Friday, September 18, 2009

Food & Fitness

Ran across this program on WebMD and wanted to share it with you:

With the WebMD Food & Fitness Planner You Get:
  1. Weight, fitness and daily calorie recommendations based on your personal goals.
  2. Access to food nutrition and fitness data information on more then 37,000 foods and over 650 activities, exercises and sports — all with tracking and personal calorie calculations.
  3. Portion size guidelines based on common household objects to help you manage your serving sizes.
  4. A printable planner to keep you on track throughout the day.

It's been proven that people who plan their meals and exercise everyday are more successful in meeting their healthy eating and weight goals than those who don't create a plan.

Meet your goals:
Step 1. Set your goal and calculate recommendations.
Step 2. Plan your foods and activities.
Step 3. Follow your personal plan.

Did You Know...

Portion Distortion

  • Most restaurants serve 2-4 times the recommended serving sizes.
  • You could be adding more then 100 extra calories to you plate resulting in a weight gain of 10 or more pounds per year!
  • The WebMD Food & Fitness Planner contains the new WebMD Portion Size Plate to help you understand serving sizes and prevent overeating for lifelong success!

Fitness Recommendations

  • Lack of time is the reason most people don't exercise.
  • People usually don't think to count day-to-day activities (yard work, laundry, etc) as healthy calorie burners.
  • The WebMD Food & Fitness Planner will give you a personalized target heart rate calculation to help you achieve the greatest fitness benefits.

Go to the Food and Fitness Planner page and get started TODAY.

Have Sympathy for the Little People

Heeheehee! That's me! I am going to get swallowed up in this:

I know, I know, this isn't a health post, but today, I need your help. I am trying to "collect" comments for a chance to Win a Samsung Washer and Dryer over at my Yummy! Yummy! Yummy! blog. If you have a minute, could you go THERE and leave me a comment.

While you're THERE, take a look at the information on how YOU can post and win a washer and dryer, too. If you decide to enter, let me know and I will comment for you, too.

Thanks my Virtual Friends Forever.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

and Kelly Ripa Kick Off
"Text-a-Thon for a Cause"

Electrolux and Kelly Ripa remain committed to raising money and awareness to support this worthy cause. Together, they are launching another exciting campaign that utilizes a form of communication that many of us use every day - texting! During September, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Electrolux and Kelly are holding a "Text-a-Thon for a Cause" to help raise support for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund whose mission is to fund research to find a method of early detection and ultimately a cure for ovarian cancer.

Throughout September, you can donate $5 to the cause by texting "KELLY" to 85944 from your mobile phones (standard text messaging rates apply) - or logging on to Also, every time you log on to the Web site, you'll be entered for a chance to win an amazing contribution to your home - a luxury front load washer and dryer from Electrolux in Turquoise Sky, the color inspired by the teal ribbon of ovarian cancer awareness.

Also during September, visitors to Kelly Confidential can help spread awareness for this important cause by sending a virtual T-shirt to a friend. For every virtual t-shirt sent, Electrolux will donate $1 to the OCRF. Fashion-forward Moms can also purchase a limited edition T-shirt designed by Ripa; 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the T-shirts will go to OCRF.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Arthritis: Ankylosing Spondylitis

A few months back, my son, Cody, started having some problems with his legs and feet. He came home from work on day and with the problems and was having a lot of trouble walking. He had some tests run and, after about 2 weeks, the doctor told us that he had a strained ligament in his knee. He gave him medication and told him to stay off of it for a week or so and see if that would fix it.

It didn't.

After a few weeks went by, the pain was mostly gone, with a few "flare ups" from time to time, mostly in his feet, but he still just couldn't walk right.

Back to the doctor for more extensive tests. This time, a problem showed up with his blood work. They did more blood work, running a few other tests to confirm what they were seeing. After seeing all the blood work, they explained to us that Cody had an imbalance in his enzymes and said they wanted to send him to a Rheumatologist.

Let me pause for a moment and tell you that I was scared to death. Cody is a very healthy, 19 year old, young man. He's never had anything beyond a cold his entire life. Plus, you parents know, we don't want anything to ever be wrong with our child. EVER.

We made the appointment and met with the Rheumatologist a couple of weeks later. What a wonderful doctor. He checked Cody head to toe, he literally checked every single joint in Cody's 6 foot 3 inch body. He talked to us about some possibilites of what he thought was going on with Cody, saying that he had a lot of indicators that were leaning towards "Reactive Arthritis", a very treatment, low maintenance form of arthritis that generally flares up on occasion but rarely gives in major problems.

However, he was concerned because Cody also had several indicators for Ankylosing Spondylitis, another form of arthritis that, as you will see in a moment, is not what you would want your child or anyone else to have.

The doctor performed x-rays, which also indicated the presence of Ankylosing Spondylitis, he followed up with a more "probing" form of blood tests to see if the indicators were present there and we had to go home and wait.

I was contacted two days later by the doctor himself who told me that the blood work also showed positive for Ankylosing Spondylitis.

At this point, there aren't other tests that can say that it is absolutely Ankylosing Spondylitis. From here on out, all we can do is treat his symptoms as they develop and hope for the best.

Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. We don't want this to develop, but all indicators say that it is going to.

Here is some information about it:

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spine. Ankylosing spondylitis symptoms include pain and stiffness from the neck down to the lower back. The spine's bones (vertebrae) may grow or fuse together, resulting in a rigid spine. These changes may be mild or severe, and may lead to a stooped-over posture. Early diagnosis and treatment helps control pain and stiffness and may reduce or prevent significant deformity.

Who Is Affected by Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Spondylitis affects about 0.1 to 0.5% of the adult population. Although it can occur at any age, spondylitis most often affects men in their 20s and 30s. It is less common and generally milder in women and most common in Native Americans.

What Are the Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis?

The most common early symptoms of spondylitis include:

  • Pain and stiffness. Constant pain and stiffness in the low back, buttocks and hips that continue for more than three months. Spondylitis often starts around the sacroiliac joints, where the sacrum (the lowest major part of the spine) joins the ilium bone of the pelvis in the lower back region.
  • Bony fusion. Ankylosing spondylitis can cause an overgrowth of the bones, which may lead to abnormal joining of bones, called "bony fusion." Fusion affecting bones of the neck, back or hips may impair a person's ability to perform routine activities. Fusion of the ribs to the spine or breastbone may limit a person's ability to expand his or her chest when taking a deep breath.
  • Pain in ligaments and tendons. Spondylitis also may affect some of the ligaments and tendons that attach to bones. Tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon) may cause pain and stiffness in the area behind or beneath the heel, such as the Achilles tendon at the back of the ankle.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a systemic disease, which means symptoms may not be limited to the joints. People with the condition also may have fever, fatigue and loss of appetite. Eye inflammation (redness and pain) occurs in some people with spondylitis. In rare cases, lung and heart problems also may develop.

What Causes Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Although the cause of spondylitis is unknown, there is a strong genetic or family link. Most, but not all, people with spondylitis carry a gene called HLA-B27. Although people carrying this gene are more likely to develop spondylitis, more than 75% of these people never develop the disease.

How Is Ankylosing Spondylitis Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of spondylitis is based on several factors, including:

  • Symptoms
  • Findings on physical examination
  • X-rays of the back and pelvis

How Is Ankylosing Spondylitis Treated?

There is no cure for spondylitis, but there are treatments that can reduce discomfort and improve function. The goals of treatment are to reduce pain and stiffness, maintain a good posture, prevent deformity and preserve the ability to perform normal activities. When properly treated, people with ankylosing spondylitis may lead fairly normal lives. Under ideal circumstances, a team approach to treat spondylitis is recommended. Members of the treatment team typically include the patient, doctor, physical therapist and occupational therapist. In patients with severe deformities, osteotomy and fusion can be done.

  • Physical and occupational therapy . Early intervention with physical and occupational therapy is important to maintain function and minimize deformity.
  • Exercise . A program of daily exercise helps reduce stiffness, strengthen the muscles around the joints and prevent or minimize the risk of disability. Deep breathing exercises may help keep the chest cage flexible. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for people with ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Medications. Certain drugs help provide relief from pain and stiffness, and allow patients to perform their exercises with minimal discomfort. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly used drugs for spondylitis treatment. Many NSAIDs are currently available. In moderate to severe cases, other medications may be added to the treatment regimen. Disease modifying anitrheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as Azulfidine and Rheumatrex can be used when NSAIDs alone are not enough to reduce the inflammation, and help to prevent joint stiffness and pain. In addition, the relatively new drugs Enbrel and Remicade have been FDA approved for treating ankylosing spondylitis. A similar drug, Humira has also been shown to improve the pain and stiffness of ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Surgery. Artificial joint replacement surgery may be a treatment option for some people with advanced joint disease affecting the hips or knees.

    In addition, people with spondylitis are urged to not smoke or chew tobacco products because of the increased risk of lung problems and reduced ability to expand the rib cage. Certainly, all of the other reasons why doctors discourage smoking also apply here as well.

    People with spondylitis are encouraged to sleep on a firm mattress with the back straight. Placing large pillows under the head is discouraged, since it may promote neck fusion in the flexed position. Similarly, propping the legs up on pillows should be avoided because it may lead to hip or knee fusion in the bent position. Choose chairs, tables and other work surfaces that will help avoid slumping or stooping. Armchairs are preferred over chairs without arms.

    Since those with ankylosing spondylitis could easily hurt their rigid necks or backs, special care should be taken to avoid sudden impact, such as jumping or falling.

    Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Department of Rheumatic and Immunologic Diseases

Sunday, September 6, 2009

7 in 10 U.S. Kids Have Low Vitamin D

Kids' Low D Means Heart Risk, Rickets, Weak Bones

Seven out of 10 U.S. children have too-low vitamin D levels, putting them at risk of heart disease, rickets, and weak bones.

Nearly one in 10 kids -- 7.6 million American children -- are actually deficient in vitamin D. Low vitamin D is risky, but vitamin D deficiency is a serious health threat in which the body begins to reabsorb calcium from the skeleton.

The new findings come in a study by Juhi Kumar, MD, MPH, of Montefiore Medical Center; Michal Melamed, MD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and colleagues.

"We expected the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency would be high, but the magnitude of the problem nationwide was shocking," Kumar says in a news release.

Rickets, a bone disease of infants caused by too little vitamin D, has been on the rise. It's not the first time: A U.S. epidemic of rickets at the end of the 1800s ended only when the U.S. fortified milk with vitamin D.

It's now apparent that more must be done. People get vitamin D from foods like milk and fish, but it's hard to get enough from diet alone. The body makes its own vitamin D, but only when a person gets at least 10 minutes of direct sunshine a day, before putting on sunscreen.

Most people need regular vitamin D supplements. Indeed, the Kumar study found that children who took vitamin D supplements were least likely to have low vitamin D levels. But only 4% of kids get these supplements.

Some kids were at particularly high risk of low vitamin D levels:

  • Older children
  • Girls
  • African-American children
  • Mexican-American children
  • Obese children
  • Kids who drank milk less than once a week
  • Kids who spent more than four hours a day watching TV, playing video games, or using computers

Melamed noted that the widespread use of sunscreens keeps kids from getting vitamin D from sunlight.

"It would be a good idea for parents to turn off the TV and send their kids outside," she says in the news release. Just 15 to 20 minutes a day should be enough. And unless they burn easily, don't put sunscreen on them until they've been out in the sun for 10 minutes, so they get the good stuff but not the sun damage."

The Kumar study is an analysis of data gathered in the 2001 to 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of a nationally representative sample of 6,275 children aged 1 to 21.

Low Vitamin D, Future Heart Disease

Kids who have low vitamin D levels are at serious risk of heart disease in adulthood, find Johns Hopkins researcher Jared P. Reis, PhD, and colleagues.

Reis' team analyzed data from 3,577 12- to 19-year-olds in the NHANES database.

They found that even after controlling for all kinds of factors that affect heart disease risk -- obesity, exercise levels, race/ethnicity, age, gender, and socioeconomic status -- low vitamin D put kids at risk of heart disease as adults.

Compared to the 25% of kids with the highest vitamin D levels, the 25% of kids with the lowest vitamin D levels had:

  • a 2.36-fold higher risk of high blood pressure
  • a 2.54-fold higher risk of high blood-fat levels
  • a 50% higher risk of low levels of good HDL cholesterol
  • a nearly fourfold higher risk of metabolic syndrome, a set of risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.

Kids with low vitamin D levels were more likely to be obese, but even non-obese kids with low vitamin D had more risk factors for heart disease in the not-too-distant future.

Friday, September 4, 2009

10 Surprising Health Benefits of Love

Lower Blood Pressure, Fewer Colds, Better Stress Management Are Just the Beginning

“I need somebody to love,” sang the Beatles, and they got it right. Love and health are intertwined in surprising ways. Humans are wired for connection, and when we cultivate good relationships, the rewards are immense. But we’re not necessarily talking about spine-tingling romance.

“There’s no evidence that the intense, passionate stage of a new romance is beneficial to health,” says Harry Reis, PhD, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships. "People who fall in love say it feels wonderful and agonizing at the same time.” All those ups and downs can be a source of stress.

It takes a calmer, more stable form of love to yield clear health benefits. “There is very nice evidence that people who participate in satisfying, long-term relationships fare better on a whole variety of health measures,” Reis tells WebMD.

Most of the research in this area centers on marriage, but Reis believes many of the perks extend to other close relationships -- for example, with a partner, parent, or friend. The key is to “feel connected to other people, feel respected and valued by other people, and feel a sense of belonging,” he says. Here are 10 research-backed ways that love and health are linked:

1. Fewer Doctor’s Visits

The Health and Human Services Department reviewed a bounty of studies on marriage and health. One of the report’s most striking findings is that married people have fewer doctor’s visits and shorter average hospital stays.

“Nobody quite knows why loving relationships are good for health,” Reis says. “The best logic for this is that human beings have been crafted by evolution to live in closely knit social groups. When that is not happening, the biological systems ... get overwhelmed.”

Another theory is that people in good relationships take better care of themselves. A spouse may keep you honest in your oral hygiene. A best friend could motivate you to eat more whole grains. Over time, these good habits translate to fewer illnesses.

2. Less Depression & Substance Abuse

According to the Health and Human Services report, getting married and staying married reduces depression in both men and women. This finding is not surprising, Reis says, because social isolation is clearly linked to higher rates of depression. What’s interesting is that marriage also contributes to a decline in heavy drinking and drug abuse, especially among young adults.

3. Lower Blood Pressure

A happy marriage is good for your blood pressure. That’s the conclusion of a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Researchers found happily married people had the best blood pressure, followed by singles. Unhappily married participants fared the worst.

Reis says this study illustrates a vital aspect of the way marriage affects health. “It’s marital quality and not the fact of marriage that makes a difference,” he tells WebMD. This supports the idea that other positive relationships can have similar benefits. In fact, singles with a strong social network also did well in the blood pressure study, though not as well as happily married people.

4. Less Anxiety

When it comes to anxiety, a loving, stable relationship is superior to new romance. Researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook used functional MRI (fMRI) scans to look at the brains of people in love. They compared passionate new couples with strongly connected long-term couples. Both groups showed activation in a part of the brain associated with intense love.

“It’s the dopamine-reward area, the same area that responds to cocaine or winning a lot of money,” says Arthur Aron, PhD, one of the study’s authors. But there were striking differences between the two groups in other parts of the brain. In long-term relationships, “you also have activation in the areas associated with bonding ... and less activation in the area that produces anxiety.” The study was presented at the 2008 conference of the Society for Neuroscience.

5. Natural Pain Control

The fMRI study reveals another big perk for long-term couples -- more activation in the part of the brain that keeps pain under control. A CDC report complements this finding. In a study of more than 127,000 adults, married people were less likely to complain of headaches and back pain.

A small study published in Psychological Science adds to the intrigue. Researchers subjected 16 married women to the threat of an electric shock. When the women were holding their husband’s hand, they showed less response in the brain areas associated with stress. The happier the marriage, the greater the effect.

6. Better Stress Management

If love helps people cope with pain, what about other types of stress? Aron says there is evidence of a link between social support and stress management. “If you’re facing a stressor and you’ve got the support of someone who loves you, you can cope better,” he tells WebMD. If you lose your job, for example, it helps emotionally and financially if a partner is there to support you.

7. Fewer Colds

We’ve seen that loving relationships can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression -- a fact that may give the immune system a boost. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who exhibit positive emotions are less likely to get sick after exposure to cold or flu viruses. The study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, compared people who were happy and calm with those who appeared anxious, hostile, or depressed.

8. Faster Healing

The power of a positive relationship may make flesh wounds heal faster. Researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center gave married couples blister wounds. The wounds healed nearly twice as fast in spouses who interacted warmly compared with those who demonstrated a lot of hostility toward each other. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

9. Longer Life

A growing body of research indicates that married people live longer. One of the largest studies examines the effect of marriage on mortality during an eight-year period in the 1990s. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey, researchers found that people who had never been married were 58% more likely to die than married people.

Aron tells WebMD marriage contributes to longer life mostly through “mutual practical support, financial benefits, and children who provide support.”

But Reis sees an emotional explanation. Marriage protects against death by warding off feelings of isolation. “Loneliness is associated with all-cause mortality -- dying for any reason,” he says. In other words, married people live longer because they feel loved and connected.

10. Happier Life

It may seem obvious that one of love’s greatest benefits is joy. But research is just beginning to reveal how strong this link can be. A study in the Journal of Family Psychology shows happiness depends more on the quality of family relationships than on the level of income. And so we have scientific evidence that, at least in some ways, the power of love trumps the power of money.

Nurture Your Relationships

To foster a loving relationship that yields concrete benefits, Aron offers four tips:

  • If you are depressed or anxious, get treatment.
  • Brush up on communication skills and learn to handle conflict.
  • Do things that are challenging and exciting with your loved one on a regular basis.
  • Celebrate each other's successes.

This last point is crucial, Aron tells WebMD. Although partners often provide support during a crisis, this support is even more beneficial during good times. As the proverb goes, Shared sorrow is half sorrow; shared joy is double joy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Migraines, Headaches, and Hormones

It has been estimated that 70% of migraine sufferers are female. Of these female migraine sufferers, 60%-70% report that their migraines are related to their menstrual cycles -- hence the name, menstrual migraines.

What Is the Relationship Between Hormones and Headaches?

Headaches in women, particularly migraines, have been related to changes in the levels of the female hormone estrogen during a woman's menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels drop immediately before the start of the menstrual flow.

Premenstrual migraines regularly occur during or after the time when the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, decrease to their lowest levels.

Migraine attacks typically disappear during pregnancy. In one study, 64% of women who described a menstrual link to their headaches noted that their headaches disappeared during pregnancy. However, some women have reported the initial onset of migraines during the first trimester of pregnancy, with disappearance of their headaches after the third month of pregnancy.

What Triggers Hormonal Migraines in Women?

Birth control pills as well as hormone replacement therapy during menopause have been recognized as migraine triggers in some women. As early as 1966, investigators noted that migraines can become more severe in women taking birth control pills, especially those containing high doses of estrogen.

The frequency of side effects, such as headache, decreased in those who took birth control pills containing lower doses of estrogen and did not occur in those who took birth control pills containing progesterone.

What Are the Treatment Options for Menstrual Migraines?

The medications of choice to stop a menstrual migraine are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).

The NSAIDs most often used for menstrual migraines include:

* Orudis
* Advil and Motrin
* Nalfon
* Naprosyn
* Relafen

NSAID treatment should be started two to three days before the menstrual period starts and continue til the period ends. Because the therapy is of short duration, the risk of gastrointestinal side effects is limited.

For people who have severe menstrual migraines or who want to continue taking their birth control pills, doctors recommend taking a NSAID, starting on the l9th day of the cycle and continuing through the second day of the next cycle.

Other medications that may be used are given by prescription only. They include:

* Small doses of ergotamine drugs (including Bellergal-S, Cafergot, Migranal)
* Beta-blocker drugs such as propranolol
* Anticonvulsants such as valproate (Depakote)
* Calcium channel blockers such as verapamil

These drugs should also be started two to three days pre-menses, and continued throughout the menstrual flow.

Because fluid retention is often associated with menses, diuretics have been used to prevent menstrual migraine. Some doctors may recommend limiting salt-intake immediately before the start of menses.

Lupron is a medication that affects hormone levels and is used only when all other treatment methods have been tried and have been unsuccessful.

What Are the Treatment Options for Menopausal Migraines?

For people who need to continue post-menopausal estrogen supplements, the lowest dose of these agents should be used, on an uninterrupted basis. Instead of seven days off the drug, you should take it on a daily basis. By maintaining a steady dose of estrogen, the headaches may be prevented. An estrogen patch (such as Estraderm) may also be effective in stabilizing the levels of estrogen.
What Are the Treatment Options for Migraines During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, no treatment is recommended to treat migraines. Medication therapy used to treat migraines can affect the uterus and can cross the placenta and affect the baby, so these medications should be strictly avoided during pregnancy.

A mild pain reliever can be used, such as Tylenol. It is important that pregnant women suffering from headaches discuss the safety of headache medications with their obstetricians and headache specialists before taking anything.