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The Health Benefits, and Risks, of Alcohol

 Mirroring so much of life, alcohol consumption comes with plusses and minuses.

A lot of recent research has highlighted the potentially beneficial effects on the heart and other parts of the body of drinking wine and other alcoholic beverages. But risks to health exist, too, as well as the more well-known and potentially life-threatening effects of alcohol, including drunken driving and addiction.

The Good

Alcohol consumption in moderation has been linked to a host of good outcomes. Studies have suggested that drinking alcohol, wine in particular, may reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, gallstone formation, type 2 diabetes and dementia. It may also give your metabolism a slight boost.

“Alcohol, especially red wine, has resveratrol and antioxidants and bioflavonoids and polyphenols, and all of these wonderful things that dilate the arteries and reduce inflammation,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.

“Alcohol can definitely be part of a heart-healthy diet if you’re drinking responsibly,” she said.

“Drinking responsibly,” though, might very well mean

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


6 Worst Foods Stress

Energy Drinks

Full of caffeine and sugar, energy drinks and caffeinated colas are some of the worst foods for stress, Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., author of author of The Flexitarian Diet, told HuffPost. “That dynamic duo of trouble … the combination of both the caffeine jitters and the sugar crash, that can be taxing on yourbody, so it does add stress,” she says. Guzzling energy drinks can also make stress worse because of the way caffeine affects sleep. An energy drink can contain as much caffeine as three cups of coffee — which can lead to insomnia, an aggravator of stress.

Candy & Sweets

People often turn to treats when they’re stressed, but sugar only contributes to higher levels of stress hormones. “We go naturally to the wrong foods because they increase levels of cortisol,” Bauer says. The blood sugar andinsulin spikes that accompany the consumption of refined sugar can also lead tocrashes, irritability and increased food cravings.

Spicy Foods

If you’re experiencing stress-related digestive troubles, steer clear of spicy foods that might aggravate the discomfort. People who get stressed easily are not able to

Long Commute Takes Away From Healthy Activities

Brown University researchers found that spending an hour every day commuting (say, a half-hour commute there and back) means that the average person gets 30.6 percent less time for sleep, 16.1 percent less time for exercise, 5.8 percent less time to eat with the family and 4.1 percent less time to prepare food — all healthy behaviors.

Overall, “spending an additional 60 min daily commuting above average is associated with a 6 percent decrease in aggregate health-related activities and spending an additional 120 min is associated with a 12 percent decrease,” researchers wrote in the Journal of Urban Health study.

The study was based on 24,861 people who participated in the American Time Use Survey. The researchers found that more than one in 10 people who had a full-time job spends two or more hours commuting to work.

The researchers also found that if someone were to increase the amount of time commuting every day from one hour to two hours, that change is linked with 23 percent less time exercising, 17 percent less time preparing food, 8 percent less time spent on family mealtime and 3 percent less time sleeping.

Surprisingly, researchers found

6 Tips 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.


Federal Judge Strikes

A federal judge ruled Monday that the new U.S. health-care reform law is unconstitutional, saying the federal government has no authority to require citizens to buy health insurance.

That provision is a cornerstone of the new legislation, signed into law in March by President Barack Obama.

The judge’s decision was not unexpected, and both supports and opponents of the legislation anticipate the validity of the new health law ultimately will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling was handed down by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush who had seemed sympathetic to the state of Virginia’s case when oral arguments were heard in October, the Associated Press reported.

Last week, White House officials said a negative ruling would not affect the implementation of the law because its major provisions don’t take effect until 2014, the AP reported.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, a Republican, had filed a lawsuit in defense of a new Virginia law barring the federal government from requiring state residents to buy health insurance. He argued that it is unconstitutional for the federal law to force citizens to buy

Tips to Eat a Healthy Diet

If you are what you eat, it follows that you want to stick to a healthy diet that’s well balanced. “You want to eat a variety of foods,” says Stephen Bickston, MD, AGAF, professor of internal medicine and director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Center in Richmond. “You don’t want to be overly restrictive of any one food group or eat too much of another.”

Healthy Diet: The Building Blocks

The best source of meal planning for most Americans is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food Pyramid. The pyramid, updated in 2005, suggests that for a healthy diet each day you should eat:

  • 6 to 8 servings of grains. These include bread, cereal, rice, and pasta, and at least 3 servings should be from whole grains. A serving of bread is one slice while a serving of cereal is 1/2 (cooked) to 1 cup (ready-to-eat). A serving of rice or pasta is 1/2 cup cooked (1 ounce dry). Save fat-laden baked goods such as croissants, muffins, and donuts for an occasional treat.
  • 2 to 4 servings of fruits and 4

The Facebook Effect | God or Bad ?

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

Electric Fans Effect in Extreme Heat

There’s no reliable evidence to show whether electric fans keep people cool during extreme heat waves, according to British researchers who reviewed studies on their use.

While some of the studies suggested that indoor fans might reduce heat-related health problems, others suggested that fans might actually make things worse, the researchers found.

They cited health experts in saying: “A fan might help to increase heat loss if the temperature is below [95 degrees] and the fan is not directly aimed at the person, but when temperatures are above [95], the fan might actually contribute to heat gain.”

However, none of the studies met the researchers’ quality requirements, according to the review published online July 11 in The Cochrane Library.

“Our review does not support or refute the use of electric fans during a heat wave and people making decisions about them should consider the current state of the evidence base. They might also wish to make themselves aware of local policy or guidelines when making a choice about whether or not to use or supply electric fans,” review co-author Katie Carmichael, from the Health Protection Agency in the United Kingdom, said in a

We Must Stay Away From This Fish

1. Imported catfish

Why it’s bad: Nearly 90% of the catfish imported to the US comes from Vietnam, where use of antibiotics that are banned in the US is widespread. Furthermore, the two varieties of Vietnamese catfish sold in the US, Swai and Basa, aren’t technically considered catfish by the federal government and therefore aren’t held to the same inspection rules that other imported catfish are.

Eat this instead: Stick with domestic, farm-raised catfish, advises Marianne Cufone, director of the Fish Program at Food & Water Watch. It’s responsibly farmed and plentiful, making it one of the best fish you can eat. Or, try Asian carp, an invasive species with a similar taste to catfish that’s out-competing wild catfish and endangering the Great Lakes ecosystem.


2. Caviar

Why it’s bad: Caviar from beluga and wild-caught sturgeon are susceptible to overfishing, according to the Food and Water Watch report, but the species are also being threatened by an increase in dam building that pollutes the water in which they live. All forms of caviar come from fish that take a long time to mature, which

States Cut Medicaid Drug Benefits To Save Money

Illinois Medicaid recipients have been limited to four prescription drugs as the state becomes the latest to cap how many medicines it will cover in the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

Doctors fear the state’s cost-cutting move could backfire on patients, who have to get state permission to go beyond the limit.

“We understand the state is trying to get its Medicaid budget under control,” says Dr. William Werner, president of the Illinois State Medical Society. “But our concern is it not be a hardship for patients and a hassle for doctors in the execution.”

Sixteen states impose a monthly limit on the number of drugs Medicaid recipients can receive and seven states have either enacted such caps or tightened them in the past two years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, (KHN is a program of the foundation). The limits vary across the country. Mississippi has a limit of two brand-name drugs. In Arkansas, adults are limited to up six drugs a month.

Since June, Alabama has had the nation’s stingiest Medicaid drug benefit after limiting adults to one brand-name drug. HIV and psychiatric drugs were excluded. On Aug. 1,

5 Peppermint’s Benefits

In the midst of all the indulgence and decadence this time of year, it’s comforting to know there are some very real health benefits to some of the most common flavors of the season.

Between candy canes and Christmas bark, peppermint is giving cinnamon a run for its money as stand-out spice of the holiday season. And we’re thankful for that, considering the following:

Peppermint Tames Stomach Trouble

Folk wisdom suggests peppermint might aid all sorts of gut problems, ranging from nausea to menstrual cramps, but the most scientific evidence exists for its powerful response to irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. A 2007 Italian study found that IBS symptoms were significantly reduced among 75 percent of patients who took peppermint oil capsules for a month. Of those who were given a placebo pill, only 38 percent reported any alleviation, Harvard Women’s Health Watch reported.

A 2011 Australian study that set about to explain why peppermint seems to be so powerful discovered it “activates an ‘anti-pain’ channel in the colon, soothing inflammatory pain in the gastrointestinal tract,” according to a statement.

Peppermint Curbs Cravings

Here’s a neat trick: Just smelling a candy

Many on Medicare Already Enjoying Benefits

The Affordable Care Act will help millions of uninsured Americans get health coverage. But is it good for people on Medicare?

It depends on whom you ask.

Two-and-a-half years after the law was passed, pundits remain divided over its impact on older adults and the overall fiscal health of Medicare, the government-run health insurance program that currently serves roughly 50 million Americans.

Amid the rhetoric, many seniors fail to grasp how the health-reform law affects them.

“The reality is that there’s a lot of confusion about what it does and how it does it,” said Andrea Callow, policy attorney in the Center for Medicare Advocacy’s Washington, D.C., office.

For adults on Medicare, the most beneficial elements of health reform are already taking effect, advocates say.

Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, in New York City, which helps people on Medicare and their caregivers understand their options, counts the closing of the “donut hole” in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit and the addition of free preventive care among the most beneficial parts of the law.

“These two things have really modernized the Medicare program and really provided better coverage and

7 Tips from Obamacare for Young Women

You’ve heard people arguing about Obamacare (officially known as The Affordable Care Act or ACA) for months … but you may have tuned it all out, because it’s all so confusing and you don’t even know how — or if — it affects you.

But starting in 2014, the law will require people who can afford insurance to carry it or risk paying a fine, so now’s the time to pay attention. And the fact is, you may discover that there are lots of benefits you’ll be able to take advantage of. Here’s a quick list of what’s great about the ACA, especially for young women:

  • You can stay on your parents’ health policy until you turn 26. Previously, most insurers did not allow young adults beyond age 21 to stay on their parents’ policies. More than 3 million young adults have gained coverage since this provision went into effect in 2010. Your parents will be charged the same rates as when you were younger. You can be covered by their policy even if you’re married, but the coverage won’t extend to your spouse.
  • You’re entitled to free preventive care, including birth control. Since 2012, nearly

Non-Action Video Games May Benefit the Brain, Too

If your taste in video games leans more to Oregon Trail or Bejeweled than Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, here’s some good news. Researchers find these more casual, non-violent, and often mobile games can boost your thinking skills just as much as intense, action games.

“Over the last several years, Facebook and mobile games have become much more popular with the general public. Although action games had been tested, the effect of these more casual games had not,” Michael D. Patterson, PhD, an assistant professor at at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, who co-wrote the study with Adam Chie-Ming Oei, a graduate student there, said in an e-mail.

Another novelty of the study, according to the study authors, is that it was the first to use games that study participants played on their own phones rather than on computers or gaming consoles in a lab. Games played on these smaller screens still provided a benefit, they discovered.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study that used smart phones as devices that participants train on,” Oei said in an e-mail. “This has implications on how people use video games as training. That

7 Great Health Benefits of Dancing

Each Monday night, millions of Americans hunker down on their couches to watch their favorite celebrities break a sweat on Dancing With The Stars. And aside from offering entertainment, all those fox trots and sambas add up to some serious cardio. The proof is in the weight loss. Each season, we’ve seen some remarkably healthy transformations, from Kirstie Alley to Kelly Osbourne.

While the hours of intense training week after week surely have something to do with the number of pounds shed, the truth is that dancing actually has some unique benefits that can’t be achieved with other types of exercise.

“Dance, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to get in shape as you’re working multiple muscle groups all at the same time that in turn keeps your body constantly challenged,” says fitness expert Tracey Mallett, creator of “The Booty Barre” DVD series and the new “FuseDance Cardio Lean” and “FuseDance Cardio Melt,” which will be released next month. “Also, in dance-based classes we choreograph the exercises to the actual beat of the music, which I’ve found helps to push you a little harder.”

So this week we challenge you to

Health Benefits of Hypnosis

There are certainly many of those misconceptions around, largely due to movies and TV shows that depict eyes following a swinging watch, or people called up on stage who get suckered into acting like clucking chickens or barking dogs. But proponents say it’s time to forget those old stereotypes — whether it’s called hypnosis, hypnotism, or hypnotherapy, this practice is actually an effective, drug-free way to promote behavioral change.

What is hypnosis, anyway? According to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, it is a tool that allows the mind to focus — similar to how a magnifying glass focuses and intensifies the sun’s rays. Unlike the popular myths, you’re not actually unconscious while in a hypnotic state, but fully awake and in a heightened state of concentration. There are several different ways that practitioners can help individuals who are under hypnosis: They may present ideas or suggestions, encourage patients to come up with mental images that illustrate positive change, or help them better understand their underlying motivations.

Need more convincing? Hypnosis is also recognized as a valid medical procedure by the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association. If you’re curious, here are just

Health Benefits of Beer

Beer drinkers, take note: Your favorite pint may be healthier than you realize. When it comes to good-for-you happy hour beverages, we tend to think mainly of red wine and its heart-friendly antioxidants. Recent research, however, reveals that beer may also help what ales you, from reducing the risk of osteoporosis to beating brain fog.

But before you go on a beer binge, remember that moderation is key to reap its health perks. That means no more than two 12-ounce beers a day for men and one for women. “If you overdo it, alcohol can take a toll on your health, contributing to liver damage, certain cancers, heart problems, and more,” says Andrea Giancoli, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. People with certain health conditions — including gout, high triglycerides, or breast cancer, for example — should avoid drinking beer or other alcohol because it can exacerbate those health problems, according to Joy Bauer, RD, nutrition and health expert for Everyday Health and The Today Show.

Too much alcohol can also cause weight gain. After multiple rounds, calories can add up quickly (a 12-ounce regular beer can pack up to 150 calories, while a

Other Antibiotics May Cause Severe Side Effects

When handed a prescription for an antibiotic, a patient eager to feel better as soon as possible might head straight to the nearest pharmacy from the doctor’s office. But recent reports regarding a specific class of antibiotics — fluoroquinolones — call attention to their serious side effects.

The dangers of fluoroquinolones, some experts say, are related to the over-prescription of such drugs.

One researcher from the University of British Columbia, Mahyar Etminan, told theNew York Times that fluoroquinolones — which include Cipro (ciprofloxacin), Levaquin (levofloxacin), and Avelox (moxifloxacin) — have been overused “by lazy doctors who are trying to kill a fly with an automatic weapon.”

That’s an analogy that’ll stick with you.

Fluoroquinolones are potent and effective in fighting infections like pneumonia, but doctors often use them to treat less-serious illnesses, such as sinusitis and bronchitis, the Times reports.

Back in April, a study led by Dr. Etminan, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that people taking fluoroquinolones may be at small risk of an eye condition called retinal detachment, which can lead to vision loss and even blindness.

“These are powerful antibiotics, so they should

Surgery Effective for Tough-to-Treat Epilepsy

Surgery can significantly improve seizure control and quality of life among people with epilepsy, according to a study stretching over 26 years.

“This study may be the longest follow-up of epilepsy surgery patients in that it spans three decades, during which there were several eras of neuroimaging [brain-scanning] techniques,” said Dr. Cynthia Harden, chief of the division of epilepsy and electroencephalography at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute, part of North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y. She was not involved in the study.

The research team, led by Dr. Matthew Smyth with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, argued that the findings could have an impact on the way the disease is treated.

As reported Feb. 7 in the journal Epilepsia, they followed 361 patients who had epilepsy surgery over the course of 26 years to determine how the operation affected their condition.

Although drug therapy remains the primary treatment option for people with epilepsy, the study’s authors found that surgery stopped 48 percent of the patients from having seizures and improved the quality of life of 80 percent of those studied.

“In cases where medical [drug] therapy fails to