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Smoke-free laws linked to drop in child asthma attacks

LONDON    Mon Jan 21, 2013 

(Reuters) – Introducing laws banning smoking in enclosed public places can lead to swift and dramatic falls in the number of children admitted to hospital suffering asthma attacks, according to a study in England published on Monday.

Researchers at Imperial College London found there was a 12.3 percent fall in hospital admissions for childhood asthma in the first year after laws against smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces came into effect in July 2007.

Similar anti-smoking legislation has been introduced in many other countries, including in the United States where it has also been linked to a reduction in childhood asthma emergencies.

“The findings are good news … and they should encourage countries where public smoking is permitted to consider introducing similar legislation,” said Christopher Millett from Imperial’s school of public health, who led the study.

Asthma affects more than 300 million people worldwide and is the world’s most common children’s chronic illness. Symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and chest tightness. In Britain, it affects one in every 11 children.

Before the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces was implemented in England, hospital admissions for children suffering a severe asthma attacks were increasing by 2.2 percent a year, peaking at 26,969 in 2006/2007, the researchers found.

That trend reversed immediately after the law came into effect, with lower admission rates among boys and girls of all ages. There were similar reductions among children in wealthy and poor neighborhoods, both in cities and in rural areas.

The effect was equivalent to 6,802 fewer hospital admissions in the first three years after the law came into effect, the team wrote in a study in the journal Pediatrics.

“There is already evidence that eliminating smoking from public places has resulted in substantial population health benefits … and this study shows that those benefits extend to … childhood asthma,” Millett said in a statement.

A study published in 2009 also found the ban on smoking in public places in England led to a swift and significant drop in the number of heart attacks, saving the national health service 8.4 million pounds ($13.3 million) in the first year.

“Previous studies have also suggested that the smoke-free law changed people’s attitudes about exposing others to second-hand smoke and led more people to abstain from smoking voluntarily at home and in cars,” Millett said.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Source: Reuters

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Acts of Kindness Can Make You Happier

January 25, 2013    By Kathleen Doheny    HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) — Performing small acts of kindness and gratitude can make people happier, researchers believe, but how this occurs is more of a puzzle.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, has studied happiness for more than 20 years. She and others know that positive activities boost positive emotions, thoughts and behavior, in turn improving well-being.

Now, how people can deliberately change their thinking and practices to bliss out to the max is her focus.

“I have evidence that the dosage of an activity is important,” she said.

Reviewing past studies on happiness, including some of her own research, Lyubomirsky concluded there is no single prescription for happiness-boosting acts of kindness.

Variety, frequency and motivation all play a role, she said.

How often you perform the behaviors influences happiness, Lyubomirsky found, but not always in the way you may think. Studying the effect of counting your blessings on happiness, for instance, she found doing so once a week was ideal for making people happier.

“Doing it three times a week gave no extra benefit,” she said.

Her research, presented at the recent annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in New Orleans, found that performing other positive acts once a week led to the most happiness. That could be because many routines, such as worshipping and even TV, occur weekly, she said.

Performing a variety of kind and grateful behaviors helps maximize happiness, too, whereas repeatedly doing the same act of kindness may lose its ability to boost happiness, she said.

“We did one study where we had people do acts of kindness over 10 weeks,” she said. The acts could be similar or varied. For instance, someone who usually refused to take out the trash might offer to do so. That made them happier initially, she said, but it worked better in terms of happiness when they varied the activity.

Picking your own positive behavior, such as performing an act of kindness, promises to make you more likely to vary the activity, she also found.

Feeling you have social support for your actions also influences how much positive behaviors, such as expressing gratitude, will boost your happiness, she said. And gaining support through social media works as well as face-to-face “hurrahs,” she added.

Commenting on the study, James Maddux, university professor emeritus of psychology at George Mason University, said he thinks “the message is, for these kinds of activities, it’s not a matter of one-size-fits-all.”

“You start with these general strategies,” he said of behaviors such as performing kind acts. “X seems to work for most of the people most of the time.”

The next focus, he agreed, is to tease out which differences in people affect the degree of happiness produced, as Lyubomirsky is doing.

Once people figure that out on an individual level, the research suggests they can expect their positive acts to repay them with even more happiness, he said.

Experts note that data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

For more about happiness, visit the Social Psychology Network.

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Vitamin-packed foods help you fight disease

BARBARA QUINN            The Monterey County Herald

“A vitamin is a substance that makes you ill, if you don’t eat it,” said Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937.

He understood what we now know: Deficiencies of vitamins and other vital nutrients can cause us to fall prey to illness.

So do our food choices really influence how susceptible we are to sickness? You bet your sweet pepper they do.

Specific nutrients in foods have been shown to enhance the body’s ability to keep us well. Here are some tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and other nutrition experts:

=> Protein: It’s what immune cells are made of. Sources of immune-building protein include lean beef, pork and poultry, fish, eggs, beans and soy-based foods.

=> Vitamin A: Ever wonder why moms used to dose their darlings with cod liver oil to keep them healthy? Among other components, cod liver oil is a good source of vitamin A — a nutrient that helps maintain the cells that line our intestines and lungs. These “mucosal” cells are the sentries that guard our body from foreign invaders.

Carrots, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes and red bell peppers are good sources of vitamin A (or beta-carotene which safely converts to vitamin A in the body.)

=> Vitamin C: Although scientists still don’t understand the exact way that vitamin C works to boost immune function, we do know this essential vitamin plays an important role in healing wounds and strengthening our resistance to disease. Vitamin C also helps form antibodies that fight off infection.

Since this essential nutrient is easily destroyed by air, heat and prolonged storage, we are smart to eat at least one high vitamin C food each day.

Sources include oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

=> Zinc: Like an army that relies on a continual renewal of supplies and soldiers, our immune system relies on zinc to consistently renew disease-fighting cells. And since zinc in food is bound to protein, it makes sense that good sources include oysters, beef, pork, and liver as well as whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.

Interestingly, zinc has been called “the essential toxin” because — although it is required for optimal health — excessive intake can actually impair immune function.

=> Vitamin E: Given its antioxidant ability to neutralize free radicals, vitamin E keeps the machinery of the immune system functioning at capacity. Good sources include nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Wheat germ is an especially good source of vitamin E.

What about supplements of vitamins and minerals? If we don’t happen to eat a varied diet for any reason, we could be missing out on essential vitamins and trace minerals that could compromise our ability to ward off sickness, say nutrition experts.

Whether or not to take a daily vitamin and mineral supplement is a discussion worth having with your health provider.

Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.
Email her at bquinn@chomp.org.

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18 Ways to Boost Your Health in 2013

Michelle Schoffro Cook       January 17, 2013

Let’s face it:  most of us start out the New Year with the best intentions, but soon we are back to our old habits.  Here are 21 ways to help you get your health on track in 2013:

1. Eat a large green salad.  Greens are full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients like chlorophyll that give our body a huge boost.  Chlorophyll, in particular, helps build healthy and strong blood.

2. Drink more water.  Water fuels every cell in our body.  Insufficient water spells the breakdown of cellular process that can eventually cause illness.

3. Eat two or three pieces or servings of fruit (count ½ cup of fruit like grapes, blueberries, cherries, etc. as a serving) daily.  It’s easy enough to choose fruit instead of a less-healthy dessert.

4. Go for a brisk walk.  Walking gets your heart pumping, improves circulation, and gets your lymphatic system (the system that eliminates toxic build-up from your tissues) working more effectively.

5. Better yet, take your brisk walk in nature.  Breath in the rich oxygenated air from the trees and enjoy the peace and quiet nature offers.

6. Drink a freshly made juice preferably with green veggies.  Ideally, dilute your juice 1:1 with pure water.  Fresh juices are an easy way to cleanse your body and give it a huge amount of nutrients.  Some people spend a fortune on superfoods (which is fine if you have the money) but fresh juices also tend to be rich in antioxidants and other critical nutrients and are much cheaper.

7. Think of at least 10 things for which you are grateful each day.  Better yet, start a gratitude journal.  Just the act of appreciating what you have can help you feel happier and better about your life.

8. Hug someone you love (make sure it is someone who actually wants a hug).

9. Soak in a warm bath with Epsom salts.  The magnesium in Epsom salts is readily absorbed through your skin to relax your muscles and ease tension.  Many experts estimate that about 80% of the population is magnesium deficient.  This is a delightful way to boost your magnesium levels.  Try to stay in the water for at least 20 minutes for maximum benefits.

10.  Meditate.  The act of calming your mind can relax the nervous system, which tends to be in stress mode due to our high-stress, fast-paced lives.
11.  Deep breathe for at least 5 minutes, as often as you can.  Research shows that breathing deeply can reduce the amount of the stress hormone cortisol that is released from the adrenal glands.  Simply reducing this hormone can reduce anxiety, stress, and even help with weight loss.
12.  Dry skin brush.  Brush your skin using a natural-bristled brush.  Start with the legs and brush upwards toward the heart.  Then brush the trunk of the body also toward the heart (avoiding the breasts), and then brush the arms toward the heart.  This gets the lymphatic system moving to eliminate toxins more effectively.  Take a couple of minutes before hopping in the shower.
13.  Snack between meals on healthy snacks like almonds, veggie crudite, hummus and whole grain pitas.  Snacking every few hours helps keep blood sugar levels stable, which is critical to reduce mood swings, depression, balance energy and to lose weight.
14.  Stop and smell the flowers.  It’s okay to slow down to a pace that you actually enjoy life more.
15.  Eliminate at least one item from your life that contains toxic chemicals (dryer sheets, most types of commercial laundry soap, dish soap, “air fresheners,” etc.).  Choose a natural option from your health food store instead.
16.  Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables.  We know we should eat our vegetables but it’s difficult to remember sometimes.  Add mashed sweet potatoes as a side dish, or saute some greens with freshly chopped garlic and toss with a little fresh lemon juice and sea salt.  Even people who don’t like greens tend to love this way of preparing them.  Check out my book Healing Recipes if you need more ideas for creating delicious vegetable dishes.
17.  Dust off that piece of exercise equipment you’ve owned for years and put it in front of your television.  If you’re watching TV, exercise on the commercials.  No equipment?  Do pushups, sit-ups, crunches, or other exercises on the commercials.  It’s easy and it adds up.  Soon, you’ll be surprised how fit you are.
18.  Do something nice for someone.  It just feels good to do something nice for someone else.  Usually we reap the greatest benefits out of paying good deeds forward.  A positive attitude is contagious.
source: Care2.com

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Health benefits of Brazil nuts

  • Brazil nuts are high in calories, contains good quantities of vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals. The nuts in-fact have been staple diet of Amazonian.
  • 100 g of brazil nuts provide about 656 calories. Their high caloric content comes from their fats. However, the nuts are an especially excellent source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) like palmitoleic acid (16:1) and oleic acid (18:1) that helps to lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increases HDL or “good cholesterol” in the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet, which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids help to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
  • The nuts are also a very good source of vitamin-E; contain about 7.87 mg per 100 g (about 52% of RDA). Vitamin-E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant. It is required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
  • Brazil nuts contain exceptionally high levels of selenium. 100 g nuts provide about 1917 µg of selenium and 3485% of recommended daily intake making them as the highest natural source of this mineral. Selenium is an important cofactor for anti-oxidant enzyme glutathione-peroxidase. Just 1-2 nuts a day provides enough of this trace element. Adequate selenium foods in the diet help prevent coronary artery disease, liver cirrhosis, and cancers.

  • Furthermore, like almonds and pine nuts, brazil nuts too are free from gluten and therefore, is one of the popular ingredients for the preparation of gluten-free food formulas. These formula preparations are, in fact, healthy alternatives in people with wheat food allergy and celiac disease.
  • Additionally, these creamy nuts are an excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins such asthiamin (51% of RDA per 100 g), riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates. Altogether, they work as co-factors for enzymes during cellular substrate metabolism inside the body.
  • In addition to selenium, they contain very good levels of other minerals such as copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. Copper helps prevent anemia and bone weakness (osteoporosis). Manganese is an all-important co-factor for antioxidant enzyme,superoxide dismutase.

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Fast food linked to higher asthma and allergy risk

New study links fast-food consumption to a greater risk for developing asthma, eczema and allergies.

Tue, Jan 15 2013

Teens and kids who eat a lot of fast food may be at greater risk for developing asthma,eczema and allergies, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal’s respiratory magazine, Thorax.
For the study, researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom looked at surveys from more than 500,000 kids in 51 countries to determine how diet affected their allergy-related risks. They found that eating fast food three times a week may lead to asthma, eczema and itchy, watery eyes in children.


Researchers surveyed kids and their parents to determine whether or not they experienced symptoms of allergies, asthma and eczema. Participants also shared what types of foods they consumed each week. In the study, children in their early teens who ate fast food three or more times each week had a 39 percent greater risk of severe asthma. For 6- and 7-year-olds, there was a 27 percent increased risk. Overall, kids who ate fast food three or more times a week had about a 30 percent increased risk of severe allergies. The results were consistent across all age groups regardless of gender or socioeconomic status.  
Interestingly, kids who ate fruit were able to cut their risk of developing these conditions. Researchers found that kids who ate three or more portions of fruit each week reduced their risk of severe asthma, eczema and allergies by between 11 and 14 percent.

source: mnn.com

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Berry Habit May Help Women Avoid Heart Attacks

By Kathleen Doheny  WebMD Health News    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 14, 2013 – Young and middle-aged women who eat blueberries and strawberries regularly may help lower their risk of a heart attack later.
In a new study, researchers wanted to focus on whether substances known as anthocyanins are good for the heart.
Anthocyanins are antioxidants, substances found in plants that protect and repair cells from damage. Anthocyanins provide the red, blue, and purple colors found in strawberries, blueberries, and other fruits and vegetables.
The study followed more than 93,000 women for 18 years. The women, ages 25 to 42 when they joined the study, reported on their diet every four years.
A trend toward lower risk of heart attack was found in women who ate more than three servings of blueberries and strawberries weekly, compared to those who ate fewer servings. A serving is roughly half a cup.
“Substances naturally present in red/blue colored fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of a heart attack 32% in young and middle-aged women,” says Aedin Cassidy, PhD, a researcher at the University of East Anglia in the U.K.
The new findings echo those of other studies showing that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is linked with lower heart disease, says C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.
Merz says the study is observational, meaning it does not prove that berries help with heart health. Women who eat berries may also have other healthy habits that could prevent heart attacks, she says.

Berries & Heart Attack Study: Details

Researchers chose blueberries and strawberries because they are among the most commonly eaten berries.
They divided the women into five groups based on how much of the fruits they ate. Women who ate the most berries had the greatest impact on their heart attack risk.
Cassidy and her team also looked at other factors that are known to raise heart attack risk. These included age, high blood pressure, a family history of heart attack, being overweight or obese, exercise habits, smoking, and drinking caffeine and alcohol.
Women who ate more of the fruits also reported other heart-healthy habits, such as being less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise.

Women and Heart Attacks: Risk Reduction in Perspective

Cassidy says the study focused on younger women because there is not much research on preventing heart attacks in that age group.
Although the actual drop in the number of heart attacks was small, Cassidy believes that eating anthocyanin-rich fruits and vegetables early on could pay off later, when heart attack risks rise with age.
The substances may work by improving HDL “good” cholesterol, the researchers say. They may also lessen inflammation, which is linked with heart attack risk.
Although the study focused on blueberries and strawberries, many other fruits and vegetables are rich in the anthocyanins, Cassidy says. Among them: eggplant, raspberries, black currants, plums, and cherries.
Eating more of these fruits and vegetables ”could have a have a significant effect on prevention efforts,” says Cassidy.
The study is published in the journal Circulation.
SOURCES: Cassidy, A. Circulation, January 2013. Aedin Cassidy, PhD, researcher, Norwich Medical School of the University of East Anglia, Norwich, U.K. Mitchell Seymour, PhD, research investigator, University of Michigan School of Medicine, Department of Cardiac Surgery, Ann Arbor. C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director, Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center, Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, Los Angeles.