Fitness - What Is Fitness?

Aristotle helped define the standards of fitness 2,500 years ago when he taught that a thing that suits its purpose well is fit. Fortunately for us, the cardiovascular system, lungs, skeleton, muscles, endocrine system and all the other amazing components of the body function for our purpose: to live well.

Exercising aids fitness in numerous ways, each involving one or more of those systems.

Increased physical activity causes the heart to work harder than at rest. That increases blood flow, floods tissues with fresh oxygen and removes cellular waste products.

Exercise causes the lungs to draw in extra oxygen to bathe the tissues and help power the heart. Exhalation removes carbon dioxide, a waste product of certain biochemical reactions.

Regular, moderate exercise helps raise HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol (the 'good' type). It helps regulate blood sugar levels and converts stored fat into sugars that are used to provide energy. That process also prevents obesity.

The other benefits of a regular fitness program are more obvious and usually among the more direct goals of most people who make the effort: increased muscle mass, toned legs, buttocks, arms, stomach and healthier looking skin. Along the way, the individual receives the added value of greater strength, improved balance, higher endurance and (often) a better frame of mind.

Different types of routines will emphasize one area more than another. Aerobic routines help the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, weight lifting focuses on building muscle tone and mass, yoga and pilates helps balance, flexibility and muscular control. But each of these, and several more, help more than just the intended focus group. The body is an integrated system and improving one area almost always has beneficial consequences for others.

All those benefits, at least to a moderate degree, can be had for minimal daily effort. Moderate intensity activity for 30 minutes per day, at least five days per week, will go a long way toward optimizing fitness.

A brisk walk, taking the stairs up one or two flights, a short daily jog, jumping rope and many other simple activities can be carried out with no special equipment or training.

More intense activity, done properly, can raise that level even further. A vigorous tennis game, a few laps in the swimming pool, an hour on the treadmill or exercise bike, or any of a dozen others, can raise your fitness to a peak with only a moderate investment of time and money.

For the truly committed there are, of course, a thousand and one classes at the gym, and every conceivable kind of home fitness equipment to fit a variety of budgets. A daily routine using free weights, followed by a good jog around the park will keep all systems functioning well.

And, as Aristotle taught all those centuries ago, to function well is to live well.

Will New Proposals Pull the Plug on E-cigs?

E-cigs

It’s a typical scene in many UK bars and restaurants. While rain lashes down, smokers shiver outside under shelters or in doorways, indulging in a habit that’s illegal indoors.

Inside though, a group of people seem to be flouting the law. They are smoking what appear to be cigarettes, yet don’t have the smell of burning tobacco or ever need putting out.

They are smoking, or rather "vaping," electronic cigarettes - an innovation that’s not only regarded in some quarters as being much healthier than traditional cigarettes, but is inexpensive and legal to use indoors.

Most e-cigs consist of three parts – a battery, a chamber containing a heating element (referred to as an atomiser) and a cartridge containing a filter soaked in liquid, usually made up of nicotine extract, flavourings and propylene glycol, a chemical used in many foodstuffs. It is this that, when heated, produces the "‘smoke’" or vapour.

For smokers or anyone trying to quit, this all sounds too good to be true. And perhaps it is, due to a proposed change in the law which could soon see manufacturers of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs as they are more commonly known, come under close scrutiny.

Proposals For Regulation Of E-cigs

This month, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), announced proposals to regulate e-cigs, which are currently classed as an unlicensed nicotine containing product, so that they are classed as a medicine. This would mean that any manufacturer/supplier of these products would have to apply to the MHRA for a medicines marketing authorisation, something that at a reported cost of 1.4 million pounds, could prove far too costly for many companies.
As a result, many manufacturers and users of e-cigs are concerned that the pharmaceutical industries could move in and effectively monopolise the market, marketing these products in the same way as nicotine patches, gum and inhalers.

Either way, this leaves consumers in an uncertain position, especially as many have found that e-cigs helped them quit where other methods have failed.

One such person is Jackie, an e-cig user from Hull, who says: “I was a 20 a day smoker for 20 years - I'd tried various methods of quitting then heard about e-cigs and out of pure curiosity bought one. I had an open mind about it - I wasn't really expecting to quit. However, I immediately went from 20 cigarettes a day to three or four, then quit completely. That was nearly five months ago and I'm still amazed at how easy it was for me.”

She’s not alone. A quick look online at one of the many e-cig forums reveals a worldwide network of contented ex-smokers who have finally managed to quit for good. Many report that their health has improved.

But, despite their testimonials, doubts remain in the eyes of some as to the safety of e-cigs and it is this concern which lies at the heart of the MHRA's proposal. Since its development in 2004, there has been little research into the e-cig, largely due to the cost of commissioning scientific tests.

Are E-cigs Safer Than Traditional Cigarettes?

Tests that have been carried out, however, suggest that this is a much safer product than traditional cigarettes, with Dr Joel Nitzkin, chair of the Tobacco Control Task Force for the American Association of public health physicians, saying: “We have every reason to believe that the hazard posed by e-cigarettes would be much lower than one percent. So, if the nicotine in e-cigarettes is the same as in prescription nicotine replacement therapy products, we can assume that the hazard posed by e-cigarettes would be much lower than that posed by regular cigarettes."

His views are echoed by some other healthcare experts. Indeed, while the MHRA raises its concerns, one UK-based e-cig company, Intellicig, has recently seen its product made available at every pharmacy in Greece.

The MHRA report states the need for some form of regulation to ensure that e-cigs are a safe product, saying: "We know from work done by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States that laboratory analyses of e-cigarette samples were found to contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals, against which general product safety legislation could not protect. Bringing all current unlicensed NCPs into regulation would eliminate these issues and ensure that smokers had products of the requisite quality, efficacy and safety to eliminate or reduce the harm from smoking."

Choosing The Right E-cig For You

Naturally, there is a bewildering range of e-cigs on the market, many varying wildly in quality and price, so it would seem to be logical that consumers are protected. However, some e-cig manufacturers claim that customer choice would be greatly limited if the product were only available from pharmacies and/or on prescription.

So, with a wide range of products at present to choose from, which one should someone wishing to try e-cigs go for?

For anyone who wants something that looks and feels almost exactly like a cigarette, try the EVOlution from Intellicig, a leading UK manufacturer. Alternatively, for products which take the concept of e-cigs to a more space age level, try the Jantystick (a small silver box) or eGo – a black e-cig resembling a 21st century cigar.

E-cig users are being invited to have their say on the MHRA proposals via its website.
Ultimately, whether e-cigs become an accepted NRT product or not remains to be seen, but many ex-smokers would strongly argue that e-cigs have helped them quit for good where other methods have seen their attempts to kick the habit go up in smoke.

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What is Poison Ivy and How to Treat It

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy is known as toxicodendron radicans. It is a plant the grows on a vine or shrub. Poison ivy grows in nearly every state in the United States and in some Canadian provinces. Some people are highly allergic to poison ivy. Here are some tips on what to look for and how to treat it.

What Poison Ivy Looks Like

Poison ivy either grows down low on the ground or in a hairy climbing vine attached to something like a tree. It is a plant that grows in leaves of three from a stem. The leaves are light to dark green and in the fall turn a reddish color.

When a person touches a poison ivy plant, the oil from the plant called urushiol sticks to the skin. Within a couple of days of contact with the ivy, a person will start to get red rash and it will be swollen. A few days after the rash starts, blisters will start popping up and will be itchy. Do not scratch it. It could become infected.

How to Treat Poison Ivy

When a person knows they have come in contact with poison ivy, they should wash the area with plain cool water as soon as possible. Do not use soap to wash the exposed area. Since urushiol is an oil, the soap will make it move around on the body. After washing with just plain cool water, they can then take a shower with soap and warmer water. The key is to get the oil off of the body as soon as possible. Wash any clothing or shoes that have come in contact with the poison ivy as well.

Some people are highly allergic to the plant and have to get medical treatment for it. If the person starts to run a fever, has a rash on the face or around the genitals, or the rash does not go away, it is a good time to see the doctor. With others, it is just a matter of weeks before the rash will go away on its own.

Just remember that the poison ivy oils can be carried on the family pet, clothes, shoes and any other thing that can come in contact with the plant. If someone is burning the ivy plant, do not breath in the smoke. as this can cause a rash as well.

For more information about poison ivy read treating poison ivy organically and poison ivy.

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Lyme Disease Ticks and Spirochetes

Since Lyme disease is the most common vectored disease in the US, possibly in the world, researchers are studying the organisms intensely. In the US, its causative agent is aspirochete: Borrelia burgdorferi. Borrelia requires both a tick host of the Ixodes genus and a warm-blooded host to complete its infectious cycle, reproducing inside both hosts. These bacteria are transmitted primarily by I. scapularis in the Eastern US, I. pacifica in the Western US.

After hatching, ticks pass through three life stages, each lasting about a year: larva, nymph, and adult. Ticks usually feed only once during each life stage. The transfer of Lyme Disease begins when a tick becomes infected by feeding on a vertebrate host with Bb. Inside the tick, the spirochetes are dormant. When the tick feeds on a new host, spirochetes reproduce, are passed to the warm-blooded host, and this host becomes infected. Spirochetes that remain in the tick become dormant again and wait for another feeding bout.

Ticks do not just transfer bacteria from one host to another. The ticks, the spirochetes, and the hosts are all altered by the transfers. The changes that Bb undergoes within the tick and the warm-blooded hosts are complicated, but knowing what they are will help understand why finding a vaccine against or cure for Lyme Disease is problematical.

Inside the Tick

Upon being drawn into a tick, the bacteria discard most of their surface proteins, produce new ones, attach to proteins on the surface of the tick's intestinal cells, and become quiescent. While quiescent inside the tick gut, the spirochetes manufacture only one or two variants of surface protein vlsE and possibly one variant of protein Osp. The change in nutrients and acidity when the tick eats again stimulates renewed bacterial reproduction.

A spirochete protein, BptA (Borrelia protein A) is needed for this reproduction to take place. The protein either allows the spirochete to utilize the fresh blood for nourishment or it prevents the hemoglobin newly released from the host cells from killing the bacteria. Bacteria in which BptA is inactive cannot reproduce and ticks that house the mutated BptA- strain of Bb eventually lose these spirochete symbionts.

When the Tick Bites

Spirochetes
Tick saliva contains anesthetics that inhibit host awareness of the bite. Other chemicals in tick saliva stimulate an increase in blood supply to the area, inhibit the blood from clotting, and inhibit the host's immune system.

The introduction of fresh blood cells into the tick causes the bacteria to leave the tick's gut wall, stimulates spirochete growth and reproduction, and triggers rapid changes in spirochete surface proteins that the vertebrate host's immune system uses to fight off this disease agent. The bacteria also move to the tick's salivary glands and when the tick begins to spit the blood fluids back into the host, Bb is injected into its new host along with these fluids.

Over the course of the three or four days that the tick feeds, individual spirochetes produce up to five variants of vlsE proteins and one or two Osp variants. There are four possible combinations of the two Osp variants (A and B): no Osp, OspA, OspB, and OspA and B together. Mix those four combinations with several variants of vlsE proteins, and there may be well over a hundred different protein combinations on the surface of the spirochetesentering the new host. This means that the host's immune system is receiving a double whammy: being assaulted by the equivalent of 100 or more different types of bacteria at the same time that it is being attacked by tick salivary proteins that suppress its immune system.

Spirochetes have more time to alter their surface proteins toward the end of the tick's feeding bout making it important to have the tick removed as early as possible when a human or pet is bitten as their immune systems have fewer types of bacteria to identify and destroy. But this alone would not be sufficient to prevent Lyme disease. It is of utmost importance to obtain treatment early.

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Lyme Disease Transmission

Lyme Disease
Lyme disease (LD) is normally transmitted by ticks, usually Ixodes scapularis, the black-legged tick; but other ticks, mosquitoes, and horse flies have been known to also transmit it. If not interrupted, ticks feed for four or more days. They become engorged within a day of biting, but stay about the same size although they continue to feed for several more days.

Transmitting the Bacteria

Blood is composed of only 40% blood cells, and those are about 90% water. Thus, about 95% of what the tick removes from the host has no nutritive value for the tick. In order to prevent itself from exploding from excess water, the tick removes nutrients and proteins (albumin and hemoglobin) from the blood and vomits the liquid back into the host: repeatedly sucking fresh blood, removing the nutrients, and spitting the liquid back.

If the tick is infected, the bacteria are injected while the tick is regurgitating. This usually does not happen until the tick has become engorged with blood – about 36 hours or more after attaching, but some have contracted LD from ticks that were imbedded less than 10 hours without becoming engorged. Removing a non-swollen tick usually means the person will probably not be infected unless the tick is squeezed or caused to regurgitate before releasing its bite, but a doctor should always be informed about tick bites.

Removing Ticks

A plastic card with a v cut at one end removes ticks easily, but a fine tweezers or removal tool may also be used. The card or tool is slipped under the tick with the point of the v at its head (the part with feet sticking out) and pushed toward the tick's rear. If the tick is newly imbedded, it usually pops out. If the jaws of the tick, or even its head might break off and remain in the skin, a doctor should remove the tick to prevent infection. The area should be flushed with an astringent mouthwash or alcohol, and the tick killed in the same liquid. If a tick cannot be removed easily, a doctor should remove it.

Ticks must not be removed by trying to:
  • Heat them with a cigarette. They will vomit immediately.
  • Burn them. They will vomit and die.
  • Cover them with petroleum jelly. They only breathe a couple of times an hour and will not suffocate.
  • Squeeze them. Any bacteria they have will be regurgitated.
  • Flood them with alcohol or mouthwash. They vomit and die.

Preventing Tick Bites

Just because a tick crawls onto a person does not mean it will feed. Once on a potential host, the tick may drop off or crawl to the body and imbed, often in hair, sometimes against a barrier such as belted clothing. Standard methods of preventing tick bites are to:
  • Tuck pant legs inside socks.
  • Use insect repellent on clothing and skin.
  • Check for ticks after every session outside.
  • Wear light colored clothing.
Even the most rigorous attention to these methods does not always protect against bites. Some individuals are more prone to being bitten than others. A less "orthodox" addition to the above techniques is to:
  • Take two 500 mg garlic capsules and 1000 mg of fish oil daily.

Those who have tried it, find the combination even more effective in reducing the number of bites. People who were once "tick magnets" almost immediately find very few ticks on them once adding these oils to their diets. Thus, the combination of garlic and fish oil is highly recommented to repel ticks for people who are not allergic to them. Garlic powder is touted by several animal feed stores as an excellent way to keep pets and domestic animals free from ticks. But dosing pets with huge amounts of garlic can be fatal to them. Like all medications, moderation is the rule.

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Non-Toxic Head Lice Treatments

Pesticide-Free Alternatives to Kill Lice


Concerned about potentially toxic head lice treatments? Some parents are leery of exposing children to the insecticides in the widely-available OTC products or prescription-only treatments, or fear allergic reactions. Others question effectiveness, noting some recent reports indicating lice may be becoming resistant.

An internet search for pesticide-free lice treatments reveals a vast and confusing array of commercial products and home remedies with detailed instructions. Most include enthusiastic testimonials, but deeper searching may uncover many reports of treatment failures. Few offer conclusive, well-controlled research to back up their claims. How do you make a choice?

Know this first

It’s critical to understand the life cycle of the head louse. Adult lice can live on the scalp about 30 days and lay up to 100 eggs (nits), firmly “gluing” them to the hair shaft. New lice hatch in 7-10 days, and reach maturity and lay eggs 7-10 days later unless killed or removed first. That’s why a one-time treatment (even insecticidal) is unlikely to resolve the problem; all effective methods aim to kill live lice, but the nits usually remain and will later hatch, requiring re-treatment.

Four pesticide-free possibilities


Head Lice

Approach #1: Smother lice

The goal is death by suffocation: the hair is thoroughly saturated with a viscous household substance like olive oil, mayonnaise, or petroleum jelly, then covered tightly. Leaving the treatment on several hours is key, as preliminary laboratory research at Harvard University indicated lice “recovered” from one hour of olive oil submersion. Treatments must be repeated as nits hatch. Reports of success are mostly anecdotal. An exception is the “Nuvo Treatment”, which uses a skin cleanser and blow-drying. A controlled clinical study published in the September 2004 issue of Pediatrics claimed up to 96% effectiveness for this method.

Approach #2: Kill lice on contact

Natural health stores, websites, and some drugstores sell enzyme-based, herbal or essential oil-containing treatments marketed as effective in killing lice. Home “recipes”, too, may advocate mixtures infused with tea tree oil, anise, eucalyptus or neem oil, among others. One best-selling commercial product lists sodium chloride (salt) as the active ingredient. All of these treatments probably act on lice via neurotoxic effects. As with the suffocation techniques, individual successes are abundant but hard clinical evidence can be hard to come by. Some experts caution parents against the use of essential oils in young children.

Approach #3: Electrocute lice

Battery-operated lice combs that “zap” lice can be purchased. Unlike traditional louse combs, these must be used on dry hair, and do not claim to destroy or remove eggs. Fans claim these have worked where other treatments have failed, while critics have questioned whether they reach the scalp and/or truly kill, rather than just impair, the lice.

Approach #4: Manual removal

Almost all “non-toxic” approaches suggest combining regular removal of eggs using a nit comb with the chosen treatment. Some, such as the National Pediculosis Association, go further and assert that combing and nit-picking alone is the ONLY surefire means of eradicating lice. One drawback in relying on combing alone without a lice-killing treatment is the large amount of time, diligence and compliance required of both parents and children. Missing even a few viable nits can result in the cycle of infestation beginning again.

Stay the course!

Dealing with lice can be challenging and requires persistence. There are no miracle cures, but a combination of a lice-killing treatment with meticulous combing/nitpicking is a one-two punch that can ultimately prove successful in winning the battle.

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Online Pharmacy Frauds

American Sites Selling not so 'Canadian' Drugs


It’s a billion dollar business. ‘Canadian’ drugs online mean huge profits for pharmacies that span the web.

But the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations found that about 86 percent of online pharmacies claiming to be Canadian are actually hosted by US companies.

Researchers tracked about 11,000 Internet pharmacies that claimed to be accredited Canadian sites, and found that less than 25 percent were legit. The rest were hosted by companies or individuals outside Canada, 86 percent from the US.

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Americans flock to Canadian sites because they pay less- typically 20-25 percent says researcher Maria Bekiaris in her article Cut-Price Medicine. In large part it’s because the Canadian drug industry is regulated while the US industry is not she says.

It’s not even legal for Americans to buy drugs from accredited Canadian sites, specifically under the U.S. Prescription Drug Marketing Act (PDMA), 1987.

The FDA advises that these Canadian sites are not safe, let alone fraudulent, unregulated ones.

“Patients who buy prescription drugs from Websites operating outside the law are at increased risk of suffering life-threatening adverse events…we know from history that tolerating the sale of unproven, fraudulent, or adulterated drugs results in harm to the public health,” states its website.

That’s why the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy offers the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program (VIPPS), a list of approved on-line pharmacies. People may also call the association at 1-(847) 391-4406.
It’s the only professional organization that represents eight Canadian provinces plus all 50 American states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, New Zealand, South Africa and two Australian states.

The VIPPS list won’t safeguard against drug abuse though. An American study investigated how easily people could get drugs on the Web. Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse conducted the study two years ago and published the results in its paper You’ve Got Drugs! Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet.

Researchers tracked 495 sites that sold risky and addictive drugs. Only six per cent asked for a prescription.

“Our findings are alarming” researchers said in conclusion. “These drugs are as easy for children to buy over the Internet as candy. All they need is a credit card.”

This easy drug access, the study suggested, has attracted addicts and young drug abusers.

Although U.S. Customs and the FDA have occasionally intercepted shipments from Canada, they have never prosecuted an American consumer because they do not have the manpower they say, Patricia Barry of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association says on its website.

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