Vitamin D Protects Against High Blood Pressure

A woman who is lacking vitamin D before she enters menopause may have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure in her later years according to new research presented at the American Heart Association’s 63rd High Blood Pressure Research Conference in Chicago. Only recently have researchers come to recognize that deficiencies of this vital nutrient may be a risk factor for heart disease.

This current work found vitamin D deficiency before 45 was linked with a threefold-increased risk of hypertension at midlife.

Vitamin D is the fat soluble nutrient found in oily fish, eggs and vitamin fortified foods like milk, cereals and drinks that we need for strong bones as it helps the body use the calcium in foods.

Once deficiencies in this vitamin were associated with the bone disease rickets, today’s research is showing that having enough of this nutrient is important in protecting you against a variety of health problems.

Not getting enough vitamin D leaves you with lower bone mineral density, as well as upping your risk for certain cancers (colon, breast ovarian), arthritis, diabetes, dementia, infections, multiple sclerosis, possibly even tuberculosis.

Estimates by a University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine team suggest that 3 out of every 4 Americans has vitamin D levels below what is believed necessary for optimal health. A lack of exposure to natural sunlight, as well as poor eating habits are likely to blame for the numbers.

In this latest work, researchers looked at data from the Michigan Bone Health and Metabolism Study that followed 559 Caucasian women in their late 20s, 30s and early 40s for a total of 15 years, beginning back in 1992.

The subject’s vitamin D levels were measured in 1993 soon after the women entered the study, and their blood pressure readings were taken each year. At the end of the trial, when the average age of the participants was 53, about 1 in 4 had been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

“This is preliminary data so we can’t say with certainty that low vitamin D levels are directly linked to high blood pressure,” points out Fiojaune C. Griffin, MPH who is a doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the University of Michigan. “But this may be another example of how what you do early in life impacts your health years later.”

You can get vitamin D naturally by being out in the sun as well as trying to eat more vitamin D rich foods. Still getting enough of this vitamin from foods isn’t easy, and is the reason supplements have become so popular.

Most multivitamins you’ll find contain 400 international units (IU) of the vitamin, but current thinking suggests that the real dosage should be far higher, maybe as much as ten times higher. The upper limit for vitamin D intake according to the Institute of Medicine’s current standards is 2,000 IUs a day.

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Vitamin D Protects Against High Blood Pressure Continued…

Study co-author and University of Michigan professor of epidemiology Mary Fran Sowers, Ph.D. is suggesting that perhaps the public health message about protection from the sun might need to be modified. Sunscreens of SPF 15 block virtually all vitamin D synthesis by the skin. If you’re older, or a bit overweight or obese, your body is also naturally less efficient at making vitamin D from sunlight.

Exposure during off peak hours, for just ten minutes, is an easy, totally natural way to get the vitamin D your body needs. “We have recognized for a long time that it takes very limited sun exposure to get adequate vitamin D,” Sowers explains.

While there’s no general agreement about the right amounts of vitamin D, the current Institute of Medicine recommended intake are currently (and rightfully according to many experts) under review. New recommendations are due by May 2010.

If you’re a younger woman who wants to protect against high blood pressure, as well as many other health problems, your best bet is to do what you can to keep your vitamin D levels up and keep your eye out for ongoing research.


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12 Energy Boosters That Work Wonders

There are a lot of things you can do to improve your stamina, some are the ones you’ve heard already include eating right, sleeping at least 8 to 9 hours (yeah, right!) a night and exercising as regularly as your busy life will allow.

These days it’s not always easy to find the time to do all three, and for those occasions when you can’t, here are an even dozen ideas, all easy, natural things you can do to keep yourself from dragging through your day.

1) Don’t skip breakfast (or any meal for that matter) as you’re literally starving yourself – instead eat a little something every 3 hours or so. According to Marlene Merritt, a nutritionist, practitioner of Eastern medicine and founder of the Merritt Wellness Center. “Forty percent of your blood sugar is used for brain function, so if you’re not eating enough, you can’t think clearly, never mind doing anything else.” Waiting long stretches between meals lets your blood sugar stay low for too long, which causes the body to release a hormone known as cortisol to bring the blood sugar back up. Overworking these glands brings on the endless cycle of sugar and caffeine cravings.

2) Get more protein, as women especially don’t get enough according to certified nutritionist Jonny Bowden, the author of The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy. Protein stabilizes your blood sugar levels and helps you stay alert by stimulating dopamine and keeping your metabolic rate elevated so your energy level stays up. Replace a serving (or two) of carbs with a food rich in protein – low fat cheese or nuts.

3) Drink lots of water so that your cells stay hydrated and functioning at their best, minus the slowdown according to Bowden. You can sip small amounts of caffeine during the day, which has been shown in a recent study to optimize the caffeine’s ability to keep you alert, without disrupting your natural sleep/wake cycle.

4) Reward yourself so it’s easier to face the things you have to do – Promising yourself a reward that you can look forward to when all is said and done. It won’t hurt to keep in mind the feeling of relief and accomplishment you’ll have when you’re done.

5) Lower your standards (so long as its not in terms of your health and welfare) and learn to let go of “perfection”. Often we set unrealistic goals (a sparkling clean home, impeccably mannered children, workplace perfection) that are not possible to reach, take all your energy and leave you with unnecessary guilt when you can’t measure up. If you start by managing your expectations in the first place, you won’t waste time and energy striving for something impossible to obtain.

6) Try simple organizing ideas as being in a less cluttered, more ordered environment saves mental energy and cuts down on stress. Your brain processes the visual stimulation of the things around you and that takes energy. Try bins for gloves and hats, low hanging hooks to encourage kids to help out and a place for everything in your home/office so that everyone knows where the keys are kept or how to re-supply the bathrooms.

7) Let Dad (or the kids) do it “wrong” by accepting the fact that your spouse doesn’t have to do things just the way you do for a task to be done right. Let him clean or take the kids to the park so you can relax, without fretting that things aren’t being done the way you want. Give up control for a short time and allow yourself to use this opportunity to recharge instead.

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12 Energy Boosters That Work Wonders Continued…

8) Love your lobes because according to Chinese medicine, stimulating your ears is a wake up call for the organs of the body. A gentle rubdown of the whole ear is a simple, natural thing to do that is thought to redirect your energy upward.

9) Stimulate that scalp another option that works is to gently grab a handful of your hair and pull up so your scalp lifts up, then release – Repeat in another area until you’ve done the whole head, which should take about 2 minutes. This exercise stimulates blood flow to your head, which is an instant lift.

10) Spend as much time as you can with good friends, as the stress you’ll relieve in doing this totally relaxing and enjoyable thing will bring back an amazing amount of energy. It’s fun and you deserve that. Make time to get together, maybe schedule regular lunches, night’s out, whatever works. If you can’t get together in person, calling, emailing or even a quick text can be enough.

11) Try this one minute exercise from Tanya Becker, cofounder of Physique 57 In New York City from her Full Body Workout DVD. Here’s what you do – Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart and toes slightly turned out. Lower your butt to knee level, keeping your hands on your hips. Lift your right heel off the floor (imagine you’re wearing stilettos) and lower it, then lift and lower your left heel. As you take turns between heels, add in a pulse by bending your knees a few inches up and down. Keep your spine straight. Repeat 30 times, or until your thigh muscles are shaky.

12) Lock yourself in your car; turn off your cell phone (pager, Blackberry, etc) and the car radio for five minutes. Sit comfortably in your seat and take ten deep breaths, focusing on the emblem in the middle of your steering wheel. This is actually a form of meditation (focusing on something that’s not your own thoughts) and will have you feeling relaxed and energized in no time. You might even want to do ten more breaths.

The next time you’re dragging and without energy try any of these very simple, totally natural (and drug free) suggestions to see if you can’t get yourself energized and back in the game.


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Exercise Benefits At A Molecular Level

Regular exercise does keep you healthier as you get older, and some new research gives us the reason why at the cellular level.

Elite runners who took part in the research had cells that looked very much younger when examined under the microscope. Exercising every day not only helps with maintaining your weight, but also tones your body, improves your skin, strengthens your bones and muscles while promoting better sleep and mood, a stronger immune system and helping you feel more relaxed.

The team measured the length of telomeres, the DNA at either end of the chromosome – you might think of it like that piece on the ends of shoelaces that keeps them from unraveling, only in this case the telomeres are protecting the chromosomes that bear genes when cells divide.

At each cell division, telomeres get shorter and when they get too short a cell stops dividing and dies off.

Experts now suspect that telomere shortening is an important part of the aging process, and may also put us at risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

In the animal phase of the research mice who ran on a running wheel for as little as three weeks demonstrated evidence of telomere-stabilizing proteins that protect against cell death.

In the human phase of the study, middle aged pro athletes who ran almost 50 miles a week, and had been doing so for many years, were seen to have longer telomeres than healthy, age matched controls who didn’t exercise regularly.

It’s no surprise then that the athletes had slow resting heart rates, lower blood pressure and less body fat along with those longer telomeres. “This is the first time it has been shown at the molecular level that exercising has an antiaging effect on the cardiovascular system,” explains lead researcher Ulrich Laufs MD, a professor of clinical and experimental medicine at Homburg’s Saarland University.

A spokesman for the American Heart Association, Barry Franklin, Ph.D. calls the study “phenomenal” going on to say that, “In many respects, I think this is a blockbuster study that complements research in twins published last year.”

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Exercise Benefits At A Molecular Level Continued…

That work suggested that exercise, rather than genetics, might be more important to keeping people young.

In fact, telomere length was related to activity level. When one twin was inactive, and the other active, the active twin usually had longer telomeres. Those who did the most exercise had telomeres of just about the same length as people who were inactive, but up to ten years younger.

“In both studies, active people had cells that were measurably younger than inactive people,” Franklin says. “This striking finding may explain how exercise helps prevent heart attacks, diabetes and other degenerative diseases.”

What’s truly encouraging is that the research isn’t calling for grueling physical workouts, but rather a few hours of moderate to vigorous activity each week should be enough. You don’t need to run marathons, or do 50-mile distances weekly to get the benefits of exercise – especially the antiaging ones.

Both studies appear in the December 15, 2009 issue of the journal Circulation from the American Heart Association.


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Hearing Through The Skin

Evidence that we use both eyes and ears to hear has been around since the mid 1970s, now a new Canadian study out of the University of British Columbia finds that inaudible puffs of air delivered along with certain sounds has an influence on what subjects thought they were hearing.

According to associate professor of linguistics Bryan Gick and graduate student Donald Derrick, audio and visual clues are just part of the story as tactile sensation also affect how sound is heard. The work appears in the November 26, 2009 issue of the journal Nature.

Strange to think we may actually hear with our skin.

Science already knows that visual clues that come from a speaker’s face can enhance (or interfere) with how you hear what’s being said to you. Normally when we say words with the letters “p”, “t” and “k” we produce a puff of air (so small its rarely felt or noticed), and this is another clue that lets the listener tell the difference between words with these letters fromt hose with similar sounding letters like “b”, “d” and “g”.

For the current work, the team compared sounds accompanied by a small inaudible breath of air – sounds such as “pa” and “ta” while also using sounds that aren’t (such as “ba” and “da”).

At the same moment they heard the recorded sounds, the subjects were either given, or not, a small puff of air to the neck or the back of the hand.

Researchers noticed that “ba” and “da” (known as unaspirated sounds) were heard as the aspirated equals “pa” and “ta” when accompanied by the puff of air.

It’s the air that distinguished the sounds, and though we’re used to the hearing side, we’re not used to feeling that puff of air on our skin.

This is what suggests to researchers that people use tactile sensory information along with other cues to figure out what is being said to them.

Getting a sense of a full picture of how sound is built might prove helpful in the development of communication aids for the hearing impaired. In fact, Dr. Gick, the leader of the study, plans to work on developing a hearing aid that incorporates these findings. “All we need is a pneumatic device that can produce air puffs aimed at the neck at the right times based on acoustic input into the hearing aid, and then a set of experiments to test the efficacy.”

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Hearing Through The Skin Continued…

The idea that a small puff of air on the skin could help the hearing impaired distinguish consonants like “b” and “p” or “t” and “d” that have the same lip pattern fascinated researchers. If more work shows the same effect is seen when listening to everyday speech, then it really could help create better hearing aids.

It’s also quite intriguing that our brains can be affected by a puff of air that most don’t hear and few of us realize we produce when speaking. Funny how our complex brains can be fooled by something as simple, as weightless and unseen as a whiff of air.

We know that the eyes can fool the ears due to a particular phenomenon called the McGuirk Effect, where subjects can be fooled into thinking they’re hearing “da” when they’re truly hearing “ba” as they see a face mouthing the syllable “ga”.

One theory that might explain this illusion is that the brain goes through a lifetime of learning to put together sound and visual information to understand the spoken word – getting fooled when the information doesn’t match, as we see with the McGuirk Effect.

The research suggests that this integration of different senses in speech may not be something people learn though experience, but that an entirely different processes may be going on.


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Exercisers -Too Much Of A Good Thing

If you’ve reached middle age and you’re exercising – congratulations, you’re doing something that’s so good for your body and your mind. But don’t overdo it as some new research suggesting that overdoing those workouts might just be putting you at increased risk of arthritis.

The U.S. study of more than 200 normal weight, middle aged subjects found that those doing the most in terms of exercising were also the most likely to have signs of knee damage.

No one is suggesting this is a reason to stop exercising because there’s no denying the many benefits of being active on a regular basis. The good news is that for most of us, being active isn’t a problem. When it comes to joint health, running and jumping are believed to be the most damaging to cartilage and ligaments, while swimming and cycling are easier on these areas.

The findings of this research were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America where more than 60,000 medical and science pros from around the world gather to attend refresher courses and scientific presentations.

The study included (136 women; 100 men) subjects aged 45 to 55 years old who hadn’t reported any earlier knee pain. Using a questionnaire that evaluated how much exercise they did, the team divided them into low, middle and high activity groups.

High activity people did several hours of walking, sports or other exercises a week, along with other housework or work in the yard. The subjects then had MRI scans of the knee so the researchers could look for any tears, lesions or other abnormalities in the cartilage and ligaments.

The damage they saw was linked to activity levels and was not tied to age or gender. It also seemed to be associated with the type of exercise a subject did, though this needs to be investigated further.

For instance 93% of those in the high activity groups had cartilage damage, while only 60% in the low activity group had any trouble here. What’s more, cartilage damage was three times more severe in those who were part of the high activity group.

Leader of the study Dr. Christoph Stehling, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco explains, “Our data suggest that people with higher physical activity levels may be at greater risk for developing knee abnormalities and, thus, at higher risk for developing osteoarthritis.

“This study and previous studies by our group suggest that high impact, weight-bearing physical activity, such as running and jumping, may be worse for cartilage health. Conversely, low-impact activities, such as swimming and cycling, may protect diseased cartilage and prevent healthy cartilage from developing disease.”

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting about 27 million Americans according to the CDC, and is a degenerative joint disease that brings pain, stiffness and swelling. Where once it was considered a “wear and tear” type of arthritis, today the thinking is that there are many more things than your age and use that contribute to the development of this condition.

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Exercisers -Too Much Of A Good Thing Continued…

More common in women than men, the risk of osteoarthritis goes up as you get older or put on weight. Of course experts agree that the benefits of exercise for this condition and your overall health far outweigh any risk… but proceed with caution.

You may have heard that exercising when you have arthritis is a bad thing, but experts believe that appropriate exercise is one of the best ways to manage the condition and strengthen your joints.

If you’ve had a joint injury, or torn cartilage or ligaments you need to be careful about the exercise you do.

Talk with your doctor to see if some weight bearing exercises might be okay for you, as well as giving swimming and cycling a try. Researchers will continue to follow the participants who took part in this study to see who develops arthritis and if the level of activity has any impact on risk of disease.


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8 Remarkable Facts About Cholesterol

Most people, when they think cholesterol, picture fatty foods, plaque coated artery walls and heart disease. But there are more than a few things about this waxy substance that might surprise you.

1. Sky high cholesterol may be partly due to genetics – for some families it’s inevitable that LDL (bad) cholesterol will be in the unhealthy zone. Known technically as familial hypercholesterolemia, it’s an issue for 1 in 500 of us and increase the risk for early heart attack. Some who inherit defective genes from each parent (much rarer, affecting 1 in 1,000,000) can have total cholesterol numbers over 1000 mg/dL. Numbers this high can signal early death, often before 20 years old.

2. Clogged arteries look like butter – LDL (bad) cholesterol slowly builds up on artery walls, leaving a thick plaque that narrows arteries, restricts blood flow and can lead to blood clots. Once arteries start to thicken and become rigid, they take on the yellow color of cholesterol, leaving them looking as though they are lined with a layer of frozen butter.

3. You can see high cholesterol on your skin – look for reddish-yellowish bumps on your skin surface, known to medicine as xanthomas, that vary in size and can show up all over the body including your eyelids, joints and hands. Often they appear in older folks or those with diabetes or other health issues.

4. Your total cholesterol number can be too low – and at these levels, just as unhealthy as high cholesterol. While your total cholesterol number should be under 200 mg/dL; numbers below 160 mg/dL are associated with health risks like cancer. Experts still cannot say if the health problems cause the low cholesterol or vice versa. Some work has also found that pregnant women with low total cholesterol are more apt to give birth prematurely. Low total cholesterol, as well as LDL levels have each been linked to anxiety and depression.

5. Our total cholesterol numbers are dropping – unlike the obesity epidemic, total cholesterol numbers have gone down over the last few years. And while elevated cholesterol wasn’t recognized as a serious health problem 50 years ago, the numbers are dropping now mostly because more of us are aware of the dangers – we’re screened more, there are healthier dietary options available and the widespread use of statin drugs all combine to keep those numbers in check.

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8 Remarkable Facts About Cholesterol Continued…

6. Exercise boosts good cholesterol – just one of the many good things regular exercise can do, a recent study in the Journal of Lipid Research suggests that those workouts might affect cholesterol differently depending on the race and gender of the patient. In each of the groups the researchers studied, physical activity equal to an extra hour of mild exercise or a half hour of moderate exercise per week, was linked to an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol. The bad (LDL) cholesterol dropped only in women, and total cholesterol dropped only in African-American women.

7. Cholesterol free food can still raise cholesterol – only in animal based foods like milk, eggs and meat, even though you’ll see foods that can honestly say they are “cholesterol free”, that doesn’t mean they’re exactly good for your cholesterol levels. Fried foods and baked goods are loaded with trans fats (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) and these, along with saturated fats, are the biggest causes of getting high cholesterol from food – yet they aren’t listed as cholesterol on any package. Read labels with care, looking for fat as well as cholesterol content before deciding if a food is a healthy option.

8. High cholesterol can cause erectile dysfunction (ED) – high cholesterol numbers have been linked to a higher risk of erectile dysfunction, kidney failure and even Alzheimer’s disease. A 2009 study found that diets high in cholesterol brought an increased risk of developing cirrhosis of the live or liver cancer. A Swedish study from 2005 suggests that men with total cholesterol of around 270 mg/dL and over were 4.5 times more likely to develop testicular cancer than men with total cholesterol numbers of 220 mg/dL or below.


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Why Kids Ask Why

Any parent who has experienced the endless “why?” of a child can attest to how exasperating it can be – Especially at the end of a hectic day or as you’re rushing to get out of the house.

Experts believe that these endless queries are honest attempts to get to the truth, and kids respond better to some answers than they do to others.

The finding is based on a two-part study that involved children aged 2 to 5, suggesting that our youngsters are far more active in their search for knowledge than anyone had thought.

Research efforts from the early to mid 1900s on child development reported that young children were aware of temporal relationships between two events, but couldn’t distinguish between cause and effect until about age of 7 or 8.

Later work disputed this finding, suggesting that children as young as 3 understand cause and effect.

“Even from really early on when they start asking these how and why questions, they are asking them in order to get explanations,” explains lead researcher Brandy Frazier of the University of Michigan. The new findings appear in the November/December 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

To figure out kids’ responses to different questions, Frazier and her team began by looking at transcripts from everyday conversations of half a dozen kids, aged 2 to 4, who were talking to their parents, brothers or sisters and visitors at home. There were 560 conversations, with over 3,100 casual “how” or “why” questions.

Kids were more than two times more likely to re-ask the question after a non-explanation than when they got a real answer. The questions got explanations about 37% of the time, and this made the kids four times as likely to ask a follow up question than if they got a non-explanatory answer.

The next part of the study was lab-based and included 42 preschoolers, in the age range of 3 to 5 years old. These kids chatted when presented with toys, books or videos that were designed to create surprising, question provoking situations. The children were shown a box of all red crayons- a puzzle with a piece that wouldn’t fit –and a story about a child who poured orange juice over cereal.

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Why Kids Ask “Why?” Continued…

The adults had some explanatory and non-explanatory replies ready, so when kids asked about the orange-juice-on-cereal story there were two answers that could be given. The explanatory – he thought it was milk in the pitcher, and a non-explanatory – I like to put milk on my cereal.

The team found big differences in the reactions to the explanatory answers as opposed to the non-explanatory ones.

Just about 30% of the time the children would agree, nod or say “Oh” after getting a true explanation, while just under 13% of the time for the non-explanation.

More than 20% of the time the children re-asked the first question – just 1% of kids who got an explanation did the same.

The samples sizes, like the subjects, were small, so experts can’t generalize the results to all kids. Also missing are the kids’ reactions to the answers they were given.

Early results from another new study of Frazier’s point out that there is such a thing as too much information in the answers we give our kids. There’s an optimal level of detail our children are interested in, just what that level is still needs to be understood.


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Dirt Is Actually Good For Kids

A team of U.S. researchers has come to the conclusion mother’s (and likely Mother Nature) have known for some time – That kids should be allowed to get dirty so they are exposed to germs in the environment.

Super clean hands were actually shown to hinder the ability to heal because the normal bacteria that live on your skin aren’t there to prevent inflammation after an injury, keeping cuts and grazes from swelling. Could it be that our focus on germ proofing our world might be harming us instead?

This research confirming maternal instincts appears in the online edition of Nature Medicine.

The team from the School of Medicine at the University of California San Diego found that a common species of bacteria known as staphylococci is responsible for blocking a vital step in the cascade of events that bring on inflammation in the body.

Looking at mice and human cells, the team found that the harmless bacteria accomplished this by producing a molecule known as lipoteichoic acid or LTA that acts on keratinocytes, the main types of cells found in the outer layer of your skin.

The LTA seems to keep those keratinocytes in check, preventing them from mounting an overly aggressive inflammatory response to an injury.

Research leader Professor Richard Gallo explains, “The exciting implication of the work is that it provides a molecular basis to understand the hygiene hypothesis and has uncovered elements of the wound repair response that were previously unknown. This may help us devise new therapeutic approaches for inflammatory skin diseases.”

The results of this work offer support for the “hygiene hypothesis” that’s been being floated since 1989, suggesting exposure to germs during early childhood helps protect the body against allergies.

It seems that the millions of bacteria and viruses that enter the body help spur the development of a strong, healthy immune system. There’s even research going on today that suggests the worms living in garden variety dirt might actually help redirect an immune system that’s not working properly. Though they might make you squirm, experts assure us that most worms are harmless to well nourished people.

There are those who blame the current obsession on cleanliness (notice all the anti-bacterial wipes, lotions and soaps out there?) for the upswing in allergies in developed nations.

The rising rates of autoimmune conditions and asthma have also been linked to a failure to expose our young children to normal, everyday dirt, encouraging the immune system to turn inward – on itself.

A spokeswoman for Allergy UK confirms, “Rates of allergy have tripled in the UK in the last decade. One in three people now has some kind of allergy.” They confirm that there’s a growing body of evidence that exposing kids to germs is a good thing, but still more research is needed.

Experts such as Dr. Joel V. Weinstock, the director of gastroenterology and hepatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston believe that the immune system at birth is like an unprogrammed computer that needs instruction.

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WARNING: The truth about Moles, Warts and Skintags…

There are so many “scare” stories that it’s sometimes hard to know what to believe. Which is why this is so timely…

Announcing the breakthrough solution by Chris Gibson, a respected natural health practitioner, that gets rid of moles, warts and skin tags without any expensive medical procedures or over-the-counter products.

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Dirt Is Actually Good For Kids Continued…

And while public health efforts like cleaning up contaminated water and food have saved the lives of many children in poor nations, they’ve also reduced the exposure to organisms that might be good for our young people.

“Children raised in an ultraclean environment,” he says, “are not being exposed to organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits.”

How can you do this in today’s super-sanitized world? Here are five great suggestions to help build the immune system of your children, and maybe your own as well:

1. Let kids play in the dirt.

2. Wash using regular soap, not the antibacterial kind.

3. Keep all vaccines up to date, including your tetanus shots.

4. Get plenty of sleep, drink lots of fluids, eat well and avoid as much stress as possible.

5. Don’t obsess about cleanliness.


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The Latest News In Heart Health

No doubt about it, your heart is one of the most important organs in your body. Keeping it healthy, or improving the condition of a diseased heart are always top priorities in medicine.

At the annual meeting of the American Heart Association, research confirmed the benefits to the heart of a lifetime of exercise, while another study investigated an intriguing treatment for hearts that aren’t so healthy.

Let’s start off talking about the healthy hearts and how to keep yours that way. It seems there is a reward for a lifetime of fitness – as a senior your heart will hold onto more youthful characteristics than aging hearts typically do.

The study involved healthy subjects over 65 free of chronic diseases (things like high blood pressure or diabetes) who’d been recruited from a project known as the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study that called for participants to keep track of their weekly activity over a period of 15-25 years.

Upon joining the new study the subjects took cardiopulmonary stress tests, had ultrasounds of the heart and blood vessels as well as an echocardiogram, all so the team could get a clear picture of the health of the subjects’ hearts.

Exercise was measured by the number of days each week the person participated in exercise training.

Here’s what the team found: the more exercise a subject had done over the years, the more likely they were to have held onto the youthful characteristics of their hearts.

Those who exercised 4 to 5 times a week over a lifetime had about 54% of the benefits seen in “master” athletes. Those who exercised 2 to 3 times per week saw significant benefit as well – an impressive 42%.

Earlier work had identified those who could be considered “master” athletes – seniors who had exercised 6 to 7 days a week over the preceding 15-25 year period were able to preserve 100% of the youthful characteristics of their heart – they had hearts to equal to those of 30 year olds.

Now to the hearts in need of help. The Orlando, Florida meeting of the American Heart Association also saw the presentation of some promising new research that found stem cell therapy improves heart function, ability to exercise and overall outcomes in patients with severely enlarged hearts.

In this work, patients underwent a procedure where bone marrow derived stem cells were delivered to the injured part of their heart. Measurements of the patients’ heart dimension and function, exercise capacity and markers of heart failure were taken before the procedure and every 3 months following the stem cell therapy.

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This Doctor Dropped 10 Sizes – Discover Her Shocking Secret

There’s an overwhelming body of research that shows most diets aren’t effective in the long term because they work AGAINST the body…

In fact most people who diet end up putting ON more weight than when they started.

It’s because most diets deprive you of the foods you enjoy, stop you getting the nutrients you need…basically forcing your body into ‘starvation mode’…

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The Latest News In Heart Health Continued…

One year later, the survival of those treated with stem cells was 93%, while it was 70% for patients who didn’t have the stem cell therapy.

The subjects who did have the stem cell treatment also had better heart function, increased capacity to exercise and a reduction in the markers for heart failure progression. All encouraging signs to be sure.

Of course these results are preliminary, so further study to confirm them will be needed before this therapy becomes widely available.

The good news is that the findings do suggest that stem cell therapy may be a solid, viable treatment option for those who have advanced heart enlargement due to dilated cardiomyopathy. Certainly something to discuss with your healthcare team if you, or someone you love, has this condition.


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Feel Full On Fewer Calories

As we approach the time of year when resolutions are about losing weight… you might be interested in a well-kept secret to achieving this goal of really losing and keeping the weight off – That’s both affordable and natural.

Best of all, it’s no weight loss gimmick; it’s a way to eat that you can stick with every day, holidays included.

What is this weight loss wonder? Energy density – the theory behind The Mayo Clinic Diet.

Poorly named but very well researched and respected – this plan isn’t a “diet” in the traditional sense; but rather a way of eating that’s intended to help you maintain a healthy weight for life.

We know that all foods give you an amount of calories per serving. Things like candy, desserts and the vast majority of processed foods are high in energy density.

Eat a small amount of these tasty choices and you take in a huge number of calories – Just check the labels and the portion sizes to see this for yourself.

On the other hand, food that come from nature generally, like fruits and veggies, has low energy density so you can eat a whole lot of these options but take in fewer calories.

What accounts for the difference in the energy density of foods?

- Water – many fruits and veggies are loaded with water, adding plenty of volume but zero calories. For example, grapefruit at almost 90% water has 36 calories; carrots are about 88% water and have 52 calories per cup.

- Fiber – veggies, fruits and whole grains are also full of fiber which provides volume and takes longer to digest, helping you to feel fuller for a longer time.

- Fat – fruits and veggies don’t have a lot of fat, whereas a single teaspoon of butter has almost the same number of calories as two whole cups of broccoli.

When you eat more foods that are satisfying, but less calorie dense, you put a stop to those nagging pangs of hunger between meals – The ones that tempt you to stray from your healthy eating plan.

Of course change, even when it’s for the better, is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be horrible either. Here are some easy ways to get more good, low energy density foods into your diet.

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Feel Full On Fewer Calories Continued…

Try to…

- Increase the ratio of fruits and veggies in the meals you eat now. Add blueberries to cereal in the morning, or top pasta with sautéed veggies in the tomato sauce you love. Your aim is to lower the amount of meat on your plate and add more veggies instead.

- Try new foods or combinations. Mango or peach slices on whole-wheat toast with a bit of peanut butter is a breakfast option that’s delicious and good for you too. You might try adding mandarin orange slices to a lunchtime salad. The idea is to experiment and you’ll find tastes you never knew you’d love!

- Start with soup or salad. Begin your lunch (or dinner) with a broth based; veggie filled soup or a large salad (with low-fat or fat-free dressing on the side) is a great way to fill up on good stuff before the main meal. When it comes to the main event, include whole grains, extra portions of veggies and a small serving of lean protein.

So what foods to choose?

- Vegetables: low calorie, high volume options include salad greens, asparagus, green beans, broccoli and zucchini.

- Fruits: some choices are better than others, you want whole fresh, frozen or canned fruits that don’t have any added sugar. Fruit juices aren’t so good, nor are dried fruits, as both are concentrated sources of natural sugars and would have a higher calorie content per serving.

- Carbs: here whole grains are best because they naturally have more fiber (plus other key nutrients), choose whole wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal, brown rice and any whole grain cereal.

- Protein and Dairy: can come from both plant and animal sources, with the best choices being those that are high in protein and low in fat and calories – legumes (beans, peas and lentils), fish, skinless white meal poultry, fat free dairy and egg whites.

Eating healthy is not about depriving yourself forever – that’s unrealistic, and why most “diets” fail. You’ll still be able to enjoy a special treat now and again, like a slice of cake, an order of fries or bowl of ice cream.

The fact that you’re eating more good-for-you foods leaves room for the occasional indulgence. What’s more, because you’ll be eating more low energy dense foods you won’t be feeling so starved and deprived, it’ll be easier to be satisfied with a single serving of a calorie-rich food.

Remember, a change to healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard or high maintenance, it really comes down to choosing foods with care and attention for all your meals, so you’re always giving your body the fuel it needs to stay healthy.


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