Health and Happiness

Start Your Resolutions Early… And Keep Them All Year Long

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A new year often means new habits. Eating healthier food and becoming more physically active is often on the top of many people's list, but it's easy for these new expectations to become overwhelming. Set realistic goals for yourself! A healthy diet and regular physical activity can easily be achieved by making some of these easy, conscious decisions:

    * Eat Breakfast Every Day. When you don't eat breakfast, you are likely to make up for the calories you saved by eating more later on in the day. Choose a quick, healthy breakfast option such as yogurt with fruit or toast with sliced banana and a bit of peanut butter. Many people who maintain long-term weight loss eat breakfast daily.
    * Drink water. Make water more appealing by keeping it cold in the fridge or adding a slice of fruit for flavor. Choosing water keeps you from drinking something else that may be loaded with calories and sugar. People who drink sugar-sweetened beverages tend to consume more calories.
    * Eat smaller food portions. When eating out, save some of your meal and take it home to make another meal or split one meal between two people. At home, try putting only the amount you want to eat in a small bowl and don't go back for more. People eat more when confronted with larger portion sizes.
    * Maintain your physical activity routine. Regular physical activity is an important part of maintaining weight loss. Keep up your good habits before, during, and after the New Year. If you need extra encouragement, be physically active with a friend or relative or start an activity that may have always interested you, such as gardening or bicycling.
    * Prepare a healthy lunch at home and take it to work. Taking your lunch to work helps you avoid last-minute lunch choices, which often result in selecting high-fat and high calorie options. Think about healthy lunches before your next trip to the grocery store, and stock up on healthy food items so that making your lunch will be easy.


The Lake County Health Department Emphasizes Holiday Food Safety

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LAKE COUNTY– As Lake County residents continue to celebrate this holiday season, the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) emphasizes the importance of safe food preparation and storage to prevent possible foodborne illnesses.

Lake County Health Department's Environmental Health Director, Paul Butler, advises that “Lake County residents should wash their hands and counter tops thoroughly before and after preparing foods to help eliminate bacteria. Foods should be cooked at the appropriate temperature and leftovers should be stored properly.”

Prevent factors that can contribute to foodborne illnesses by:
•    Properly washing of hands and fingernails before and after handling food.
•    Proper food storage (adequate refrigeration temperature or hot holding temperature). Safe refrigeration temperature is less than 41 degrees Fahrenheit, and safe hot holding temperature is greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
•    Never letting hot or cold foods sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
•    Proper cooling of foods. Safe cooling of foods is getting the foods to less than 41 degrees Fahrenheit within a four-hour time period.
•    Avoiding cross contamination (such as from uncooked meat to salad ingredients)
•    Proper cleaning and sanitizing of eating and cooking utensils, work areas and equipment
•    Avoiding contamination of food, utensils and equipment from flies, roaches and other pests
•    Serving food on clean plates. Never let juices from raw meat, poultry and seafood come in contact with cooked food.
•    Replacing serving plates often. Avoid putting fresh food on serving plates that have been sitting out at room temperature.
•    Storing foods in shallow containers to refrigerate or freeze them.

DOH promotes, protects and improves the health of all people in Florida. For more information about food safety, visit www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/community/food/. To report a food or waterborne illness complaint visit www.lakechd.com and click on the Foodborne Illness Complaint Form.


Myth of A Germ-Free World: A Closer Look At Antimicrobial Products

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Killing microorganisms has become a national obsession. A pair of antimicrobial compounds known as triclosan and triclocarban are lately the weapons of choice in our war of gnawing away at the microbial world. Both chemicals are found in an array of personal care products like antimicrobial soaps, and triclosan also is formulated into everyday items ranging from plastics and toys to articles of clothing.

But are these antimicrobial chemicals really safe for human health and the environment? Do they even work? According to associate professor Rolf Halden, of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, the answer to these questions is an emphatic "No."

A biologist and engineer, Halden is interested in chemicals produced in high volume for consumer use. "I follow the pathways of these substances and try to figure out what they do to the environment, what they do to us and how we can better manage them."

The antimicrobial triclosan was patented in 1964, and began its use in clinical settings, where it was found to be a potent bacterial killer, useful before surgical procedures. Since then, industry's drive to convince consumers of the need for antimicrobials has been aggressive and highly effective. Antimicrobials made their first appearance in commercial hand soaps in the 1980s and by 2001, 76 percent of liquid hand soaps contained the chemical.

Antimicrobials have become a billion dollar a year industry and these chemicals now permeate the environment and our bodies. Levels of triclosan in humans have increased by an average of 50 percent since 2004, according to newly updated data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Triclosan and triclocarban are present in 60 percent of all rivers and streams nationwide and analysis of lake sediments have shown a steady increase in triclosan since the 1960s. Antimicrobial chemicals appear in household dust where they may act as allergens, and alarmingly, 97 percent of all U.S. women show detectable levels of triclosan in their breast milk. Such unnecessary exposures carry risks which, at present, are unclear.

Halden and his team conducted a series of experiments aimed at tracking the environmental course of the active ingredients in personal care products. The disturbing results of their research indicate that triclosan and triclocarban first accumulate in wastewater sludge and are transferred to soils and natural water environments, where they were observed to stay for months or years.

The chemistry behind these compounds make them notoriously difficult to break down. Further, they are averse to water, tending to stick to particles, which decreases their availability for breakdown processes and facilitates long-range transport in water and air. A recent study demonstrated the accumulation of triclosan in dolphins from contaminated coastal waters.

Both triclosan and triclocarban have been linked to endocrine disruption, with potential adverse impacts on sexual and neurological development. Further, the accumulation of these antimicrobials in the environment is exerting selective pressure on microorganisms exposed to them, thereby increasing the likelihood that a super-bug, resistant to the very antimicrobials developed to kill them, will emerge - with potentially dire consequences for human health.

On the positive side, Halden's team identified specific microorganisms adapted to not only tolerate but also break down pervasive antimicrobials. The research is part of a wider effort aimed at alerting the public and regulatory agencies, including the EPA and FDA, of the dangers of these chemicals as well as developing effective remediation strategies.

As Halden explains, "these microbes have the dual advantage of being resistant to destruction by antimicrobials and being able to break down these chemicals. You could put them to use for example by adding them to high-strength industrial wastewater before it gets combined with the domestic sewage."

Halden notes the impact these persistent chemicals can have on other life forms in the environment that are not their intended target. The thresholds for killing microbes are much higher than those for other, more fragile life forms, like algae, crustaceans and fish. "This explains why residual concentrations of antimicrobials found in aquatic environments are still sufficiently harmful to wipe out the small and sensitive crustaceans, which are critical to the aquatic life cycle and food web," Halden says.

For certain, chemicals like triclosan and triclocarban have their place in public health, particularly in clinical settings, among people who are trained in their proper use. However, in 2005, the FDA put together an expert panel to review all the available information on these chemicals. Halden was among the voting members of this committee, which concluded that regular use of antimicrobial products by the general public was no more effective than traditional methods of proper hygiene - simply washing thoroughly with regular soap and water.

Society, Halden insists, is participating in a grand experiment in which we are all guinea pigs. While effective regulation of these chemicals is badly needed, Halden says that the inertia of regulatory agencies is a formidable obstacle. In the meantime, the best hope is for consumers to avoid triclosan and triclocarban containing products.

"The culture of fear leads people to make impulsive decisions and buy a lot of antimicrobial products that are not really needed," Halden says. "It's a profitable market to be in, but not one that is ultimately sustainable or a good idea."

In addition to Halden's appointment at the Biodesign Institute, at Arizona State University, he holds the title of associate professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, at the Ira. A. Fulton School of Engineering, ASU.

Source: Medical News Today


Check Out Health Clubs Before Joining

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Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is reminding consumers to take time to check on the background of a health club or gym prior to signing up or buying a membership as a gift. Many people wanting to start the New Year off right join gyms, but without some investigation the only thing they may lose is money.

The department regulates health clubs under the Health Studio Act, which provides some protections for consumers in the event the club closes, moves, or the member cannot use the facilities for medical reasons. Health clubs are required to register with the department, and many are also required to post a bond for member refunds in the event the club goes out of business.

"Many memberships require a contract and it is important for consumers to take the time to read the document before signing it," Bronson said. "People cannot simply decide they no longer want to be a member of a health club and stop going. They have to adhere to the terms of the contract."

Currently, there are 1,756 health clubs registered in Florida and during the past year, 288 clubs went out of business.

The law provides consumers with the right to cancel a contract within three days of signing it, exclusive of holidays and weekends, but it must be done in writing. After three days, it is a binding legal obligation. If a person becomes physically unable to use a substantial portion of the services for which they contracted, they can get a refund. If the health studio goes out of business or moves more than five driving miles away from the original location it must provide, within 30 days, a facility of equal quality located within the five miles or the contract is void.

Bronson also recommends consumers follow these tips:

    * Call the department's helpline - 1 800 HELP FLA (435-7352) or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (1-800-352-9832) - to make sure that the health studio is registered and to check its complaint history.
    * Find out if the studio has posted a bond with the department, as most clubs that collect fees in advance are required to do.
    * Find out about the club's cancellation policy in the event a member moves or becomes physically unable to use the facility.
    * Visit the club during the hours you intend to use it to determine whether the equipment you want will be available at that time.
    * Make sure exactly what the membership fee covers. In some cases, amenities such as racquetball and basketball courts, child care, towels etc. cost extra.

Bronson says like any legal document, it's important to read contracts thoroughly and make sure that all promises are made in writing. Ask questions to make sure the terms of the membership contract are understood and can be followed.


Children Unhappy at School Turn to Sex and Alcohol

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Young children who don't like school are more likely to be involved in underage drinking and sexual activity. A study reported in BioMed Central's open access journal Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention and Policy, has found that pupils' general wellbeing and specific satisfaction with school were both associated with the incidence of risky behaviors.

Professor Mark Bellis worked with a team of researchers from the Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University, to carry out the study in more than 3500 11-14 year olds from 15 schools in the North West of England. He said, "As young as 13 years old, children who drink alcohol are much more likely to have had sex. The more they drink, the higher the risks of early sexual behavior. However, here we have looked at the relationships, not just between alcohol consumption and sexual behavior, but also at how these behaviors relate to their feelings about school and home life".

The authors assessed general wellbeing by asking children about how happy they were with the way they looked, how well they got on with their parents, whether they felt they could be assertive and whether they often felt remorse. School-related wellbeing was assessed by questions about liking school, how their teachers treat them, and involvement with school rules.

According to the authors, the study found that children stating a dislike of school had 2.5-fold higher odds of having any sexual relationship. Dislike of school also strongly predicted alcohol use.

Speaking about the results, Professor Bellis said, "Our study identifies that the children who drink and are sexually active are also more likely to be unhappy with their school and home lives. Such children can become disengaged from both family and educational support and risk progressing to sexually transmitted infections, teenage pregnancies or becoming an alcohol related casualty at an accident and emergency unit".

"This study paints a clear picture that the children we most need to support are often the hardest to reach through conventional educational and parental routes."

Wellbeing, alcohol use and sexual activity in young teenagers: findings from a cross-sectional survey in school children in North West England
Penelope A Phillips-Howard, Mark A Bellis, Linford B Briant, Hayley Jones, Jennifer Downing, Imogen E Kelly, Timothy Bird and Penny A Cook
Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy (in press)

Graeme Baldwin
BioMed Central

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