Monthly Archives: October 2010

10 Ways to Make Your Marriage Divorceproof

We have been hitched for almost 10 years now, and until recently our number one piece of advice would have been: Don’t write about how to make your marriage divorceproof. It’s hubris! But we like to take risks (that’s piece of advice number two), so we knocked on wood, threw salt over our shoulders, and forged ahead with all the unstoppable energy that a couple with two kids under the age of five can muster. (Eating a pile of old Halloween candy helped, too.) Ultimately, we came up with this list of marriage rules and reminders—all of which, we hope, are cheaper and more fun than therapy.

1. Realize that if you can agree on what constitutes a clean room, you can agree on anything. If you are the kind of person who wants the vacuum tracks on the living-room carpet to last all week (as in, Jason), you need to understand that your spouse is physically unable to hover three inches off the floor when traveling from point A to point B. You may have to shoulder the burden of raking the shag rug twice a day yourself. Conversely, if you are the type of person who “gets around ” to wiping up a raw chicken–juice spill on the counter (for example, Sam), you should know that if you want to live with other humans, you need to surpass the hygiene standards of, say, the average fraternity-house bathroom. Fortunately, if you can compromise on the red hot–button subject of cleanliness, your marriage is unlikely to be thrown off course by comparatively less volatile topics, like politics, religion, and money.

2. If you’re irritated by your partner, imagine him as a small child. We know! You totally don’t want to try this! It sounds awful! (And maybe even not that much of a stretch.) But trust us—this is an amazing way to see him from a fresh angle. Here’s what to do: While your partner is puttering around and looking idle, imagine him at age five. Awww. Isn’t he adorable? And so smart! It’s easy to forget how appealing your spouse is when you are looking at him through a prism of all the chores that he has yet to accomplish (fixing the garage-door opener, booking the tree-removal service…we could go on).

3. No fisticuffs in public. Take this example: We were at a picnic with a group of friends when the wife of one of the couples present casually announced that she had bought their family a house. In another country. Without consulting the husband. He turned about 14 shades of red, and they began fighting at the top of their lungs. Cut to everyone else with their heads down, forensically examining their egg-salad sandwiches as though they contained the secrets of the human genome. You do not want to be That Couple Who Ruined the Otherwise Delightful Picnic.

4. Marry someone with a backbone who appreciates that you possess one of your own.
That said, try to have bendy backbones if possible. Don’t attempt to win every argument and get your way all the time. Who could bear all that responsibility, anyway? Repeat this spouse-mollifying phrase after us: “Yes, honey, I will see the Transformers sequel on one of our precious and rare date nights. But on our next excursion, I get to choose a period piece featuring people in bonnets who churn their own butter.”

5. Procrastinate. Yes, we know things need to be done, but seriously. Put your BlackBerry away and stop worrying about the broken garage-door opener. Have dessert in lieu of dinner. Watch old John Hughes movies. Hold hands. There, aren’t they smoother than how you remembered them?

6. Accept that everybody needs alone time. Sometimes your spouse needs to go to the bathroom for 45 minutes. Look, he’s not going to the bathroom the whole time; he’s trying to get away from you. And that’s OK. Maybe you’re being annoying. Sometimes you can be kind of annoying, you know.

by Samantha Bee and Jason Jones

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Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Uncategorized


Six hidden dangers in your home

By Lori Bongiorno

It’s impossible to avoid all the potential dangers in life. But some dangers lurking in the home are easily avoided if you’re armed with the right info.

Below are six accidents-waiting-to-happen and what you can do to prevent them. What do you think is missing from this list? Share other hidden, but easily preventable dangers in the comments section.

1. Mixing some cleaning products

Toxic gases can form when you use multiple cleaning products at the same time. Chloramine gas, which can be highly irritating to your lungs, forms when you mix ammonia with chlorine bleach. Mixing chlorine bleach with an acid-based product (like toilet bowl and oven cleaners, drain openers, or vinegar) can release chlorine gas, another lung-irritating fume.

Most household cleaners do not have ingredients listed on the label so it’s hard to know exactly what’s in a product. Chlorine bleach is often found in mildew stain removers and some bath and toilet cleaners. Glass, bathroom, and floor cleaners may contain ammonia. Try to choose cleaners that have their ingredients listed and avoid mixing cleaning products. Better yet, raid your pantry for cleaners or buy affordable nontoxic cleaners that really work.

2. Mold

Molds are fungi that can cause allergic reactions, wheezing, and other respiratory issues. They thrive in warm, damp, and humid environments.

It’s difficult to find and get rid of mold so you’ll want to prevent it from forming in the first place. Some ideas from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Keep humidity levels in your house between 40 to 60 percent. Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier when needed. Make sure your house is well ventilated.

If you discover mold in your home, you should find and eliminate the source of moisture. You can clean mold up with commercial products, soap and water, or a mixture of 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water.

3. Mixing hot oil and water

We all know that oil and water don’t mix, but when it comes to hot oil, this is particularly important to remember. If water comes into contact with hot oil, it can cause the oil to splatter and may burn whoever is cooking.

So make sure you thoroughly dry any ingredients, such as washed vegetables, that you plan to add to hot cooking oil and keep water away from the pan.

4. Carbon monoxide

You can’t see or smell this toxic gas so it can kill you before you even know it’s in your home, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It enters through leaking chimneys and furnaces, unvented space heaters, gas water heaters, stoves, and elsewhere. Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.

You can find battery-operated carbon monoxide monitors at most home improvement stores. Consumer Reports recommends buying models that have digital displays and meet Underwriters Laboratories Standard 2034 (labeled on the packages).

Install detectors in the bedroom and other places where your family spends a lot of time and you can hear the alarm. Change the batteries regularly (such as when you change your clocks in the spring and fall for Daylight Savings), and replace monitors every five years (you can check the date on the back of the monitor).

Combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are also available. Smoke detectors need to be replaced every 10 years, but if you go for the combo, replace it after five years. Smoke detectors are typically installed on the ceiling, whereas carbon monoxide monitors get plugged into an outlet toward the bottom of a wall.

5. Mothballs

The strong odor mothballs emit comes from naphthalene and/or paradichlorobenzene — toxic chemicals that are considered neurotoxins and are associated with health effects ranging from eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation to headaches, nausea, dizziness, and more. You can get exposed to these chemicals when inhaling, touching, or swallowing them (so keep away from kids and pets).

Some ideas for nontoxic moth prevention: Keep your clothing clean since the larvae, which actually do the chewing, are attracted to dirt and stains on fabric. Store sweaters in airtight containers when you’re not using them for long periods of time. Wash clothes in hot water (and run through a hot dryer) or dry-clean garments to kill moths. Try putting cardboard pheromone traps in your closet to determine if you have a problem and to trap moths.

6. Boiling water in microwave

Heating water in the microwave may cause it to superheat (reach a temperature beyond the natural boiling point of 100 degrees Celsius) and potentially explode. This doesn’t happen very often, but it can occur if water is heated in a very clean cup or bowl, particularly if the container is glass.

What can you do to prevent this from happening? Leave a non-metallic object in the cup or bowl when you microwave water, and be conservative about how long you heat the water up and which settings you use.

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Posted by on October 6, 2010 in Uncategorized


How long can you freeze food?

By Lori Bongiorno

When it comes to preparing healthy meals at home, don’t underestimate the value of your freezer. A well-stocked freezer can save you a trip to the store when you’re pressed for time, which could mean the difference between making dinner and ordering in. It also lets you save meals that you prepare in big batches ahead of time, take advantage of discounts at the grocery store, and keep food that might otherwise go to waste.

Freezing is also an easy way to preserve local, in-season, fruits, and veggies that you buy at farmers markets or grow in your garden. If you want to eat delicious tomatoes in the dead of winter, for example, but are intimidated by canning, freezing is worth considering.

But just how long will that casserole or whole chicken last in the freezer? According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, food stored in a freezer set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit will stay safe indefinitely. But that doesn’t mean the taste and texture will remain the same.

Here is a guide to how long you can freeze foods before you sacrifice quality. Keep in mind that quality does deteriorate the longer food sits in your freezer, so aim to defrost sooner rather than later.

* Bacon: 1 to 2 months
* Breads: 2 to 3 months
* Casseroles: 2 to 3 months
* Cooked beef and pork: 2 to 3 months
* Cooked poultry: 4 months
* Cookie dough: 3 months
* Fruit: 8 to 12 months
* Frozen dinners: 3 to 4 months
* Hot dogs: 1 to 2 months
* Lunch meats: 1 to 2 months
* Sausage: 1 to 2 months
* Soups and stews: 2 to 3 months
* Uncooked chicken (parts): 9 months
* Uncooked chicken (whole): 1 year
* Uncooked steaks, chops, or roasts: 4 to 12 months
* Uncooked ground meat: 3 to 4 months
* Vegetables: 8 to 12 months

Basic tips for freezing food:

* Freeze foods as close to purchase (or harvest if you have a garden) as possible. The fresher food is when you freeze it, the better the quality when you defrost it.
* While most foods can be frozen, there are some foods you should keep out of the freezer. Don’t freeze canned foods or eggs in shells (which can crack and allow bacteria to enter). Technically you can freeze mayonnaise, cream sauce, and lettuce, but the quality takes a big hit. Here’s a list of foods that don’t freeze well with details on their condition after thawing.
* Cool cooked foods down before freezing so they freeze faster, which helps preserve quality.
* Packaging matters and varies depending on what you’re freezing. If you choose glass over plastic containers, wrap, or bags, you’ll need to make sure it’s tempered so it doesn’t break.
* You can freeze meat in its original packaging, but if you want to store it for long periods of time, add an additional layer of packaging, such as plastic wrap or bags.
* It’s always a good idea to label items so you know what they are and how long they’ve been in the freezer.
* Resist the temptation to defrost foods on your countertop. The three safest ways to thaw foods are in your fridge, in cold water, and in the microwave.

How to freeze fresh produce:

* The key to freezing fresh fruit is to spread out the cleaned, dried, and prepared (cut up) pieces of fruit on cookie sheets. Once the individual pieces of fruit are frozen, you can combine and put in freezer bags. Some people prefer to pack fruits in sugar or sugar syrup to help preserve texture and flavor. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has tips on how to freeze specific fruits such as strawberries, tomatoes, peaches, and many more.
* Vegetables usually need to be blanched (boiled or steamed for a short time) before freezing to maintain flavor, color, and texture. Blanching times vary depending on the vegetable. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a chart with blanching times for everything from corn to collard greens and simple instructions for how to freeze a large variety of vegetables.

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Posted by on October 6, 2010 in Uncategorized


30 Smart Time Management Tips and Tricks

by Karen Burns

Consider taking a look at these classic time management tips. One, or two, or three, may work for you:

1. Obvious tip one: Make a to-do list (electronic or paper). Put the most important item first and work down from there.

2. Obvious tip two: At the end of your day, review what you’ve done and make a new list for the next day. In order of importance.

3. Be ruthless about setting priorities. Make sure that what you think is important is really important.

4. Learn to differentiate between the important and the urgent. What’s important is not always urgent. What’s urgent is not always important.

5. Carry your to-do list with you at all times.

6. All things being equal, do the hardest, least fun thing first. Just get it over with!

7. If a task takes less than five minutes, do it right away. If it takes longer, put it on the list.

8. Deal with E-mail at set times each day, if possible. If you need to check messages as they arrive, limit your sessions to less than five minutes.

9. Schedule some uninterrupted time each day when you can concentrate on important tasks, even if you have to take refuge in a conference room or at the library.

10. Another approach: Before you check your E-mail or voicemail or get involved in the minutiae of the day, devote a solid hour to your most important project.

11. For a couple of days, take an inventory of how you spend your time to find out where and how you’re wasting it.

12. Eliminate the time wasters (e.g., if personal phone calls are taking up too much space in your workday, turn off your cell).

13. Cut big jobs into small chunks. Order the chunks by importance. Work on one chunk at a time.

14. For big, complex tasks, schedule wiggle room. Projects tend to take longer than you think/hope. Give yourself a buffer.

15. If part of your day involves routine repetitive tasks, keep records of how long they take and then try to do them faster.

16. Go one step further and set specific time limits for routine tasks. Work tends to fill whatever amount of time you happen to have.

17. Establish smart efficient systems for all your tasks, big and small, and stick to them.

18. Value your time. People who wander into your workspace to chat do not respect you or your schedule. Set boundaries.

19. When and where you can, say no. Trying to do everything everyone asks you to do is a recipe for failure.

20. In general, guard against overscheduling yourself.

21. Bottom line to items 19 and 20: Learn to delegate, wherever and whenever you can.

22. Aim to handle pieces of paper only once. Same for E-mails. Read ’em and deal with ’em.

23. Reward yourself for completing tasks on time. No fun stuff until the work stuff is done.

24. Organize and declutter your workspace so you don’t waste time looking for things.

25. Schedule demanding tasks for that part of your day when you’re at your peak.

26. Group related tasks (e.g., sort papers on your desk and then file them). It’s more efficient.

27. Use down time (e.g., waiting for meetings to begin) to, for example, update your to-do list or answer E-mails.

28. This advice applies to life outside work, too. It’s better to be excellent at a few things than average at many.

29. Don’t be afraid to get projects done early. It takes them off your mind, and it doesn’t mean you’ll just be given more to do.

30. Create the business environment that works for you. Adjust the lighting, turn off your E-mail pinger, get that cup of tea. Set the stage and get to work.

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Posted by on October 5, 2010 in Uncategorized


8 survival tips for staying together

by Liz Brody, Shine Staff

But how do you make cohab love last? For all those couples suddenly bumping heads in the bathroom mirror, beyond screwing on the toothpaste cap, here are a few survival tips:

1. Bite the bullet and define the situation. There’s a certain charm in making house and seeing where the wind blows. But that’s a dead-on mistake, warns psychotherapist Tina Tessina, PhD, author of How To Be a Couple and Still Be Free. “When you move in together, it’s essential to discuss what it means to both of you,” she says. “What kind of commitment is this? Are you building toward a future together or simply trying to save money? And if the latter, are you going to be monogamous? How will you describe your arrangement to friends and family?”

2. Have the money talk. Leave two fine, gold-chain necklaces in a jewelry drawer and inevitably they’ll become knotted. It’s the same thing with separate finances—the minute you set foot in shared living quarters, they start to entangle. Money, of course, is the number one issue couples fight about, especially when things aren’t spelled out. Sit down as soon as you can, and make a budget. Decide who pays for rent, groceries, entertainment—everything you can think of. Figure out if you’ll open a joint account for household expenses, and how you’ll accommodate for one person making more than the other. This is one of the best investments you can make in your relationship.

3. Consider a cohab agreement. A legal document can certainly make things easier if you do break up. For example, who gets the furniture? Who can decide whether to sell it? What if one person paid for a new car and the other covered groceries—how to get the food expenses back? You can also include provisions that say what happens if one person cheats or is abusive. “Each state has different laws concerning cohabitation,” says Moses. “In some, for example, you can be married without knowing it just because you’ve lived together for a certain number of years—and suddenly you’re responsible for your partner’s debt.” Perhaps most importantly, an agreement can clear up money fights before the words, “well, I do owe Visa $200,000,” ever ruin a nice evening. “People will say, ‘I’m in love, I don’t want to talk about this,'” Moses acknowledges.” But frankly I think it strengthens the relationship. It gives you the opportunity to discuss how you’re going to work together.”

4. Assign jobs. “The number one tip I tell all my couples is to write down every single thing that needs to be done—shopping, cooking, taking out the cat litter,” says psychologist Alice Domar, PhD, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health. For each task, both of you should indicate whether you “like,” “don’t mind,” or can’t stand” doing it. Now compare your two lists and divvy up the chores. Factor in who’s contributing more financially or working the most hours, and decide what’s fair.

5. Practice the C word. That would be compromise. “When you start to live with someone,” Domar says, “you have to accept that you’re not going to get your way all of the time. And part of it’s because you want the other person to be happy, too. Either compromise on the issues that you don’t feel passionate about or give in to something big, knowing that you will win the next one.”

6. Keep your space. It’s easy to fall into a groove where you stop going out with your friends or doing things separately. “Try not to become your partner’s shadow,” advises therapist Gilda Carle, PhD, author of Don’t Bet on the Prince! “When you first met, there was probably a mystery and magic in the unknown. Keep that going by continuing to enjoy your solo excursions so when you reconnect, you’ll bring back new passion.”

7. Plan for attack. Figure out in advance what you’re going to do when you fight. Tessina teaches her clients this tactic to diffuse a heated argument: Whoever thinks of it first, make a “T” with your hands to signify that you must both stop talking (or yelling) for 20 minutes. Once you cool down, come back together, and reintroduce the topic.

8. Don’t forget to flirt. After sharing colds and bedbugs, domestic life has a way of luring you back into the friendly old sweats you shuffled around when you were single. And it’s great to feel as if you can let your hair down. “But getting too comfy sets you up to take each other for granted,” says Carle. “Physical chemistry is important. Sex is one of the best ways to keep communication open—and to remind each other of why you decided to live together in the first place.”

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Posted by on October 5, 2010 in Uncategorized


7 Home Health Checks That Can Save Your Life

By Sari Harrar

1. Do a Wheeze Check

Untreated asthma leads to 1.8 million ER visits and 4,000 deaths a year.

Asthma can make exercising a struggle and everyday activities a challenge. But it’s often overlooked, especially in adults. In one recent study of more than 4,000 African American men and women, 10 percent had signs of undiagnosed asthma. Experts say that about the same proportion of people over age 65 have the disease without knowing it. “You may think you’re just having breathing problems because you’re getting older,” says researcher Paul Enright, MD, of the University of Arizona. “But don’t downplay it. Undiagnosed asthma can make life more difficult and could even be deadly.”

Home Check

Ask yourself these two questions used to assess respiratory health in a pair of studies involving nearly 27,000 people. The questions are simple, but they can identify 90 percent of people with asthma:

1. Do you wheeze sometimes?
2. Do you experience shortness of breath while you’re exercising or exerting yourself?

Your Next Step

If you answered yes to one or both questions, ask your doctor to check you for asthma, Dr. Enright says. Your physician may prescribe an inhaled asthma medication to see if it helps. Or she may perform what’s known as a spirometry test and, if that signals asthma, an inhalation challenge—both of which help your doctor gauge your lung function.

2. Read Your Palms

Iron deficiency leaves you exhausted and can reduce immunity, but your hands hold a clue.

Iron is your body’s “energy” mineral, grabbing oxygen from every breath you take and delivering it to cells throughout your body. If you don’t have enough, you can develop bone-weary fatigue, concentration problems, even shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. Unfortunately, deficiencies aren’t uncommon: It’s estimated that 20 percent of women (half of all pregnant women) and 3 percent of men have low iron. “It’s very common to be anemic and not be aware of it, because it comes on slowly and insidiously,” says family practitioner Lloyd P. Van Winkle, MD, at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Home Check

Spread your palm wide. Are the creases pale? “No matter what your natural skin color, unusual paleness of your palm creases, or of your gums and the inside of your eyelids, is a sign of reduced circulation in small blood vessels near the surface of your skin due to low iron,” Dr. Van Winkle says.

Your Next Step

Ask your doctor if you should have a hemoglobin or hematocrit test to check levels of iron-rich hemoglobin in your blood. Your physician should also examine your red blood cells (small and pale could mean trouble). A serum ferritin test, which measures levels of a protein that helps store iron, is good at flagging early signs of iron deficiency.

3. Tap Your Toes

Heart rhythm troubles trigger as many as 20 percent of all strokes. This simple test can help prevent one.

Off-rhythm heartbeats—the flutters and crazy palpitations of atrial fibrillation (AFib)—are responsible for up to 140,000 strokes each year in the United States alone. Seventy percent are fatal. Most could be avoided if it weren’t for the fact that about a third of the estimated 2.2 million Americans with atrial fibrillation don’t realize they have the condition.

“AFib isn’t just the occasional missed heartbeat. You have extremely irregular rhythms,” says Eric Prystowsky, MD, director of the Clinical Electrophysiology Laboratory at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis. “The upper chambers of the heart just quiver. That lets blood pool briefly in the heart, which can allow a clot to form. When a beat pushes the blood out, the clot can go right to the brain.”

Home Check

Tap your foot to the rhythm of your pulse (find it by placing a finger on your neck or wrist) for one minute. In several studies, this test alerted doctors to over 90 percent of people with atrial fibrillation, as confirmed by heart monitoring. “If the beat is so irregular that you can’t tap along, relax for an hour and check again,” Dr. Prystowsky says. “If it’s still extremely uneven, mention it to your doctor.”

Your Next Step

After listening to your heart, your family doctor or cardiologist may order an electrocardiogram, which gives a detailed look at how your heart is beating. Some people with atrial fibrillation take blood thinners to prevent a stroke; sometimes other medicines or procedures are needed to control heart rate and rhythm.

4. The Two-Minute Diabetes Q&A

Uncontrolled diabetes doubles your risk of heart disease and shortens life by 10 to 15 years. Here’s how to know if you’re headed for trouble.

Shockingly often, doctors miss opportunities to test people at high risk for diabetes. The result: According to a Centers for Disease Control survey, just 4 percent of people with prediabetes have been told by their doctors that they have the condition. And another 5.7 million are living with undiagnosed diabetes.

So grab a pencil—this self-check is easy, says study author Heejung Bang, PhD, of Weill Cornell Medical College, but it can find nine out of ten people at risk for dangerous blood sugar problems.

Home Check
Circle your answers, then add up the points.
1. How old are you? (Under 40: 0 points; 40–49: 1; 50–59: 2; 60 or older: 3)
2. Are you a woman (0) or a man (1)?
3. Does a family member (parent, brother, or sister) have diabetes? (No: 0; yes: 1)
4. Do you have high blood pressure or are you on medication for high blood pressure?(No: 0; yes: 1)
5. Are you overweight or obese? (Normal weight: 0; overweight: 1; obese: 2; extremely obese: 3)
6. Are you physically active? (No: 0; yes: -1)

Your Next Step

“If your total score is 4 or higher, there’s a good chance you have prediabetes,” Bang says. “If it’s 5 or higher, you’re at high risk for diabetes. See your doctor for a blood sugar test.”

5. Bend and Stretch

Stiff blood vessels make your heart work harder. This low-tech test may help you prevent a heart attack.

Like birthday party balloons, healthy blood vessels are flexible, widening and narrowing as needed throughout the day. But when arteries stiffen—due to aging, extra pounds, a buildup of plaque in artery walls, a sedentary lifestyle, or diabetes—blood pressure rises. And so does your risk for fatal strokes and heart attacks.

Testing for stiffness usually requires high-tech equipment found in research labs. But now you can get a sense of whether your arteries are as supple as a silk stocking—or as inelastic as an old bicycle tire—just by sitting on the floor. In a recent study of 526 women and men, researchers found that those who were the most flexible on a sit-and-reach test also had the most supple arteries, as measured by a pulse-wave pressure test.

What’s the connection? Artery walls are made up of the same components—smooth muscle cells and connective tissue—as the muscles in your hips and back, notes lead researcher Kenta Yamamoto, PhD, of the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. So whatever stiffens one will have the same effect on the other.

Sure enough, there’s some evidence that activities that keep big muscles pliant, such as stretching, may “soothe” nerve activity that also affects artery flexibility. And another recent study found that adults who started a program of regular stretching significantly increased the flexibility of the walls of their carotid artery— the vessel that supplies the brain with blood.

Home Check

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, toes pointed toward the ceiling. Bend forward from your hips and stretch your arms toward your feet. Try to touch your toes.

Your Next Step

If you can’t reach your toes, you may be at increased risk for arterial stiffness. If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked in the past year, do it now. “You should get your blood pressure checked at least every other year,” Yamamoto says. Adding some stretching exercises to your routine just might limber up your muscles and your arteries, he adds.

6. Measure Your Middle

With an oversize waist, your risk of an early death shoots up—even if you aren’t overweight.

A bulging middle is a signal that you have lots of visceral fat, the thick, yellow fat deep in the abdomen that pumps fatty acids, appetite-stimulating hormones, and inflammation-fueling chemicals into the bloodstream.

In a recent study of 360,000 people from nine European countries, big waistlines predicted disaster even for people who weren’t overweight—increasing the risk of premature death 79 percent for women and doubling it for men. A big middle is particularly hard on the heart, tripling the risk of fatal heart disease in a Harvard School of Public Health study of 44,636 women.

Even so, experts say, doctors frequently fail to measure the waists of normal-weight patients— which means they’re likely to be missing “ab fat” in these otherwise slender patients.

Home Check

Bare your torso and stand in front of a mirror. Circle your waist with a tape measure, then move it down until the bottom of the tape rests at the top of your hip bones. This is the position recommended by the National Institutes of Health. Don’t hold your breath or cinch the tape too tight. Write down your number.

Your Next Step

For men, risk for diabetes and heart disease begins to rise with a reading of 37 inches; a measurement of 40 inches and up is considered high risk. For women, 32 inches is the danger threshold, and 35 inches is high-risk terrain. Best ways to shrink visceral fat? Exercise and a Mediterranean-style diet (plenty of produce, grains, fish, and monounsaturated fat from olive oil and nuts). Because visceral fat is more metabolically active than fat on your hips or elsewhere, it’s actually apt to come off relatively fast as you start to lose weight.

7. The Two-Second Depression Quiz

Depression is bad for your heart, memory, and more.

Television is jammed with commercials for antidepressants. Celebrities from actress Ashley Judd to astronaut Buzz Aldrin have revealed their struggles with gloom. Even so, about 70 percent of America’s 15 million depressed women, men, and children get no help for their condition.

That’s due at least in part to doctors who fumble the ball. When psychiatrist Alex J. Mitchell, MD, of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, analyzed 41 studies involving 50,000 people from around the world (including the United States), he found that doctors missed depression 50 percent of the time. That’s an important oversight, since undiagnosed depression is linked to higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions, plus suicide.

Home Check

It can be tricky to figure out if you’re just a little down or depressed enough to ask for help. But when New Zealand family doctors asked 421 men and women a couple of questions, they spotted 97 percent of those suffering from depression, say researchers from the University of Auckland. The quiz isn’t perfect; like other depression screening tests, it turns up lots of false positives. Consider it a doctor-patient conversation starter:

1. During the past month, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?
2. During the past month, have you often been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things?

You Next Step

“If you answered yes to one or both questions, it’s worth talking with your doctor,” says psychologist Marian R. Stuart, PhD, a professor emeritus at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “The good news is that there’s a lot of help available, including counseling, exercise, gratitude journals, and, if you need them, antidepressants. The first place to go is to your family doctor, who hopefully knows you and the circumstances of your life.”

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Posted by on October 2, 2010 in Uncategorized