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

Being Outside Is Good for You

(Science Daily) Exercise in the open air is good for you, but if you want to reap the full benefits you should head for the coast or the countryside rather than an urban park…
Katherine Ashbullby and her colleagues … studied data from 2750 English respondents drawn from Natural England's two-year study of people's engagement with the natural environment. They looked at people who had visited urban parks, the countryside and the coast.
They found that all outdoor locations were associated with positive feelings (enjoyment, calmness, refreshment), but that visits to the coast were most beneficial and visits to urban parks least beneficial. This finding remained when the researchers took account of factors like people's age, how far they had traveled, the presence of others and the activity they undertook.
Community: We’ve already seen that spending time in natural environments appears to improve behavior, is good for our mental health (more here, here, and here), good for our physical health (more here and here), and even being in sight of the natural environment helps us heal faster when we’re injured or ill.
And it just so happens that during this next week, national parks are free. From the USA.gov Team, via email: “During National Park Week (April 21-29), all national parks offer free admission. Whether you spend a few hours at a park near you, or take a few days to explore a park further from your home, enjoy America's great outdoors!”
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It's Easy Being Green

(SouthBeachDiet.com) [F]ollowing an eco-friendly lifestyle is easier than you think. In fact, most changes are simple and involve making smarter choices, like buying fresh produce (ideally locally grown and organic)… But the benefits of following a green lifestyle go beyond just saving the environment — they can also make a positive impact on your overall health. The 42nd anniversary of Earth Day is tomorrow, and we encourage you to follow these green-living tips to help you lead a healthier, eco-friendlier lifestyle:
Buy locally grown foods…
Re-use bottles when you drink…
Walk or bike your way around town.
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Save the planet and improve your health

(Molly Kimball, New Orleans Times-Picayune) Sunday is Earth day, a reminder to continue striving to make environmentally responsible choices throughout our lives, including our diets.
Trying to incorporate more products that have been sustainably produced and packaged in recycled, recyclable and/or biodegradable containers can have a significant impact on our environment as well as our personal health and wellness. But being eco-friendly doesn’t mean you have to start grinding up egg shells and food scraps to fertilize your garden, and for some, even the idea of starting a garden, or riding a bike to work on a regular basis can seem unrealistic to maintain as daily routines.
So here are [some] simple strategies you can easily fit into a busy schedule and start implementing today to reduce, reuse, and recycle — and improve your health.
Keep it local
Stick with safer seafood
Fortunately, there are websites with information about safer seafood (I recommend fishwatch.gov); many offer seafood and sushi pocket guides to tuck into your purse or wallet…
Waste not
In keeping with the theme of nose-to-tail eating is making sure that no food – no matter how little of it you may need as an ingredient – winds up in the garbage disposal.
For example, many recipes call for just a tablespoon or two of tomato paste. So instead of tossing the rest (or storing it in the fridge, only to discover it moldy a few weeks later), you can freeze leftover tomato paste. Drop it by the tablespoon onto wax paper, freeze, then store in an airtight container in the freezer, and you’ll have tablespoon-sized nuggets when you need them.
Freeze leftover liquid ingredients (think wine, broth, or freshly-squeezed lemon juice) in ice cube trays, then transfer the cubes to a plastic bag and freeze for later.
Even fresh herbs can be frozen for future use…
Use your freezer
When you’re buying fresh, seasonal goods, buy them in bulk and freeze them for out-of-season use.
The bottom line:
Continuing to keep the focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling, and striving to incorporate more fresh, local foods into your lifestyle will benefit our health as well as our local community, economy, and environment.
Read more, and there's lots, lots more.
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"Eating Planet 2012"

(MarketWatch) Worldwide, 30 percent of food is wasted, 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night while another 1 billion suffer from health problems related to obesity. Meanwhile, young people are increasingly disconnected from how their food is grown, making solutions to the global agricultural system - which contributes one third of global greenhouse gas emissions - seem even further out of reach.
In response to these problems, the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) is releasing a book, Eating Planet, highlighting the challenges facing today's food and agricultural system, as well as the myriad of benefits that reform could bring. As Earth Day approaches, it is important to appreciate the links between technology, culture, and agriculture, and how they can help alleviate hunger and poverty. Eating Planet will be downloadable for free on Earth Day, April 22, 2012 from the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition's website ( http://www.barillacfn.com).
"Access to food is one of the first and most fundamental of all human rights," says Guido Barilla, Chairman of the Barilla Group. "Where food is lacking, it becomes impossible to live with dignity, and the rights to a healthy life and peaceful coexistence are undermined."
The Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet project, an evaluation of environmentally sustainable solutions to alleviate hunger and poverty, collaborated with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition to produce the report.
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For a Healthier Country, Overhaul Farm Subsidies

(Editorial, Scientific American) Some years ago two nutrition experts went grocery shopping. For a dollar, Adam Drewnow­ski and S. E. Specter could purchase 1,200 calories of potato chips or cookies or just 250 calories worth of carrots. It was merely one example of how an unhealthy diet is cheaper than a healthy one.
This price difference did not spring into existence by force of any natural laws but largely because of antiquated agricultural policies. Public money is working at cross-purposes: backing an overabundance of unhealthful calories that are flooding our supermarkets and restaurants, while also battling obesity and the myriad illnesses that go with it. It is time to align our farm policies with our health policies.
In past years farm subsidies have been a third rail of American politics—never to be touched. But their price tag, both direct and indirect, has now brought them back into the debate and created an imperative for change. Conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis are strongly correlated with excess poundage and run up medical bills of nearly $150 billion every year. The government has poured billions of dollars into dietary campaigns, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new MyPlate recommendation (half of daily food consumption should be fruits and vegetables) to programs aimed at providing more produce in schools and in military cafeterias.
Agricultural subsidies undercut those efforts by skewing the market in favor of unhealthful calories…
With the government tightening its belt, some of those old subsidies finally look ready to fall. Many lawmakers across the political spectrum, including President Barack Obama and the leaders of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, have recommended cutting direct commodity payments, which would save money and help us stay healthier.
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Skirt Steak Diablo
This steak cooks in minutes. To ensure the outside is well browned and the inside pink, keep it cold in the refrigerator until you're ready to grill.
Saucy Porcupine Meatballs
These meatballs are stuffed with plenty of rice, which, as it cooks, pokes out of the meatballs, making them look like prickly little porcupines. The little meatballs are cooked in a mildly tangy tomato sauce that’s a sure crowd-pleaser.
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Low-Fat Dairy May Help Lower Stroke Risk

(WebMD Health News) Middle-aged and older adults may be able to lower their risk of having a stroke by eating low-fat dairy products, according to a Swedish study…
The study researchers, who tracked the diets of nearly 75,000 men and women over 10 years, found that those who ate the most low-fat dairy foods and beverages were 12% less likely to have a stroke than those who ate the least.
"The most plausible explanation is that low-fat dairy food lowers blood pressure," says researcher Susanna Larsson, PhD… "High blood pressure is a strong risk factor for stroke."…
Previous research suggests that adequate vitamin D levels may help prevent development of high blood pressure.
Larsson says that nonfat dairy products such as skim milk likely have the same stroke-reducing properties as long as they are fortified with vitamin D.
Community: We’ve seen that the whey from milk may help reduce blood pressure, and there are many other things we can do to help keep our blood pressure in check and to reduce the risk of having a stroke.
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4 Health Benefits of Turmeric

(Andrew Weil, M.D.) Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a culinary spice, a major ingredient in Indian curries, and the source of American mustard's bright yellow color. Used as both medicine and food for centuries, accumulating evidence suggests that this relative of ginger is a promising preventive agent for a wide range of diseases, probably due largely to its anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin is the chief active component of turmeric, and is usually taken as a supplement. Research indicates that:
·        Curcumin seems to delay liver damage in some instances that can eventually lead to cirrhosis.
·        Turmeric reduces levels of heterocyclic amines - carcinogenic compounds that are formed when meats are barbecued, boiled or fried - by up to 40 percent.
·        Curcumin inhibits the growth of a skin cancer (melanoma) and also slows the spread of breast cancer into the lungs.
·        Turmeric that is part of daily curries eaten in India may help explain the low rate of Alzheimer's disease in that country. Among people aged 70 to 79, the rate is less than one-quarter that of the United States.
Some Americans may find straight turmeric powder bitter or otherwise off-putting, but when a teaspoon or two is added to a pot of soup or stew, the flavor disperses and adds a subtle depth and complexity that most people find appealing. If even that's too much for you, both turmeric and curcumin supplements are now widely available - just take one along with your daily multivitamin. Note, however, that turmeric and curcumin are poorly absorbed from the G.I. tract. Absorption is enhanced in the presence of piperine, a constituent of black pepper. Indian cuisine commonly uses turmeric and pepper together. I suggest using only turmeric and curcumin supplements that contain piperine or black pepper extract.
Community: However, as Indians adopt the Western lifestyle, they’re suffering a lot more heart disease.
In the Healthy Mary that I drink most days, I put both turmeric and black pepper (and red pepper, and a bunch of other healthy things that I’m not sure I’d get enough of in my diet otherwise). I actually love the flavor that the turmeric adds to the vegetable juice.
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Statins don't reduce melanoma risk: study

(Reuters Health) Despite earlier indications that people taking statins might have a reduced risk of developing melanoma, a large new study of women finds the popular cholesterol-lowering drugs do nothing to prevent the deadly skin cancer…
The researchers compared roughly 8,800 white women who took a statin medication to 111,000 white women who did not. They found 89 cases of melanoma among the statin users and 1,111 cases among the non-users during a 12-year period. That translated to identical rates of melanoma in each group - nine cases a year for every 10,000 women.
No matter what type of statin the women took or how long they took it, the results were the same. "I don't think there's anything here that suggests statins may be protective for melanoma," [Dr. Michael] Simon said.
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Fatigue after early breast cancer often fades: study

(Reuters Health) Many people treated for cancer are worn out for a time, but new findings suggest that long-lasting fatigue may be less common than thought -- at least for women with early-stage breast cancer.
The study, of 218 women treated for early breast cancer, found that almost one-third had "cancer-related fatigue" at the end of treatment. But far fewer -- six percent -- still had the problem a year later.
That suggests for most women with the disease post-treatment fatigue will fade with some time, the researchers report
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Add fuzzy brain to the effects of menopause

(Gannett News Service) Women going through menopause have trouble staying focused and keeping track of things, according to a study from a neuropsychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center…
“There is something to memory complaints,” said Miriam Weber…
Weber suggested that mid-life women resist the urge to multitask, that they try to minimize stress and find time for exercise. “A 30-minute walk can be very beneficial,” she said.
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US FDA says nanotech may need extra safety tests

(Reuters) U.S. health regulators said consumer products that use nanotechnology may have unknown effects on the human body, and advised food and cosmetic companies to further study the safety of these tiny particles…
Nanotechnology involves designing and manufacturing materials on the scale of one-billionth of a meter - so small it cannot be seen with a regular light microscope.
It is used in hundreds of products in areas ranging from stain-resistant clothing and cosmetics to food additives, but the health effects of nanoparticles are still poorly understood.
Nanoparticles may be able to penetrate the skin, or move between organs, with unknown health effects.
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Merck fined $322 million for illegal off-label Vioxx promotion

(Consumer Reports) The U.S. Justice Department hit the drug-maker Merck with a $322 million penalty for illegally promoting the pain reliever rofecoxib (Vioxx) to treat rheumatoid arthritis before it received approval by the Food and Drug Administration for that condition.
Although Vioxx is now banned because it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke, the Justice Department intends the fine to serve as a warning to other drug makers not to illegally promote their medications for "off label" uses—meaning any use not approved by the FDA.
The case also serves as a reminder to consumers to double check whether a medication prescribed by their doctor is FDA approved for its intended use.
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Health disparities worsen from '02 to '08

(UPI) Access to U.S. healthcare did not improve for most racial and ethnic groups from 2002 through 2008, federal officials reported…
Fifty percent of the measures that tracked disparities in healthcare access showed no improvement between 2002 and 2008, while 40 percent of those measures were getting worse, the reports said.
Latinos and American Indians experienced more barriers to care than whites on more than 60 percent of the access measures from 2002 to 2008, while African-Americans experienced more barriers on about 30 percent of the access measures.
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Traffic injuries much more common in poor areas, study finds

(Booster Shots, Los Angeles Times) Here’s another way that rich people are different – they experience far fewer traffic accidents in their neighborhoods, according to a new study.
This isn’t exactly a shocking conclusion. There are an estimated 40,000 road deaths in the U.S. each year, and many studies have found that these are more likely to involve low-income people in low-income areas.
But there’s nothing about being poor that should make a person inherently more vulnerable to being hurt in a car crash…
The researchers calculated that for every 1,000 additional vehicles that pass through an intersection each day, the number of people injured in cars rose by 7%, the number of injured pedestrians rose by 6%, and the number of injured cyclist rose by 5%. Since poorer neighborhoods had more traffic, they also had more injuries.
“We found that environmental factors associated with a greater risk of crashes” – the number of people exposed to crashes, the total volume of traffic, and the geometry of roads and intersections – “were more frequent in the poorest neighborhoods,” the study authors wrote. These three factors accounted for “a substantial portion” of the difference between the poorest versus the richest neighborhoods, they added.
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One in four Americans without health coverage: study

(Reuters) As the U.S. Supreme Court ponders the fate of healthcare reform in the current election year, a study released on Thursday shows that one in four working-age Americans went without insurance at some point in 2011, often as a result of unemployment and other job changes…
The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit organization that analyzes healthcare issues, said that seven in 10 of those who lost insurance spent a year or more without coverage, partly because plans sold on the individual market for health insurance were unaffordable.
Without insurance, people quickly disconnected from the healthcare system by avoiding basic medical services such as doctor visits and screenings for cancer, cholesterol and high blood pressure.
The results provide a disturbing snapshot of the $2.6 trillion U.S. healthcare system at a time when government officials are wrestling with stubbornly high unemployment rates and uncertainty about the future of the federal healthcare overhaul.
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Consumer-Directed U.S. Health Insurance Surges

(Reuters) There may not be a consensus in the nation's capital on how to control the cost of health care, but businesses and their employees are not sitting around waiting for clarity. They are voting with their wallets for one approach that's already available: Account-based health insurance plans, which offer lower premiums in exchange for high deductibles.
Consumer-directed health insurance is a cornerstone of Republican-backed market-oriented health reform solutions. It will also be offered as an option to shoppers in the public health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), if the law isn't struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.
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Green House Project Nursing Home Aids Low-Income Seniors

(Kaiser Health News) What was once a novel idea for  longterm care for the elderly — small, homey facilities of 10 to 12 residents each — is now a model cropping up around the country.
On Thursday The Green House Project– an alternative to senior institutional care created by Dr. William H. Thomas, a geriatrician and self-described ‘nursing home abolitionist’ — opened their 133th nursing home nationally and their first in Baltimore. According to Thomas, the homes are designed to emphasize quality living for seniors by creating a comfortable and independent space where residents sleep in private bedrooms, share family-style meals and have more freedom of movement  than in traditional nursing homes.
The four-unit facility on the site of the former Memorial Stadium is the first “green house” in the state of Maryland, and the first in the country to take advantage of special funding for low-income seniors thanks to a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NCB Capital Impact.
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Letting Go of Regret May Be Key to Happy Aging

(LiveScience) Brain scans now reveal that living a life without regrets may be one key to aging well.
As painful as regret can be, scientists think it can help us make better choices in the future when we are young. However, as second chances decrease as we get older, the benefits of mulling over what might have been also decline with age.
To see if letting go of regrets might actually be linked with emotional health as one gets older, researchers analyzed brain scans of three groups of people — young adults averaging 25 years old, as well as depressed older adults and healthy older adults, both averaging 65 years old. These volunteers played a computer game where they opened a series of boxes that, at random, held either money or a cartoon picture of a devil that ended the exercise and caused the players to lose all the money they had won up to that point. After opening each box, the volunteers could decide whether to stop or proceed to the next one. After each round ended, all the boxes opened, revealing how far players could have safely continued.
When the young adults and depressed older adults discovered they had missed chances to collect more money, they took more risks in following rounds, even though the random nature of the game meant there was no reason to take previous rounds into account. However, healthy older adults did not really change their behavior…
[T]he brain scans revealed that activity in a brain region called the ventral striatum, which is linked with feeling regret and also addiction, and in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved in regulating emotions, was similar between the young adults and the depressed older adults. In contrast, the healthy older adults showed different patterns in brain activity that suggested they experienced less regret and regulated their emotions more effectively.
Community: As one who has suffered from clinical depression, I can tell you that letting go of regret is one of the most important changes I made to reduce my chances of suffering from it again. And I haven’t. There are also many other practical things we can do to prevent or lessen depression.
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Point When Negative Thoughts Turn Into Depression Identified

(Science Daily) Negative thinking is a red flag for clinical depression. Stopping such thoughts early on can save millions of people from mental illness, according research…
Jaclene Zauszniewski … has developed a brief 8-item survey to help healthcare providers identify depressive thinking patterns that may lead to serious depression if not identified and addressed early.
Zauszniewski's Depression Cognition Scale (DCS) asks individuals to respond to questions about helplessness, hopelessness, purposelessness, worthlessness, powerlessness, loneliness, emptiness and meaninglessness using a scale that ranges from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree."…
[A study] found that a score of 7 on the DCS would be that point at which individuals should begin initiating strategies to change negative thoughts into positive ones. The findings also showed that at this cut score, the DCS accurately differentiated between persons with and without clinical depressive symptoms as determined by the [Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)].
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent or lessen depression.
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New View of Depression: An Ailment of the Entire Body

(Wall Street Journal) Scientists are increasingly finding that depression and other psychological disorders can be as much diseases of the body as of the mind.
People with long-term psychological stress, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder tend to develop earlier and more serious forms of physical illnesses that usually hit people in older age, such as stroke, dementia, heart disease and diabetes. Recent research points to what might be happening on the cellular level that could account for this.
Scientists are finding that the same changes to chromosomes that happen as people age can also be found in people experiencing major stress and depression…
Gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms that link physical and mental conditions could someday prove helpful in diagnosing and treating psychological illnesses and improving cognition in people with memory problems, Dr. Wolkowitz says.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent or lessen depression.
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Activity in Brain Networks Related to Features of Depression

(Science Daily)  Depressed individuals with a tendency to ruminate on negative thoughts, i.e. to repeatedly think about particular negative thoughts or memories, show different patterns of brain network activation compared to healthy individuals, report scientists…
The risk for depression is increased in individuals with a tendency towards negative ruminations, but patterns of autobiographic memory also may be predictive of depression.
When asked to recall specific events, some individuals have a tendency to recall broader categories of events instead of specific events. This is termed overgeneral memory and, like those who tend to ruminate, these individuals also have a higher risk of developing depression.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent or lessen depression.
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Exploring the Antidepressant Effects of Testosterone

(Science Daily) Testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, appears to have antidepressant properties, but the exact mechanisms underlying its effects have remained unclear…
Compared to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from an affective disorder like depression. Men with hypogonadism, a condition where the body produces no or low testosterone, also suffer increased levels of depression and anxiety. Testosterone replacement therapy has been shown to effectively improve mood.
Although it may seem that much is already known, it is of vital importance to fully characterize how and where these effects are occurring so that scientists can better target the development of future antidepressant therapies.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent or lessen depression.
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Blood test looks promising in diagnosing depression

(Los Angeles Times) Even among psychiatric disorders, depression is a difficult disease to diagnose. Its causes remain a mystery, its symptoms can't be defined with precision, and treatments are spotty at best.
But that may soon change. Scientists are looking for ways to identify patients with depression as reliably as they diagnose cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. A new study takes a significant, though preliminary, step in that direction by demonstrating that a simple blood test can distinguish between people who are depressed and those who are not.
The test examined a panel of 28 biological markers that circulate in the bloodstream and found that 11 of them could predict the presence of depression at accuracy levels that ranged from medium to large.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent or lessen depression.
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Medicare Now Covers Annual Screening For Depression

(Kaiser Health News) In October, Medicare began to cover annual depression screening in primary-care settings with no cost sharing for beneficiaries.
Paying doctors to screen for depression -- Medicare's going rate is $17.36 per person -- may well increase how often they do it, say experts. "Doctors are trying to do the right thing, but how do you prioritize what to do in 21 minutes with a complex person?" asks Ken Duckworth, medical director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, http://www.nami.org/ an advocacy group. "If they get paid for it, they structure it into their practices."
Medicare covers 60 percent of the treatment for mental health problems, including depression. (Under a 2008 law, that figure is scheduled to rise to 80 percent in 2014.)
Most primary-care practices that screen for depression use a tool called the patient health questionnaire. The PHQ-9, as it's called, asks people to describe how frequently during the past two weeks they have felt down or hopeless or taken little interest or pleasure in doing things. It also asks about sleep patterns, appetite and concentration, among other things. Although the test can be taken in just a few minutes, a 2001 study indicated it identifies depression and pinpoints its severity nearly 90 percent of the time.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent or lessen depression.
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Chicken, Cashew, and Red Pepper Stir-Fry
This dish balances salty, sweet, tangy, and spicy ingredients. Spoon it alongside a quick rice pilaf.
Athenian Orzo
Orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, makes a delightful base for an authentically Greek combination of shrimp, tomatoes and feta. To serve as a side dish, omit the shrimp and drain the tomatoes before adding them.
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3 Delicious Sources of Antioxidants

(Andrew Weil, M.D.) When it comes to getting your antioxidants, one place to look is your kitchen. Dr. Weil considers green tea, red wine and chocolate to be great sources of antioxidants in the diet:
·         Regular drinking of green tea has been shown to lower mortality risk.
·         Studies show red wine has beneficial effects on cardiovascular health (though it is important to moderate alcohol intake).
·         Dark chocolate has been shown to decrease blood pressure when regularly included in the daily diet in small amounts.
Learn more, including how much of each Dr. Weil recommends you should be getting, in the new video "Green Tea, Red Wine and Chocolate."
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Starbucks to Stop Using Bug Extract to Color Frappuccinos

(Bloomberg) Starbucks Corp. (SBUX), the world’s largest coffee-shop chain, plans to stop using an extract made of dried insects to color some Frappuccinos and pastries after an online campaign asked for the ingredient to be removed.
The retailer said today its U.S. stores will phase out by June use of a red dye derived from cochineal insects, a tropical bug found in Mexico and South America. The colorant will be replaced with lycopene, a tomato extract, the Seattle-based company said in a statement on its website.
More than 6,500 people signed a Change.org petition asking Starbucks to stop using the insects because it isn’t vegan, kosher, and consumers “don’t want crushed bugs in their designer drinks.” The extract had been used in the company’s Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino, Strawberry Banana Smoothie, raspberry swirl cake, birthday cake pop, mini donut with pink icing and red velvet whoopee pie, according to the statement.
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Farm group seeks U.S. halt on "dangerous" crop chemicals

(Reuters) A coalition of more than 2,000 U.S. farmers and food companies said Wednesday it is taking legal action to force government regulators to analyze potential problems with proposed biotech crops and the weed-killing chemicals to be sprayed over them…
Dow and Monsanto say the new chemical combinations and new crops that tolerate those chemicals are badly needed by corn, soybean and cotton farmers as weeds increasingly resist treatments of the most commonly used herbicide - glyphosate-based Roundup…
But critics say key ingredients in these new herbicides - 2,4-D for Dow and dicamba for Monsanto - already are in use in the marketplace and have proved damaging to "non-target" fields because they are hard to keep on target. Wind, heat and humidity can move the chemical particles miles down the road, damaging gardens, crops, trees. Many farms have suffered significant damage in recent years even though the chemicals are currently sprayed under tight restrictions.
"These are the most dangerous chemicals out there," said John Bode, a Washington lawyer hired by the Save Our Crops Coalition. Bode served as assistant Secretary of Agriculture in the Reagan administration.
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Checked Your Blood Pressure Lately?

(RealAge.com) There's new evidence that up to 25% of people being treated for hypertension don't have it. Why the misdiagnosis? Blood pressure monitoring can be inaccurate… Rushing, crossing your legs, a full bladder, talking, and having coffee, cola, alcohol, food, or tobacco within 30 minutes of being cuffed (the list goes on) can affect your readings..
The best way to check your blood pressure is to wear an ambulatory blood pressure monitor for 24 hours. This hasn't caught on because the gizmos cost around $2,500 for a professional model (i.e., what your doc would loan you). However, recent data shows these are real money-savers and potential life-savers: Having a normal blood pressure 'round the clock is vital to a young, healthy you.
If you hate taking blood pressure medications or suspect your numbers aren't accurate, talk to your doc. There may already be an ambulatory "loaner" available. Don't be surprised if you're younger and healthier than you think.
Community: There are a number of non-medicinal ways to reduce blood pressure.
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Aspirin: New Evidence Is Helping Explain Additional Health Benefits and Open Potential for New Uses

(Science Daily) New evidence is helping explain additional health benefits of aspirin. Researchers in Canada, Scotland and Australia have discovered that salicylate, the active ingredient in aspirin, directly increases the activity of the protein AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase), a key player in regulating cell growth and metabolism. AMPK which is considered a cellular fuel-gauge is switched on by exercise and the commonly used anti-diabetic medication metformin…
An anti-inflammatory drug first used as a painkiller more than a century ago, aspirin is now given to people at risk of heart attacks and strokes as well as patients with vascular disease…
Three studies published last month in the medical journal The Lancet reported that taking an aspirin every day may significantly reduce the risk of many cancers and prevent tumors from spreading.
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Study finds high rates of off-label prescribing

(Reuters Health) More than 10 percent of prescriptions in one Canadian province were for drugs not approved to treat the patient's condition, a new study finds. And many times, there was little evidence the drugs would work.
A medication is being used "off label" if a doctor prescribes it to treat a condition other than the one(s) Health Canada, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or similar national regulatory agencies approved it for based on tests of safety and efficacy.
Dr. Tewodros Eguale, who led the new study, said doctors typically prescribe medications off-label when their patients fail to respond to other popular approved drugs or when they have a rare condition with few available treatments.
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Hospitals see decline in care-related infections

(Reuters) The United States is making progress in reducing the spread of infections to patients while they are in the hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday…
Nationwide, there was a 32 percent decline in central line bloodstream infections from 2009-2010, said Dr. Scott Fridkin, deputy chief of the surveillance branch in the CDC's division of health care quality promotion. The decline was even greater at 35 percent among intensive care patients, he said.
Fridkin attributed the reduced number of health care-related infections to national and state prevention efforts.
There were smaller reductions in infections caused by other surgical procedures, Fridkin said. "There's a lot of room for progress with surgical site infection prevention," he said.
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Cost Growth Limited As Americans Avoid Hospital Stays

(Kaiser Health News) In an early look at medical-cost trends for 2012, the nation’s biggest private insurer [UnitedHealth Group] said [Thursday] that an increase in outpatient treatments from January through March was partly offset by a lack of growth in hospital stays.  The Minnetonka, Minn. company is considered a bellwether for healthcare spending, as well as for the managed care sector, as the first major insurer to report quarterly earnings.
Treatment volume is ”tracking right in line with our expectations, which is to say we saw a modest increase in utilization,” Dan Schumacher, UnitedHealth’s chief financial officer, said on a conference call with investors. “Outpatient is the place where we see the most increase, and on the inpatient side we actually continue to see that very restrained. Our hospital bed days are actually flat to down in each of our businesses.”
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More data sharing lowers healthcare costs

(UPI) One way to reduce the U.S. healthcare cost inflation is to leverage the health data currently "locked in" doctor's offices and hospitals, researchers say…
The report recommended encouraging data sharing among research centers, medical offices, pharmaceutical companies, insurance firms and others -- and incentivizing a new corps of data entrepreneurs to collect and analyze existing medical data to discover and then disseminate new therapies.
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Obama Administration Claims $42.8 Billion In Savings From Health Law Bidding Program

(The Hill) The healthcare reform law's competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment such as hospital beds and wheelchairs is projected to save $42.8 billion over the next 10 years, the Medicare agency said in a report Wednesday…
The new report … found "no negative effects on the health of people on Medicare or their access to needed supplies and services," according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and "very few complaints about the program."
The American Association for Homecare disagrees… The group points out that 30 consumer and disability groups and 171 members of Congress have called for replacing the program with a different market-based pricing system.
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Physical activity wards off Alzheimer's, study finds

(Vitals, MSNBC.com) Even people in their 80s may be able to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s simply by increasing how much they move around each day, a new study suggests.
In a four-year study of 716 elderly Americans, researchers found that the least active seniors were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to the most active.
Seniors’ activity levels were measured with an actigraph, a watch-sized device worn on the wrist that detects movements all through the day and night.
Intriguingly, much of the movement measured by the actigraphs came from regular daily activities, such as cooking, washing dishes, or cleaning, rather than formal exercise, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Aron Buchman.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or minimize Alzheimer’s Disease.
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Worrying and Intelligence: Scientists Find Evolutionary Link

(ABC News) [N]ew work suggests that there is an evolutionary link between our tendency to worry and our intelligence, regarded as our most important evolutionary advancement…
Even in the earliest days of human history, our ancestors worried about real threats, and they learned to avoid unsafe areas, thus surviving long enough to pass along their genes.
There's a flip side to that coin, of course. Scientists at Purdue University found that chronic worrying can kill you because it leads to unhealthy behavior, like smoking and consuming large quantities of alcohol. It can also lead to depression and neuroticism.
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Cooperating Mini-Brains Show How Intelligence Evolved

(LiveScience) Working together can hasten brain evolution, according to a new computer simulation.
When programmed to navigate challenging cooperative tasks, the artificial neural networks set up by scientists to serve as mini-brains "learned" to work together, evolving the virtual equivalent of boosted brainpower over generations. The findings support a long-held theory that social interactions may have triggered brain evolution in human ancestors.
"It is the transition to a cooperative group that can lead to maximum selection for intelligence," said study researcher Luke McNally, a doctoral candidate at Trinity College Dublin. Greater intelligence, in turn, leads to more sophisticated cooperation, McNally told LiveScience. [10 Fun Brain Facts]
It also leads to more sophisticated means of cheating, he added.
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Researchers use brain-injury data to map intelligence in the brain

(University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) Scientists report that they have mapped the physical architecture of intelligence in the brain. Theirs is one of the largest and most comprehensive analyses so far of the brain structures vital to general intelligence and to specific aspects of intellectual functioning, such as verbal comprehension and working memory…
The study provides new evidence that intelligence relies not on one brain region or even the brain as a whole, [neuroscience professor Aron] Barbey said, but involves specific brain areas working together in a coordinated fashion.
"In fact, the particular regions and connections we found support an emerging body of neuroscience evidence indicating that intelligence depends on the brain's ability to integrate information from verbal, visual, spatial and executive processes," he said.
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Why Everyone Believes in Magic (Even You)

(Life's Little Mysteries) Even the most die-hard skeptics among us believe in magic. Humans can't help it: though we try to be logical, irrational beliefs — many of which we aren't even conscious of — are hardwired in our psyches. But rather than hold us back, the unavoidable habits of mind that make us think luck and supernatural forces are real, that objects and symbols have power, and that humans have souls and destinies are part of what has made our species so evolutionarily successful. Believing in magic is good for us…
What do religion, anthropomorphism, mysticism and the widespread notion that each of us has a destiny to fulfill have in common? According to [the research of psychology writer Matthew Hutson, author of The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking], underlying all these forms of magical thinking is the innate sense that everything happens for a reason. And that stems from paranoia, which is a safety mechanism.
"We have a bias to see events as intentional, and to see objects as intentionally designed," Hutson explained. "Part of this is because we're always on the lookout for signs of other intentional beings — people or animals — so we tend to assume that if something happened, it was caused by an agent. If we don't see any biological agent, like a person or animal, then we might assume that there's some sort of invisible agent: God or the universe in general with a mind of its own. So the reason we have a bias to assume things are intentional is that typically it's safer to spot another agent in your environment than to miss another agent."
Or, in the words of the anthropologist Stewart Guthrie, "It's better to mistake a boulder for a bear than a bear for a boulder."
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