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Arizona to Fine Patients for Risky Health Habits

April 8, 2011
Federal Reserve Note

Image: Wikipedia

Arizona’s government scares me for a lot of reasons (I lived there for 2 years) but this actually sounds like a decent idea…

“Following the lead of some private health plans, which charge premiums to members who smoke or engage in other unhealthy behavior, Arizona’s Health Care Cost Containment System has proposed charging smokers $50 a year and applying a similar fee to diabetes patients who do not follow their doctor’s orders to lose weight, said Monica Coury, a spokeswoman for the state Medicaid agency.”

The argument is that people who tax the health care system should pay more, but paying a small fine might be just the incentive some of these people need to make a healthy change in their lives.

Could also be a terribly slippery slope…


Does the Mediterranean Diet Even Exist?

April 7, 2011
Map of countries in Europe and the surrounding...

Image: Wikipedia

I was kind of interested in this New York Times article.

My family is Italian, I used to live in Spain and my husband is French. So I’ve gotten in a lot of fights about how crappy the American diet and sedentary lifestyle are.

And my retort is usually that the Europeans are just a few steps behind us (ie, if McDonalds is so gross, why are they all over Europe?)

Americans may have led the way in ulta-convenience living, but as more European move into cubes and out of fields, they too will suffer an increase in illness and pants size.

Instead of pointing the finger, this is an issue that the entire developing world needs to address.

Mexico recently made PE mandatory in schools, took out vending machines and installed water fountains. Why aren’t developed countries following suit?


Apples and Pears: Nobody Cares.

March 18, 2011
Apple and pear diversity... (la diversité des ...

Image : Alexandre Dulaunoy

Son of a…

I have this giant list of stuff that I want to blog about. Stuff I learn in school, stuff I read online, stuff I think up in the shower.

So I finally get around to posting one of them and it’s debunked a day later.

A new study was publicized this week which calls into question the significance of body shapes to health concerns.

From the New York Times:

The new report, published online on Friday in The Lancet, pooled data from 58 studies about more than 220,000 people, with a mean age of 58. During the time they were followed, more than 14,000 suffered a heart attack or stroke.

Conventional risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking were accurate predictors of a heart attack or stroke, but additional information about weight or body shape (ascertained by measuring waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio) did not improve the ability to predict risk.

Although mildly annoying in timing, I love how this shows that we don’t really know much about health (or a lot of things for that matter).

Research continues to prove wrong long-held beliefs and practices.

It can be frustrating for those trying to make the best decisions for personal health, but I think it’s also a good argument for sticking with the basics.

A moderate, well-balanced diet and regular physical activity are pretty consistently supported by data.

Take most other health advice with a grain of salt (or don’t, now that we’re supposed to be reducing our sodium intakes. Or do, if you don’t trust the sodium studies).


Are You an Apple or a Pear?

March 10, 2011
Four body shapes of females.

Image: Wikipedia

One of the most shocking things I’ve learned in Exercise Physiology is how important fat distribution is to health.

While we tend to think of body shape as an aesthetic issue, it turns out that where you store your fat actually contributes to your risk for cardiac issues.

In fact, the ACSM training guidelines require that apple shapes (as determined by waist to hip ratio) be treated as though the person were in the next weight category.

So if you are overweight, I need to take precautions as if you were obese. Already obese? You fall into the extremely obese category. And if you’re already there, you would move to the morbidly obese group.

That’s pretty serious.

If you think about it, this body shape difference is commonly seen between men and women. Men tend to put excess weight on in the stomach, while women pack it on around the hips. It makes you wonder to what extent that contributes to the higher rates of heart disease and cardiac issues in men versus women.

I saw today that scientists have identified a protein which helps determine where fat is stored in the body. This could potentially contribute to drugs which combat obesity.

In the mean time, if you are an apple you have a bit more incentive to keep that extra weight off.

FDA Official: “Just Eat A Goddamn Vegetable”

February 14, 2011

A little levity from The Onion on the recent FDA health guidelines:

To Breakfast or Not to Breakfast?

January 20, 2011
american breakfast

Image via Wikipedia

I was kind of disappointed in the new study that came out saying a “big breakfast” doesn’t reduce total calorie consumption for the day.

It was only 400 people and 3/4 of them were obese. It’s fairly possible that obese people have different eating habits. Also their “big” breakfast was really big…400 calories over average.

Anyway, I’ve personally been influenced by other people’s advice about when and how much to eat.

A lot of fit people swear by mini meals – eating 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day.

Of course, the conventional wisdom is to eat breakfast, a habit borne out by the majority of people on the National Weight Control Registry.

Then there’s the smaller meals throughout the day plan plus the never eat before bed rule.

I’ve tried a lot of eating schedules and ultimately figured out what works for me.

And I guess that’s what most of the advice is missing – the caveat that it doesn’t work for everyone.

HOW TO: Get Your Eating Under Control After the Holidays

January 10, 2011
A meal at the court of Emperor Ferdinand I, 1558.

Image via Wikipedia

As you may have guessed by my constant references, LifeHacker is my favorite website. Catching up on my reader feed today, I came across a post about how to adjust back to normal meals after indulging during the holidays.

This is SO me right now.

I know there’s little sympathy for those who lose control at family meals. I admit that I brought this on myself. But how can I help it?

I’m Italian. Not eating a linebacker’s dinner involves offending at least 50 people. Is maintaining my diet worth 3 days of constant interrogation, side-pinching and the pained expressions of concerned relatives? Not really.

Even if you try to miss the actual meal, eating is a mandatory. It goes a little something like this:

Grandmother: Are you hungry?

Me: No, I ate right before I got here.

Grandmother: Great, I’ll fix you a plate.

There’s no convincing my family that food isn’t love so I’ve just given up. When I get home, I go right back to my normal routine, with a few extra snacks thrown in to make the transition. Mostly this means a yogurt between breakfast and lunch #1, then maybe some nuts and an apple between lunch #2 and dinner. (I always have a small lunch #1 at 11am then a salad at 3 which I call lunch #2. Without this, I can’t manage to wait for my husband to get home before digging into dinner)

I’ve also found that getting back to my exercise routine really makes me want to eat healthy and kills my interest in overeating.

LifeHacker also suggested slowing down while eating, not eating while distracted, having a glass or two of water before each meal and having mini meals. All of these are intended to increase feelings of fullness while you transition back to normal eating after the holiday foodfest.

How do you get back on track after the Thanksgiving or Xmas feast? Does your family give you a hard time about trying to eat healthy during the holidays?