September 07, 2010

Tips to Help You Quit Smoking

It can be easy to lose sight of the benefits of quitting when a strong craving for a cigarette hits. When your body is asking for a cigarette, your mind may start to play tricks on you! Suddenly, it can be hard to think clearly—all of your good reasons for wanting to quit go up in smoke, and they are replaced by thoughts giving you permission to pick up that cigarette. There is no good reason to smoke. Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit smoking.  Keep this list with you, preferably where you used to carry your cigarettes.  When you find yourself reaching for a cigarette, take out your list and read it. 

If you have tried to quit smoking and failed before, take comfort in the fact that most smokers fail several times before quitting successfully. Your past failures are not a lesson that you are unable to quit. Instead, view them as part of the normal journey toward becoming a nonsmoker. Eighty percent of smokers who quit do so without being in any program – and studies show that 95% of these self-reliant quitters fail, and go right back to smoking within 12 months. It's the same rate of recidivism as with heroin. So you may wish to consider getting some help this time around! 

If joining a small group of other quitters appeals to you, then try a Nicotine Anonymous meeting. It's likely there's one near you where you live. It's a 12-step program based on AA; they're nonprofit and meetings are free. You can find a local meeting near you 

Do your very best to stay away from alcohol, sugar and coffee the first week or longer, as these tend to stimulate the desire for a cigarette. Avoid fatty foods, as your metabolism will slow down a bit without the nicotine, and you may gain weight even if you eat the same amount as before quitting. So discipline about diet is extra important now. No one ever said acquiring new habits would be easy! 

Nibble on low calorie foods like celery, apples and carrots. Chew gum or suck on cinnamon sticks. Stretch out your meals; eat slowly and wait a bit between bites. After dinner, instead of a cigarette, treat yourself to a cup of mint tea or a peppermint candy.

Concentrate on all the money you can save by quitting smoking. Use this handy  smoking calculator to see how much you can save, then treat yourself with something special from your savings, Save for a year and you may be able to take that awesome vacation you have always dreamed about.
Do things and go places where smoking is not allowed. Keep this up until you're sure that you can stay smoke-free.

Stay away from things that you connect with smoking. If you always smoke while driving, try something new: Listen to a new radio station or your favorite music. Take a different route. Or take the train or bus for a while, if you can. 

In one study, about 25% of quitters found that an oral substitute was invaluable. Another 25% didn't like the idea at all -- they wanted a clean break with cigarettes. The rest weren't certain.  The nicotine inhaler (by prescription) is one way to go: it's a shortened plastic cigarette, with a replaceable nicotine capsule inside.

Go to a gym, sit in the steam, exercise. Change your normal routine – take time to walk or even jog around the block or in a local park.

Ask for support from coworkers, friends and family members. Ask for their tolerance. Let them know you're quitting, and that you might be edgy or grumpy for a few days. If you don't ask for support, you certainly won't get any. If you do, you'll be surprised how much it can help. Take a chance -- try it and see!

Living with Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative Colitis is a difficult chronic disease that has affected almost every part of my life. Ulcerative Colitis, like many other diseases has no cure and can only be managed with diet and medication. Whether you suffer from Ulcerative Colitis or another chronic disease you have suffered embarrassment, guilt, anger, pain, and self pity. I hope by writing this article others who also suffer from Ulcerative Colitis, Crohns Disease, IBS or other issues may find some relief and realize they are not alone and there is indeed hope for a bright future.

Even before being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis I frequently suffered from digestive problems. 

Adjustments had to be made just to get through my daily routine. For one thing I could not and still can't relax and eat when I am away from home. When working I found it impossible to eat lunch without fear of an afternoon filled with diarrhea, cramps, and bloating. On the few times I braved or was forced by my schedule to eat lunch while at work I paid dearly! It was embarrassing to be seen heading to the bathroom every ten minutes (sometimes even sooner). Driving also took on a new meaning; I drove routes that I knew where bathrooms were, hoping and praying I could make it in time and the restroom would be available when I pulled up. 

I felt my family was suffering too. We had to work around my illness. A night on the town meant eating had to be the last thing we did or not at all. Fortunately my husband is truly a saint. He has never complained or fussed about the hardship my illness puts on our social life and tries to be as helpful as possible. Of course his behavior doesn't stop me from feeling guilty and at times like a party pooper. I spent the first year after being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis going back and forth from feeling sorry to myself, to waiting for my Gastroenterologist to find the magic pill to cure me.

Since there is no cure I am still dealing with this chronic disease but I am hoping to give others like me some keys to living with Ulcerative Colitis. 

The first step in living with a chronic disease is to get a Doctor you trust and be very open about all your symptoms and fears. Be prepared for the long haul. It may takes months or even longer to get the right balance of medication to reduce symptoms and not disrupt the rest of your body. Every patient is a little different so there will be some experimenting on getting your dosage leveled out.  Call your Doctor right away as soon as you feel a flare is coming up.

Try keeping a journal. When I have a flare up and again when it goes into remission, I feel like someone has flipped a switch. Of course as soon as my symptoms worsen my first thought is what did I do wrong. I wonder if I ate something I shouldn't. Its a tough lesson learning that I do not cause the illness or symptoms and they may be brought on by the weather or for no apparent reason at all. A journal can help you spot any patterns and possible food triggers that worsen your condition. You must understand though that sometimes the disease just flares up and sometimes it just goes away and this is just a part of living with a chronic disease.

Plan ahead. If you need to travel visit your Gastroenterologist a week or two before the trip and discuss increasing your medication or other plans for you being out of town. Even for day trips try to be prepared by locating restrooms ahead of time, bringing a change of clothes in case of an emergency and planning extra breaks for eating. When we go on vacations we plan on sightseeing until lunch, then we plan on taking some lunch back to our hotel and spending an hour or two resting at the hotel after lunch. I have most of my problems first thing in the morning and immediately after meals so whenever possible I do everything I need to do after 10 am.

If you are unable to work because of Ulcerative Colitis find a way you can work form home. The stress of working around my illness became too much for me and I was afraid I would never be able to contribute to our finances again. Instead I have learned how to work from home, creating and designing web pages and the paychecks have made my self image soar!

Your Health and Your Environment

People are not only surrounded by their environment but constantly contribute to it with every behavior, including breathing. Everything we  consume or even touch can affect our environment. An important step of achieving a healthy environment is to determine how to live in total surrounding conditions with minimal or improving effects upon it. 

The frontline in public health has become a struggle to create a health-promoting environment where the healthy choices are also the easy choices. Action to tackle smoking and encourage physical exercise and healthy eating are priorities, but success has been mixed. Rates of obesity are expected to rise despite our efforts. Obesity can increase the risk of (adult-onset) type 2 diabetes by as much as 34 fold, and diabetes is a major risk factor for amputations, blindness, kidney failure, and heart disease. The most effective weight loss strategies are those that include an increase in overall physical activity. In a recent type 2 diabetes trial, weight loss and physical activity were more effective in controlling the disease than medication. In addition, for treatment of relatively mild cases of anxiety and depression, physical activity is as effective as the most commonly prescribed medications. How can we honestly say we encourage people to walk, jog, or bicycle when there is no safe or welcoming place to pursue these “life-saving” activities. 
Respiratory disease, especially asthma, is increasing yearly in the U.S. population. Bad air makes lung diseases, especially asthma, worse. The more hours in automobiles, driving over impervious highways that generate massive tree-removal, clearly degrade air quality. When the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996 brought about a reduction in auto use by 22.5%, asthma admissions to ERs and hospitals also decreased by 41.6%. Less driving, better public transport, well designed landscape and residential density will improve air quality more than will additional roadways, yet we are unable to see the big picture.

Climate change will also add to health threats, with more heat waves set to increase early deaths among older people, as well as food-borne diseases, such as salmonella, and a longer hay fever season. Hurricanes and severe weather puts us all at risk. With global warming we are threatened with even more storms developing in ever warming ocean waters. As seen with hurricane Katrina our elderly, people in hospital and nursing homes, children, pets and the poverty stricken are all at a higher risk when severe weather strikes.

Another concern is the potential impact of higher temperatures and heavier rainfall events on waterborne diseases. Heavy rainfall and associated flooding can flush bacteria, sewage, fertilizers and other organic wastes into waterways and aquifers. A significant number of waterborne disease outbreaks across North America, including the E. coli outbreak were preceded by extreme precipitation events. Higher temperatures tend to increase bacterial levels and can encourage the growth of toxic organisms, including those responsible for red tides (toxic algal outbreaks).

Warmer weather may also make conditions more favorable for the establishment and proliferation of vector-borne diseases by encouraging the northward migration of species of mosquitoes, ticks and fleas, and by speeding pathogen development rates. Some diseases of potential concern include malaria, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and Eastern and Western Equine Encephalitis. Mosquito-borne diseases, such as West Nile virus and malaria, may also be able to exploit an increase in breeding grounds resulting from increased flooding.

You can see by these examples how closely our personal health is related to the health of our environment. By understanding how intertwined people are to the planet we can begin to focus on making our environment safer and healthier and by doing this both our health and our planet will improve. These examples also show us how vital it is that we all take responsibility for our choices in life and that many of our choices impact not only us but the environment we all live in.

Avoiding Germs

Respiratory infections affect the nose, throat and lungs; they include influenza (the "flu"), colds and pertussis (whooping cough). The germs (viruses and bacteria) that cause these infections are spread from person to person in droplets from the nose, throat and lungs of someone who is sick. This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air and are deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Sometimes germs also can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches his or her own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands. We know that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks. 

You can help stop the spread of these germs by practicing "respiratory etiquette," or good health manners. Here are some tips to keep from spreading your germs to others, and to keep from catching someone elses germs.

Hand washing the single most effective way to avoid both spreading and catching germs!! Wash your as soon as you sneeze or cough, if you don't always have a sink nearby use antiseptic wipes. When you wash your hands warm water and soap will kill the germs, but be sure you don’t rush. Hand washing should take about 20 seconds or two choruses of "Happy Birthday". The next step in avoiding germs is to keep your hands away from your eyes and mouth. Tiny droplets of germs may have been on something you touch so bringing those germs directly to your eyes or mouth are a sure fire way to get yourself sick.

The kitchen harbors more germs than any other room in the home — yes, more than the bathroom. And the greatest concentration is found, far and away, in the moist germ havens we call kitchen sponges and dishcloths. And these are the very same germs with which people in that household get sick. Sink drains, faucet handles, and doorknobs — either in the kitchen or bathroom — are the next highest on the list. Toilet seats had fewer germs than any other surface tested!

Don’t share food, utensils or beverage containers with others. Be careful not share things like towels, lipstick, toys, or anything else that might be contaminated with respiratory germs.

Shopping cart handles are prime culprits in the spread of germs. Some supermarkets now offer germ-killing towelette dispensers in the cart area. Bring your own if they don't. Use them to sanitize the cart handle — and never put fresh produce in the cart seat, where diaper-aged children often sit.

A jog around the block a few times a week not only can do wonders for your physique, it also might prevent you from getting sick. There’s something about making your heart pump that’s good for your body. It strengthens your heart and strengthens your immune system.

Avoid the first floor button in elevators. In an elevator, the first-floor button harbors the most germs because more people touch it than any other button. If you can, let someone else push it so you don't have to touch it.

Bring along water and keep hydrated. Being well hydrated can make you less susceptible to viral infections in general.

Stay as far away as possible from people showing signs of the flu and if you are sick do everyone a favor and stay away from work!

Vaccinations and Autism

Vaccinations are among the most important health advances in history. When germs such as viruses or bacteria invade your body, your immune system makes special cells. These cells produce antibodies, which help destroy these germs. If all goes well, you get better. The next time your body is exposed to the same infection, your immune system often recognizes it and sets out to destroy it. Immunizations work in much the same way. They expose you to a very small, very safe amount of a virus or bacteria that has been weakened or killed. Your immune system then learns to recognize and attack the infection if you are exposed to it later in life. As a result, you will either not become ill or have a milder infection. This is a natural way to deal with infectious diseases.

After immunizations were introduced on a wide scale, infections such as tetanus, diphtheria, mumps, measles, pertussis (whooping cough), and polio became rare. Newer immunizations have also decreased certain types of meningitis, pneumonia, and ear infections in children.
Four different types of vaccines are currently available.
  • Attenuated (weakened) live virus is used in the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine.
  • Killed (inactivated) vaccines are made from a protein or other small pieces taken from a virus or bacteria. These vaccines are safe, even in people with weakened immune systems. Influenza shots are an example of this type of vaccine.
  • Toxoid vaccines contain a toxin or chemical made by the bacteria or virus. They make you immune to the harmful effects of the infection, rather than to the infection itself. Examples are the diphtheria and tetanus vaccines.
  • Biosynthetic vaccines contain human-made substances that the immune system thinks are infectious organisms. 
With the rate of autism soaring many parents fear a link between autism and vaccinations. Although numerous studies have shown no link between autism and either vaccines or the preservative, many parents remained unconvinced. 

The link between thimerosal and autism and other learning disabilities has continued to be argued for decades. Thimerosal is 49.6% ethylmercury and was widely used since the 1940s in over the counter drugs. After being banned in 1998 from over the counter drugs, thimerosal is still found in some vaccines. Mercury is the second most toxic substance known to man behind uranium. 

While many doctors continue to claim thimerosal has been removed from vaccines given to children, a closer look would show otherwise. If following today’s government recommendations, a child has received more than 30 vaccinations, a dramatic increase from just over a decade ago. Vaccine makers were never ordered to remove thimerosal, rather encouraged.

Although many vaccines have chosen to remove thimerosal or greatly reduce the levels of it, it is still found in many. Before 1980, autism was diagnosed in just 1 in 10,000 children. By 2002, the National Institutes of Health reported autism affected 1 in 250 children and estimates show the number of children afflicted with autism disorders is continuing to increase by about 10% every year.

The risks and benefits of childhood vaccinations needs to be looked at carefully by every parent. Do your homework and make the decision that is right for you and your family.

You and Your Doctor

The relationship between you and your Doctor is actually one of the  most important relationships in your life. In fact having a relationship with strong communication and trust with your Doctor could even save your life one day. We all know how intimidating it can be to visit your Doctor, first you wait in the waiting room for minutes or even an hour or more, then you hear your name called only to end up waiting some more in a smaller, less friendly looking environment. It's easy to make the assumption that "They are the Doctor, I will go in and they will finds out what's wrong with me and write me a prescription to fill fix the problem. Sure you may have some questions and concerns rattling around in your head, but hey this guy seems pretty busy and I've already been here a long time, and besides if it was important wouldn't the Doctor bring it up not me?"

One key piece of information we need to keep in mind when we go to our Doctor appointment is that: Your Doctor knows a lot about illness and disease, but NO ONE knows more about your body and your personal health than you do! That's why it is vital to combine the Doctor's medical knowledge with your personal information on your health and any symptoms you may have. A second factor you need to keep in mind is that no matter how awesome your Doctor may be, he is not a mind reader and he (or she) can't answer your questions or address your concerns if you don't let him know what's on our mind. A well planned consultation will not only make it less stressful for you but will also help your doctor to give you a better service.

Take some time and prepare for your Doctor consultation. Make sure you have completed any tests that the Doctor may have requested on your last visit. Go over your health and any recent changes you have experienced and makes notes of the dates and times. Write down your concerns and any questions you may have for the Doctor, and give them to the nurse when you comes in to go over your file. Be sure to bring a copy of any prescriptions and over the counter drugs, herb, or vitamins you are currently taking. We often see more than one Doctor and you want all of them to have the full picture of your health. On that note it is also a good idea to have your Doctors forward test results to each other. If you saw your General Practitioner  last week and had blood work done, make sure your Specialist knows what tests were run and what the results were.

If your Doctor visit more than just a regular check up or a case of the flu, you may want to bring a friend or family member to the visit. It can be helpful having two sets of ears to hear the information the Doctor is telling you. Go over any fears, questions and concerns you are having with your family member before the visit and they can make sure all your questions have been answered. Sometimes your Physician may run want to send you for additional tests and your family member can make it easier to make those appointments, especially on tests where you will need someone to drive you home afterwards. Having a friend or family member present can be a godsend when you receive news you weren't expecting from your Doctor. It is always easier to go through a difficult diagnosis if we have a good support system already in place.

 Understanding your doctor's responses is essential to good communication.
  • If you don't understand your doctor's responses, ask questions until you do understand.

  • Take notes, or get a friend or family member to take notes for you. Or, bring a tape-recorder to assist in your recollection of the discussion.

  • Ask your doctor to write down his or her instructions to you.

  • Ask your doctor for printed material about your condition.

  • If you still have trouble understanding your doctor's answers, ask where you can go for more information.

  • Other members of your health care team, such as nurses and pharmacists, can be good sources of information. Talk to them, too.

  • The bottom line is that good communication and trust is a vital ingredient between you and your Doctor. Do your part and be prepared for your visits, take a pro-active approach to your treatments, and communicate all your questions and concerns with your Doctor. If you are still confused or you are not happy with your Doctor, then do some research and find a Doctor who fits your needs.

    Understanding Vitamins and Minerals

    Your body is one powerful machine, capable of doing all sorts of things by itself. But one thing it can't do is make vitamins. Vitamins and minerals are substances that are found in foods we eat. Your body needs them to work properly, so you grow and develop just like you should.

    Understanding how vitamins and minerals interact in our body gives us a valuable means of taking our health into our own hands. When it comes to vitamins, each one has a special role to play. There are two types of vitamins: fat soluble and water soluble. When you eat foods that contain fat-soluble vitamins, the vitamins are stored in the fat tissues in your body and in your liver. They wait around in your body fat until your body needs them. Fat-soluble vitamins are happy to stay stored in your body for awhile — some stay for a few days, some for up to 6 months! Then, when it's time for them to be used, special carriers in your body take them to where they're needed. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins.

    Water-soluble vitamins are different. When you eat foods that have water-soluble vitamins, the vitamins don't get stored as much in your body. Instead, they travel through your bloodstream. Whatever your body doesn't use comes out when you urinate. So these kinds of vitamins need to be replaced often because they don't stick around! This crowd of vitamins includes vitamin C and the big group of B vitamins — B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), niacin, B6 (pyridoxine), folic acid, B12 (cobalamine), biotin, and pantothenic acid.

    Some vitamins and minerals are important in not only helping our body grow but may be helpful in fighting diseases, lowering our cholesterol, lowering blood pressure and possibly even lowering our chance of certain types of cancer.

    Vitamin D-A large fraction of Americans are not getting enough vitamin D, and the range of consequences may be far greater than we thought. Recent studies suggest that vitamin D does more than help build strong bones; it may help to prevent hypertension, certain types of cancer, and some autoimmune diseases.

    Selenium-Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential to good health but required only in small amounts . Selenium is incorporated into proteins to make selenoproteins, which are important antioxidant enzymes. The antioxidant properties of selenoproteins help prevent cellular damage from free radicals. Free radicals are natural by-products of oxygen metabolism that may contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Other selenoproteins help regulate thyroid function and play a role in the immune system.  The role of selenium in cancer prevention has been the subject of recent study and debate. Initial evidence from the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer (NPC) trial suggests that selenium supplementation reduces the risk of prostate cancer among men with normal baseline PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels and low selenium blood levels. However, in this study, selenium did not reduce the risk of lung, colorectal, or basal cell carcinoma of the skin and actually  increased  the risk of squamous cell skin carcinoma. The ongoing Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) aims to definitively address the role of selenium in prostate cancer prevention.

    Vitamin C is one of the most common supplements we take, for good reason. We even use its antioxidant properties in the kitchen. Want to keep a cut apple from turning brown in the air? Coat it with a little vitamin C-rich citrus juice. This same action also keeps your cells and DNA from breaking down when exposed to free-radical forming agents such as cigarette smoke and sunlight. Take up to 1,000 mg per day as a supplement, or add more citrus and green vegetables to your diet to make sure you're getting the maximum benefit from vitamin C.  

    Folic acid is beneficial in supporting cell division and DNA production, both of which can protect your skin cells. Making sure you take at least 400 micrograms per day can help prevent skin diseases, certain forms of cancer and anemia.

    Carotenoids including beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein all function as antioxidants. Find these colorful nutrients in supplement form or just add extra red, yellow and orange foods to your diet to tap into their damage-fighting mojo. Beta carotene is a precursor of vitamin A, another vitamin antioxidant which has been shown to fight the signs of aging, especially when vitamin A is applied topically in the form of Retin-A.  

    Omega 3 Fatty Acids- Fish oil is a supplement you may already be taking for its ability to protect your heart and nervous system. The good news is that according to a scientific study published in 2005, one of its Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, also fights sun damage and reduces wrinkles.

    Zinc helps prevent pregnancy problems, speeds healing and boosts immunity. Natural sources include crab, chicken and cashews.

    Vitamin B-12 is helpful for women who are menstruating or breast-feeding because it builds genetic material, helps form red blood cells and prevents anemia, among other benefits. Natural sources include liver, milk, eggs and fish.

    Calcium helps build strong bones and can prevent osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones in older women to become brittle and susceptible to fracture. Natural sources of calcium include dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese and vegetables such as broccoli and turnip greens. In pill form, calcium citrate is most often recommended because it is easily absorbed.

    Magnesium is sometimes regarded as a "smoothie" mineral, since it has the ability to relax our muscles. Our nerves also depend upon magnesium to avoid becoming overexcited, and this aspect of magnesium links this mineral to maintenance of healthy blood pressure.

    Healthy "Super" Foods and Herbs

    We all know the importance of eating healthy foods. Since we were children our parents nagged for us to eat our vegetables so we would grow up big and strong, but did you know there are other reasons to eat healthy? Some foods contain antioxidants and other things that can help our body do things like lower cholesterol, lower our blood pressure, strengthen our immune system and even raise our mood. Read Innovative Improvements full article to find some healthy food changes.

    Dark Chocolate-Most of us don't think of chocolate as a plant-based food, but it is. Chocolate is made from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree. These seeds, also known as cocoa beans, are exceptionally rich in flavonoids, which are natural antioxidants thought to help protect against cardiovascular disease.. Ample research suggests that the flavonols in dark chocolate increase cerebral blood flow, which in turn may trigger the creation of new blood vessels and brain cells. And a new study showed that older adults performed better on cognitive tests after eating small portions of dark chocolate. Although more research is needed to confirm this one, a new study showed that regular dark chocolate eaters who had heart disease were less likely to die following a heart attack compared with the people who didn't treat themselves to dark chocolate. In a recent study involving men and women with high blood pressure, those who ate 3 1/2 ounces of dark chocolate every day for 15 days experienced a drop in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Evidence suggests that eating a small amount of dark chocolate every day may increase "good" HDL cholesterol while decreasing "bad" LDL cholesterol. When choosing chocolate remember that dark chocolate is also rich in calories and to only eat a small amount. An ounce or two is a sensible serving. Choose dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70% and avoid any chocolate that has palm or coconut oils or any oil that has been hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. 

    Teas-  Researchers think that catechins in green tea might blast tummy fat by acting on enzymes that influence the body's calorie- and fat-burning mechanisms. And catechins and caffeine together may boost the body's metabolism. Brew up a pot of tea the next time friends visit and you can all enjoy these extra benefits as well. The EGCG and ECG found in green tea are powerful flavonoids known as catechins. Seems these particular catechins may help fight inflammation, as well as some of the underlying mechanisms at work in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. People in Japan and China have long touted black tea's blood sugar benefits. And now, researchers are taking a look at the components of black tea that may play a role. When researchers extracted the polysaccharides in black tea and examined their effects on a cellular level, something interesting happened. The black tea polysaccharides exhibited blood sugar stabilizing properties -- even more so than the polysaccharides in both green and oolong teas. Researchers suspect there may be something unique about the chemical composition of black tea polysaccharides that boosts their blood sugar benefits.

    Turkey- Skinless turkey is chock-full of B vitamins that help boost your energy and cinch stress -- something many of us could probably use. Think of the B vitamins in turkey -- niacin, B6, and B12 -- as your psyche's little bodyguards. These nutrients also help patch up DNA and keep your cells in good repair. And best of all, with turkey, your B vitamins get served up in one of the leanest meat sources around.

    Omega3 Fatty Acids- Omega 3 fatty acids are poly-unsaturated fatty acids. Studies show that a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids may help lower triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Omega 3 fatty acids may also act as an anticoagulant to prevent blood from clotting. Several other studies also suggest that these fatty acids may help lower high blood pressure. All fish contain omega 3 fatty acids, but they are more concentrated in fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines and herring. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least 2 times a week.
    Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower- Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower have a chemical component called indole-3-carbinol that can combat breast cancer by converting a cancer-promoting estrogen into a more protective variety. Broccoli, especially sprouts, also have the phytochemical sulforaphane, a product of glucoraphanin - believed to aid in preventing some types of cancer, like colon and rectal cancer. Sulforaphane induces the production of certain enzymes that can deactivate free radicals and carcinogens. The enzymes have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors in laboratory animals.  However, be aware that the Agriculture Department studied 71 types of broccoli plants and found a 30-fold difference in the amounts of glucoraphanin. It appears that the more bitter the broccoli is, the more glucoraphanin it has. Broccoli sprouts have been developed under the trade name BroccoSprouts that have a consistent level of sulforaphane - as much as 20 times higher than the levels found in mature heads of broccoli. 

    Garlic- Garlic has immune-enhancing allium compounds (dialyl sultides) that appear to increase the activity of immune cells that fight cancer and indirectly help break down cancer causing substances. These substances also help block carcinogens from entering cells and slow tumor development. Diallyl sulfide, a component of garlic oil, has also been shown to render carcinogens in the liver inactive. Studies have linked garlic — as well as onions, leeks, and chives — to lower risk of stomach and colon cancer.  It is believed garlic may help prevent stomach cancer because it has anti-bacterial effects against a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, found in the stomach and known to promote cancer there.  

    Cinnamon- Studies have shown that just 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol. In some studies, cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections. Cinnamon also has an anti-clotting effect on the blood. In a study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells. In a study at Copenhagen University, patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had significant relief in arthritis pain after one week and could walk without pain within one month. When added to food, cinnamon inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative. One study found that smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory.

    Mushrooms - There are a number of mushrooms that appear to help the body fight cancer and build the immune system - Shiitake, maitake, reishi, Agaricus blazei Murill, and Coriolus Versicolor.  These mushrooms contain polysaccharides, especially  Lentinan, powerful compounds that help in building immunity. They are a source of Beta Glucan. They also have a protein called lectin, which attacks cancerous cells and prevents them from multiplying. They also contain Thioproline. These mushrooms can stimulate the production of interferon in the body. 

    Red wine, even without alcohol, has polyphenols that may protect against various types of cancer. Polyphenols are potent antioxidants, compounds that help neutralize disease-causing free radicals.  Also, researchers at the University of North Carolina's medical school in Chapel Hill found the compound resveratrol, which is found in grape skins. It appears that resveratrol inhibits cell proliferation and can help prevent cancer. However, the findings didn't extend to heavy imbibers, so it should be used in moderation.

    Raspberries contain many vitamins, minerals, plant compounds and antioxidants known as anthocyanins that may protect against cancer.  Research reported in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in May 2002 shows black raspberries may also thwart colon cancer. Black raspberries are rich in antioxidants, thought to have even more cancer-preventing properties than blueberries and strawberries. 

    Avocados are rich in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that attacks free radicals in the body by blocking intestinal absorption of certain fats. They also supply even more potassium than bananas and are a strong source of beta-carotene. Scientists also believe that avocados may also be useful in treating viral hepatitis (a cause of liver cancer), as well as other sources of liver damage.

    Almonds- are packed with nutrients — fiber, riboflavin, magnesium, iron and calcium. In fact, almonds have more calcium than any other nut — 75 milligrams (mg) in one serving (about 23 almonds). Also, one serving of almonds provides half of your body's Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin E. Like all nuts, almonds provide one of the best plant sources of protein. And they're good for your heart. Most of the fat in almonds is monounsaturated fat — a healthier type of fat that may help lower blood cholesterol levels.

    Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that attacks roaming oxygen molecules, known as free radicals, that are suspected of triggering cancer. It appears that the hotter the weather, the more lycopene tomatoes produce. They also have vitamin C, an antioxidant which can prevent cellular damage that leads to cancer. Watermelons, carrots, and red peppers also contain these substances, but in lesser quantities. It is concentrated by cooking tomatoes.  Scientists in Israel have shown that lycopene can kill mouth cancer cells. An increased intake of lycopene has already been linked to a reduced risk of breast, prostate, pancreas and colorectal cancer.

    Apples-Apples are an excellent source of pectin, a soluble fiber that can lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Fresh apples are also good sources of vitamin C — an antioxidant that protects your body's cells from damage. Vitamin C also helps form the connective tissue collagen, keeps your capillaries and blood vessels healthy, and aids in the absorption of iron.

    Red Beans- Small red beans and dark red kidney beans  are good sources of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and thiamin. They're also an excellent low-fat, low-calorie source of protein and dietary fiber. Red beans also contain phytonutrients that may help prevent chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

    Easy ways to Cut Calories

    We all sometimes eat far more calories than we are aware of. If you consume too many calories, you may gain weight and  become unhealthy. Being overweight is not just about the way you look, you also risk some serious health problems. Be aware of the number of calories you actually need and how many you are taking in. Generally once you are aware of the number of calories you consume, you make better choices. Research has shown that counting calories and reducing portions while balancing foods from the food pyramid is a good way to stay healthy and maintain or lose weight. Listen to your body to determine if you are really hungry or just bored or tired. Resist cravings by going for a walk or doing some activity you enjoy.

    Lets start by defining what exactly a calorie is. A calorie is a unit of energy. Although we think of calories as a way to measure food, calories can actually measure anything containing energy.  Specifically, a calorie is the amount of energy, or heat, it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit). One calorie is equal to 4.184 joules, a common unit of energy used in the physical sciences. 

    Wow aren't you glad we cleared that up and made it so easy to understand (not). Our bodies "burn" calories through metabolic processes, by which enzymes break the carbohydrates into glucose and other sugars, the fats into glycerol and fatty acids and the proteins into amino acids. These molecules are then transported through the bloodstream to the cells, where they are either absorbed for immediate use or sent on to the final stage of metabolism in which they are reacted with oxygen to release their stored energy.

    The basic premise to losing weight is to simply burn more calories than you eat. In order to cut calories you will need to figure approximately how many calories you are eating a day and how many fewer calories you need to consume to lose the weight.  This site offers a calorie tool to show you how many calories you need a day. It will only be an estimate, since the amount of muscle and fat on your body make a difference but it is a good starting place to see how many calories you should be consuming a day.

     The most effective way to lose weight is to cut calories and increase your exercise so that you are burning more calories each day. Just be careful not to fall in the trap of assuming since you exercised you can eat more. With that type of philosophy you may actually gain weight instead of lose it. Just like counting the calories you consume you can also chart the approximate amount of calories you burn doing certain exercises. For instance if an average woman weighs 150 pounds, and walks at a speed of 3 mph, then she would walk 1 mile in 20 minutes, burning 75 calories. Here is a handy calorie burner calculator to help you out. 
    When you are counting your calories you may find that you need to weigh out your portions to be sure they are the same size as the amount listed in a calorie counting tablet. You will also need to read the nutritional information on all your packages. Some items which may appear to be single servings are actual two servings so you will have to double the amount of  per serving calories or only eat one serving of the item. You may discover the foods you are eating are not that unhealthy but you are just eating too many servings. An average meat serving in only as large as your fist. It is best in the beginning to measure out everything you can. As you grow accustomed to how large (or small) a serving size is then you will be able to do a much better job eyeballing the food and figuring it's weight and calories. Even though it is more expensive I buy the single serving snacks for myself so that I know exactly how many calories I am eating. 

    Another place to watch the fine print is foods and snacks that claim to be low fat or low calorie. In fact I have found that many low fat labeled foods may have more calories than the traditional flavor did. Some people find the counting and figuring to be too much work and instead choose a diet plan that offers pre-packaged meals. Although these meals offer the right amount of calories you need to consider if you are interested in eating these pre packaged meals for the rest of your life. The true success comes not just from counting your calories but by re-learning what and how to eat. Otherwise you will lose the weight today and just gain it back next month.

    Understanding Cholesterol

    We all see the commercials telling us to lower our cholesterol, and many of us have been told our cholesterol is too high and possibly even been put on some medication such as a statin lowering drug like Lipitor to help lower our cholesterol. But how well do you really understand what cholesterol really is and what all those different numbers mean?

    Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and found in certain foods, such as food from animals, like dairy products, eggs, and meat. The body needs some cholesterol in order to function properly. Its cell walls, or membranes, need cholesterol in order to produce hormones, vitamin D, and the bile acids that help to digest fat. But, the body needs only a small amount of cholesterol to meet its needs. When too much is present health problems such as heart disease may develop. When too much cholesterol is present, a thick, hard deposit called plaque may form in your  arteries. This plaque cause the space for blood to flow to the heart to narrow. Over time, this buildup causes hardening of the arteries, called atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease. Other problems happen when you do not have enough oxygen-carrying blood reach your heart. Chest pain or angina can happen and later if there is more blockage you may have a heart attack! Cholesterol travels through the blood attached to a protein. This cholesterol-protein package is called a lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are classified as high density or low density, depending on how much protein there is in relation to fat.

    • Low density lipoproteins (LDL): LDL, also called "bad" cholesterol, can cause buildup of plaque on the walls of arteries. The more LDL there is in the blood, the greater the risk of heart disease.
    • High density lipoproteins (HDL): HDL, also called "good" cholesterol, helps the body get rid of bad cholesterol in the blood. The higher the level of HDL cholesterol, the better. If your levels of HDL are low, your risk of heart disease increases.
    • Triglycerides: Triglycerides are another type of fat that is carried in the blood by very low density lipoproteins. Excess calories, alcohol, or sugar in the body are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells throughout the body.
    Your Doctor can find out your cholesterol numbers by performing a simple blood test. Anytime you donate blood you will probably receive a cholesterol count from them. It is important to have this test done and for you to receive all three (HDL, LDL and triglycerides) numbers. Depending on what your numbers are and which ones are high, you can then come up with a pan to lower your cholesterol.
    A few simple changes can help lower your cholesterol and risk for heart disease:

    • Eat low cholesterol foods. The American Heart Association recommends that you limit your average daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams. If you have heart disease, limit your daily intake to less than 200 milligrams. People can significantly lower their dietary cholesterol intake by keeping their dietary intake of saturated fats low and by avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat and that contain substantial amounts of dietary cholesterol.

    • Eat cholesterol reducing foods. Researchers have found that some foods -- such as fatty fish, walnuts, oatmeal, and oat bran, and foods fortified with plant sterols or stanols -- can help control your cholesterol. Some studies have shown that a diet combining these "superfoods" may work as well as some cholesterol-lowering medicines to reduce your "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.

    • Quit smoking. Smoking lowers HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. This trend can be reversed if you quit smoking.

    • Exercise. Exercise increases HDL cholesterol in some people. Even moderate-intensity activities, if done daily, can help control weight, diabetes, and high blood pressure -- all risk factors for heart disease.

    Excercise Basics

    Exercise improves your confidence, raises your self esteem and can even improve your sex life. Physically active people have a much lower risk of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and many types of cancer. When we talk about exercise, we nearly always refer to physical exercise. Exercise is the physical exertion of the body. Exercise means requiring your body do a physical activity. Regular exercise results in a healthy or healthier level of physical fitness and both physical and mental health. People exercise for many different reasons, but when we exercise our a goal is to enhance or maintain our physical fitness and general health. Make sure your progress is gradual. It's important to drink plenty of water during and after your exercise program. Don't forget to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.

    Experts say that for a physically inactive person to become active, and remain active for the long-term, the activity needs to be convenient and enjoyable. The activity needs to be something you can easily fit into your routine for several days each week. Even if you end up adding just 30 minutes of physical activity to your day, you can have positive results from exercising. For long-term success the activity has to be something you enjoy. You may have to try a few different ideas until you come up with the exercise program that fits you best. Some people do better joining a gym with a friend, while others feel more comfortable walking in their own neighborhood. You should give some of the new video games a try. Programs like the WII Fit were created as a fun way to lose weight and get exercise in the comfort of your home. After a few weeks your exercise routine starts to become a habit. Even if you find it a bit of a chore at first, remember that after a few weeks it will really become a habit. The biggest and most difficult step is to just start, after that just concentrate on creating a daily routine and before you know it your exercise program will be a natural part of your day.

    Increase your daily exercise by adding some small steps to your everyday routine. These few extra steps can add up. You may enjoy wearing a pedometer that tells you how many steps you have taken each day. You can start slower and work your way up to 10,000 steps a day. Try parking further away every time you go some where and enjoy the walk. Use the stairs instead of the elevator when you can, especially if you are only going up one or two flights. This may even save you some time. If you ride a bus or other public transportation, try getting off a stop earlier and walking the last part of your journey. Instead of spending your lunch and coffee breaks behind your desk, try taking a quick walk around the building. The brisk walk will bring more oxygen to your brain and you will fill refreshed and regenerated. 

    There are three types of exercise: Flexibility Exercises, Strength Training, and Aerobic Exercises. The best exercise programs offer a combination of each of these types of training.

    Aerobic Exercises improve stamina and your circulatory system. A successful exercise program involves frequent physical activity that is rhythmic, repetitive, challenges the circulatory system, and uses large muscles. The exercise program must significantly increase the blood flow to the muscles for an extended period of time, promoting cardiovascular fitness. Such exercises are called isotonic, dynamic, or aerobic. If you want to have a healthy heart, you need to perform aerobic exercise.

    Flexibility exercises are an important component of a well-rounded fitness program. Most individuals tend to become tight and stiff with age. It is important to maintain normal flexibility for several reasons. Good flexibility reduces the probability that you will suffer from back pain and other postural types of pain syndromes. Normal flexibility also allows you to attain normal movement patterns in all activities and requires you to expend less energy as you go through your daily activities. 

    Strength training increases your muscle tone and size. Many people don't realize the numerous benefits of a sound strength training program including increased muscle, tendon, bone, and ligament strength; increased physical performance and appearance; improved metabolic efficiency; and decreased risk of injury.