Health and Happiness

Top 10 Reasons to Try Yoga

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1. Stress Relief: Yoga reduces the physical effects of stress on the body by encouraging relaxation and lowering the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Related benefits include lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving digestion and boosting the immune system as well as easing symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, asthma and insomnia.

2. Pain Relief: Yoga can ease pain. Studies have demonstrated that practicing yoga asanas (postures), meditation or a combination of the two, reduced pain for people with conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune diseases and hypertension as well as arthritis, back and neck pain and other chronic conditions.

3. Better Breathing: Yoga teaches people to take slower deeper breaths. It improves lung function and triggers body’s relaxation response.

4. Flexibility: Yoga helps to improve flexibility and mobility, increasing range of movement and reducing aches and pains.

5. Increased Strength: Yoga asanas use every muscle in the body, helping to increase strength literally from head to toe.  Yoga also helps to relieve muscular tension.

6. Weight Management: Yoga (even less vigorous styles) can aid weight control efforts by reducing the cortisol levels as well as by burning excess calories. Yoga also encourages healthy eating habits and provides a heightened sense of well being and self esteem.

7. Improved Circulation: It improves circulation and as a result of various poses, more efficiently moves oxygenated blood to the body’s cells.

8. Cardiovascular Conditioning: Even gentle yoga practice can provided cardiovascular benefits by lowering resting heart rate, increasing endurance and improving oxygen uptake.

9. Better Body Alignment: Yoga helps to improve body alignment, helping to relieve back, neck, joint and muscle problems.

10. Focus on the present: Yoga helps us to focus on the present, to become more aware and to help create mind body health. It opens the way to improved coordination, reaction time and memory.


Buying Groceries with Credit Cards Fuels Unhealthy Food Purchases

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Using a credit card to pay for groceries makes a person more likely to buy unhealthy food, according to a Binghamton University faculty member's research paper that will appear in the June 2011 issue of Journal of Consumer Research.

Kalpesh Desai, associate professor of marketing in the School of Management, and his colleagues (Manoj Thomas, assistant professor of marketing at Cornell University and Satheeshkumar Seenivasan, doctoral candidate in marketing at the University at Buffalo) examined the actual purchases made by 1,000 households at a grocery store during a six-month period. They found that participants who paid for groceries with a credit or debit card showed a greater tendency to buy unhealthy foods that are impulsive.

Furthermore, the researchers found that paying with cash decreased impulsive-unhealthy purchases. Findings from several experiments revealed that cash payments are psychologically more painful than card payments, and this pain of payment can curb the impulsive responses to buy unhealthy food items. The findings suggest that internal psychological states and modes of payment interactively influence what types of foods are purchased. Given that many consumers struggle so mightily to make healthy choices, understanding that using plastic increases their vice purchases may help people control impulsive behavior.

Source: Binghamton University


Eye Allergies Often Overlooked, Undertreated

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Millions of Americans suffer unnecessarily with itchy, gritty, watery eyes, according to allergists at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in Phoenix, Nov. 11-16. The underdiagnosis, undertreatment and self-treatment of eye allergies may seriously diminish quality of life, allergists say.

"For every one eye allergy medicine prescribed, 40 people are treating themselves with over-the-counter eye medicine from their local pharmacy," allergist Leonard Bielory, MD, chair of the ACAAI Ocular Allergy Committee. "The over-the-counter product may relieve the symptoms for a short time, but long-term, these patients need to see an allergist who can develop a complete treatment plan to eliminate the disease."

Eye allergy symptoms are regularly reported as one of the top three allergy complaints, according to the Allergies in America Survey. Forty percent of adults in the United States experience eye allergies and more than 40 million bottles of eye allergy medicine are sold in the U.S. each year.

"The focus for people with allergies is usually their skin, lungs and nasal symptoms," said Dr. Bielory. "But what people don't realize is that the burning, itching, watery, gritty or sandy feeling they have in their eyes can and deserves to be treated. Anyone with these symptoms should see an allergist to have their allergies identified and resolved."

Common eye allergy symptoms or abnormalities are:
- itching
- tearing, watery
- gritty, sandy feeling
- burning
- redness
- absence of proper blinking reflex

"Physicians need to be aware of the seriousness of eye allergies," said ACAAI Past PresidentMichael S. Blaiss, MD. "These allergies, which often go hand in hand with nasal allergies, may affect one's capacity to enjoy activities like reading, driving, playing outdoor sports or gardening."

To help those suffering with eye allergies, Dr. Bielory advises physicians to administer the Ocular Surface Disease Index. This is a standardized, easily performed questionnaire that allows doctors to evaluate symptoms and diagnose eye diseases such as conjunctivitis and dry eye syndrome

"This tool helps us to discover the cause, not just relieve symptoms," said Dr. Bielory. "From there we can get to the source of the allergy and fix it with one of many treatment options available to our patients, avoidance of the allergen, pharmacotherapy (drugs or medicine), or immunotherapy (allergy shots)."

Those who suspect they may have eye allergies should get tested by an allergist - a physician who is an expert in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma. To learn more about allergies and asthma, take a free relief self-test or find an allergist near you visit here.

American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)


Confused about Vitamin D?

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Recently, a U.S. government panel announced that the levels of Vitamin D set for the minimum dosages, for all age levels increased. Many people have felt confused about what this means. Here are a few of the most asked questions to help you decide your own course of action.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) reviewed about 1,000 published studies and wrote a report concluding that vitamin D and calcium together are essential to maintaining bone health. The positive results prompted the increases in their report.

Specifically, they suggested an increase in the recommended daily intake (RDI) as follows:

•    Doubling vitamin D intake for infants to 400 IU
•    Tripling vitamin D intake for those between ages 1 and 50 to 600 IU
•    Doubling vitamin D intake for those ages 51 to 70 to 600 IU
•    33% increase for those older than 71 years old to 800 IU

According to Andrew Shao, Ph.D., senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, for the Council for Responsible Nutrition*:

"While an increase in the recommendations for vitamin D will benefit the public overall, such a conservative increase for the nutrient lags behind the mountain of research demonstrating a need for vitamin D intake at levels possibly as high as 2,000 IU/day for adults, The research for vitamin D has been so positive, that the medical community and consumers already have a heightened awareness of the value of this nutrient, and we've been anxious for the IOM to catch up."

* Vitamin D intake levels officially rise, By Todd Runestad, Functional Ingredients, December 01, 2010, http://www.functionalingredientsmag.com/

Those who advocate Vitamin D suggest between 30ng/ml and 50ng/ml for optimal health. In order to know specifically what you need, we suggest that you consult your physician and find out what your own levels are before deciding.

The Institute of Medicine upper intake levels for Vitamin D are:
•    0-6 months of age: 1,000 IU
•    6-12 months of age: 1,500 IU
•    1-3 years of age: 2,500 IU
•    4-8 years of age: 3,000 IU
•    9-71+ years of age: 4,000 IU
•    Pregnant/lactating: 4,000 IU

Beyond these upper intake levels, we suggest you consult a physician.

For additional information from the National Institutes of Health go to: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-QuickFacts/


Report Finds Important Period for Learning is before Preschool

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The amount of time parents spend talking about numbers has a much bigger impact on how young children learn mathematics than was previously known, researchers at the University of Chicago have found.

For example, children whose parents talked more about numbers were much more likely to understand the cardinal number principle - which states that the size of a set of objects is determined by the last number reached when counting the set.

"By the time children enter preschool, there are marked individual differences in their mathematical knowledge, as shown by their performance on standardized tests," said University of Chicago psychologist Susan Levine, the leader of the study. Other studies have shown that the level of mathematics knowledge entering school predicts future success.

"These findings suggest that encouraging parents to talk about numbers with their children, and providing them with effective ways to do so, may positively impact children's school achievement," said Levine, the Stella M. Rowley Professor in Psychology Professor in Psychology.

The results of the study were published in the article, "What Counts in the Development of Young Children's Number Knowledge?" in the current issue of Developmental Psychology. Joining lead author Levine in the study were four other scholars.

Although other researchers have examined early mathematics learning, the University of Chicago team is the first to record parent-child interactions in the home and analyze the connections between parents' number talk and subsequent performance. Parents often point to objects and say there are three blocks on the floor, for instance. Children can repeat a string of numbers from an early age, but saying "one, two, three" is not the same as actually knowing that the words relate to set size, which is an abstraction.

Frequent use of number words is important, even if the child doesn't seem to pick up on the meanings of the number words right away, Levine said. Children who hear more number words in everyday conversation have a clear advantage in understanding how the count words refer to set size. To perform the study, team members made five home visits and videotaped interactions between 44 youngsters and their parents. The taping sessions lasted for 90 minutes and were made at four-month intervals, when the youngsters were between the ages of 14 to 30 months.

The variation in number words was startling for researchers as they reviewed tapes of the 44 youngsters interacting with their parents in everyday activities. Some parents produced as few as four number words during the entire period they were studied, while others produced as many as 257.

"This amount of variation would amount to a range of approximately 28 to 1,799 number-related words in a week," said Levine.

Those differences were shown to have a big impact at the end of the study, when the children were asked to connect the words for numbers with sets of squares presented on sheets of paper. For example, those children who heard a lot of number talk were more likely to respond correctly when shown a set of five squares and four squares and asked to "point to five."


Joining Levine in the study were Linda Whealton Suriyakham, now at the Roger Williams University Center for Counseling and Student Development, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology; Meredith Rowe, Assistant Professor of Human Development at the University of Maryland; Janellen Huttenlocher, the William S. Gray Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Chicago; and Elizabeth Gunderson, a graduate student in psychology at the University of Chicago.

This research was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Science Foundation Science of Learning Center grant, and the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center.

William Harms
University of Chicago

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