Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fats and sugars

Fats and sugars

Cream cakes

These foods, although an important energy source, often contain few other nutrients, so it's healthier to limit their consumption.
This article was reviewed by Fiona Hunter

What are fats and sugars?

This group, which includes foods such as cakes, biscuits, sweets, sugar-sweetened drinks and crisps, makes up the smallest section of the 'eatwell plate'.

Fat facts

  • Fat transports the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K around the body
  • It can often improve the flavour and perception of foods, increasing their palatability
  • It supplies essential nutrients such as fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids (EFAs)
  • EFAs must be supplied from the diet, and are thought to have a positive effect on heart health and the immune system
  • It has a key role in membrane structure
  • It cushions, and so protects, the internal organs
  • It's stored in adipose tissue (a thick layer of tissue under the skin) as a long-term fuel reserve. Excess fat may also accumulate around your organs, especially in the abdominal cavity
Fat is a concentrated source of energy. Just 1g provides nine calories - more than double the calories in 1g of protein or carbohydrate.
This means it's much easier to consume too many calories when eating high-fat foods. People trying to manage their weight should reduce fatty foods to help cut calories. We all need some fat in our diets, but small quantities of EFAs are the key to good health.

The two types of fat

Fat can be divided into two main groups - saturated and unsaturated.
Saturated fat is generally solid at room temperature and is usually from animal sources. It's found in lard, butter, hard margarine, cheese, whole milk and anything that contains these ingredients, such as cakes, chocolate, biscuits, pies and pastries. It's also the white fat you can see on red meat and underneath poultry skin.
The vaue of saturated and unsaturated fat in our diets isn’t fully understood yet but generally, eating too much saturated fat is associated with increased blood cholesterol concentrations and an increased risk of heart disease. Eating less helps to minimise the risks it poses to heart health. Polyunsaturated fats contain inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and it’s the balance of these with omega-3s which is important.
Trans fats, or hydrogenated unsaturated fats, are used in the food industry but are increasingly recognised as being unhealthy.
Unsaturated fat is usually liquid at room temperature and generally comes from vegetable sources. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are both included in this group. Unsaturated vegetable oils are generally a healthier alternative to saturated fat and can be found in sesame, sunflower, soya, olive and rapeseed oil, soft margarine and in foods such as oily fish, including mackerel, sardines, pilchards and salmon. Where possible, you should ensure the fat you eat is unsaturated.
Did you know...?
  • A jam doughnut contains 10.9g fat
  • A slice of malt loaf contains 0.7g fat
  • A teaspoon of peanut butter contains 5.4g fat
  • A pint of whole milk contains 22.8 g fat
  • A handful of mixed nuts contains 21.6g fat. 

How much is enough?

Government guidelines recommend fats make up no more than 35 per cent of the energy in your diet, and that saturated fats should provide less than 11 per cent of total energy intake.
For the average woman, this means about 70g of total fat a day; for men, roughly 95g.
The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey showed that, on average, UK adults consume about the right amount of fat, but that the intake of saturated fats is currently too high for good health (at present they provide about 13 per cent of total energy).
To reduce the amount of fat in your diet, try the following:
  • Look for alternatives to cakes, biscuits and savoury snacks, which are often high in fat - try fresh fruit, dried fruit and cereal-based products
  • Trim any visible fat off meat and poultry
  • Buy lean cuts of meat and reduced-fat minces
  • Poach, steam, grill or bake food rather than fry it
  • Swap whole milk for semi-skimmed or skimmed
  • Opt for low-fat dairy products
  • If you use lard, butter or hard margarine, switch to vegetable oil and low-fat spreads

Sugary foods

There are two types of sugar - those found naturally in fruit and milk (which are fine and don't need to be cut down) and those that are added to the diet.
These added sugars can be found in a variety of foods including confectionery, soft drinks, desserts and breakfast cereals. Added sugars are a great source of energy, but provide no other nutrients.
Sugary foods and drinks pose a threat to dental health, especially if consumed between meals.
Even the sugars in honey and fruit juices can cause tooth decay if good oral hygiene isn't followed and you consume a lot of these foods.
Only have sugary foods at mealtimes, when other dietary and oral factors can help to minimise the risk they pose to your teeth.
Sugary drinks have been identified as a possible cause of obesity. These drinks do not trigger the same sense of fullness as food with similar calories, increasing the risk of overeating.

How to reduce consumption of sugary foods

  • Swap sugary drinks for water, low-fat milk or artificially sweetened drinks to reduce your calorie intake
  • Try swapping sugary snacks for fruit or bread-based options such as fresh whole fruit or teacakes/malt loaf
  • Try to halve the amount of sugar you put in hot drinks, or cut it out completely
  • Buy reduced-sugar varieties of jam and marmalade
  • Choose canned fruit in natural juice rather than syrup

Contact lenses: What to know before you buy

Contact lenses: What to know before you buy

Wonder the best type of contact lens for your vision problem, lifestyle or budget? Compare the pros and cons of specific types of contact lenses.

By Mayo Clinic staff

 Thinking about trading your glasses for contact lenses? Contact lenses are more versatile than ever before. Specialized contact lenses can even treat certain eye conditions beyond impaired vision. Whatever your reason for choosing contact lenses, proper selection and maintenance can keep you seeing clearly. Start by understanding the pros and cons of common types of contact lenses — and the ground rules for preventing eye infections.

Soft contact lenses

Soft contact lenses conform to the shape of your eye. These thin, gel-like lenses are comfortable and tend to stay in place well, so they're a good choice if you participate in sports or lead an active lifestyle. Soft contact lenses can be used to correct various vision problems, including myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism.
Soft contact lenses come in single use, daily wear and extended wear varieties.
Single use
Single use soft contact lenses are individually packaged for one-day use. You put in a new pair in the morning, then remove and discard them before you go to sleep at night.
  • Pros. Single use soft contact lenses are convenient. They don't need to be cleaned and can be used intermittently.
  • Cons. Single use soft contact lenses are more expensive than other types of soft contact lenses.
Daily wear
Daily wear soft contact lenses are designed to be worn daily and may be reused for a certain number of weeks, depending on the manufacturer. Typically, you insert these lenses every morning and remove them every night.
  • Pros. Daily wear soft contact lenses are more economical than single use contact lenses.
  • Cons. Daily wear soft contact lenses must be cleaned every day and replaced regularly to avoid protein buildup in the eye and other complications.
Extended wear
Extended wear soft contact lenses are designed to be worn continuously — both day and night — for a certain number of weeks, depending on the manufacturer.
  • Pros. Extended wear contact lenses allow a certain amount of oxygen to reach your cornea even while you're sleeping, so the lenses can be worn overnight — although your eye specialist may recommend only occasional overnight use.
  • Cons. Continuous use promotes the buildup of micro-organisms on the lenses and increases the risk of infection and other complications.

Hard contact lenses

Rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lenses, or hard contact lenses, are smaller and more rigid than are soft contact lenses. This makes them less comfortable than soft contact lenses, at least at first. However, gas-permeable lenses allow oxygen to pass through to the eyes, which makes them less likely to cause corneal irritation. Gas-permeable lenses also can correct certain vision problems, such as refractive errors that require high spherical or cylindrical powers, more accurately than can soft contact lenses.
  • Pros. Hard contact lenses are durable and easy to care for. They also provide greater breathability than do soft contact lenses, which reduces the risk of infection. If your prescription doesn't change and you take care of your hard contact lenses, you can use the same pair for two to three years.
  • Cons. Hard contact lenses are initially less comfortable than are soft contact lenses. You may need up to a week to readjust to the lenses if you stop wearing them for an extended period. Hard contact lenses are more likely to slip off the center of your eye than are soft contact lenses, which could lead to discomfort and blurred vision.

Specialized contact lenses

Sometimes specialized contact lenses are best. Common options include:
  • Hybrid contact lenses. Hybrid contact lenses feature a gas-permeable center surrounded by a soft outer ring. Hybrid contact lenses may be an option if you have an irregular corneal curvature (keratoconus) or you have trouble wearing gas-permeable lenses.
  • Bifocal contact lenses. Bifocal contact lenses feature two prescriptions on one lens — one to correct distance vision and the other to correct near vision. Bifocal lenses may be used to correct age-related loss of close-up vision (presbyopia). Bifocal lenses are available in daily wear soft and gas-permeable materials.
  • Monovision contact lenses. With monovision contact lenses, one lens has your reading prescription and the other has a distance prescription. Monovision lenses might be helpful for presbyopia. You might also try modified monovision contact lenses, in which you wear a bifocal or multifocal lens in one eye and a single-vision lens in the other eye.
Some contact lenses are tinted, either for cosmetic or therapeutic purposes — to enhance color perception or help compensate for color blindness, for example. Avoid costume or decorative contact lenses, however. These lenses can cause pain, inflammation and potentially serious eye infections.

Getting the right fit

If you decide you want to try contact lenses, see your ophthalmologist or other eye care specialist for a thorough eye exam and fitting. Schedule follow-up exams as recommended by your eye care specialist — typically after one week, one month and six months, and then once a year.

Avoiding eye infections

Wearing contact lenses of any type increases the risk of corneal infection, simply because contact lenses reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches the corneas. Eye infections aren't inevitable, however. To prevent infections:
  • Practice good hygiene. Wash, rinse and dry your hands thoroughly before handling your contacts.
  • Minimize contact with water. Remove your contact lenses before swimming or using a hot tub.
  • Remove your contacts before you go to sleep. This applies to extended wear contacts, too. Although extended wear contacts are designed to be worn overnight, continuous wear significantly increases the risk of eye infections.
  • Take care with contact lens solutions. Use only commercially prepared, sterile products designed specifically for the type of contact lenses you wear. Carefully follow the directions given by the manufacturer. Don't use homemade saline solution, and avoid any type of contact solution that's discolored — which could be a sign that the product is out of date or contaminated.
  • Follow specific tips from your eye care specialist. Don't put your lenses in your mouth to wet them, for example, and gently rub your lenses while you're cleaning them — even if you use "no rub" solution.
  • Replace your contact lenses as recommended. If one or both lenses bother you before they're due for replacement, ask your eye care specialist to check them or try a new set.
  • Replace your contact lens case every three to six months. Discard the solution in the contact lens case each time you disinfect the lenses. Don't "top off" old solution that's already in the case.
If your eyes are itchy or somewhat red, remove your contact lenses and use lubricating eyedrops. If your vision becomes blurry or you experience eye pain, sensitivity to light or other problems, remove your contact lenses and consult your eye care specialist for prompt treatment. 

Children and TV

Children and TV

Kids watching TV

TV and computer games are blamed for everything from turning our children into a generation of couch potatoes to increased antisocial behaviour. If you're worried about how long your child spends in front of a screen, it may be time to review family viewing habits.

Most of us are guilty of putting on the TV or a DVD for our children so we can get on with other things - cooking a meal, sorting out the washing or making a phone call.

What are the effects?

Research firm BMRB estimates young people in the UK aged between 11 and 15 spend, on average, 52 hours a week in front of a screen.
Dr Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, believes watching TV puts children at increased risk of health problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obesity.
In April 2007, he told MPs children under three shouldn't be exposed to TV at all.
He recommended children aged between three and seven should watch no more than 30 minutes to an hour of TV a day, seven to 12-year-olds should be limited to one hour, and 12 to 15-year-olds should watch a maximum of one and a half hours.
Dr Sigman wants the Government to publish recommended daily guidelines for TV watching, as it does for salt intake.

Feeling guilty?

Before rushing to throw out your TV set or computer, it's worth remembering much of the current research focuses on excessive TV watching and that some TV programmes and computer games are educational, fun and help children learn.
Watching TV as a family can be a shared social event and, if you plan your viewing rather than having the TV on all the time, something to look forward to together. It's all about striking the right balance.
Getting into a habit of using the TV as an electronic childminder means it's harder to keep a handle on how much time your children are spending in front of the TV or online.
"Time slips away and ten minutes becomes an hour," says Louise O'Flynn, a media consultant and joint author, with psychologist Teresa Orange, of The Media Diet for Kids.
Give up TV for a week - Following Is TV Bad for My Kids?, Panorama is challenging families to go without TV and computer games for a week and record the results. If you're interested, you can sign up online.
They advocate balancing TV viewing with other activities. "Start by keeping a diary of your children's viewing habits," she says. "You might be pretty flabbergasted by the results. Once you're aware of how much time your children spend in front of a screen, you can set some rules."

Get off the sofa

Both women, who have five children between them, acknowledge that cutting down screen time can be tough. "It needs a bit of effort, but small steps can make a difference so everyone in the family is happier," says Laura O'Flynn.
Steps to modify your family's screen habits:
  • Keep TVs and computers out of children's bedrooms. Watching TV before going to sleep doesn't help children settle. Instead, read a bedtime story or encourage them to read for themselves. Having the TV and computer in a family room also means you can monitor what they're watching and who they're talking to online.
  • Good viewing habits start young. It's difficult to impose rules on teenagers who already watch excessive TV or play computer games for hours on end.
  • Help children plan their viewing with a TV guide. This will cut down screen time and help them to become more selective about what they watch.
  • Don't put on the TV as background noise.
  • Set viewing limits. Decide with your children how much time they can spend watching TV or playing computer games. Think in 30-minute units - shorter periods make it easier to switch off and cut down on screen consumption.
  • Lead by example. Don't have a TV in your own bedroom and don't spend hours watching TV or online.
  • Do something different, such as playing board games or going out on a bike ride. Laura O'Flynn says: "We went into lots of schools and the children told us they wished their parents would take them to the park and play with them."
  • Make sure DVDs are age appropriate. The British Board of Film Classification has handy explanations of what different film classifications mean.

Laser hair removal

Laser hair removal


By Mayo Clinic staff

 Laser hair removal is a medical procedure that uses a laser — an intense, pulsating beam of light — to remove unwanted hair. During laser hair removal, a laser beam passes through the skin to an individual hair follicle. The intense heat of the laser damages the hair follicle, which inhibits future hair growth.
Laser hair removal is most effective for people who have light skin and dark hair. Although laser hair removal effectively slows hair growth, it doesn't guarantee permanent hair removal. It typically takes several laser hair removal treatments to provide an extended hair-free period. Periodic maintenance treatments may be needed as well.

Why it's done

 Laser hair removal is used to remove unwanted hair. Common treatment locations include legs, armpits, upper lip, chin and bikini line. However, it's possible to treat unwanted hair in nearly any area.
Hair color and skin type influence the success of laser hair removal. For example, laser hair removal is most effective for people who have light skin and dark hair because the laser beam targets the pigment (melanin) in the hair. People who have darker skin can also attempt laser hair removal, but the laser beam may also affect the melanin in the skin. Laser hair removal isn't generally effective for white, blond or gray hair — although treatment options for lighter hair continue to be investigated.


 Laser hair removal doesn't guarantee permanent hair removal. Some hair may be resistant to the laser treatment or may grow again after treatment — although the new hair growth may be finer and lighter in color.
The most common side effects of laser hair removal include:
  • Skin irritation. Temporary irritation, crusting or scabbing is possible after laser hair removal.
  • Pigment changes. Laser hair removal may darken or lighten the affected skin, usually temporarily. Skin lightening primarily affects those who have darker skin, especially if an incorrect laser is used at an incorrect setting.
Rarely, laser hair removal may cause blistering, scarring or other changes in skin texture

How you prepare

 If you're interested in laser hair removal, choose a doctor who's board certified in a specialty such as dermatology or cosmetic surgery and has experience with laser hair removal. If a physician's assistant or licensed nurse will do the procedure, make sure the doctor supervises and is available on-site during the treatments. Be cautious about spas, salons or other facilities that allow nonmedical personnel to do laser hair removal.
Before laser hair removal, schedule a consultation with the doctor. He or she will use this visit to:
  • Review your medical history, including medication use
  • Discuss risks, benefits and expectations, including what laser hair removal can and can't do for you
  • Outline a treatment plan and related costs
  • Take photos to be used for before-and-after assessments and long-term reviews
The doctor will also offer specific tips to prepare for laser hair removal. For example:
  • Stay out of the sun. A tan increases the risk of side effects, such as blistering and discoloration. If you have a tan — either from sun exposure or sunless tanning products — wait until the tan fades completely before undergoing laser hair removal.
  • Avoid plucking, waxing and electrolysis. These hair removal methods can disturb the hair follicle and interfere with laser hair removal. Shaving is OK, however, since it preserves the hair shaft and follicle. In fact, shaving may even be recommended. Some studies suggest that shaving before laser hair removal improves results.

What you can expect

Laser hair removal

Photo showing laser hair removal

Laser hair removal is used to remove unwanted hair. In this photo, a laser instrument equipped with a chilled tip is used to remove hair from a woman's upper lip. The woman is wearing special goggles to protect her eyes.

Before laser hair removal, you'll be fitted with special goggles to protect your eyes from the laser beam. The doctor may apply a topical anesthetic to your skin to reduce any discomfort during treatment. Don't apply topical anesthetic on your own, unless your doctor provides specific instructions for safe application.
During the procedure
The doctor will press a hand-held laser instrument to your skin. Depending on the type of laser, a cooling device on the tip of the instrument or a cool gel may be used to protect your skin.
When the doctor activates the laser, the laser beam will pass through your skin to the tiny sacs (follicles) where hair growth originates. The intense heat from the laser beam damages the hair follicles, which inhibits hair growth. You may feel a stinging sensation.
Treating a small area, such as the upper lip, may take only a few minutes. Treating a larger area, such as the back, may take several hours.
After the procedure
You may notice redness and swelling for the first few hours after laser hair removal. A stinging sensation may linger for a day or two. The affected skin may also become slightly crusty.
While you're healing from laser hair removal, wash your skin gently with soap and water. Avoid picking at or vigorously scrubbing the affected skin. It's also important to avoid sun exposure — both natural sunlight and tanning beds — for at least one week after treatment. After this period, use sunscreen whenever you're in the sun.


Photo showing before-and-after results of laser hair removal

The top photo shows a woman before laser hair removal. The bottom photo shows the results after three laser treatments

Results of laser hair removal vary greatly from person to person. Multiple treatments can prolong the duration of hair loss, but hair regrowth is still possible. For best results, you may need four to six treatments spaced a number of weeks apart. Additional periodic maintenance treatments — perhaps once every six to 12 months — may be needed as well.  

Nails: How to keep your fingernails healthy and strong

Nails: How to keep your fingernails healthy and strong

Here's what you need to know to keep your fingernails in tiptop shape.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Take a close look at your nails. Are they strong and healthy looking? Or do you see ridges, dents, or areas of unusual color or shape? Many less than desirable nail conditions can be avoided through proper care, but some actually indicate an illness that requires attention.

Fingernails: What to look for

Anatomy of a healthy fingernail

Illustration showing components of a healthy fingernail
Nails grow from the area at the base of the nail under your cuticle. Healthy nails are smooth and free of spots or discoloration.

Vertical nail ridges

Photo of vertical nail ridges
Vertical nail ridges extend from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. Vertical nail ridges are fairly common and nothing to worry about. 

Your nails — composed of laminated layers of a protein called keratin — grow from the area at the base of the nail under your cuticle. As new cells grow, older cells become hard and compacted and are eventually pushed out toward your fingertips.
Healthy nails are smooth, without ridges or grooves. They're uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration. Nails can develop harmless conditions, such as vertical ridges that run from the cuticle to the tip of the nail. Vertical ridges become more prominent with age. Nails can also develop white lines or spots due to injury, but these eventually grow out with the nail.
Not all nail conditions are normal, however. Some are signs of diseases that require medical attention. See your doctor if you notice these changes in your nails:
  • Yellow discoloration
  • Separation of your nail from the nail bed (onycholysis)
  • Indentations that run across your nails (Beau's lines)
  • Nail pitting
  • Opaque or white nails
  • Curled nails
No nail care product alone can give you healthy nails. But following these simple guidelines can help you keep your nails looking their best:
  • Don't abuse your nails. To prevent nail damage, don't use your fingernails as tools to pick, poke or pry things.
  • Don't bite your nails or pick at your cuticles. These habits can damage the nail bed. Even a minor cut alongside your nail can allow bacteria or fungi to enter and cause an infection (paronychia).
  • Keep your nails dry and clean. This prevents bacteria, fungi or other organisms from growing under the nail. Clean under the nails regularly and thoroughly dry your hands and feet after bathing. Wear rubber gloves when using soap and water for prolonged periods.
  • Trim nails and file nails regularly. Trim nails straight across and file down thickened areas. Use a sharp manicure scissors or clippers and an emery board to smooth nail edges. Trimming and filing are easier and safer if done just after bathing or soaking the nails.
  • Never pull off hangnails — doing so almost always results in ripping living tissue. Instead clip off hangnails, leaving a slight angle outward.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly. Shoes that place excessive pressure on your toes or pinch your toes may cause your nails to grow into surrounding tissue.
  • Moisturize your nails frequently. Nails need moisture just like your skin does. Rub lotion into your nails when moisturizing your hands. Be sure to apply a moisturizer after removing fingernail polish.
  • Watch for problems. If you have a nail problem that doesn't seem to go away on its own or is associated with other signs and symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out.

Special considerations: Manicures and weak nails

If you rely on manicures to make your nails look good, keep a few things in mind. Don't have your cuticles removed — it can lead to nail infection. Also, check to be sure that your nail technician properly sterilizes all tools used during your manicure. Using unsterilized tools may transmit yeast or bacterial infections.
Weak or brittle fingernails can be a challenge to toughen up. The following tips can help you protect them, making your nails less likely to split or break.
  • Keep your nails short, square shaped and slightly rounded on top. Trim brittle nails after a bath or a 15-minute hand soak in bath oil. Then apply a moisturizer.
  • Moisturize your nails and cuticles several times a day and after your nails have been in water. Also, apply moisturizer at bedtime and cover your hands with cotton gloves.
  • Apply a nail hardener, but avoid products containing toluene sulfonamide or formaldehyde. These chemicals can cause redness or irritate the skin.
  • Apply nail polish. A thin coat of nail polish may help keep moisture in the nail. Remove and reapply the nail polish after a week.
  • Don't use nail polish remover more than once a week. When you do need a remover, avoid those that use acetone, which dries nails.
  • Take a biotin supplement. Taking 2.5 milligrams of biotin daily may increase the thickness of nails.
Dietary changes that supposedly strengthen nails don't work. Unless you're malnourished — not getting proper nutrition through your diet — taking daily multivitamins won't strengthen your nails either. Taking gelatin supplements or soaking your nails in gelatin also won't help.
It's easy to neglect your nails. But a little basic nail care can go a long way to keeping your nails in healthy condition.

Sleep tips: 7 steps to better sleep

Sleep tips: 7 steps to better sleep

You're not doomed to toss and turn every night. Consider simple tips for better sleep, from setting a sleep schedule to including physical activity in your daily routine.

By Mayo Clinic staff Feeling crabby lately? Or simply worn out? Perhaps the solution is better sleep.
Think about all the factors that can interfere with a good night's sleep — from pressure at work and family responsibilities to unexpected challenges, such as layoffs, relationship issues or illnesses. It's no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes elusive.
Although you might not be able to control all of the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep. Start with these simple sleep tips.

No. 1: Stick to a sleep schedule

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off. Being consistent reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night. There's a caveat, though. If you don't fall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing. Go back to bed when you're tired. If you agonize over falling asleep, you might find it even tougher to nod off.

No. 2: Pay attention to what you eat and drink

Don't go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Your discomfort might keep you up. Also limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet.
Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine — which take hours to wear off — can wreak havoc with quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.

No. 3: Create a bedtime ritual

Do the same things each night to tell your body it's time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music — preferably with the lights dimmed. Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness.
Be wary of using the TV or other electronic devices as part of your bedtime ritual. Some research suggests that screen time or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep.

No. 4: Get comfortable

Create a room that's ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.
Your mattress and pillow can contribute to better sleep, too. Since the features of good bedding are subjective, choose what feels most comfortable to you. If you share your bed, make sure there's enough room for two. If you have children or pets, set limits on how often they sleep with you — or insist on separate sleeping quarters.

No. 5: Limit daytime naps

Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep — especially if you're struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality at night. If you choose to nap during the day, limit yourself to about 10 to 30 minutes and make it during the midafternoon.
If you work nights, you'll need to make an exception to the rules about daytime sleeping. In this case, keep your window coverings closed so that sunlight — which adjusts your internal clock — doesn't interrupt your daytime sleep.

No. 6: Include physical activity in your daily routine

Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep. Timing is important, though. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be too energized to fall asleep. If this seems to be an issue for you, exercise earlier in the day.

No. 7: Manage stress

When you have too much to do — and too much to think about — your sleep is likely to suffer. To help restore peace to your life, consider healthy ways to manage stress. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Share a good laugh with an old friend. Before bed, jot down what's on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.

Know when to contact your doctor

Nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night — but if you often have trouble sleeping, contact your doctor. Identifying and treating any underlying causes can help you get the better sleep you deserve. 

Skin care: 5 tips for healthy skin

Skin care: 5 tips for healthy skin

Good skin care — including sun protection and gentle cleansing — can keep your skin healthy and glowing for years to come.

By Mayo Clinic staff

 Don't have time for intensive skin care? Pamper yourself with the basics. Good skin care and healthy lifestyle choices can help delay the natural aging process and prevent many skin problems. Get started with these five no-nonsense tips.

1. Protect yourself from the sun

The most important way to take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. A lifetime of sun exposure can cause wrinkles, freckles, age spots and rough, dry skin. Sun exposure can also cause more-serious problems, such as skin cancer. For the most complete sun protection:
  • Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the sun's rays are the strongest.
  • Wear protective clothing. Cover your skin with tightly woven long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats. You might also opt for special sun-protective clothing, which is specifically designed to block ultraviolet rays while keeping you cool and comfortable.
  • Use sunscreen when you're in the sun. Apply generous amounts of broad-spectrum sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours, after heavy sweating or after being in water.

2. Don't smoke

Smoking makes your skin look older and contributes to wrinkles. Smoking narrows the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layers of skin, which decreases blood flow. This depletes the skin of oxygen and nutrients, such as vitamin A, that are important to skin health. Smoking also damages collagen and elastin — fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity. In addition, the repetitive facial expressions you make when smoking — such as pursing your lips when inhaling and squinting your eyes to keep out smoke — may contribute to wrinkles.

If you smoke, the best way to protect your skin is to quit. Ask your doctor for tips or treatments to help you stop smoking.

3. Treat your skin gently

Daily cleansing and shaving can take a toll on your skin, so keep it gentle:
  • Limit bath time. Hot water and long showers or baths remove oils from your skin. Limit your bath or shower time, and use warm — rather than hot — water.
  • Avoid strong soaps. Strong soaps can strip oil from your skin. Instead, choose mild cleansers.
  • Shave carefully. To protect and lubricate your skin, apply shaving cream, lotion or gel before shaving. For the closest shave, use a clean, sharp razor. Shave in the direction the hair grows, not against it.
  • Pat dry. After washing or bathing, gently pat or blot your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains on your skin.
  • Moisturize dry skin. Find a moisturizer that fits your skin type and makes your skin look and feel soft.

4. Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet can help you look and feel your best. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. The association between diet and acne isn't clear — but research suggests that a diet rich in vitamin C and low in fats and carbohydrates may promote younger looking skin.

5. Manage stress

Uncontrolled stress can make your skin more sensitive and trigger acne breakouts and other skin problems. To encourage healthy skin — and a healthy state of mind — takes steps to manage your stress. Set reasonable limits, scale back your to-do list and make time to do the things you enjoy. The results may be more dramatic than you expect. 

11 Foods for Healthy Bones

11 Foods for Healthy Bones


Build a strong structure

When it comes to building strong bones, there are two key nutrients: calcium and vitamin D. Calcium supports your bones and teeth structure, while vitamin D improves calcium absorption and bone growth.

These nutrients are important early in life, but they may also help as you age. If you develop osteoporosis, a disease characterized by brittle and breaking bones, getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D may slow the disease and prevent fractures.

Adults up to age 50 should get 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 200 international units (IUs) of vitamin D a day. Adults over 50 should get 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 400 to 600 IU of vitamin D. Get these nutrients by trying these 11 foods for healthy bones.



Most people get their vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, but certain foods, like yogurt, are fortified with vitamin D.

One cup of yogurt can be a creamy way to get your daily calcium. Stonyfield Farms makes a fat-free plain yogurt that contains 30% of your calcium and 20% of your vitamin D for the day.

And though we love the protein-packed Greek yogurts, these varieties tend to contain less calcium and little, if any, vitamin D.


There’s a reason milk is the poster child for calcium. Eight ounces of fat-free milk will cost you 90 calories, but provide you with 30% of your daily dose of calcium. Choose a brand fortified with vitamin D to get double the benefits.

Can’t get three glasses a day? Try blending milk into a smoothie or sauce.



Just because cheese is full of calcium doesn’t mean you need to eat it in excess (packing on the pounds won’t help your joints!). Just 1.5 ounces (think a set of dice) of cheddar cheese contains more than 30% of your daily value of calcium, so enjoy in moderation.

Most cheeses contain a small amount of vitamin D, but not enough to put a large dent in your daily needs.



These tiny fish, often found in cans, have surprisingly high levels of both vitamin D and calcium. Though they may look a bit odd, they have a savory taste that can be delicious in pastas and salads.



Though eggs only contain 6% of your daily vitamin D, they’re a quick and easy way to get it. Just don’t opt for egg whites—they may cut calories, but the vitamin D is in the yolk.


Salmon is known for having plenty of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but a 3-ounce piece of sockeye salmon contains more than 100% of your vitamin D. So eat up for your heart and your bones.



Don’t eat dairy products? Spinach will be your new favorite way to get calcium. One cup of cooked spinach contains almost 25% of your daily calcium, plus fiber, iron, and vitamin A.

Fortified cereal


Certain cereals—like Kashi U Black Currants and Walnuts, Total Whole Grain, and Wheaties—contain up to 25% of your daily vitamin D. When you don’t have time to cook salmon or get out in the sun, cereals can be a tasty way to get your vitamin D.



Tuna, another fatty fish, is a good source of vitamin D. Three ounces of canned tuna contains 154 IU, or about 39% of your daily dose of the sunshine vitamin. Try these low-cal Tuna-Melt Tacos as a way to sneak in vitamin D and calcium.

Collard greens


Like spinach, this leafy green often enjoyed south of the Mason-Dixon line is full of calcium. One cup of cooked collards contains more than 25% of your daily calcium. Plus you can easily sneak it into your favorite foods, like this über-healthy frittata.

Orange juice


A glass of fresh-squeezed OJ doesn’t have calcium or vitamin D, but it’s often fortified to contain these nutrients. Try Tropicana's Calcium + Vitamin D to get a boost of these essentials.

Also, studies have shown that the ascorbic acid in OJ may help with calcium absorption, so you may be more likely to get the benefits of this fortified drink.

Credit: Istockphoto

Friday, July 8, 2011

10 Easy Ways to Eat Natural

10 Easy Ways to Eat Natural


Let’s face it: The dream of having our very own personal spa chef whip up delicious, good-for-us grub probably isn’t happening in this economy. So we found the next best thing—great stuff that makes eating healthy affordable and, honestly, almost effortless. Check out our top picks:
1. The end of the brown rice rut
Because nobody has an hour to devote to a midweek side dish, quick-cooking quinoa and whole-wheat couscous are truly revolutionary. With the same satisfying texture and nutty flavor as brown rice (plus more fiber), these 10-minute grains give new meaning to fast food.

2. Almonds by the pound
If you’re sick of schlepping to crunchy co-ops to buy nuts, dried fruit, and grains in bulk, you’ll be happy to hear that mass grocery stores are rediscovering these money-saving bins. That means we can buy less-processed, less-pricey raw almonds, unsalted sunflower seeds, organic trail mix, and more where we stock up on milk and other basics.

3. Generation 2.0 market bag
Buying fresh means buying often. And if you’re biking or walking to the market to stock up, you need a tote that’s up to the task. The new reusable, planet-friendly bags do it all—they’re big enough to carry loads of goodies, truly leakproof, and way cuter than granny carts. On the fence about bringing your own? A single reusable bag could eliminate more than 1,000 plastic grocery bags in its lifetime.

4 and 5. Our own herb stash—and mincer!
Fresh herbs add flavor and depth to a dish but practically zero calories and no fat. They also bruise easily, spoil quickly, and aren’t cheap. So we’re all for the grow-your-own-herbs window boxes that are everywhere now. Get an herb mincer to prevent bruising those delicate leaves. If you have a black thumb, herbs in a tube are a good alternative to the fresh stuff. With a fridge shelf life of three months, your cilantro won’t go bad before you can use it up.

6. The mini movement
One downsizing trend we’re on board with—guilty-pleasure foods (think: burgers, cupcakes) getting shrinky-dinked. Twee portions are de rigueur on restaurant menus and at bakery counters. And with all the mini baking pans out there, we can whip up sane-size muffins, cupcakes, quiches, and more without feeling the least bit guilty.

7. Souped-up sea salts
Leave it to gourmands to take a humble essential element and turn it into something spectacular. With a gazillion types of flavored and specialty sea salt—from hickory-smoked to Hawaiian Red Alaea—on shelves now, it’s never been easier to add tons of flavor and complexity to a dish. Coarse-grain sea salt has slightly less sodium than table salt and contains trace minerals that may have added health benefits. They’re definitely pricier, though, so sprinkle a hint on a finished dish instead of using it to salt your cooking water.

8. Frozen edamame
These protein-packed pods were once a rare treat found only in Japanese joints. But now they’re staples in the frozen-foods aisle, serving as a healthy snack or emergency side. It’s hard to beat the nutritional wallop of whole soybeans: They’re 60% richer in calcium than peas, a source of cancer-fighting isoflavones and vitamin E, and a great vegetable source of complete protein. For a snack, sprinkle steamed edamame pods with olive oil and sea salt; pop the beans out and discard the pods.

9. A free-range chicken in every store
It’s never been easier to find real chicken—the kind raised on a veggie diet sans growth hormones or antibiotics. For years, these pampered birds were exclusive to expensive gourmet markets or out-of-the-way farmers’ markets, but they’ve finally gone mainstream. We’re thrilled about the health perks (fewer chemicals in our bodies), but what do we really love? It’s chicken that tastes like, well … chicken.

10. Dot-com cooking
When we just can’t think up one more halfway-interesting twist on grilled chicken, the online recipe database is a virtual lifesaver. Go to, type in whatever random stuff is languishing in your fridge, and you’ve got dinner. A healthy one at that! 

8 Steps to Saving Money on All of Your Medical Expenses

8 Steps to Saving Money on All of Your Medical Expenses

From routine physicals to prescription drugs, medical expenses add up faster than you can say “Ahhh.” So before you swipe that credit card, make sure you’re following these money-saving rules to cut back on medical expenses.


From routine physicals to prescription drugs, medical expenses add up faster than you can say “Ahhh.” In fact, more than half of women surveyed by the nonprofit research foundation the Commonwealth Fund said the rising costs of health care were keeping them from getting the procedures and medications they need.

Receiving quality care costs quite the pretty penny, whether you’re insured or not. And while doctors may know what’s best for your health, they may not be as concerned with your wallet. So before you swipe that credit card, make sure you’re following these money-saving rules to cut back on medical expenses.

1. Choose lifestyle changes over new medication.
Don’t feel like adding to costs by filling a new prescription? Before your doctor signs the script, ask if there are any lifestyle changes that might have the same effect.

For example, losing weight can sometimes make diabetes or cholesterol drugs unnecessary, relaxation techniques often work better than sleeping pills, and keeping your home free of dust and mold might just liberate you from allergy meds.

2. Reevaluate your vitamins.
Taking a daily multivitamin may not be worth it in the long run—if your diet covers all the recommended daily nutritional bases. (This requires a diverse mix of fruit and veggies, lean meats, legumes, and whole grains, so if you’re a picky eater, a vegetarian, or have a food allergy, you may need a daily pill.)

Don’t bother with extra supplements, such as calcium, vitamin C, or vitamin D, unless your doctor recommends them for a specific reason. And you can ditch the vitamin-infused waters and beverages: They’re usually high in calories and chemicals, and can do more harm than good.

3. Ask your doctor: Do I really need that test?
A 2006 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that 43% of patients underwent unnecessary tests at simple, routine checkups. If your doctor orders an MRI, CT scan, or other medical exam, speak up: Besides the medical concerns of unnecessary testing, like additional exposure to harmful radiation, you could be billed for these extra procedures. Ask why it’s being ordered, whether it will cost you extra money, and what will be done afterward if the results are positive (or negative). If the answer is simply "routine screening," the test may be unnecessary.

4. Get your regular meds on the cheap.
Continuously shelling out for a regular prescription (we're lookin’ at you, birth control) can be a real drag. Find out if there are cheaper options, like ordering from legitimate, safe online vendors, or thriftier pharmacies with low-price plans. You can also try money-saving strategies such as buying the generic version of the medication, buying pills in bulk, and splitting higher-dose pills.
5. Don’t procrastinate.
If you plan to get the Gardasil vaccine to protect yourself against cervical cancer and HPV, make sure you have time to get all three doses of the vaccine before you turn 27. Administered over an eight-month span, the vaccine has only been approved by the FDA for women up to 26 years of age, so insurance will not cover any shots needed once you’re past the cutoff (even if you start the process before your birthday). Out-of-pocket, these jabs can cost up to $200 each, not counting administration fees tacked on by your doctor’s office.

6. Feel free to bargain.
Unlike the price tag on those fabulous (and completely out of your budget) new fall boots, medical costs aren’t always set in stone. If you’re uninsured and paying out-of-pocket for hospital or doctor services, don’t be afraid to try these proven ways to negotiate medical bills. Disclosing your income may knock off a chunk of the bill, as will offering to pay with cash on the spot—you could get as much as a 20% discount. If your doc wants you to try a new medication, ask if he or she has samples for you to try first, or check the drug’s website for coupons to use at the pharmacy.

7. Take a trip.
Consider planning your next vacation around your next medical procedure. Medical tourism could save you anywhere from 40% to 85% on health-care costs, although it does have its risks. If you’re fully insured, staying at home will be your best bet. But for things that aren’t covered (such as cosmetic surgery or dental procedures), or for patients without insurance, a trip to Mexico, Costa Rica, or even Thailand or India could add up to huge savings.

Just be sure to research the doctor, facility, and country extensively beforehand to avoid insurance and malpractice issues; check out the nonprofit Joint Commission International’s list of accredited hospitals and labs.

8. Get back to basics.
The best way to keep your medical costs down? Don’t get sick. Easier said than done, we know, but if money is tight, focus on the little things within your control—exercise more, drink less alcohol, wear sunscreen, floss your teeth, and wash your hands. Covering these basics will keep you out of the doctor’s office, plain and simple. Oh, and now is a perfect time to stop smoking too: Kicking that habit alone could save you thousands of dollars a year.

Sarah Klein

5 Types of Headaches

5 Types of Headaches

What kind of headache is it?


It's important to figure out what type of headache is causing your pain. If you know your headache type, you can treat it correctly.

In one 2004 study, 80% of people who had a recent history of self-described or doctor-diagnosed sinus headache, but no signs of sinus infection, actually met the criteria for migraine.

Here are some tips that will put a name to your pain.


Tension headaches

Tension headaches, the most common type, feel like a constant ache or pressure around the head, especially at the temples or back of the head and neck. Not as severe as migraines, they don't usually cause nausea or vomiting, and they rarely halt daily activities.

Over-the-counter treatments, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen (Tylenol), are usually sufficient to treat them. Experts believe these may be caused by the contraction of neck and scalp muscles (including in response to stress), and possibly changes in brain chemicals.


Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches, which affect more men than women, are recurring headaches that occur in groups or cycles. They appear suddenly and are characterized by severe, debilitating pain on one side of the head, and are often accompanied by a watery eye and nasal congestion or a runny nose on the same side of the face.

During an attack, people often feel restless and unable to get comfortable; they are unlikely to lie down, as someone with a migraine might. The cause of cluster headaches is unknown, but there may be a genetic component. There is no cure, but medication can cut the frequency and duration.


Sinus headaches

When a sinus becomes inflamed, often due to an infection, it can cause pain. It usually comes with a fever and can be diagnosed by symptoms or the presence of pus viewed through a fiber-optic scope.

Headaches due to sinus infection can be treated with antibiotics, as well as antihistamines or decongestants. (To learn more about sinus infections, take our Sinus Infection Quiz.)


Rebound headaches

Overuse of painkillers for headaches can, ironically, lead to rebound headaches.

Culprits include over-the-counter medications like aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), as well as prescription drugs.

One theory is that too much medication can cause the brain to shift into an excited state, triggering more headaches. Another is that rebound headaches are a symptom of withdrawal as the level of medicine drops in the bloodstream.


Migraine headaches

Migraines can run in families and are diagnosed using certain criteria.

• At least five previous episodes of headaches
• Lasting between 4–72 hours
• At least two out of these four: one-sided pain, throbbing pain, moderate-to-severe pain, and pain that interferes with, is worsened by, or prohibits routine activity • At least one associated feature: nausea and/or vomiting, or, if those are not present, then sensitivity to light and sound

A migraine may be foreshadowed by aura, such as visual distortions or hand numbness. (About 15% to 20% of people with migraines experience these.)



   Dr Trisha Macnair

Baby in green jumper

What is chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a viral infection caused by the herpes varicella zostervirus. It's spread in droplets inhaled into the respiratory tract. Complications are rare but serious, and can occur in previously healthy children.

Who's at risk of chickenpox?

Chickenpox tends to affect children under ten. Most children have had the infection by this age. In older children and adults, chickenpox can be more severe.
It's more common in late winter and spring. Children who are immunosuppressed (for example, on steroids) are particularly vulnerable to complications, as are newborn babies who may catch the infection from their mother in late pregnancy.

Chickenpox symptoms

The incubation period (from exposure to onset of symptoms) is 14 to 24 days. The initial symptoms are mild fever and headaches. Younger children may seem generally grouchy.
These are followed within hours by the appearance of a typical rash. Crops of red spots appear, which quickly develop central fluid-filled blisters that are intensely itchy. After a couple of days these scab over and dry up.
The rash mostly affects the trunk, but may appear anywhere on the body, including the scalp and the mouth.
In about one in ten cases symptoms are so minimal the infection goes unnoticed.
Complications of the infection are uncommon but include viral pneumonia, secondary bacterial infection and encephalitis.

Chickenpox treatments

Talk to your doctor if you're unsure of the diagnosis or if your child seems particularly unwell, has a cough, headache, if the skin is particularly inflamed or infected, or there are other worrying symptoms.
For young babies or children with immunity problems, always seek medical advice.
Give pain-relieving syrup and plenty of fluids. Calamine lotion and antihistamine medicines may relieve the itching.
Keep your child's hands clean and their fingernails short. Try to discourage them from scratching the spots, as they can scar.
The spots may be infectious until they've fully scabbed over, but no child should need to be kept from school for more than five days.
In severe cases, antiviral treatment may be recommended.
Most children recover without long-term problems. But children at high risk who are exposed to chickenpox must be treated with immunoglobulin injections to prevent the infection, or antiviral drugs to treat it.
There is also a vaccine that can be given to prevent chickenpox.
After infection the virus lies dormant in the body but can emerge later to cause shingles.

Yoga and Sex

Yoga and Sex

Kat VanKirk 
Yoga and sex have more in common than just the old joke about being flexible enough to get into wacky positions. Both use the body to excite and soothe, and both have the potential to open our minds and spirits to enlightenment. As a sexologist and yoga teacher, I have seen the positive effects that regular yoga practice can have on a sexual relationship. There are individual physical rewards to practice as well as rewards to be reaped in a coupled relationship.
Most people associate sex and yoga with Kundalini Yoga. This form of yoga specifically addresses the harnessing of sexual energy. Sex is considered sacred and has the ability to take you to the next level of consciousness. Tantra and Kundalini Yoga practice are both greater spiritual practices that are inclusive of sexuality. There are more extreme Tantric beliefs (along with some Hatha Yoga practices) that teach that you should abstain from sex at certain times this includes erections and masturbation. It is thought that semen is sacred and should be saved. Other forms of belief suggest that sexuality should be properly channeled in nurturing and life sustaining ways, and destructive forms of sexuality that do not reinforce the higher self are warned against. This can be interpreted to include activities that are nonconsensual or violent, choosing sexual partners that you do not feel a spiritual connection with, or even having sex unconsciously (thus removing its sacred quality).
In a practical sense, yoga improves many aspects of sexuality through the following:


The most important aspect of yoga is breath both coordinating breath with movement and learning to breathe deeply and fully. There are also a variety of forms of breath that can be employed for different purposes. Learning to utilize your breath can profoundly improve the quality of your orgasms and bring you closer to your partner.

Yoga is a wonderful way to become more intimate with your own body. You learn what your bodys capabilities and limitations are. Many people leave yoga class with a new awareness and confidence in their body. You can also develop a sense of relaxation that most people only experience following sex. You get the benefit of being able to flex your body into all of those wonderful positions mentioned in the Kama Sutra.

Yoga helps you build and maintain core muscle strength. It can help you develop a level of physicality and confidence you can take with you well into old age. It will also enable you to hold positions longer. Specifically, it strengthens the pelvis, hips, and abdominal muscles all very important in sexual response.
Blood Flow

The physical act of yoga will help your nerves rejuvenate and will increase blood flow throughout your body. More nerve development and increased blood flow equals increased sensitivity and arousal. Many people find that they are more easily aroused thanks to their yoga practice – this can include everything from light skin touching to improved orgasmic response due to increased blood flow to the genitals.
PC Muscles

The pubococcygeous muscles are those all-important muscles that are intimately linked to orgasm, urinary incontinence, and childbirth. Both men and women have them. Yogic practice makes you more familiar with their location and purpose, and helps you strengthen them. Strong PC muscles can lead to multiple orgasms, more intense orgasms, and stronger erections.
Emotional Release

Besides being a great way to manage stress and a wonderful meditative process, emotional release is inevitable through regular yoga practice. Emotional stress can live physically throughout the body. For instance, daily stress tends to live in the neck and upper back; while childhood stresses tend to take up residence in the hips. The right side of the body is aligned with the masculine and the left side with feminine traits. Stress related to these attributes seeks balance through a variety of yoga postures. Therefore specific yoga flows (or disciplines) can prescribe different postures (asanas) targeting the specific issues you might be having. The release of emotional stress can have profound affects in opening yourself up sexually. Yoga is a powerful tool in this regard. There are actually specific yoga therapists that can work with you one on one with these issues. The practice of yoga is also intimately linked to increasing the energy flow through the chakras.
Partner yoga is gaining more attention as well. This can be a profound merging of practices with a significant other. It involves modified asanas that are designed to coordinate the breath and movement of both partners while nurturing trust and synchronizing exchanges of power (each person has the opportunity to both support the weight of the other and be supported). It can be a beautiful exchange that can easily be transferred to the bedroom. It also helps to reinforce Tantric practice. Yoga is not just about sex it is about learning to love your body and your partner's body and achieving your full potential: sexually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.