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Health (209 posts)
1. Trimming the tree makes your nose run and your eyes itch. While fir tree allergies are relatively rare, many people are hypersensitive to the mold, dust and dead needles on live trees, says Sakina S. Bajowala, MD, an allergist and fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. "Most trees are cut in October or November, leaving them lots of time to accumulate debris," she says. Don't give up on live trees, though: just ask the sellers to put yours through a mechanical shaker that can loosen potential allergens, or hose it down in your yard (let it dry for a week before bringing inside). If you've already festooned your tree with ornaments, Bajowala suggests taking an OTC long-acting non-sedating antihistamine like Claritin. Keep in mind that artificial trees can also be irritating, especially if they've gotten dusty in the attic, and will need a good cleaning before you hang them with garlands.
If I were a man, I'd have thought about sex three times while typing this sentence. That's according to an old stereotype that men think about sex every seven seconds--or 8,000 times a day. This seemed discouraging for men (did it mean that those who only thought about sex, say, 4,981 times a day were lacking testosterone?) as well as their partners ("What's on his mind? Wait, I don't want to know."). So we were intrigued by a refreshing study to be published in January's issue of the Journal of Sex Research that found that guys---college students, no less--only reported about 19 erotic thoughts per day. That's really not that much more than the female study participants (you may be surprised at the wide range of times women had sex on the brain). What's more, the men were nearly as preoccupied with food and sleep as with getting it on. Are men more focused on their biological needs than women? Or are they simply more comfortable expressing them? The researchers aren't sure, but at least now we know a man is almost as likely to be thinking about sleeping (or snacking) in the bed as romping in it.
Dr. Oz's ultimate health checklist, including the medical tests you need
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* America's favorite doctor has plenty of colorful, comforting gift ideas. (O Magazine).
* Guys who love My Little Pony have a name: Bronies. They also have a convention, where they can geek out with adoration for Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy. (WSJ.com)
* From Jay Z to Novak Djokovic to . . . Kristen Wiig? GQ's Men of the Year. (GQ)
* It isn't easy looking stylish next to Kermit's signature green. Jim Henson pulls it off, and your man can too. (Nerd Boyfriend)
* "And then there were the everyday, every-stripe Americans. Like a tattooed trucker I met off I-80 in Iowa who, when he heard how many African truck drivers were infected with H.I.V., told me he’d go and drive the pills there himself."—On World AIDS Day, Bono finds reasons to be hopeful about the future of our fight against the pandemic. (NYTimes.com)
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association may change the way we look at those canned goods. The study found that those who ate just one serving of canned soup for five days showed increases in their BPA levels by over a thousand percent. The Harvard researchers told the New York Times they were stunned by the results.
So are we, especially because we've been really enjoying chicken soup season so far. But don't despair: while it's hard to find BPA-free cans (manufacturers like it because this type of lining prevents corrosion and is resistant to extreme heat), you have options:
Every few weeks, we'll be asking one of the Best Life experts for advice on diet and exercise, ways to get better rest and strategies to live a little younger.
If you have a question, send it to us!
Q: I hurt my feet, and now I can barely walk, never mind run. How do I stay fit?
This sounds like an impossible challenge, doesn't it? You won't be able to squeeze in your 10,000 steps per day. But it's worth the effort to hobble into the gym, because you have more fitness options than you realize, says Jack Younghans, D.P.T., a Best Life physical therapist who helps injured patients stay in shape at his clinic in Long Island, New York. We asked him what moves were easiest on the feet, and were surprised by how many cardio options he came up with. Regular exercise may even help you heal. Younghans explains that when you increase your blood flow by working out, your body is able to deliver oxygenated blood to the injured foot more efficiently than it would be if you were sedentary.
These exercises are ranked from least impact (for the seriously injured) to most. Younghans says that if you feel pain at any point during exercise, stop immediately and talk to your doctor or physical therapist. Find out if physical therapy is right for you.
1. Rowing with an upper-body ergometer: You may have seen one of these mini-bikes for the arms and thought to yourself, "There's no way you can work up a sweat on that thing." But Younghans swears you can crank up the resistance high enough and row fast enough to get your heart pumping. If you don’t have access to an upper-body ergometer, you can keep build muscle and tone with these weight exercises.
2. Swimming: You probably thought of this one already, but Younghans reminds those with pain in the forefoot to avoid jumping into the pool or doing flip turns between laps (both can add pressure that can make the injury worse). Check out this article for ways to feel comfortable in the water.
There are several reasons for this effect: The cold causes your blood vessels to constrict, which raises your blood pressure. And as blood cools, it thickens, making clots more likely. Plus, as the temperature goes down, your heart has to pump harder to keep your body's thermostat turned up.
Seasonal flu is another risk factor. It may make arterial plaque unstable, blocking blood flow. Finally, keep in mind that the physical exertion of shoveling snow can worsen the burden on your heart. My recommendations are to stay warm, get a flu shot, and try not to overexert yourself.
Lots of things, it turns out, including what we did the night before the big feast, how many helpings we ate of Nana's marshmallow sweet potatoes, what we drank with our meal, and what activities we have planned for Thursday evening. (See the nutrition blog at Boston.com for the full explanation, as well as a unique theory from a professor who has researched napping).
This Thursday, when you start feeling snoozy after dinner, give the turkey a break. The poor thing has been through enough already.
Fortunately, though, some types of nuts seem to come with their own alarm that sends you a signal that you've had enough. In a study published in the September issue of the journal Appetite, students who were constantly offered pistachios in the shell consumed 22 percent fewer nuts when the researchers left the bowls of discarded shells on their desks than when they took them away. The researchers think the shells acted as "visual cues" that reminded the students how many nuts they'd already eaten.
This study made us think of boxes of Japanese snacks that contain individually-wrapped serving sizes. It's pretty hard to finish an entire box of soy sauce-flavored crackers when the tiny envelopes keep piling up around you. For almonds and other snacks that don't leave a trace, your best bet is to put a handful in a bag, plate or cup and then hold on to that for a while. Better yet, stick to red pistachios, which not only leave a trail of shells but also stain your fingers a shade we'll call "snack-aholic scarlet."
Why you should eat nuts (the list keeps growing!)
That's why I was intrigued by a new video game designed by meditation master Deepak Chopra to help newbies like me improve our skills. It's called "Leela" (Sanskrit for "play"), it works on the Xbox Kinect, and it involves physical challenges as well as more traditional meditation instruction with Chopra and others (it's as if these spiritual personal trainers make house calls). If you take a look at the the game's web site, you'll see the world of Leela is full of gentle, tinkling Eastern-sounding music, cosmic shapes and glowing patterns. One part of the game, which a spokesperson described to me as similar to "spiritual Tetris," helps you identify different chakras or energy centers in the body, and uses the same ideas behind Wii Tennis to help you dial into those chakras. For example, you connect to your navel chakra, which is supposed to be the center of willpower, achievement and desire, by building energy between your hands and then pretending to launch fireballs at the screen. You can also control icons on screen with your breath: you inhale, they rise; you exhale, they fall. This sounds like a neat trick to make me actually pay attention to my breath, which can be difficult to do when there are other more interesting things to look at (like the cat drinking water. That little pink tongue!). By providing a visual representation of what's happening when we meditate, I think the game could provide a shortcut to focus. At least if I were throwing fireballs at the TV screen, or moving my hips to help center a picture of the earth, I'd feel--and look--like I was accomplishing something.
Deepak Chopra on the 5-step path to a life of love
How to quiet your mind during meditation
Chopra answers what it means to "go inside oneself"