In Case You Missed It (1/28/16)

What a study about empathy in animals may be able to tell us about autism in humans – “Empathy research is a big topic in neuroscience these days, with a growing number of studies focused on how emotions figure into people's thoughts and actions. One of the main things we've learned is that various non-human species are also able to recognize the distress of others and respond in a comforting way.” That’s right, folks, animals have and perceive emotions and consequently react with empathy. Armed with this knowledge, please consider buying cruelty-free cosmetics, celebrating Meatless Mondays, eschewing authentic fur and leather garments, replacing dairy products with plant-based alternatives, and making other choices to minimize animal suffering. Once you experience the positive karmic impact of your humane choices, you might even be motivated to go vegan!

What you need to know about pulses, the United Nation’s healthy food of the year – Good thing you have me to keep you ahead of the curve with some Legume Love ;)

To Prevent Back Pain, Orthotics Are Out, Exercise Is In – Back when I was an avid long distance runner, wearing orthotics definitely reduced my back pain. However, if your back pain is due to extra weight and/or muscle weakness, then obviously exercising will help by promoting weight loss and strengthening your muscles.

The best superfood soups you can make in 30 minutes or less – Most of these sound delish! Just omit the sausage from the Tuscan Italian White Bean Soup with Zucchini Noodles – no need to ruin a healthy soup with unhealthy, processed mystery meat.

The Right Way to Stretch Before Exercise – “‘Runners and cyclists don’t have much risk for acute muscle strains.’ Stretching before these activities is therefore unlikely to protect against in­jury. (Stretching after workouts, or the occa­sional yoga class, is advisable for everyone, he adds. Such postexercise stretching was not a part of the review, though.) Runners and cyclists can adequately warm up…by jogging or pedaling lightly. But…people who play basketball, soccer, tennis and ultimate Frisbee — or other sports that involve leaping, sprinting and forceful, potentially muscle-ripping movements — should stretch in advance [but hold each stretch for less than 60 seconds].”

Employee Wellness Programs Use Carrots and, Increasingly, Sticks – Employees certainly shouldn’t be fined or denied health insurance coverage due to their current health status. However, maintaining a health-sustaining corporate culture that incorporates unthreatening wellness initiatives is valuable to both companies and their employees.

Rate of Birth Defect of Abdominal Wall Increasing, C.D.C. Says – “A serious birth defect is appearing in maternity wards with increasing frequency, and experts do not know why, federal researchers reported on Thursday. Infants with the defect, called gastroschisis, are born with intestines poking out of a hole in the abdominal wall. Other organs, like the stomach and liver, may also be found outside the body at birth.” So scary! The cause of the defect has not yet been identified, but certain lifestyle choices (i.e. alcohol consumption and smoking) have been identified as risk factors.

HPV Vaccination Rates Highest Among Hispanic Girls in Poorer Areas – I am not generally anti-immunization, but, when it comes to the HPV vaccine, I believe the risks outweigh the rewards. Dr. Mercola notes that Hispanic women are twice as likely as non-Hispanic white women to get cervical cancer, partially due to poor access to health care (i.e. regular gynecological check-ups that include Pap tests). Perhaps the perceived higher risk explains the higher vaccination rates.

Can Shame Be Useful? – “Modern American culture is down on shame — it is, we are told, a damaging, useless emotion that we should neither feel ourselves nor make others feel. This is particularly the case when it comes to drug and alcohol addiction. The nation’s drug czar, Michael Botticelli, has led a well-intentioned campaign to eradicate feelings of shame in addicted people by, in part, likening addiction to cancer, a disease outside of people’s control. But in fact, the experience of shame — the feeling that one has failed to live up to one’s own standards — can play a positive role in recovery from addiction, as well as from other kinds of destructive habits…A vast literature shows that addiction is an activity whose course can be altered by its foreseeable consequences, including tangible rewards for cutting down on use. In contrast, no amount of reinforcement or punishment can alter the course of an entirely autonomous biological condition, like cancer. You would never bribe a patient with breast cancer to keep her tumor from spreading, or threaten to impose a penalty on her if it did…The lesson is that shame can act as a spur to amend self-inflicted damage when people perceive that damage is fixable and manageable. In light of this finding, comparing addiction to a purely biological disorder, like cancer, might backfire, leading people to see their habits as unalterable….It is critical for the therapist to help the patient distinguish…inappropriate shame, which goes to the core of self-worth, from realistic self-appraisals that guide restorative actions.”

Oprah’s 26-pound weight loss just sent Weight Watchers stock skyrocketing – I really want to short Weight Watchers now. Doesn’t everyone know that Oprah is the quintessential yo yo dieter?  She’ll be fat again in 6 months, and Weight Watchers stock will come crashing down.

The Health Benefits of Knitting – Like coloring, knitting “can induce a relaxed state like that associated with meditation and yoga. Once you get beyond the initial learning curve, knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol. But unlike meditation, craft activities result in tangible and often useful products that can enhance self-esteem. I keep photos of my singular accomplishments on my cellphone to boost my spirits when needed…[Moreover,] the rewards go well beyond replacing stress and anxiety with the satisfaction of creation.”

Certain Foods May Lower the Risk of Erectile Dysfunction – “A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, tea and wine may help reduce the risk for erectile dysfunction, a new study found. Previous studies have suggested that flavonoids, the antioxidants in these foods, produce anti-inflammatory effects that reduce the risk for heart disease and some cancers.” Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is basically a no-brainer at this point. If you’re not doing it, you’re bringing up the rear.  Gone are the days when meat-and-potatoes people garner respect.

Centenarians Proliferate, and Live Longer – “The number of Americans age 100 and older…is up by 44 percent since 2000, federal health officials reported Thursday.” Looking forward to joining their ranks in 7 more decades! 2100, here I come!

Ask Well: The 10-20-30 Workout for Swimmers (Sequel to: A Way to Get Fit and Also Have Fun) – I’m going to try this 10-20-30 workout next time I go for a swim or metric-free run.

How to Make Home Birth a Safer Option (follow up to As Home Births Grow in U.S., a New Study Examines the Risks) – “Unfortunately, the choice of birth location has become a charged debate in this country. In Britain, on the other hand, the medical system seems to have been adopting a more holistic view. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released guidelines just over a year ago that recommended that health care providers explain to women at low risk of complications that home birth is a safe and acceptable option.” Call the midwife!