Testing It Up » December 2010

Monthly Archives: December 2010

Substance Abuse

California Debuts New Anti-Smoking Campaign

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The state of California recently launched its latest anti-smoking campaign, and based on details shared on the Los Angeles Sentinel, the state got creative in the way it is handling the fight against tobacco use.

The premiere of the series of anti-tobacco smoking TV ads was led by California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS) Secretary Kimberly Belshé and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director Dr. Mark Horton. The new ads focused on something a bit different: the impact that tobacco use has on the environment.

cigarette buttsDr. Horton shared: “California is proud, once again, to be a national leader in the fight against tobacco use and addiction, and is launching a new strategy–focusing attention on the degradation of the environment caused by discarded cigarette butts.”

The feature shared that more than a hundred million pounds of cigarette butts are discarded in the United States on a yearly basis. They also represent the majority of trash items that are found on beaches and along roadways. One of the effects of discarding cigarette butts is that they release the toxic chemicals found in the cigarettes into the surrounding environment where they are discarded.

The message is clear: it has been said time and again that tobacco smoking is dangerous to the health of the smoker and the people around him or her, but the danger goes beyond the people concerned, but to the environment as a whole.

Some of the TV ads feature Debi Austin, who first appeared in a CDPH anti-tobacco add in 1997. She was shown smoking through her tracheotomy after undergoing cancer surgery.

Los Angeles Health Screening

Health & Wellness

How Long Juice Fasting Should Last

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We found an interesting post on CNN Health’s The Chart, with Dr. Roshini Raj dispensing advice in response to a query, presumably posed by a reader, regarding juice fasting.

fruit and vegetable juicesJuice fasting is a method of fasting and detox diet that requires the dieter to consume only the juices of fruits and vegetables. Different people have their own unique reasons for going on this diet, and there are also various justifications behind why it works. One of the more common concepts behind the diet, as cited by Dr. Raj, is that the “body needs a “break” from digesting solid food in order to detoxify and help reset some sort of balance.”

The question posed by the reader had to do with the recommended duration for a juice fast. Dr. Raj recommended doing it for no longer than a day, lest one missed out on protein, healthy fats, and other vitamins and minerals that could not be packed into simply drinking juice.

Dr. Raj went on to share: “Our kidneys and liver are responsible for removing toxins, and they do not react well to fasting. So that means your fast could actually prevent your body’s natural detox system from doing its job.”

The post had mixed reactions from readers, but most leaned towards disbelief over the doctor’s opinion. One reader said that fasting is something that has been done for centuries, with great results. A couple of readers shared their own personal experience with juice fasting, and swore by how effective it was to them.

Celebrity Substance Abuse Substance Abuse

Celebrities Share Hangover Cures

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Alcohol is usually part of a New Year’s Eve party, but no one wants to spend the first day of the year completely hung over and unable to get out of bed. A post on Celebrities With Diseases spilled the beans on the hangover cures used by some celebrities.

hangoverCameron Diaz and Kate Winslet both shared that bacon sandwiches help them deal with a hangover. Kate shared: “A sausage and bacon sandwich usually does it for me. I also have a big glass of orange juice and a cup of sugary tea. The combination of vitamins and sugar perks me up.” For Cameron, grease is the most important component of a hangover cure. Her remedy consists of a bacon-packed sandwich and a beer.

Nigella Lawson, on the other hand, shared two hangover cures. One is the “Brian, which consists of Berocca and Spatone. The other is called the “Prairie Oyster”: an egg yolk, Tabasco, worcestershire sauce, brandy and vinegar, to be swallowed in one gulp.

Daniel Craig suggests sweating it out to overcome a hangover, or, if you really can’t make yourself move and work out, try going for a sauna session.

The best way to avoid a hangover, however, is not through a hangover cure – but through prevention. It may be a good time to gently remind everyone to drink a reasonable amount of alcohol when they do drink, and ensure that there is a designated driver before hitting the road after an all-night party. The best way to avoid a hangover is still to not drink too much!

Substance Abuse

UK’s NHS to Distribute Free Nicotine Patches

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The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom is kicking off 2011 through a New Year’s campaign that aims to improve the health of the nation. The campaign, according to a feature on The Telegraph, involves the distribution of free nicotine patches.

nicotine patchThe program will most probably be welcomed by UK citizens who will make kicking their smoking habits as their New Year’s resolution.

Cigarette smoking, according to the feature, is the “biggest single cause of illness and premature death in Britain.” In order to address this, the NHS is distributing at least a million anti-smoking kits, free of charge, at pharmacies and GP surgeries. These kits will include nicotine replacement patches, a first for NHS.

The distribution of nicotine patches, however, is but part of a major New Year health drive. The other half of the campaign is called “Change4Life,” a £250 million scheme that will provide 5 million “voucher checkbooks,” for cheap gym and swimming lessons.

The two campaigns take advantage of the fact that many people will be setting fitness and health resolutions and goals around New Year’s Day. The Telegraph quoted a coalition source, who reportedly said: “This is an absolutely key thing for us – a major part of the Big Society program. The main thing is not to order people to get fit, or to set meaningless targets like Labor did, but to help persuade people to take action off their own bat.”

The Change4Life checkbooks will contain 20 “healthy lifestyle” vouchers, which will entitle the bearers to various offers, which include cheaper gym and pool use.

Health & Wellness

Affordable Ways to Stay Fit

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When we look at mainstream media, we see celebrities with their glorious physiques, and realize that they spend a fortune to look that way and stay fit. They have personal trainers and train in fancy gyms with equally fancy equipment, and personal chefs and nutritionists who prepare their meals and help them watch what they eat. But what if you do not have money to burn? Will staying fit be impossible for the ordinary American?

stay fitNot necessarily, according to The New York Times’ Walecia Konrad, who shared various practical ways to stay fit without spending too much.

One way to do it is to change where you work out. Instead of maintaining membership in a fancy gym, choose more affordable gym options, such as the YMCA. A YMCA membership can include use of a pool, various exercise classes for all ages, use of fitness equipment, and child care, among others; the cost of membership for a family of four can be the same as what two people would pay at an adults-only gym. You can also choose to take advantage of offers to use workout facilities or to join sports activities given by community organizations such as schools and neighborhood clubs.

You may also want to go for workouts that could be done in the comfort of your own home, through the help of exercise DVDs or online instruction. You may not even have to buy these DVDs yourself; check out your local library to see what kind of DVDs they have to offer, which may range from Pilates to Zumba to various kinds of Yoga.


New York Health Screening


Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Study Indicates Cholesterol Improvement After Smoking Cessation

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There are several important reasons for smokers to kick their habits, and a new study adds yet another one: improving one’s cholesterol profile.

According to a study led by Dr. Adam Gepner of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, quitting smoking leads to an increase of “good cholesterol” levels, despite experiencing weight gain, which is one of its side effects. Through future research, this finding may eventually lead to more in depth understanding regarding the link between smoking and heart health, as shared in a feature by Reuters.

smoking is bad for the heartPrevious studies were able to determine that smoking results in lower good cholesterol (HDL) levels, and increased bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, according to Dr. Gepner. He and his colleagues recruited more than 1,500 smokers, who represent the various sectors of the current U.S. population, in order to rigorously test the impact of smoking on cholesterol levels. This test population included the high proportion of overweight and obese individuals.

The researchers were able to note that 36 percent of the participants in the study were able to succeed in quitting smoking after a year, using one of five smoking cessation programs. They also noted that those who were able to stop smoking were able to experience an average increase of five percent, or 2.4 mg/dL, in HDL cholesterol levels.

It was also observed that the effects described above were “somewhat stronger” in women. It also appeared that there was no difference in how heavy a smoker the participant was at the beginning of the study; both heavy and light smokers were able to enjoy the same HDL benefit after quitting.

Health & Wellness

Alternative Medicines versus Prescription Drugs: Which Are Safer?

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As recent as half a century ago, certain prescription drugs may have been viewed as nothing short of a miracle by most people. Nowadays, however, prescription drugs have been associated with artificial chemicals and substance abuse, that there is now a push for alternative or organic herbal treatments for certain illnesses. And, for the most part, the reason for choosing alternative methods more often than not boils down to safety.

alternative medicineHowever, according to a survey conducted by a group of Australian researchers, and shared on FoodConsumer.org, using alternative medicines may not be as safe for kids as some parents may believe.

The results of the survey revealed that in Australia, there were four deaths that were linked to     the use of alternative treatments, between the years 2001 and 2003.

An analysis of reports by Australian pediatricians, conducted by Alissa Lim of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, revealed that there were 39 reports that indicated side effects, four of which were deaths that could be traced back to the use of unconventional medicine.

This study was published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

But Dr. Gary Null, a known advocate of alternative remedies and American talk radio host, said that deaths due to the use of dietary supplements or alternative medicine are not as common as deaths linked to medical errors and prescription drugs. Dr. Null shared the following statistics in support of his statement: there were 106,000 deaths each year due to adverse reactions to drugs, and 98,000 deaths per year due to medical errors. In addition, there were 37,136 deaths each year due to unnecessary procedures, and 32,000 deaths each year due to surgeries.

Health & Wellness

Non-Traditional Ways of Shedding Holiday Weight

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Christmas dinner is over and done with, and the leftovers are packed in neat containers in the fridge. What is not over and done with, however, is the fact that you may have packed on a few pounds after that wonderful Christmas feast. With New Year’s Eve dinners still to come, the worrying – and making of resolutions to lose weight – will most likely come in January. This early, however, WebMD has a few suggestions regarding shedding holiday weight – the unusual way.

holiday weightFor those who would like weight loss options that go beyond the traditional diet and exercise, methods such as hypnosis, acupuncture, and meditation are available. However, Elisabetta Politi, the nutrition director of Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, North Carolina, cautioned: “The bottom line is to be more active and consume less calories… There is no magic bullet for solving your weight loss problem.” So it looks like regardless of what unconventional weight loss method you decide to try, diet and exercise should never be off the table.

One such method is acupuncture, one of the more popular branches of traditional Chinese medicine. The goal of acupuncture is not exactly weight loss, but the removal of blockages in the flow of one’s “life force”. However, some aspects of acupuncture, according to acupuncturist, holistic medicine expert and University of Texas Medical Branch family doctor Victor Sierpina, MD, can help in weight loss; acupuncture, for instance, may help one to relax.

Hypnosis is another method that is said to be a good supplement to diet and exercise, in order to achieve weight loss. Steven Gurgevich, PhD, a mind-body psychologist, clinical hypnotherapist, and author of The Self-Hypnosis Diet, shared that the combination of “hypnotic suggestions,” along with mind-body methods that include, among others, “rehearsing how you will approach food and exercise,” can train one to make changes.

Early Disease Detection

Glucose Test Strips Recalled

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Glucose test strips that are used for monitoring the blood sugar of those suffering from diabetes were recalled by Abbott Laboratories, according to a report on the Los Angeles Times.

glucose test stripThe recall involves as many as 359 million test strips. The recall is due to the fact that the strips may not absorb enough blood as quick as it should in order to give a proper reading. It is possible that the strips may give out false low readings, which may lead diabetes sufferers to try to raise their sugar levels, according to Abbott. In its statement, the company also said that its users may not be able to treat elevated glucose levels as appropriate.

Abbot company spokesman Scott Davies shared that the test strips included in the recall were manufactured between January and May, 2010, at an Abbott facility in the United Kingdom. The recall was spurred by the discovery of the defect via routine in-house testing, according to Davies.

Erica Jefferson, spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, revealed that north Chicago-based Abbott reported 22 cases of “false low” readings to the FDA. It also volunteered to do the recall.

Diabetes researcher and George Washington University associate professor of medicine Michael Thompson explained, however, that while diabetes sufferers should be rightly concerned about inaccurate blood sugar readings, “this is an error in a safer direction, falsely low rather than falsely high.”A false high reading is considered more dangerous as it can lead patients to overdose on insulin, which can trigger an episode of hypoglycemia.

Los Angeles Health Screening

Health & Wellness

What’s Naughty and What’s Nice to Eat at a Party

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Who’s naughty, and who’s nice? It is the week of parties, family gatherings and reunions, and while the priority is to spend quality time with the special people in our lives, one cannot forget to think about the naughty and nice things that will make up the dinner tables.

WebMD tells us what’s naughty and what’s nice, to enjoy this season – and what you can do to keep yourself nice.

choose healthyNaughty. Avoid naughty foods by engaging in conversation – instead of fixating on the buffet table. And while you’re at it, keep the buffet – and the turkey, stuffing, pecan pies and sweet potato casseroles – at arm’s length by sitting at a table that’s as far from it as you can get. Once you feel that you’ve had enough to eat, excuse yourself from the table and stop eating.

Nice. So what do you choose from the buffet if you want to be nice? Pick out dishes that are low in calories and high in fiber, such as whole wheat rolls, wild rice and quinoa; shrimp, lobster, and steamed seafood; plain or lightly dressed veggies; meat and poultry, but skip the gravy; and fresh fruits.

If you’re going to a potluck dinner, make sure that you contribute something nice so that you can share healthy meal choices with the rest of the party. Hard cheeses are a good source of calcium and protein; baked apples, with their skin on, are also a good and easy contribution to the holiday feast.