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A Guide to Good Personal Hygiene

 Mom was right: Good personal hygiene is essential to promoting good health.

Personal hygiene habits such as washing your hands and brushing and flossing your teeth will help keep bacteria, viruses, and illnesses at bay. And there are mental as well as physical benefits. “Practicing good body hygiene helps you feel good about yourself, which is important for your mental health,” notes Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. People who have poor hygiene — disheveled hair and clothes, body odor, bad breath, missing teeth, and the like — often are seen as unhealthy and may face discrimination.

Personal Hygiene: Healthy Habits Include Good Grooming

If you want to minimize your risk of infection and also enhance your overall health, follow these basic personal hygiene habits:

  • Bathe regularly. Wash your body and your hair often. “I’m not saying that you need to shower or bathe every day,” remarks Dr. Novey. “But you should clean your body and shampoo your hair at regular intervals that work for you.” Your

7 Ways to Fit In Exercise

 The benefits of regular exercise are unrivaled: Physical activity can help you lose weight and prevent a host of ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Being fit also can help you stay mentally sharp.

While most people know they should exercise, you may not know where to start or how to fit it into a busy schedule. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend that healthy adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity spread out over five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on each of three days a week.

“This is something we recommend to all Americans,” says Gerald Fletcher, MD, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and a spokesman for the AHA.

An ideal fitness routine also includes resistance or weight training to improve muscle strength and endurance. The ACSM and the AHA recommend that most adults engage in resistance training at least twice a week.

Finding Fitness: 10 Ways to Get in Exercise

Sometimes the problem isn’t motivation — it’s simply finding the

The Benefit of Water

 Did you know that your body weight is approximately 60 percent water? Your body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate its temperature and maintain other bodily functions. Because your body loses water through breathing, sweating, and digestion, it’s important to rehydrate by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water. The amount of water you need depends on a variety of factors, including the climate you live in, how physically active you are, and whether you’re experiencing an illness or have any other health problems.

Water Protects Your Tissues, Spinal Cord, and Joints

Water does more than just quench your thirst and regulate your body’s temperature; it also keeps the tissues in your body moist. You know how it feels when your eyes, nose, or mouth gets dry? Keeping your body hydrated helps it retain optimum levels of moisture in these sensitive areas, as well as in the blood, bones, and the brain. In addition, water helps protect the spinal cord, and it acts as a lubricant and cushion for your joints.

Water Helps Your Body Remove Waste

Adequate

Sitting Too Long Raises Death Risk

Are you sitting down right now? You might want to stand up.

According to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, sitting for long periods increases your risk of all-cause early death. (Now would definitely be the time to stand up.)

In the study, researchers followed 222,497 Australian adults for several years. Over the course of the study, participants who sat for more than 11 hours a day had the highest risk for all-cause mortality, followed by those who sat between 8 and 11 hours daily. Those who sat for less than four hours a day had the lowest risk of all-cause mortality.

The revelation that sitting can kill isn’t necessarily new. In the past several years, study after study has confirmed that living a sedentary life — going from your bed to your desk to the couch and back to bed every day — can damage our health in a variety of ways. In fact, it has been shown to increase risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, dementia, and some cancers.

Another recent study actually found that sitting is so detrimental, its effects are almost impossible to exercise away.

Medicaid Expansion Is a Key Part

The Medicaid program is bracing for an expansion that will bring an estimated 16 million more Americans into the health-care safety net, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

But whether that happens depends on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the legal challenges to the massive health-care reform legislation.

Twenty-six states are challenging the requirement to comply with the new Medicaid eligibility rule or lose federal matching funds, calling it coercive and a violation of states’ rights. On March 28, they will argue before the Supreme Court that that provision of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

The Medicaid expansion opens eligibility to all people with household incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level — whether unemployed or the so-called working poor — starting in January 2014. That translated into an annual income of approximately $14,850 for an individual and $30,650 for a family of four in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Until now, the main groups of people served by the Medicaid program have been low-income parents and children, the frail elderly and the disabled.

The Medicaid expansion provision is

Brain Calls the Shots on Which Hand Holds Cellphone

About 70 percent of people hold theircellphone to the ear on the same side as their dominant hand, a new study finds.

Left-brain thinkers are more likely to use their right hand for writing and other everyday tasks. They’re also more likely to hold their cellphone to their right ear, even though there’s no difference in hearing between their right and left ears.

The reverse is true for people who are left-handed and right-brain dominant, according to the study by researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Their online survey of more than 700 people found that 68 percent of right-handed people said they held their cellphone to their right ear, while 25 percent used the left ear, and 7 percent used both ears.

Among left-handed people, 72 percent said they held their cellphone to their left ear, 23 percent used their right ear, and 5 percent used both ears.

The study is scheduled to be presented Feb. 26 at a meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology in San Diego.

“Our findings have several implications, especially for mapping the language center of the brain,” Dr. Michael Seidman, director of

Brain Scans May Predict How People Learn

Researchers report that brain scans can help predict how people will perform a challenging mental task, a discovery that could lead to a better understanding of how the mind learns new things.

The researchers found that what they once thought was “noise” in the brain, like static from a television, actually plays a major role and “is very important for understanding how the brain does things,” said study author Dr. Maurizio Corbetta, a professor of neurology at Washington University at St. Louis.

This means a brain scan has the potential to act as a kind of crystal ball, he said: “One of the most exciting things we could do is look at the brain activity and do more to try to predict what the brain is going to do next.”

The study authors scanned the brains of 14 people — seven men and seven women — using functional MRI to measure bursts of activity in the brain. The researchers tracked the brains of the volunteers as they learned how to better use their peripheral vision through a computer game.

In the game, participants learned to detect the presence or absence of a tilted

Tapping to Music May Help You ‘Hear’ It

Moving to the beat of music actually helps you hear the music better, according to a new study.

Researchers at McMaster University in Canada played a series of regular beats for study participants, half of whom tapped on an electronic drum pad while they listened while the other half listened without tapping.

The participants were asked whether the final beat was consistent with the preceding rhythm, and those who tapped while they listened were 87 percent better at detecting the rhythm change than those who didn’t tap.

“We found that tapping along while listening does more than help us feel and enjoy the music. It actually helps us hear it better,” Michael Schutz, an assistant professor of music, said in a McMaster news release.

He and his colleagues also found that participants who tapped to the beat were moreconfident in their answers about the rhythm change.

The findings, presented at the recent Acoustics Week in Canada conference in Quebec City, are important for music listeners, performers and educators, according to Schutz.

“From a young age, we teach students to move to the music while performing, and now we know at least

5 Big Bloody Health Risks of Being a Vampire

So we can’t help but wonder — will Bella’s dreams of becoming a vampire (so she can literally spend forever with her cold-blooded beau) come true? (Okay, this writer already knows Bella’s fate because she read the books, but she’s not trying to spoil the movie for anyone!)

If Bella does indeed become a vampire, she should beware: There are some specific health risks that seem to go hand in hand with the blood-sucking lifestyle. Take a look.

Major vitamin D deficiency. It doesn’t matter which vampire-ideology you subscribe to, most myths stick to this: Vampires and sunlight don’t mix. While some believe blood-suckers have a heightened sensitivity to sunshine, triggering extreme pain,Twilight’s Edward (and the rest of his vamp-fam, the Cullens) stick to dreary, dark locations because their extremely fair skin actually sparkles in the sunlight (which could out them as vampires, of course). Either way, there are real health risks to living sunshine-free. Daylight is a natural source of vitamin D, the powerful vitamin that promotes the body’s absorption of calcium — the mineral that keeps your teeth and bones strong. Without vitamin D, your risk of conditions such as osteoporosis skyrocket.

Why Do We Talk in Our Sleep?

Has your partner ever referred to a conversation that occurred the night before — and you can’t remember a thing you said? Unless it’s after a wild night out, the cause may be somniloquy, better known as sleep talking.

Sleep talking falls under the category of parasomnias, which are disruptive sleep disorders. Other parasomnias include sleepwalking, bedwetting, and night terrors. Although it can be startling, sleepwalking is generally nothing to worry about.

“Sleep talking is benign for most people,” says Russell Rosenberg, PhD, who is the chairman of the National Sleep Foundation in Atlanta. “No one knows exactly what causes it.” A lot of nighttime chitchat can cause you to feel tired the next day, but it’s generally not a cause for concern. It’s also quite common: although statistics vary, about 60 percent of us will have at least one episode of sleep talking, according to William Kohler, MD, the medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Tampa.

The When and How of Sleep Talking

Sleep talking tends to occur during two different stages of sleep: During stage two, when it’s just a stream of thoughts not accompanied by a dream, and during

7 Great Ways to Commemorate Steve Jobs

When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died on October 5 after a seven-year battle withpancreatic cancer, America’s reaction was anything but “nano” or “mini” — in fact, the emotional outpouring was pretty enormous.

From President Obama to Ashton Kutcher, it seemed like everyone dropped what they were doing to tweet, post on Facebook, or chat — many using their Apple devices — about their admiration for a great American innovator.

Now that you’ve paid your respects, what else can you do to celebrate Jobs’ life? During a graduation speech at Stanford University in 2005, he said: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” So why not look to the man himself for inspiration to live a healthier, happier life?

This week, follow your heart — and do something Jobs would do:

1. Create something insanely great. Despite being a college dropout, Jobs was a consummate innovator. From his parents’ garage, he co-founded a company that would later develop “insanely great” devices — from iPods to iPhones to iPads — used by millions worldwide every day. “Considered the Thomas Edison of his generation, Jobs has been involved in more than 300 computer-related U.S.

Can You Catch Germs From a Public Toilet Seat?

There’s no denying that public bathrooms can be germ-ridden places. According to a study presented at the Infectious Diseases Society of America annual meeting, scientists who studied samples taken from a variety of public restrooms found that the sheer number of illness-causing bacteria present was too big to measure in many cases. So it’s only natural to worry about what may be lurking on even the cleanest-looking toilet seats — forget about the ones that appear wet or dirty.

No wonder that 60 percent of Americans say they won’t sit down to use a public toilet, according to the Web site of Sani-Seat, a company that makes those nifty gizmos that automatically wrap the seat in a fresh plastic cover after each use.

But experts say our fear of sitting on the average toilet seat (one that isn’t visibly soiled) is overblown.

There’s no question that germs can inhabit the seat, says Philip Tierno, MD, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center and Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “The bulk of the organisms found are basically fecal-borne bacteria.” These nasties can include E. coli (which

8 Little Ways to Cut Your Cell Phone Cancer

Does the World Health Organization’s statement that cell phones may cause cancerhave you thinking twice about making that phone call?

Of course it’s alarming to think that something that’s become such a can’t-live-without can be linked to brain cancer, but there’s a lot even the most cell phone-addicted people can do to minimize health risks.

Any potential links to cancer stem from the low levels of radiation cell phones emit. Lower your exposure to the radiation, and you’ll reduce the potential links to cancer or other health problems:

  1. Use a headset. Sounds obvious, but headsets emit much less radiation than cell phones do, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and they keep your cell phone away from your head. The farther away you are from a source of radiation, the less damage it can do.
  2. Text when you can. Your constantly texting teens are onto something: Cell phones use less energy (and emit less radiation) when you text than when you talk, says the EWG. Texting also keeps the radiation source farther away from your brain.
  3. Use cell phones for FYI-only calls. Don’t use your cell phone for that long overdue,

The Facebook Effect For Your Self

Is it us, or are news headlines about Facebook’s impact on our health popping up more and more these days? Considering that 51 percent of Americans over age 12 now have profiles on the social networking site compared to 8 percent just three years ago, according to new data from Edison Research, it’s no wonder there are entire scientific journals devoted to the psychology of social networking, and piles of studies analyzing such sites’ effects on our moods, body image, friendships, and marriages.

Negative conditions such as “Facebook depression” or Facebook-fueled divorces bear the brunt of the media blitz, but much of the body of research actually points to positive perks from Facebook use. Here, a deeper look at how all those “likes,” “pokes,” and status updates are really affecting you and your family’s well-being, and how you can outsmart some of the potentially negative side effects.

Health Benefits of Facebook

Research shows that Facebook can:

  1. Fuel self-esteem. In a Cornell University study, students felt better about themselves after they updated their Facebook profiles; a control group of students who didn’t log onto the site didn’t experience such a mood lift. The very

Live Long and Be Positive

Patients with coronary heart disease who have positive expectations about recovery, expressing beliefs such as “I can still live a long and healthy life,” had greater long-term survival, researchers reported.

Among a cohort of almost 3,000 patients undergoing coronary angiography, those with the highest expectations for outcomes actually had the best outcomes, Dr. John C. Barefoot, and colleagues from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

“Patients differ widely in terms of their psychological reactions to major illnesses such as coronary heart disease,” Barefoot’s group explained online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

To explore the specific potential influence of recovery expectations, rather than overall optimistic personality traits, the investigators enrolled 2,818 patients with clinically significant disease and followed them for about 15 years.

Recovery expectations were assessed on the Expectations for Coping Scale, in which patients agreed or disagreed with statements such as “I doubt that I will ever fully recover from my heart problems” and “My heart condition will have little or no effect on my ability to do work.”

Patients were stratified into quartiles according to their expectation scores.

After adjustment for multiple variables, the mortality rate in

Cell Phones Affect Brain Activity

Holding a cell phone to your ear for a long period of time increases activity in parts of the brain close to the antenna, researchers have found.

Glucose metabolism — that’s a measurement of how the brain uses energy — in these areas increased significantly when the phone was turned on and muted, compared with when it was off, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and colleagues reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Although we cannot determine the clinical significance, our results give evidence that the human brain is sensitive to the effects of radiofrequency-electromagnetic fields from acute cell phone exposures,” co-author Dr. Gene-Jack Wang of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, where the study was conducted, told MedPage Today.

Although the study can’t draw conclusions about long-term implications, other researchers are calling the findings significant.

“Clearly there is an acute effect, and the important question is whether this acute effect is associated with events that may be damaging to the brain or predispose to the development of future problems such as cancer as suggested by recent epidemiological studies,” Dr. Santosh Kesari, director of neuro-oncology

Exercise and Talk Help Ease Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome who participated in programs aimed at helping them overcome their symptoms — a combination of exercise and counseling— improved more than those whose treatment was intended to help them adapt to the limitations of the disease, a large randomized trial found.

Mean fatigue scores among patients treated with graded exercise therapy — a tailored program that gradually increases exercise capacity — were 3.2 points lower than scores in patients who received specialist medical care alone, according to Dr. Peter D. White, of Queen Mary University of London, and colleagues.

Furthermore, fatigue scores were lower by 3.4 points among patients receiving cognitive behavioral therapy, in which a therapist works with the patient to understand the disease, alleviate fears about activity, and help overcome obstacles to functioning.

In contrast, among patients who were treated with a program known as adaptive pacing therapy, which emphasizes energy limitations and avoidance of excess activity, scores differed by only 0.7 points the researchers reported online in The Lancet.

In a press briefing describing the study findings, co-investigator Dr. Trudie Chalder, of King’s College London, said, “We monitored safety very carefully, because we wanted to

Dangerous Bacteria Outside Hospitals

The dangerous bacteria Clostridium difficile spreads not only in hospitals but also in other health-care settings, causing infections and death rates to hit “historic highs,” U.S. health officials reported Tuesday.

C. difficile is a deadly diarrheal infection that poses a significant threat to U.S. health care patients,” Ileana Arias, principal deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a morning news conference. “C. difficile is causing many Americans to suffer and die.”

The germ is linked to about 14,000 deaths in the United States every year. People most at risk from C. difficile are those who take antibiotics and also receive care in any medical facility.

“This failure is more difficult to accept because these are treatable, often preventable deaths,” Arias said. “We know what can be done to do a better job of protecting our patients.”

Much of the growth of this bacterial epidemic has been due to the overuse of antibiotics, the CDC noted in its March 6 report. Unlike healthy people, people in poor health are at high risk for C. difficile infection.

Almost 50 percent of infections are among people under 65, but

Medications Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) judges a drug to be safe enough to approve when the benefits of the medicine outweigh the known risks for the labeled use.

Doctors, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, and YOU make up your health care team. To reduce the risks from using medicines and to get the most benefit, you need to be an active member of the team.

To make medicine use SAFER:

  • Speak up
  • Ask questions
  • Find the facts
  • Evaluate your choices
  • Read the label and follow directions

Speak Up

The more information your health care team knows about you, the better the team can plan the care that’s right for you.

The members of your team need to know your medical history, such as illnesses, medical conditions (like high blood pressure or diabetes), and operations you have had.

They also need to know all the medicines and treatments you use, whether all the time or only some of the time. Before you add something new, talk it over with your team. Your team can help you with what mixes well, and what doesn’t.

It helps to give a written list of all your

6 Ways to Boost Women’s Health

To look and feel your best at every age, it’s important to make smart lifestyle and health choices. Here are six simple things that women can do every day (or with regularity) to ensure good health:

Health Tip #1: Eat a healthy diet. “You want to eat as close to a natural foods diet as you can,” says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. That means a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Eat whole grains and high-fiber foods and choose leaner cuts of meat, fish, and poultry. Include low-fat dairy products in your diet as well — depending on your age, you need between 800 and 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily to help avoid osteoporosis, Dr. Novey says. Avoid foods and beverages that are high in calories, sugar, salt, and fat.

Healthy eating will help you maintain a proper weight for your height, which is important because being overweight can lead to a number of illnesses. Looking for a healthy snack? Try some raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, or zucchini with dip made from low-fat yogurt.

If