Tea Helps Trim Waistline

Men looking for a way to slim down at the waistline might have an added, though unexpected, weapon. Tea. A study presented at the First International Congress on Abdominal Obesity finds that men who drink over 2 cups of tea a day have slimmer waistlines than those who drink coffee or nothing at all.

It’s not the same for women.

Earlier research had examined coffee and tea drinking habits and obesity, but not much is known about what beverage we choose and how this contributes to the weight we carry around the belly.

This latest study involved 3,823 adults who were part of the 2003-04 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a program of studies created to assess the health and nutrition of adults and children in the U.S. The unique thing about this survey is that it combines interviews and physical exams.

The researchers found that coffee drinking wasn’t related to abdominal obesity in either men or women, even after adjusting for other risk factors. Using sugar instead of artificial sweeteners did appear to have a role in fat in this area.

In men, the use of sugar in tea was linked to a nearly 1 inch smaller waistline – the use of artificial sweeteners was associated to a nearly 2 inch larger waist measurement. In women, using milk in tea was linked to a 2/3-inch smaller waistline – but those who used artificial sweeteners had a 1-inch larger, on average, waist measurement.

“The potential association between coffee/tea and abdominal obesity is not trivial considering that more than 60% of the adult population drinks coffee/tea, that these beverages can be consumed as frequently as 10 times per day, and that a high percentage of coffee and tea drinkers use additives in these beverages,” explains D. R. Bouchard of the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

Fat at the waistline, beyond making you look and feel bad, has also been tied to more than a few serious health risks, conditions like heart disease and diabetes, as well as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, some cancers and degenerative diseases like arthritis and spondylosis.

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Tea Helps Trim Waistline Continued…

Known to your doctor as visceral fat, fat in this area has been shown to be more biologically active, bringing on inflammation and affecting the liver. Worse yet, large belly fat cells release more toxins and waste products that can get tucked in between internal organs, turning on the immune system.

The link between tea drinking and a slim waist calls for more study. In the meantime, men especially might benefit from replacing a cup (or two) of coffee with tea, or adding tea to your beverage intake and watching what happens to your waistline.

You might also want to up your intake of unprocessed, natural foods and make sure you’re getting regular exercise to make a more serious dent in any fat you’re carrying around the middle.

Remember too that in the end, it doesn’t matter where your fat is located – carrying more than you should is not good for your heart.

You should take steps to reduce the demands you’re placing on this very vital organ by giving your body good for you nutrients and also making healthier lifestyle choices.


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Why “Get Fit” Resolutions Don’t Stick

As the end of January passes, many of our most well intentioned “get fit” resolutions have been broken, and new research to appear in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior might help to explain why this happens.

It’s not that we don’t know exercise is good for us, that it might help to improve our self image, our mood and how we sleep, we do; but we struggle to stick to those fitness goals.

Surprisingly, those who believe most strongly in the importance of exercise are the obese and overweight according to a survey of more than 1,500 men and women conducted by researchers at George Washington University Medical Center.

The trouble is that many who are carrying extra weight cringe at the thought of huffing and puffing in front of more fit gym goers according to the poll. No surprise there. And it’s not just the gym patrons, many feel intimidated about sweating it out in front of the in shape health club staff.

Compared to men of any size, women are more likely to feel overwhelmed by complicated gym equipment, to feel the need for trendy clothing and the added discomfort of exercising in front of men.

In the end, it’s these feelings, not a lack of determination or willpower, that might be keeping resolution breakers from regular exercise. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, two thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. Since 1980, obesity rates have doubled for adults and tripled for children.

“Overweight people have received the message from their physicians and all the publicity about the importance of exercise,” explains study author Wayne C. Miller, a professor of exercise science at George Washington University Medical Center. “Most of the negativism or barriers that are associated with not participating in exercise are emotional, and there are differences between men and women.”

In the study, about 18% of respondents belonged to a health club; 82% did not. Much like the U.S. population, about two thirds of the survey respondents were considered obese or overweight.

The more a subject weighed, the lower their assessment of their own health, yet despite being aware that they needed to exercise, negative feelings about the health club environment, for both men and women, kept them from working out there.

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Why “Get Fit” Resolutions Don’t Stick Continued…

Health club owners take note – look for ways to make overweight or obese patrons feel welcome, rather than self conscious or intimidated by the environment or equipment, and you’ll have a steady supply of clients.

The survey also found that just about 30% of those who are trying to lose weight meet the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommendations for exercise – that’s 2½ hours a week of moderate aerobic activity.

While experts can’t say just how much exercise is needed, we do know that being active on a regular basis helps to reduce obesity related diseases, and has been shown to help those who do lose weight, to keep it off.

The key might be to stay away from the all-or-nothing approach to exercise, and fitness. Don’t expect a daily commitment to spinning classes at the health club to work – Instead start by making smaller changes like taking the stairs, parking far away from the entrance, or enjoying a walk at lunch to get a few extra minutes of exercise in each day. Once you’ve reached this goal, move forward – slow, steady steps to get more activity into your day so that in six months you can take, and enjoy, that class.

This approach also works when it comes to what you eat. A few small changes can add up to big ones over time. Try to eat a bit less each day and substitute low calorie, healthy options for the richer, bad-for-you choices you’re used to making.

Drink more water and keep an eye on your portion sizes. Make changes that are gradual, heading in the right direction and not too restrictive, and you’ll be taking healthy steps that are good for your body today and in the future.


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5 Foods For Improved Health

If improving your diet is on your list of resolutions for the new year, here are five foods that you can add to your diet that taste great and might also help you avoid certain diseases.

While no one food is going to magically make you invincible in terms of getting sick – moderation and balance in good foods are important when it comes to living healthier.

Everyone agrees that eating well, drinking in moderation and staying active all lead to a healthier body.

Start by adding a little bit of any (or all) of these healthy foods to your diet.

1. Dietary fiber

That means eating oats, barley and rye to as part of your diet. Doctors know that oats can bring down cholesterol, and rye can do the same. In a study in the current issue of Nutrition, Finnish researchers found that eating dense rye bread lowered borderline high cholesterol in men. The American Diabetes Association also suggests upping your dietary fiber to prevent type 2 diabetes – rye lowers cholesterol and evens out blood glucose levels for diabetics.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture found diets high in barley lowered total cholesterol levels and cut the risk factors that are linked to extra weight – type 2 diabetes and heart disease being the two biggest. Barley can be cooked and eaten as a side dish just like potatoes or rice, or used in soups, stews, casseroles or salads. Rather than buying regular rye bread, buy rye mixed with whole wheat, found in dense, whole grain breads and specially made crackers.

Long story short, expert Dr. Peter Shields, professor of medicine and oncology and deputy director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center, says any diet with fiber (from fruits, veggies or grains) is good for your body.

2. Soy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that foods rich in soy proteins may cut the risk of coronary heart disease – 25 grams of soy protein a day can reduce heart problems by lowering cholesterol. You’ll find soy in lots of things – tofu burgers, soy meats and milk. When introduced to children soy can have a very strong protective effect against breast and prostate cancers. It also helps in the fight against childhood obesity and has vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein.

3. Salmon and other oily fish

“Wild salmon is a wonderful dish that’s not only tasty but is great for you,” explains Katherine Tallmadge, national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and a registered dietitian in Washington, D.C. “It cuts inflammation in the body that can lead to heart problems. It’s a good source of vitamin D and also contains omega-3 fatty acids that keep the brain and heart healthy.”

The American Heart Association suggests we eat oily fish two times a week. This type of fish has omega-3 fatty acids (known to be beneficial for heart disease, triglyceride levels and the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque) as well as being one of the few food sources of vitamin D. A 3.5 ounce fillet of cooked salmon has 360 IUs of the vitamin, almost a full days supply for anyone under 70 years old.

Still there is a note of caution – some oily fish (swordfish and fresh cuts of tuna) might be contaminated with mercury. This heavy metal is known to interfere with the brain and nervous system – high levels can cause serious problems for pregnant women and children.

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5 Foods For Improved Health Continued…

4. Red wine

While nutritionally red wine might be a perfect drink, it does have alcohol, which means you need to drink it in moderation – that’s about 5 ounces a day for women, 10 ounces a day for men. If you drink wine for heath, stick to red because red grapes have 10 times more health benefits than white grapes do. While your own doctor (and others) might hesitate to recommend an alcoholic beverage to patients, most agree that red wine is okay in moderation.

The antioxidants in red wine known as polyphenols help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. Resveratrol, one of the antioxidants is a key ingredient in red wine that seems to protect blood vessels from damage, reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevent blood clots. There is some current research that shows this antioxidant may cut inflammation and blood clotting both which can bring on cardiovascular disease.

There have been studies linking any alcohol, including wine, to increases in the risks of breast cancer. A recently published study found that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol does raise the risk of a breast cancer recurrence.

5. Green tea

Another drink that’s loaded with antioxidants, green tea is believed to be able to ward off some cancers. Japanese work involving nearly 500 women with stage I and II breast cancer found that those who drank more green tea, before and after surgery, had a lower rate of cancer recurrence. Chinese studies have found that the more green tea patients drank, the lower the risk for stomach, esophageal, prostate, pancreatic and colorectal cancer compared to those who didn’t drink the tea.

Green tea has also been shown to keep you leaner by helping to lower body fat. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that green tea extract increased energy expenditure, a measure of metabolism. It also had a significant effect on fat oxidation, which is how much fat your body actually burns.

But you need to drink more than a cup or two, at least three to six cups a day. Plus how you make the tea counts – you need to use bags or loose tea – you can’t just buy a bottle of iced green tea and get the benefit, the tea must be brewed.

It’s also important to understand that a lot of the research on green tea’s benefits has been done on animals. And though this is an accepted way to conduct research, the data on humans isn’t there to back up the claims. That’s why you won’t see such claims on green tea products, the FDA believes there’s not enough human evidence to support them.


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Pomegranates Stop Growth Of Breast Cancer

Eating or drinking this tasty, nutrient rich fruit might help to prevent, or slow the growth of some breast cancers according to a new study published in Cancer Prevention Research.

The work identifies a group of phytochemicals known as ellagitannins, abundant in pomegranates, that inhibit the growth of estrogen responsive breast cancers in the lab.

The researchers believe the ellagitannins in pomegranates work by inhibiting a key enzyme (known as aromatase) the body uses to make estrogen, which is suspected of a role in breast cancer growth.

“Phytochemicals suppress estrogen production that prevents the proliferation of breast cancer cells and the growth of estrogen-responsive tumors,” explains researcher Shiuan Chen, PhD, director of the Division of Tumor Cell Biology and co-leader of the Breast Cancer Research Program at City of Hope in Duarte, California.

For this work, the researchers examined the impact of 10 ellagitannin-derived compounds from pomegranates on hormone activity and breast cancer cell growth. The results showed that of the ten compounds, urolithins B most significantly inhibited the growth of the breast cancer cells in the laboratory testing.

The results are promising, though more work will be needed to see if eating or drinking pomegranate-derived products will have any effect in people.

Pomegranates have gotten a lot of attention recently – becoming one of the most talked about “superfoods” out there because of both the heart healthy and anti-cancer benefits.

This latest work is the first to look at breast cancer growth, and we’ll likely hear of other studies as the year 2009 saw no fewer than 20 clinical trials registered with the National Institutes of Health to look at pomegranate consumption on many diseases.

If you’re concerned about your cancer risk, or just want to take advantage of the potential health benefits, consider making pomegranates a regular part of your diet – Even at the risk of pink hands, a juice splattered shirt and the effort needed to enjoy the fruit. If you’ve never tried one, pomegranates have a unique, very pleasant flavor. You can eat the seeds themselves, or add them to salads, meats, or other grain pilaf dishes, even deserts.

If you have the option between the fruit and its juice form, always try to choose the fruit, as it has natural fiber as well as antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

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Pomegranates Stop Growth Of Breast Cancer Continued…

You can buy the fruit in juice form, though it can be expensive and comes with more than its share of calories.

Often it’s easy to drink a lot more calories than you realize, so watch your portion sizes and keep your intake to 1.5 ounces of the juice.

If the taste is too strong for you, try mixing it with mineral or seltzer water, or with blueberry or cranberry juice for a super rich antioxidant drink.

It’s also a great addition to your favorite smoothie recipe, or mix it with plain yogurt or cottage cheese. There are even pudding recipes out there that are delicious and healthy too.

There are stores where you can buy pomegranate paste that’s made with molasses. This lends itself to glazes, dips and salad dressing recipes.

No matter what form you choose, enjoying delicious, good for you pomegranates might be one of the best, most natural ways to give your body healthy nutrients and perhaps women might also protect themselves from cancer.


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FDA Has Concerns About PBA But No Bans Yet

The latest FDA advice on controversial chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA, suggests that we should all take “reasonable” steps to avoid it, though this won’t be easy as the substance is used to make plastics that are virtually everywhere.

Baby bottles, water bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants, lenses in glasses, CDs and DVDs and electronics in the home all have BPA’s.

The chemical is also used in the coatings of almost all food and beverage cans. What’s worse, more than 90% of American have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies, and some estimates suggest the amount of BPA used in the U.S. is equal to about 6 pounds per person, per year.

Back in 2008 the FDA issued a draft assessment that assured us BPA was safe. Only a short time later the National Toxicology Program disagreed and voiced “some concern” that BPA exposure during pregnancy or infancy might be troublesome for long-term health. Official agreement that there is reason for concern over fetus/infant exposure to BPA has just come from the FDA.

What are the worries over BPA?

Experts believe that there are key periods of development when exposure to BPA may lead to certain health effects – behavioral effects, diabetes, reproductive disorders, development of certain cancers, asthma and heart disease that can pass from one generation to the next.

Two earlier National Institutes of Health studies focused on the effects on development and reproduction. The research didn’t look at effects in adults, which is why the NIH officially has “negligible concern” over adult risk of exposure from BPA.

In a news conference in mid January 2010, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, announced the change, and the beginning of a BPA research program costing $30 million, at a news conference. “At this time, we share the perspective of the NTP of some concern of health effects of BPA. This means we need to know more,” Hamburg said. “In the interim, as a precaution, the FDA is taking reasonable steps to help reduce human exposure to BPA.”

This does not mean BPA is banned, or that BPA-containing products are unsafe. Today the FDA is seeking greater regulatory powers to track and control the use of the chemical in industry.

The regulations in place today date from the 1960s, and allow manufacturers to use BPA without telling the agency they are doing so.

At present, the FDA believes the risk of BPA exposure from canned formula is far less than the risks that come from feeding a baby less nourishing food.

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FDA Has Concerns About PBA, But Bans Yet Continued…

What to do if you’re the parent of an infant or toddler concerned about BPA?

- Breastfeed infants for at least a year, if this isn’t possible, iron-fortified infant formula is a safe, nutritious option.

- Inspect your baby bottles or sippy cups for scratches and throw them away.

- Don’t put boiling water in BPA plastic bottles, and mix powdered formula with water boiled in a BPA-free container cooled to lukewarm.

- Warm baby formula by running warm water over the outside of the bottle as opposed to microwaving.

- Be sure bottles or cups are labeled “microwave safe” and “dishwasher safe” before putting them into these appliances.

The American Chemistry Council, a plastic industry group, is disappointed by the FDA recommendations, saying in a statement, “Plastics made with BPA contribute safety and convenience to our daily lives because of their durability, clarity, and shatter resistance.

Can liners and food-storage containers made with BPA are essential components to helping protect the safety of packaged foods and preserving products from spoilage and contamination.”

Also good to know, the six largest manufacturers of baby bottles (about 90% of the U.S. market) are now making bottles without BPA.


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Self Control Is Contagious

If you spend time with people who have self control, you can expect your own level of control to be pretty strong according to research published online in the December 15, 2009 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The opposite is also true – Spending time with those who don’t have much in the way of self-control encourages you in negative behaviors.

“Before, we knew people tended to hang out with other people who were like themselves,” explains Michelle vanDellen, a professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, who led the research. “But in these studies, we actually show there is a direct effect of our friends’ behavior on our own behavior,” and that the findings apply, she concludes, “not only to the people we [choose to] hang out with, but those we are forced to hang out with.” Think your co-workers, fellow students and the like.

The conclusions are based on five different studies conducted over two years by vanDellen and co-author Rick Hoyle of Duke University.

Even though the studies were conducted in a lab setting this is important news for anyone trying to stop a bad habit, or start up some good ones.

The amount of influence might be the difference between eating an extra cookie or keeping your promise to workout more. At least this is a nudge in the right direction.

Of the five projects, the study the authors had the most fun with involved 71 subjects and two plates of food. One was loaded with carrot sticks, the other with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.

The participants saw someone show self-control by eating the healthy snack and leaving the cookies, or someone enjoying the cookies and ignoring the healthier alternative.

After this, the subjects took self-control tests and those who had watched someone eat cookies didn’t do as well as those who watched someone eat the carrots.

In another of the five studies, the team found that 36 participants who’d been randomly assigned to think of a friend with good self control held out longer on a test of handgrip used to measure self control than did the subjects who thought of a friend with less than stellar self control.

Still another bit of work on the same theme involved asking 42 people to list the names of friends who had both good and bad self-control. The participants then took a test (designed to measure their self-control) and a name was flashed very briefly on a computer screen.

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Self Control Is Contagious Continued…

Again, those who saw the name of a friend with good self-control did better on the test than the subjects who saw the name of a friend with poor self-control.

The fourth of the studies involved the assignment supplied to 122 subjects – write about a friend with good self-control, bad self-control or an outgoing friend. Those who wrote about the friend with good self-control did better on a test of self-control, those who wrote about a friend with poor self-control did worst, and those who wrote about an outgoing friend scored in the middle of the two groups.

In the final study, 117 subjects were randomly assigned to write about friends with good or bad self-control. Those who wrote about the friend with good self control performed better on word identification tests related to self-control.

This is the first research to show that self-control is contagious across behaviors.

“The take-home message of this study is that picking social influences that are positive can improve your self-control,” says vanDellen. “And by exhibiting self-control, you’re helping others around you do the same.”

Surrounding yourself with healthy, motivated people gives you the best odds of controlling your behavior and achieving your goals. This is one reason why a training buddy can be so useful, as long as they are motivated too.


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Sitting Too Much Can Kill You

The new warning from health experts is that sitting, especially for prolonged periods, is deadly.

Even if you’re exercising on a regular basis, sitting at work, in school, in the car, in front of a computer or TV all add up – and not in a good way.

Figures from a U.S. survey in 2003-04 found we spend more than half our time each day sitting.

Worrisome because preliminary findings from several studies point to time spent sitting as increasing the likelihood of heart attack or death.

In an editorial that appeared earlier this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine written by Dr. Elin Ekbolm-Bak and colleagues, the suggestion is plain that authorities take another look at definitions of physical activity and highlight the dangers of prolonged sitting.

We’re all aware of guidelines for a minimum amount of physical activity (at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise).

We all know that being active cuts your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease as well as helping you manage stress, improve your immunity and help you get more restful sleep.

But recent research has found that long bouts of sitting and lack of whole body muscle movement can undermine all you’re doing to stay healthy.

What’s more, there’s nothing out there about limiting the time spent in a seated position, and this is a dangerous oversight in the opinions of the Swedish scientists.

“After four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals,” says Elin Ekblom-Bak of Stockholm’s Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences. Sitting for a long period causes the genes regulating the amount of glucose and fat in the body to start to shut down. Even if you exercise or would be considered “in shape” by others, a long stretch at your desk isn’t good for your body.

In fact, a study published in 2009 tracked more than 17,000 Canadians for almost 12 years and found that people who sat more had a higher death risk, and it didn’t matter if they exercised or not. “We don’t have enough evidence yet to say how much sitting is bad,” points out Canadian study leader Peter Katzmarzyk of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. “But it seems the more you can get up and interrupt this sedentary behavior, the better.”

Continues below…

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Sitting Too Much Can Kill You Continued…
Dr. Ekblom-Bak agrees and recommends a five-minute break from sitting every 45 minutes.

Stand up; move around for several moments before resuming your seat (and your work). Remember, Mother Nature designed our bodies to be active, recognizing and working with this is a step toward achieving lasting good health.

The idea that sitting too long is bad for you isn’t all that new. There’s a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the medical term for when blood thickens and clumps together to form a clot in a vein that’s deep in your body.

And while most DVTs happen in the lower leg or thigh, they can also be found in other parts of the body. The clots can either partially or completely block the flow of blood, bringing swelling, pain and hypertension. The danger here is that a blood clot like this can break off and travel through the bloodstream. If it reaches the lungs it can cause a pulmonary embolism (potentially deadly) though the condition is treatable with blood thinning medications.

Experts from the World Health Organization offer a smart solution while more research is being done. Spread out your daily workout into smaller, but still intense, sessions rather than doing it all in one shot.


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Omega-3s Slow Aging

Recent research on heart disease patients just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that those who have the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids seem to age more slowly on a cellular level than those with the lowest blood levels.

Earlier work has shown that patients with heart disease who have a high intake of omega-3s have higher survival rates, and this new study sought to explain why this might be.

“We’ve shown an entirely new effect of omega-3 fatty acids, which may be to slow down the biological aging process in patients with coronary heart disease,” explains lead author Ramin Farzaneh-Far, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco.

Farzaneh-Far and the team looked at a marker of biological age – shortening of telomeres, the structures at the end of a chromosome that are involved with its replication and stability.

Experts believe that as telomeres shorten, the eventual result is the death of the cell. In earlier work by the team, the telomere length of heart disease patients was a powerful predictor of death and bad outcomes. The shorter the telomeres, the greater risk of death.

For the study, the researchers evaluated 608 outpatients in California who had stable heart disease and had been recruited from the Heart and Soul Study.

At the start of the study and at the five-year point, blood samples were taken and evaluated for omega-3 fatty acid levels. DNA from the blood allowed researchers to look at the length of the telomere of the leukocyte, a type of blood cell. The subjects were followed up until January 2009.

“Patients with the lowest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids exhibited a rate of telomere shortening 2.6 times faster than patients with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids,” Farzaneh-Far tells online medical resource WebMD. And while no one has enough information to convert telomere length to years of aging, experts suspect omega-3 might be one of many influences on the length of telomeres – others being inflammation, obesity, oxidative stress and lack of activity.

Would lots of omega-3s in the blood help a patient with heart disease? Experts can’t say for sure.

Continues below…


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Omega-3s Slow Aging Continued…

There was no association between omega-3 fatty acid levels and telomere length back in September 2000 and December 2002 when the study began. But by the end of the follow up period the team saw the higher the blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the subjects, the slower the rate of telomere shortening.

Of course this is exciting news, demonstrating how sources of omega-3s work at a cellular level. One day your doctor might even be able to conduct a test that examines your telomere length with an eye to predicting your risk of heart disease.

Whether you’re a heart disease patient or not, this research might have you wondering what to do about omega-3s?

The American heart Association recommends a gram a day of omega-3 fatty acid for those who do have heart disease. Look for natural dietary sources like oily fish (salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna) or supplements.

If you don’t have heart disease, the AHA suggests you eat a variety of fish at least two times a week, as well as trying to add more healthy oils like canola, soybean and flaxseed to your cooking.


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7 Steps To A Healthy Heart

A recent American Heart Association survey of American adults found that 4 in 10 (39%) believe they have ideal heart health, yet 54% of these same people (a whopping 70% of all respondents) had also been told by a health professional that they had a risk factor for heart disease and/or needed to make a lifestyle change to get a healthier heart.

It seems that most of us don’t tie risks factors like an unhealthy diet and being inactive to having heart disease – And we should.

People need to be educated and become aware of the risks so that they can identify and adopt healthier lifestyles. That’s what the AHA’s online My Life Check is all about.

By developing seven simple, natural steps any of us can take to get a healthy heart, the AHA is hoping to encourage changes that support heart health. Published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, ideal cardiovascular health for adults is defined by these specific health measures.

1. Never smoking, or quitting more than a year ago.

2. A healthy body mass index (BMI).

3. Being physically active, the more, the better – at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity workouts (75 minutes of vigorous physical activity).

4. Blood pressure reading below 120/80.

5. Fasting blood glucose less than 100 milligrams/deciliter.

6. Total cholesterol of less than 200 milligrams/deciliter.

7. Eating a healthy diet that includes fruits and veggies each day, two servings of fish per week, fiber rich whole grains, limiting sodium and the number of sugar sweetened beverages you drink per week.

Experts at the American Heart Association are convinced that by following these seven health factors and lifestyle behaviors we could improve the cardiovascular health of Americans by 20% by the year 2020. An aggressive goal to be sure.

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7 Steps To A Healthy Heart Continued…

This would also bring reduced deaths from heart-related diseases and strokes by 20%. The new online resource, My Life Check, is an assessment that you can complete to help figure out what you need to do to achieve better cardiovascular health.

“To date, there has been great success in reducing disability and death from heart disease and stroke, in part through aggressive improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases and in limited uptake of measures to prevent heart disease and stroke,” says Clyde W. Yancy, MD, president of the American Heart Association, in a news release. “We achieved our 2010 goal of reducing death by heart disease and stroke by 25%, earlier and by a wider margin than we had targeted.”

Good news to be sure. Still there are many people who are exposed to risk factors for heart disease, and experts expect to see more of these diseases, and at earlier ages than before.

This is why medical people are so worried about the popularity of some very unhealthy habits.

The AHA is hoping the message gets heard and adopted by those at midlife and younger. “Essentially, everyone is a candidate to take at least one step forward in these metrics, from poor to intermediate or intermediate to ideal, to move a substantial portion of the population and have a real impact on cardiovascular health,” says David M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, lead author of the special report.

The AHA experts point out that of all the treatments out there to help with heart disease, the best one is preventing the disease in the first place.

So, are there any of the steps above you can take?


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Health Repercussions Of Being Overweight

You’ve read about all the health risks of obesity, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and even early death.

But there are surprising risks to your health from those added pounds that are not nearly as well documented.

Some recent studies have found that overweight woman…

- Might have a harder time getting health insurance, or have to pay more for it.

- Are at higher risk of being misdiagnosed, or getting an inaccurate dosage of a drug.

- Are less able to find a fertility doctor who will help them get pregnant.

- Are less likely to have cancer detected early.

Current numbers have just about 70 million American women considered overweight, which makes for a lot of patients who may not be getting the care they need.

Overweight or not, these findings should have everyone taking note, and taking steps to be sure you get the quality healthcare you deserve. Overweight or not, being mistreated or dismissed by your doctor because of your weight is unacceptable – you don’t want that person in charge of your medical care.

“Our culture has enormous negativity toward overweight people, and doctors aren’t immune,” explains Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Jerome Groopman, M.D., author of How Doctors Think. “If doctors have negative feelings toward patients, they’re more dismissive, they’re less patient, and it can cloud their judgment, making them prone to diagnostic errors.”

When it comes to just how many diagnostic errors are due to a patients’ weight, there are no hard numbers to attest to the problem, though it’s long past time for the medical community to take a hard look at the biases that might be affecting the treatment they give overweight patients.

Data on diagnostic errors for the general population is sobering. “Doctors make mistakes in diagnosing 10 to 15 percent of all patients, and in half of those cases it causes real harm,” Groopman says.

Carrying too much weight does bring legitimate concerns to the operating table, and those with high BMIs often find that surgeons are reluctant to offer a procedure to very overweight patients as they make for longer, more difficult operations.

Hospitals too, who track data on surgical complication rates may warn doctors off more high risk cases in order to preserve their standing with insurance companies. Patients may be denied procedures like cardiac catheterization, organ transplants of kidney or liver, knee surgeries and more because of their weight.

Being too heavy can even get in the way of effective cancer treatment according to the experts. The most likely culprit is underdosing, basing chemotherapy drug doses on the patient’s ideal weight, rather than their actual weight.

Trials usually only include women of average weight, so doctors don’t have a good handle on the doses for larger women. And since these drugs are quite toxic, no one wants to take chances with the dosing.

Doctors have known that obese women are more likely to die from breast or ovarian cancers. Especially troubling then is the finding that obese women are less likely to get Pap smears than women of normal weight, but the screening lapse isn’t all on the women here. A University of Connecticut study of more than 1,300 doctors found that 17% were reluctant to do a pelvic exam on an obese patient; the number jumping to 83% if the patient herself seemed hesitant about the exam.

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Health Repercussions Of Being Overweight Continued…

That should NEVER happen.

But you can’t blame it all on doctors as being overweight can obscure illnesses like heart disease and some types of cancer. All those extra pounds bring added strain to joints and pain you might not be having if you were thinner.

What’s more, large patients don’t always fit into the small spaces of diagnostic scanning machines. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and even X-rays and ultrasounds aren’t able to deliver as clear a picture, and without that, imagine your doctor driving blindfolded as he tries to treat you.

Ultrasounds are particularly vulnerable to added fat; the beams can’t penetrate the tissue if you have more than 8 centimeters of subcutaneous fat. Naturally this affects more women since ultrasounds are used to spot uterine tumors and ovarian cysts, not to mention to check on the baby’s health during a pregnancy.

Researchers have also confirmed false positives to mammograms in overweight and obese patients.

This leaves a doctor with little to go on except the symptoms you mention and intuition. That isn’t the best option in the emergency room. “If we can’t get the imaging because of a patient’s weight, and we are concerned about a pulmonary embolism or appendicitis, for example, we have to go ahead and treat based on our clinical impression,” explains Dr. Archana Reddy, M.D., a practicing emergency room physician.

Certainly something we all need to be aware of when it comes to medical care.


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