Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Actually, knitting has nothing to do with it. Just sitting for hours at a time is bad for your health, according to a new American Cancer Society study of more than 123,000 men and women.  Too much sitting increased the risk of dying from heart disease substantially.

People who sat a lot but exercised at some point during the day fared better than those who did not. In fact, among women who sat for long periods and did not exercise at all, the risk of dying increased by a whopping 94%! For men, that figure was 48%.

A walking work desk, like the one pictured above, is one solution. And here’s a cool alternative for knitters — a knitting belt — which actually was commonly used in days of yore.

According to the fascinating website Old and Interesting (a name that could be applied to some of my very own friends! Just kidding!!), knitting while walking was the norm in the olden days. Unlike today’s knitters, who usually aren’t knitting out of necessity, our ancestors made things — socks, hats, sweaters — that family members needed. This was before malls and department stores, obviously.

And since there was so much other labor to be done each day, spare time to sit and knit was practically nonexistent. (I imagine the lack of electricity played a role, too. Knitting in the dark usually doesn’t have a really great outcome.) So you learned to knit while walking or doing other things that left your hands free.

In light of this new study on the lethal effects of sitting, maybe it’s time for walking while knitting to make a comeback. I may give it a try on the next hike and report back later on the results.

Seriously. Here’s why:

How Dirty Electricity Can Affect Your Health and What You Can Do About It

If your first thought on reading the headline was ‘dirty electricity – what’s that?’, you’re far from alone. So here’s a short explanation: Our reliance on technology has made life easier, but it has also led to an ever-growing amount of exposure to radiation. While there are various types of radiation, electro-magnetic frequencies (EMFs) are particularly worrisome, because they are so ubiquitous. EMFs are by-products of electronic usage, including devices like computers, kitchen appliances, cellular and cordless phones, handheld gadgets like Blackberries and gaming platforms, as well as wireless internet (WiFi).

With millions of appliances, additional millions of cell phones and computers, and tens of thousands of cell towers operating in this country, we are being bombarded by electro-pollution, or “dirty electricity.” Yet, in spite of the prevalence of electronics in our lives, we have almost no data on how the radiation affects our bodies.

What we do know about the health impact of electronics comes primarily from studies involving cell phone radiation. Those findings have prompted strong warnings and strict regulations in the European Union, measures that, for the most part, have not been implemented in this country. Here, only San Francisco is actually doing anything to inform the public that there may be a downside to our dependence on electronics, and so far, city officials are only highlighting cell phones.

Far less research has been done on how human health is impacted by the dirty electricity emitted by ordinary electronic devices. For example, Magda Havas, PhD, a Canadian researcher at Trent University in Ontario, has determined that the dirty electricity produced by electrical wiring appears to elevate blood sugar levels in individuals diagnosed with either Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. In one intriguing experiment, she found that after installing EMF filters to reduce the amount of dirty electricity in an environment, even Type 1 diabetics responded favorably, requiring less insulin than when exposed to radiation. Similarly, individuals with multiple sclerosis reported a decrease in tremors, better balance and less reliance on a cane for mobility in EMF filtered surroundings.

So far, the results suggest that the smartest strategy is to minimize the use of electronic appliances whenever possible, while taking additional steps to avoid electro-pollution from the growing number of wireless networks surrounding us.

Based on what we know today, here are some ways to reduce exposure and help our bodies counteract the effects of dirty electricity.

1. Use electronic devices sparingly, particularly those with variable speed options. Hair dryers, microwave ovens, fans, heaters, and similar appliances release large amounts of EMFs. Opt instead for manual methods of performing as many tasks as possible. Hand-wash dishes, for example, or alternate using a broom with vacuuming.

2. Eat as much fresh, organic produce as possible, to provide the body’s cells with nutrients that can repair damage caused by dirty electricity.

3. Drink plenty of clean, fresh water to flush toxins from the body.

4. Engage in regular, moderate exercise to encourage sweating and further eliminate toxins.

5. Ask your physician for recommendations on detoxification and immune-boosting products. There are many to choose from, and your doctor can help you select the ones that are right for you.

6. Unplug as many electrical devices in your home as possible when they are not in use, particularly those in the bedroom that could be emitting dirty electricity while you sleep. If you have an electric alarm clock, replace it with a battery-powered version.

7. Choose as many non-toxic cleaning products as possible, to reduce chemical contamination in your home as well as your body.

8. Look into EMF filters and “earthing” products, like those from Barefoot Connections that help ground the body and reduce electrical stress.

9. Invest in a pair of shoes with soles made from a natural product, like hemp or undyed leather or spend some time walking barefoot outside. Hugging a tree (seriously!) for a few minutes is another way to rid your body of stored dirty electricity.

10. Minimize the amount of time you spend in areas where wifi is available, like internet cafes.

11. Use cell phones as little as possible, and do not keep your cell phone on your body. Unplug your cell phone charger when it’s not in use.

12. Invest in an LCD computer screen and television set, which emit less radiation than plasma screens.

Expect to see more information on reducing radiation and exposure to dirty electricity in the near future. This is a field that is just beginning to be studied. But in the meantime, while science is sorting out the details, the good news is that you can take steps to protect your health.

So you’ve sworn off fast food because you know it’s better to avoid all that fat, sugar, salt  and processed ingredients. But … one day you’re out, you’re starving and before you know it, your car just seems to turn into that MickeyD drive-through lane all by itself. Meanwhile, your brain is working overtime on rationalizing — “it’s just one meal,” “is fast food really that bad?” and the classic, “but I’ll have something healthy for dinner tonight to make up for it.”

Here’s a happy discovery to go with that Happy Meal: Researchers have found that downing  a glass of orange juice instead of soda or water puts the brakes on inflammation caused by fast food. Minimizing inflammation is important, because it makes us more vulnerable to heart attack and strokes.

Before you race out for a Big Mac, though, be aware that this was a very small study, so it needs to be replicated with more people to make sure the findings hold up. But at least next time you’re faced with choosing between a fast food fix and passing out from low blood sugar, go ahead and eat, but be sure to swap the soda for orange juice. You’ll still be getting a lot of calories from not-so-good fats and sugar, along with waaaaay too much salt and processed ingredients, however, so if you’re serious about staying healthy, don’t make it a regular event!

If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI), you don’t need me to tell you that it’s one of the most uncomfortable experiences ever. Unfortunately, UTIs are the most common bacterial infection in the country, with millions of people (mostly women) requiring medical care every year, according to an article in Life Extension Foundation’s magazine.

Typically, UTIs are treated with antibiotics. But as is often the case, the “cure” has disadvantages of its own, as the article’s author points out:

Conventional medicine typically calls for aggressive treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics, including trimethoprim, cephalexin, or ciprofloxacin (Cipro®). The deleterious effects of these drugs on women’s health are notorious: fatigue, nausea, digestive distress, secondary infection, and the eventual evolution of resistant bacterial strains impervious to even the most powerful antibiotics.

Now for the good news. Extracts from hibiscus flowers have been shown to not only combat the bacteria responsible for the infections, but also fight the fungus that are linked to UTIs.  But wait … there’s more! Earlier clinical trials have found that hibiscus extract lowers “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and may reduce blood pressure, making it a win-win supplement for many people. And that means it’s also a good complement to cranberry juice and supplements, which are also proven to combat UTIs.

To be on the safe side, talk to your health care practitioner  about adding hibiscus supplements to your regimen, especially if you are pregnant, attempting to become pregnant or are being treated for a health concern.

Back when I was in college, I read “Sugar Blues” by William Duffy (and not by candlelight — we had electricity, even way back then!). Ever since, I’ve been leery of sweets. There have been plenty of other books written on the subject and in theory the debate about whether or not sugar is good or bad rages on. I say “in theory” because the sugar and corn (makers of high fructose corn syrup) industries have powerful lobbies in Washington and there are literally billions of dollars involved. All this makes it tougher to sort fact from fiction.

So to make things easier, let’s reframe the issue and put aside arguments about overall health. Instead, let’s focus on weight loss — something most of the nation is concerned about. Simply put:

If you’re trying to lose weight, sugar is not your friend.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a great little summary from the Washington Post’s Lean Plate Club with some excellent food for thought.

And the Losers Are …

Posted: February 22, 2009 in cancer, health, obesity, weight

…the 60+ percent of our population who are overweight or obese. According to a new report in The Guardian, excess weight is likely to double the number of cancer deaths in the next 40 years. The saddest part: about one-third of those deaths are preventable with lifestyle changes, such as improved diet and more activity.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Obesity is the biggest health challenge we face and many people simply don’t know that being overweight can lead to major health problems, including cancer….”

It’s truly mystifying to me that people don’t connect weight and health. But rather than try to figure out how that happened, it seems more productive to focus on weight loss and management.

Where to start? Admit there’s a problem!! Addicts can’t realistically deal with addiction until they acknowledge that they are in trouble. So start by calculating your Body Mass Index (BMI) with this handy tool from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to see if you fall into the overweight or obese categories. Then check back here for frequent updates on weight loss news. (HINT: The man in the photograph is looking in the wrong place. Weight loss does not start in the medicine chest!)

In fact, here’s a great overall suggestion from the Guardian article:

“The experts urged people to stay slim and abstain from too much fast food, red meat and preserved meat, such as ham and bacon, as well as alcohol.”

What does this have to do with crafting? More than you might think. Because crafting (and many jobs these days) is so sedentary, it’s almost a given that you’ll gain weight if that’s all you’re doing. And now I’m going for a walk!

My name is Marie and I’m a green tea addict. Seriously. That’s not meant to mock 12-step programs — I’m just trying to get your attention. Because I just read yet another article written by a person who tried green tea and could not stand the taste of it. My response? She did not have a good, high quality tea.

So here are two simple rules regarding green tea:

1. Buy loose tea in a real tea shop or an online source (see list below), not tea bags from a major tea distributor whose name I won’t mention but it begins with an L and is found in most grocery stores. The contents of those tea bags is what’s known in the tea world as “tea dust,” and it is literally that … dust and bits of tea leaves swept up from the floor of factories. (So is their black tea, for that matter, but let’s just focus on the green for now.)

2. Put a scant teaspoon of tea leaves (less is truly more with green tea) in a small strainer, put the strainer over the top of a cup so the tea leaves can soak in water and pour hot (not boiling) water over them. Let the leaves steep in hot water for NO more than two minutes. Green tea becomes bitter if it steeps for much longer than that.

If you want to decaffeinate your tea, let the leaves soak for 30 seconds, throw out that water and pour new hot water over the leaves. Nearly all the caffeine is removed from the leaves during the first 30 seconds.

Still not crazy about the taste of green tea? Check out the flavored greens — jasmine, Earl Grey, and the ones that incorporate fruit bits and/or flower petals. They are amaaaaaazing!

Why should you go to all this trouble to buy what appears to be over-priced (not really) tea that you’re not even sure you like? Time for another list!

1. Green tea has profound health benefits, including the possibility of minimizing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), reducing levels of LDL (bad)cholesterol, cutting the risk of developing various types of cancer, easing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative and liver diseases. Fewer symptoms and ailments means less money spent on doctors and medicine, right?

2. Green tea has been linked to weight loss. It’s no magic bullet, because there isn’t one. None. Nada. Period. (MUCH much more on weight loss in the near future.)But it does help, plus it has the other health benefits listed above.

3. The used tea leaves make an excellent mulch for your green plants.

If you don’t have a great tea shop nearby, the best place to buy green tea is online. I say that because those mall chain stores (like Teavana) are pretty much considered a joke among serious tea lovers:

1. My favorite hangout — Le Palais Gourmet (http://www.lepalaisgourmet.com). Don’t be put off by the fancy name or the prices. These people are devoted to tea. And price-wise, you can get a whole lot of great tea for the price of a few of those over-sugared, 500-calorie “coffee” drinks that end up on your hips and thighs.

2. Harney and Sons (www.harney.com) have a great website, beautiful catalog and extraordinary teas that are worth every single penny.

Time for some tea. See you later!

New bag in the works, one of those ideas that just appears out of nowhere — a triangle purse cut from two felted Jones New York sweaters. I love the shape!! All that’s missing is a really great lining, which means a shopping trip to International Silks and Woolens on Beverly Drive.

For me, going to ISW is like taking a drug addict on a tour of the evidence lockers at the police station — I’m just dumbfounded by all the amazing fabric. Not to mention an entire separate room with notions!! It’s sort of like getting a preview of what it would be like to die and go to heaven (which in real life is pretty much a long shot).

Now for the health news: Check out this piece, via Yahoo News and Time magazine, explaining why produce is probably not as healthful today as it was in our grandparents’ day. The money info is toward the end (last couple of paragraphs). Basically, experts tend to agree that the pesticides and other chemicals used to grow conventional fruits and veggies rob them of nutrients. So go organic!! And don’t make me tell you twice, okay — just do it. More on organic benefits later …