Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Healthiest States

From an article titled Healthiest States in America Named, Reported by Dr. Amish Patel on ABC News. This is from the annual America's Health Rankings list is out, pitting U.S. states against each other in a no-holds-barred contest of health. So, how did your state fare?

For the fourth year in a row, Vermont takes the top spot as healthiest state. Applauding the state's high rate of high school graduation and low rate of uninsured population, the report also finds that Vermont is not without its problems. Vermonters have a relatively high rate of cancer deaths and participate in binge drinking more than most states (Wisconsiners binge drink the most, Tennesseans the least). Vermont is in good company in the northeast with seven states from the region making it into the top 10.

Second place goes to Hawaii, a regular contender for first place. Since the ranking started in 1990, Hawaii has consistently ranked in the top six states. Hawaiians enjoy low rates of obesity and smoking, but have high rates of binge drinking and low birth weight babies.

Louisiana and Mississippi are tied for the least healthy state and have consistently been at the bottom of the list for the past 23 years. Both states have low rates of binge drinking, but suffer from high rates of occupational fatalities and children in poverty. These two states are in the bottom five in about half of the 24 components that make up the overall ranking, including high rates of chronic conditions like sedentary lifestyle, obesity and diabetes.

These chronic conditions are also putting the entire nation's health most at risk. Obesity alone is the leading cause of preventable death and costs our nation about $200 billion each year. More than 66 million adults are obese - that's more than one in four Americans. Colorado is the least obese and least sedentary state, in contrast to Mississippi which is the most obese and most sedentary.

"It is important to note that we are living longer, but not necessarily better," says Jane Pennington, spokesperson from the United Health Foundation, the group responsible for the report. "Despite improvements, we still have unhealthy behavior that threatens our health status. It continues to be disappointing that we are seeing a rise in chronic illness. It doesn't have to be that way. That is the alarm that we want to sound."

Although smoking in the U.S. has been decreasing recently, more than 45 million Americans still smoke, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Utah has the lowest percent of its population smoking and Kentucky has the highest.

"People should care about this report," says Dr. Anthony Shih, executive vice president for Programs at the Commonwealth Fund. "It is clear that where you live matters in terms of overall health and it should motivate action to improve."

States should be looking at their healthier neighbors for ways to improve.

"The relatively high performance of [fourth-ranked] Massachusetts - where a law similar to the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2006 - may hopefully motivate other states to participate in Medicaid expansion and more aggressively implement the ACA within their own state. Successful implementation will likely raise the performance of most states," according to Shih.

By having programs and policies that support better health, states can expect better rankings. If a state increases the tax on cigarettes or bans smoking in public places, for example, the number of smokers in that state should decrease, cutting deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer deaths.

The statistics show that states can improve their ranking. Vermont was ranked 20th in 1990, but steadily made improvements over the years to get where it is now.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Probiotics for Your Health

Surprising Benefits of Probiotics published on Yahoo! Health.  Researchers are starting to promote Probiotics for a health immune system.  I fully support this as I add a Probiotic every other day, sometimes every third day, to my diet.   What I take consists of, in part, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium. 

The Article: 

You’ve probably heard the virtues of probiotics extolled in health magazines and on cartons of Greek yogurt. Probiotics are live bacteria that naturally occur in certain foods—from fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut or kimchi, to live-cultured yogurt. They’re also added to some high-end dark chocolates and available as supplements.

Broken down, the word probiotic means “for life” or “promoting life.” While it sounds good, you still may wonder: are probiotics just another New Age gimmick, or is there some science behind the health benefits? Though far from a panacea, probiotics can help cure some ailments that may surprise you.

If poor marks on your last physical have sent you on a personal quest to lower your cholesterol, look no farther than your fridge.

A small study presented at a recent AHA scientific meeting found that a strain of probiotics found in dairy and meats called Lactobacillus reuteri lowered LDL levels in participants by nearly 12 percent more than the group taking a placebo. Overall cholesterol was lowered by 9 percent.

The liver uses cholesterol to make bile. Researchers believe that probiotics break up bile salts and decrease their reabsorption in the gut.

Your eyes may be the windows to your soul, but your smile is your welcome mat to the world. Besides being unsightly, poor oral hygiene is associated with serious health woes, including heart disease, diabetes, and even low birth weight.

Studies have shown that the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri kills the bacteria that causes tooth decay and lessens the harmful effects of gingivitis. A full mouth of teeth and a reduction in bleeding gums are two good reasons to add probiotics to your daily menu.

Whether you experience the occasional bout of traveler’s diarrhea or are among the one-third of people who will experience it as a common side effect of antibiotics, diarrhea is unpleasant and embarrassing.

But don’t worry—there’s good news for your tush; according to the Harvard Medical School, many studies suggest that probiotic consumption can help reduce diarrhea episodes. For example, a 2012 clinical review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that those who took probiotics with antibiotics were 42 percent less likely to develop diarrhea than those who took the placebo.

If you have eczema, you know how annoying and frustrating perpetually dry, itchy skin can be. What if we could prevent future generations from getting it? A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that babies who are at risk for developing eczema may benefit from their mothers’ consumption of probiotics.

Allergy-prone mothers with eczema were given probiotics two months before giving birth and during the first two months of breastfeeding. The babies, who were assessed at 6, 12, and 24 months, showed a significant reduction in their risk of developing the no-fun skin inflammation.

The vagina is a delicately balanced environment of good and bad bacteria. Unfortunately, sometimes just taking antibiotics or birth control pills, becoming pregnant, or having diabetes is enough to throw your system out of whack. If you’re prone to pesky yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or UTIs, you might consider protecting your lady parts with probiotics.

According to the Harvard Medical School, probiotics may help balance the bacteria present in your vagina and prevent the overgrowth of harmful microorganisms. While their effectiveness is still being debated, researchers agree that there’s no harm in adding more probiotics to your diet.

Some people seem to get sick every time the weather changes, but that doesn’t have to be you this year. Researchers who conducted a review of studies from the Cochrane Library concluded that overall, probiotics seem to reduce upper respiratory infections when compared to a placebo.

In another study, children from 18 daycares in Helsinki, Finland were given milk with or without probiotics. Can you guess which group remained healthier? You got it—those who drank the probiotic-enriched milk were 17 percent less likely to get a respiratory infection and 16 percent less likely to be absent due to illness.

Any parent or airplane passenger would agree: nothing is worse than a crying baby—especially one that can’t be comforted. Because we don’t know exactly what causes colic in babies, it’s difficult to treat. However, some research suggests that probiotics might provide some relief.

A 2007 study published in Pediatrics found that after 28 days, breastfed babies whose mothers consumed a daily dose of probiotics cried 194 minutes less than the test group that didn’t. A 2010 study published in the same journal found similar results. Gaining just a minute of peace and quiet would give you good reason to pop a probiotic supplement. Now you’ve got 194 good reasons.

If constipation, bloating, and gas are mainstay symptoms of your IBS or Crohn’s, a cup of yogurt a day may keep you regular all day. Johns Hopkins Health Alert reports that those who ate two 4-ounce servings of live-culture yogurt during a study experienced less bloating and more bowel movements after a few weeks.

Another study revealed that women who ate three 4-ounce servings of live-culture yogurt a day experienced a shorter amount of time between eating and bowel movements. That’s less time you’d have to spend doubled over, clutching your stomach in pain.

It’s important to remember that while many studies suggest that probiotics can have a positive impact on your health, other studies report weak findings. Although probiotics may not be the miracle cure you’re looking for, one thing’s for sure: they can’t hurt.

Whether it’s an apple a day or a cup of probiotic-rich kefir, if you feel healthier when you eat it, keep it up. Pay attention to your body and to emerging research on new and natural ways to stay healthy.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Best and Worst Energy Drinks

Those Energy drinks are all over the news these days, associated with deaths of youths who basically become addicted to the sugar and caffine high that these drinks provide.

The Shine on Yahoo published a report, titled "Best and Worst Energy Drinks", which is a fair report if un-complete.

Recent headlines over the potential health hazards of energy drinks have led the FDA into intense investigation. The stimulus? A Maryland mother who filed a request to see whether the energy drink, Monster, had been tied to any deaths in recent years, after a fatal incident with her own 14-year old daughter. Health and nutrition expert Aimee Raupp joined “The Shine” to advise on which energy drinks should be avoided and which to embrace.

Aimee points out that that FDA and the Federal government have raised real concerns about the health effects of these energy drinks. In fact, energy drinks are not FDA regulated because their sold as nutritional supplements, not food so that’s why they can exceed the FDA-mandated 71 milligrams of caffeine.

Which beverages should we stay away from? Aimee says to avoid the following energy drinks at all costs. These are the most popularly sold energy drinks in the United States:

Red Bull
Full Throttle
Sobe No Fear

One of these energy drinks is the equivalent to 4-7 cups of coffee. Aimee says that is way too much caffeine for one sitting. The reaction is alarming – after consuming one of these, your body will go into overdrive – pupils start to dilate, heart rate increases, and all you want to do is move, move, move (and not in a good way!). These drinks can also cause a lack of mental focus and increased hunger.

On the flipside, there are a number of “good” energy drinks that provide positive health benefits, and Aimee recommends the following:

Scheckter’s Organic Energy

Of this group, Aimee’s top pick is the Cellnique because it’s the lowest in added sugars and the ingredient list here is quite clean and super naturally energizing. Regardless, all of these choices are organic and contain energizing sources like acai, yerba mate and guarana.

MyAchingKnees: These "good" energy drinks are still food grade products with all the usual problems associated with that manufacturing process.

Are you completely weary of energy drinks altogether? If so, here are some great alternatives. Coconut water is one of the best – it’s completely all natural, no preservatives – you can’t get any better than this. Also go for Kombucha ( do be aware though it’s an aquired taste – “effervescent” as Aimee puts it), Yerba Mate, green vegetable juice (with cayenne pepper or ginger or turmeric to really invigorate circulation and boost energy), an energizing smoothie with banana and spirulina, green tea (organic), organic coffee, or dark chocolate.

MyAchingKnees: Slice up a Cucumber and place in pitcher of water in the fridge - you'll be suprised how good it tastes. Better that that, invest in a Vita-Mix type blender and make your own smoothies of vegetables and fruits. You'll get all the nutrients not just the juice from a juicer. The natural sugars you'll get will be released slower and limit the energy drop you get with refined and high fructose corn syrup type drinks. Not to mention minimizing the crazy blood sugar levels and path towards diabetes. One of my favorite smoothies is beets, carrots, bananna, grapes and blue berries.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Difference Between Men and Women

I must have been in the mood for some internal philosophical discussion with myself,...

After I mowed the lawn today, I sat down and had a couple nice cold beers. The day was really quite beautiful, and the dark beer facilitated some deep thinking on various topics. Finally I thought about an age old question: Is giving birth more painful than getting kicked in the Nuts?

Women always maintain that giving birth is way more painful than a getting kicked in the nuts. Well, after another beer, and some heavy deductive thinking, I have come up with the answer to that question.

Getting kicked in the nuts is more painful than having a baby; and here is the reason for my conclusion: A year or so after giving birth, a woman will often say, "it might be nice to have another child."

On the other hand, you never hear a guy say, "You know, I think I would like another kick in the nuts."

I rest my case.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Performance Enhancing Drugs

To athletes, Performance Enhancing Drugs or commonly referred to as "PED's" are anabolic steriods, testosterone, steriod percursors and other banned substances by various athletic control organizations. Yet to others, Performance Enhancing Drugs mean "that little blue pill". And to one of my old friends, a 80 year old skinny guy still going strong, that little blue pill is just useful from keeping him from falling out of bed at night.

Recently in the news, if you are a Pro Football fan, is the discussion between a Chicago Bears player named Marshall and the media. Below is the article from Yahoo! Sports about the latest PED to grace professional athletics:

During Wednesday's Bears media availability, Marshall was asked about Adderall, the stimulant now coming under the league's scrutiny. As Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes, he took the conversation in a whole new direction:

"I don't know too much about Adderall," he said. "I know guys, it is such a competitive league, guys try anything just to get that edge. I'm fortunate enough to be blessed with size and some smarts to give me my edge. But some guys, they'll do whatever they can to get an edge. I've heard of some crazy stories. I've heard [of] guys using like Viagra, seriously. Because the blood is supposedly thin, some crazy stuff. So, you know, it's kind of scary with some of these chemicals that are in some of these things so you have to be careful." (Emphasis added.)

Yeah, and we have to be careful what we say here as well. To start, though ... Viagra? Seriously? VIAGRA ON THE FIELD? We'll just make two points. In theory, it's possible to see how Viagra could get your blood all fired up, at least for tackling somebody. And in practice, it doesn't seem like it'd be very difficult to see who's using it, if you get our drift.

All joking aside, for a moment, Viagra's benefits aren't just limited to the bedroom; athletes have found that it assists in blood flow, which helps in getting oxygen around the body faster and aids in endurance. It's been used in cycling (at this point, what drug hasn't?) as riders try to gain every possible edge. Even so, expect Marshall, and pretty much every other NFL player who comes in front of a microphone in the next four days, to get asked about this a lot.

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