsberg…, senior author of the paper.
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Reprogramming Brain Cells Important First Step for New Parkinson's Therapy

(Science Daily) In efforts to find new treatments for Parkinson's Disease (PD), researchers … have directly reprogrammed astrocytes, the most plentiful cell type in the central nervous system, into dopamine-producing neurons.
PD is marked by the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the midbrain. Dopamine is a brain chemical important in behavior and cognition, voluntary movement, sleep, mood, attention, and memory and learning.
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Blood Test Might Predict How Well a Depressed Patient Responds to Antidepressants

(Science Daily) Loyola University Medical Center researchers are reporting what could become the first reliable method to predict whether an antidepressant will work on a depressed patient.
The method would involve a blood test for a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). A Loyola study found that among depressed patients who had higher than normal blood levels of VEGF, more than 85 percent experienced partial or complete relief from depression after taking escitalopram (brand name Lexapro®). By comparison, fewer than 10 percent of depressed patients who had low levels of VEGF responded to the drug.
"This would be the first time we would have a predictor for how well a patient would respond to an antidepressant," said Angelos Halaris, MD, PhD, first author of the study.
Community: When I was clinically depressed, trying to find an antidepressant that worked was a horrible experience, and we never even found one. Tests like this could help make that process easier. But remember, too, that there are non-medicinal things we can do to alleviate depression.
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Cancer group aims to boost trust in guidelines

(Reuters Health) In a field plagued by frequent controversy, the American Cancer Society has taken "a major step forward" with a new system for developing trustworthy screening recommendations.
Instead of having cancer specialists develop its guidelines, the ACS now leaves that to generalist health care professionals accompanied by a patient advocate.
The approach has previously drawn criticism for another prominent guideline-writing organization. The ACS argues, however, that it gets rid of an obvious conflict of interest, because oncologists might benefit financially from recommending new screening tests, which lead to more diagnoses and treatment.
Still, pulling the cancer experts, or subspecialists, was the toughest part of revamping the guideline process, said Dr. Tim Byers of the ACS, who led the new efforts.
"The conflict is that they know the most about it, but they also have the most self-interest in it," he told Reuters Health.
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Electronic Cigarette Makers Must Prove Safety of Products: Report

(HealthDay News) A new report details exactly what kind of scientific proof the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should require from the makers of electronic cigarettes and tobacco lozenges to show that what they are selling is not harmful to the overall public health.
These "modified risk" products claim to offer individuals nicotine without the health risks, namely lung cancer and heart disease, that are associated with the use of traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes.
"These products are ones that might carry a claim that they have less risk to the user than a traditional tobacco product," said Dr. Jane Henney…, chairwoman of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee that wrote the report. "We believe that if those claims are to be approved by the FDA, the sponsor will have to bring to the agency a series of data to support that claim."
These products are sold as part of a strategy to lower tobacco-related death and disease, especially among smokers who have had trouble quitting, but not much is known about the overall health risks of these products, according to the committee.
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Health Care Law Will Let States Tailor Benefits

(New York Times) In a major surprise on the politically charged new health care law, the Obama administration said Friday that it would not define a single uniform set of “essential health benefits” that must be provided by insurers for tens of millions of Americans. Instead, it will allow each state to specify the benefits within broad categories.
The move would allow significant variations in benefits from state to state, much like the current differences in state Medicaid programs and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
By giving states the discretion to specify essential benefits, the Obama administration sought to deflect one of the most powerful arguments made by Republican critics of President Obama’s health care overhaul — that it was imposing a rigid, bureaucrat-controlled health system on Americans and threatening the quality of care. Opponents say that the federal government is forcing a one-size-fits-all standard for health insurance and usurping state authority to regulate the industry…
Under this approach, each state would designate an existing health insurance plan as a benchmark. The benefits provided by that plan would be deemed essential, and all insurers would have to provide benefits of the same or greater value. Plans could modify coverage within a benefit category so long as they did not reduce the value of coverage.
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Poor Lifestyles Harming U.S. Heart Health: Report

(HealthDay News) Americans' heart health is in a woeful state, says this year's report card from the American Heart Association.
And it's largely because people just aren't taking care of themselves.
In the past three or so decades, women have upped their calorie consumption by 22 percent and men by 10 percent, with carbohydrates and sugar-sweetened beverages both major sources of unneeded calories.
The inevitable result is that more than two-thirds of U.S. adults and about one-third of children are over the ideal body weight, the extra layers of fat putting a major strain on Americans' hearts.
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Hints for the Heart: Easy Changes to Lower Risks

(Andrew Weil, M.D.) Giving up sweetened sodas might be a simple and inexpensive way to lower women’s risk of heart disease. Results of a study … showed that midlife women who consumed two or more sweet drinks per day were nearly four times as likely to have high triglycerides (the chemical form in which fat moves through the bloodstream) as were women who drank less than one sugar-sweetened beverage daily. Soda drinkers were also more likely to have the impaired blood sugar levels that signal prediabetes. Weight played no role here - the study found that the risks applied whether or not women were overweight. (These effects didn’t show up among men being studied, the researchers reported.)
Taking good care of your teeth is another heart-healthy practice. A study conducted in Taiwan presented at the AHA meeting found that people who had their teeth cleaned and scraped in the dentist’s office at least once a year had a risk of heart attack that was 24 percent lower (and a 13 percent lower risk of stroke) than those who didn’t practice such good dental hygiene.
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One can of cola = one hour's run: Exercise labels could be 'more effective than calorie counts'

(Daily Mail) Warning labels that explain how much exercise is needed to run off the calories in junk food are far more effective than traditional counts, researchers say.
It was found that teenagers who were shown the warnings on fizzy drink cans - which stated an hour's run would be needed to get rid of the calories - were half as likely to drink them.
Printing a 'physical activity equivalent' on unhealthy drinks and food could dramatically reduce their popularity, according to researchers in the American Journal of Public Health.
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Gallup: Americans exercised less in Nov.

(UPI) U.S. adults typically exercise less in November and December, but fewer broke a sweat last month than a year ago, a Gallup Poll indicates…
The percentage of Americans reporting they exercise frequently was relatively low through the fall of 2008 and much of 2009, amid the worst of the economic crisis.
However, the percentage who reported frequent physical activity was generally higher in 2010 and has since remained at somewhat higher levels, Gallup officials said.
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Stairs can get you there faster than elevators

(Reuters Health) If you think you don't have time to take the stairs, you may be out of an excuse, according to a study…
Researchers at one Canadian hospital found that when they had doctors take the stairs instead of the elevator, it saved each an average of 15 minutes out of the workday.
The stairs were more efficient, it seemed, since there was no wait-time for a lift, according to findings…
In general, experts recommend that people find ways to add "incidental" exercise to their daily lives. That includes small steps like parking farther away from your destination and bypassing the elevator in favor of the stairs.
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Brief, Intense Exercise Lowers Blood Sugar, Small Study Finds

(HealthDay News) Lack of time is a common reason cited for not exercising, but new research suggests that several short intensive workouts a week may help lower blood sugar levels similarly to longer, more regular exercise regimens.
The small, new study found that 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise a week -- a total exercise time of 75 minutes a week with warm-up and cool-down included -- could lower blood sugar levels for 24 hours after exercise, and help prevent post-meal blood sugar spikes in people with type 2 diabetes.
"If people are pressed for time -- and a lot of people say they don't have enough time to exercise -- our study shows that they can get away with a lower volume of exercise that includes short, intense bursts of activity," said the study's senior author, Martin Gibala.
Community: And there are other practical ways to lower blood sugar.
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Lime-Cilantro Pork Tacos
These easy pork tacos get their fantastic flavor from lime juice, cilantro, and fresh jalapeño.  Use the same pan to brown the pork and make the rave-worthy sauce.
Oven-Fried Fish & Chips
Fish and chips are traditionally sold wrapped in paper to soak up all the grease—not a good sign. To cut the calories in half and reduce the fat, we coat the delicate fish in a crispy cornflake crust and then bake it along with sliced potatoes. Serve with: Coleslaw and malt vinegar or lemon wedges.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Lentil Soup
Lentils are a staple in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking and make a thick, rich and delicious soup. They're also a good source of fiber and magnesium and the quickest legume to cook. With bread and a salad, this soup makes a whole meal. On a cold night, a filling soup like this is perfect nourishment for warming body and soul.
Food as Medicine
Soluble fiber, found in such high quantities in lentils, forms a gel in the digestive tract that traps cholesterol-containing bile and escorts it out of the body; while insoluble fiber, also plentiful in lentils, provides stool bulk and helps prevent constipation. Just one cup of cooked lentils - less than the amount found in one serving of this soup - contains over 15 grams of dietary fiber, all for only 230 calories. Lentils are also an excellent source of molybdenum and folate.
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Study: Americans eat too much sugar

(UPI) Experts recommend women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, and men eat no more than 9 teaspoons, but Americans eat much more, researchers say…
Consumers can avoid excess sugar and sodium by limiting processed foods, prepared foods and sugar-laden treats such as cakes, cookies and pies, Sandon said.
"Smart food consumers should also read food labels for sugar and sodium content, making small but significant changes such as buying fruit juice without added sugar," [Professor Lona] Sandon said in a statement. "If too many sugary foods take the place of healthy foods in the diet, then you miss out on getting the nutrition your body needs for optimal health."
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4 Ways to Handle Sweet Gifts

(SouthBeachDiet.com) The holidays are a time for gift giving, which likely means you’ll end up on the receiving end of a tin of caramel-covered popcorn, a box of fudge, or a traditional fruitcake… [But] enjoying too many sugary sweets can lead to a vicious cycle of blood-sugar swings and cravings for more… [I]t helps to have an action plan in place before the edible gifts start to arrive. Here are some pointers:
Share It: Find a festive serving platter, and bring any tempting sweets you receive to the next holiday party, where they can be enjoyed by other partygoers. Or bring the goodies into the office and share with your coworkers.
Swap It: Consider a gift swap with a family member or friend. Did your neighbor receive a carton of fresh citrus fruits? Perhaps she'd be willing to trade it for your fancy box of petits fours.
Nip It in the Bud: If you can, plan a preemptive strike — drop nonedible gift hints to your family and close friends…
Enjoy Dessert in Moderation: Remember, it's okay to allow yourself a few bites of your favorite holiday pie or, best of all, a little dark chocolate (which has antioxidants that are good for your heart!).
Community: I’m a sugar addict. When I have some, I just want more and more. But I’m finally beginning to realize how much worse I feel after I’ve eaten some. That’s the first step in learning to avoid sugar as much as possible.
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Low Iron Levels in Blood Raises Blood Clot Risk, New Research Suggests

(Science Daily) People with low levels of iron in the blood have a higher risk of dangerous blood clots, according to research… A study of clotting risk factors in patients with an inherited blood vessel disease suggests that treating iron deficiency might be important for preventing potentially lethal blood clots…
The link between iron levels and blood clots appears to be dependent on factor VIII -- a blood protein which promotes normal clotting…
"We can speculate that in evolutionary terms, it might be advantageous to promote blood clotting when your blood is low in iron, in order to prevent further blood loss," [the paper's lead author Dr Claire] Shovlin said.
Community: However, iron tends to accumulate in the body as we age, and excess levels may promote cognitive decline.
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Second-guessing linked to unhappiness

(UPI) Fretting over which coffee maker to buy or second-guessing oneself over a house one has bought may be a recipe for unhappiness, U.S. researchers say.
Joyce Ehrlinger, an assistant professor of psychology…, said individuals identified among psychologists as "maximizers," tend to obsess over decisions -- big or small -- and then fret about their choices later, while "satisficers," tend to make a decision and live with it.
Ehrlinger, doctoral candidate Erin Sparks, and Richard Eibach, a psychology assistant professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, found the maximizers' focus on finding the best option ultimately undermines their commitment to their final choices. As a result, they miss out on psychological benefits of commitment," leaving them less satisfied than their more contented counterparts -- the satisficers.
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Breathing exercises may help soothe heartburn

(Reuters Health) People with milder heartburn problems might find some relief from deep breathing exercises, a small clinical trial suggests.
The study, of 19 adults with mild gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, found that "belly breathing" exercises seemed to help reduce people's acid reflux, and eventually lessen their need for acid-suppressing medication.
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Could Statins Help Those Hospitalized With Flu?

(HealthDay News) Statins, the drugs that can dramatically lower cholesterol levels, may one day also prove useful in combating serious cases of the flu.
A preliminary study … finds that patients hospitalized with influenza were less likely to die if they were taking a statin, compared with their peers who weren't taking one of the drugs. The effect held even after adjusting for heart disease.
But it's far too soon to consider adding statins to the existing anti-flu armamentarium, the authors stated.
"At this point, statins should not become the standard of care for people hospitalized with the flu," cautioned study co-author Dr. Ann Thomas… "We would like to see more studies, [and] I think it would be worthwhile to do these studies."
Right now, preventive vaccinations and antiviral medications are the best weapons against [flu].
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Concerns grow over 'distracted doctoring'

(UPI) Computers, smartphones and other devices intended to help U.S. medical staff avoid medical errors may in fact be proving a dangerous distraction, experts say.
Meant to give medical staff instant access to patient data, drug information and case studies, the technology is drawing criticism that doctors and nurses can be focused more on the screen than on the patient, The New York Times reported.
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Dentists Could Fill Gap in Health Care, Study Says

(HealthDay News) Nearly 20 million Americans who see a dentist at least once a year don't see a doctor or other general health care provider, which suggests that dentists could screen these people for systemic health disorders, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, a new study says…
One-quarter of U.S. adults did not visit a general health care provider, but nearly a fourth (13 million) of those adults visited a dentist at least once in 2008.
Eighty-five percent of the adults and 93 percent of the children had health insurance. This suggests that many of those who did not see a general health care provider may have had access to general care, but chose not to seek it, the researchers said.
They said their findings suggest that dentists could play an important role in identifying health problems that might otherwise go undetected in a large segment of the population.
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US Will Not Finance New Research on Chimps

(New York Times) The National Institutes of Health on Thursday suspended all new grants for biomedical and behavioral research on chimpanzees and accepted the first uniform criteria for assessing the necessity of such research. Those guidelines require that the research be necessary for human health, and that there be no other way to accomplish it.
In making the announcement, Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the N.I.H., said that chimps, as the closest human relatives, deserve “special consideration and respect” and that the agency was accepting the recommendations released earlier in the day by an expert committee of the Institute of Medicine, which concluded that most research on chimpanzees was unnecessary.
The report and the quick response by the N.I.H. do not put an end to research on chimps, but they were claimed as victories by animal welfare groups that have long been fighting for a ban on such research, arguing that chimps should not be subjected to experimental use. They said that the move was a step toward eventually ending chimp research, already a tiny segment of federal research.
Community: I think we should be very careful about how we treat all sentient beings.
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Legalized Same-Sex Marriage May Boost Gay Men's Health

(HealthDay News) Gay men who live in states where same-sex marriage is legal are healthier, have less stress, make fewer doctor visits and have lower health-care costs, a new study finds…
"These findings suggest that marriage equality may produce broad public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions in gay and bisexual men," lead author Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said in a foundation news release.
Lesbians weren't included in the study because there were too few who visit the clinic.
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Hunger stalks U.S. cities as poverty rises: study

(Reuters) A growing number of families in the United States are struggling to put food on the table as poverty rises in major cities, a new survey showed on Thursday.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors' 2011 hunger and homelessness survey found all but four of the 29 cities surveyed reported an increase in requests for emergency food assistance during the period between September 2010 and August 2011.
Half of those asking for emergency food assistance were people in families, while 26 percent were employed. The elderly accounted for 19 percent, with the homeless making up the remaining 11 percent.
This is the latest survey to underscore the magnitude of the damage inflicted by the 2007-09 recession.
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Brain's Failure to Appreciate Others May Permit Human Atrocities

(Science Daily) A father in Louisiana bludgeoned and beheaded his disabled 7-year-old son last August because he no longer wanted to care for the boy. For most people, such a heinous act is unconscionable.
But it may be that a person can become callous enough to commit human atrocities because of a failure in the part of the brain that's critical for social interaction. A new study by researchers at Duke University and Princeton University suggests this function may disengage when people encounter others they consider disgusting, thus "dehumanizing" their victims by failing to acknowledge they have thoughts and feelings.
This shortcoming also may help explain how propaganda depicting Tutsi in Rwanda as cockroaches and Hitler's classification of Jews in Nazi Germany as vermin contributed to torture and genocide, the study said.
Community: But it’s possible to change perceptions in favor of inclusion and non-dehumanizing. From “A Natural History of Peace” (pdf) by Robert M. Sapolsky (Foreign Affairs, January/February 2006):
[O]ne often encounters a pessimism built around the notion that humans, as primates, are hard-wired for xenophobia. Some brain-imaging studies have appeared to support this view in a particularly discouraging way…
More recent studies, however, should mitigate this pessimism. Test a person who has a lot of experience with people of different races, and the amygdala [the brain’s emotion control center] does not activate. Or, as in a wonderful experiment by Susan Fiske, of Princeton University, subtly bias the subject beforehand to think of people as individuals rather than as members of a group, and the amygdala does not budge. Humans may be hard-wired to get edgy around the Other, but our views on who falls into that category are decidedly malleable.
And that’s why the recent controversy over TLC’s new series “All-American Muslim” is so important. The entertainment media can be a force for good, helping us become a global village where it’s less likely that hate can prevail. But that can only happen if fearful, xenophobic, right wing religious groups aren’t able to scare away advertisers from such shows.
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Inside the Brains of Psychopaths

(LiveScience) Differences in psychopaths' brains may help explain their anti-social behavior, according to new research.
Psychopaths are identified as highly selfish, and lacking in emotion and conscience. Experts estimate that about 1 percent of the general population and as many as 25 percent of male offenders in federal correctional settings are psychopaths. Research looking into the minds of psychopaths has found not only differences in their brains but also, at least in one recent study, speech patterns.
In the new study, which relied on scans of the brains of psychopaths incarcerated in Wisconsin, the researchers found reduced connections between a part of the brain associated with empathy and decision-making, known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), and other parts of the brain.
Community: Are they responsible for their crimes, then? I don’t know, but I sure don’t want them on the streets. I don’t want them in corporate offices or in politics, either, where they also seem to thrive.
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Men overconfident in their performance

(UPI) Discrimination against women may not be the only reason women hit a glass ceiling in corporations; men's overconfidence is also a factor, U.S. researchers say…
[One study found that] men consistently rated their past performance about 30 percent higher than it really was while women consistently rated their past performance only about 15 percent higher.
In another experiment, the researchers found, on average, both men and women were willing to lie about their performance, but when participants had an incentive to lie, they lied more, and the incidence of lying increased as the monetary award for being chosen as leader increased.
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Men tend to overestimate women's desire

(UPI) Men looking for a quick hookup are more likely to overestimate a woman's desire for them, U.S. researchers found…
The more attractive the woman was to the man, the more likely he was to overestimate her interest, while the women tended to underestimate men's desire, the study said.
The research contains messages for daters. [Psychologist Carin] Perilloux said women should know the risks and be as communicative and clear as possible, while men should know that the more attracted you are, the more likely you are to be wrong about her interest.
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12M U.S. rape, violence, stalking victims

(UPI) More than 12 million U.S. women and men per year are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner, federal health officials say.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Wednesday said across all forms of violence -- sexual violence, stalking, intimate partner violence -- the vast majority of victims knew their perpetrator, who was often an intimate partner or acquaintance and seldom a stranger.
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Doing the Ethical Thing May Be Right, but Not Necessarily Admired

(New York Times) Most of us say we admire people who stand up for what’s right (or what is eventually shown to be right), especially when they are strong enough to stick to their guns in the face of strenuous opposition.
But again, research shows that’s not necessarily true. In [a study], Australian academics argue that group members are often hostile to people who buck conformity, even if the members later agree with the dissenter.
Even when, say, a whistle-blower may prove to be correct, she is not always admired or accepted back into the fold, the academics found. Rather, the group may still feel angry that the whistle-blower damaged its cohesion.
Community: That’s exactly what happened to those of us who tried, in 2008, to warn other online activists that Barack Obama is no liberal. And we’re still treated as outcasts, no matter how often we’re proven right. Just as early opposers of the Iraq War and early predictors of the housing bubble collapse are still not given a voice in the national discussion.
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Less people know, less they want to know

(UPI) The less people know about complex issues such as the economy, energy and the environment, the less they want to know, Canadian researchers found.
Study author Steven Shepherd, a graduate student with the University of Waterloo in Ontario, said researchers found the more urgent the issue, the more people want to remain unaware…
The study participants who received the complex description indicated higher levels of perceived helplessness in getting through the economic downturn, more dependence on and trust in the government to manage the economy and less desire to learn more about the issue, Shepherd said.
"People tend to respond by psychologically 'outsourcing' the issue to the government, which in turn causes them to trust and feel more dependent on the government," said study co-author Aaron C. Kay of Duke University. "Ultimately, they avoid learning about the issue because that could shatter their faith in the government."
Community: Who paid for this study? Its conclusions fit in really well with right-wing propaganda. I’ve sent an email to Kay, asking that question, but haven’t received a response.
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North Woods Bean Soup
Adding turkey kielbasa lends this hearty soup recipe a rich, slow-simmered flavor even though it takes just 25 minutes to make.
Pomegranate-Glazed Turkey with Roasted Fennel
Pair turkey cutlets with roasted fennel and a rich pomegranate pan sauce for a simple yet elegant dish. Garnish with jewel-like fresh pomegranate seeds if available—they are in season from September through January. Turkey scallopini (thinner and smaller than cutlets) will also work in this recipe, but will need to be cooked in batches.
Cooking Light:
Top-Rated Casseroles
These meals-in-a-dish all earned top marks from staff and readers alike.
Enjoy a Mesclun Salad
Looking to change up your regular salad? Start using mesclun greens as a base. Mesclun is a traditional salad mix that originated in France. It typically contains a combination of delicious young greens, such as baby spinach, arugula, frisée, dandelion, endive, radicchio, mizuna, mâche, and other leafy lettuces that offer a variety of different tastes and textures. You can top a mesclun salad with just about anything. Try it with grilled chicken, shrimp, or beans or other legumes. Prepackaged mesclun greens tend to be expensive, so if you want to cut costs, consider mixing and matching your own selection of different greens.
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