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The 12 Most Common Causes of Food Poisoning

May 2nd, 2011

The CDC estimates that there are about 48 million illnesses caused by food poisoning each year, and as a health care professional you're bound to see more than a few. Of course, knowing that food poisoning is a common occurrence isn't any consolation to those suffering through the nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and digestive problems it can cause. Your best weapon against food poisoning is prevention, and there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of exposure to some of the common bacteria that cause it. Learn these common causes of food poisoning so you can eat smart and help stop yourself from becoming just another statistic.

  1. Raw or undercooked food. Whether you're cooking at home or going out, eating food that hasn't been cooked thoroughly or brought to the appropriate temperature can put you at high risk of developing food poisoning. While you might enjoy rare steak, runny eggs or certain raw veggies, these foods can all carry bacteria when they are not cooked long enough or hot enough to kill off the offending particles. Common bacteria found in undercooked food include E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter. Be safe instead of sorry and ask that your food be cooked through or use this chart when at home.
  2. Food that is not stored at the proper temperature. While simple common sense would tell you that leaving foods like meat and dairy products out of refrigeration makes them unfit to eat, temperature regulation can be a bit more complicated. Refrigerators can malfunction, foods can be forgotten on the counter and instructions on labels can be misread. To keep yourself safe, always check the temperature on your fridge and freezer. They should be at 40 degrees F and 0 degrees F respectively. Always read the label to see what foods will need be refrigerated immediately and which have to be cooled after opening. If you plan to freeze foods, do it within 2 days of purchase. This can help prevent some very serious bacteria from growing and making you sick.
  3. Letting food sit out. Most of us are smart enough to not let refrigerated foods sit out, but sometimes we can forget to put away the leftovers or want it on hand at a party. In order to keep these foods safe to eat and avoid some common bacteria taking hold, you should always put leftovers away as soon as you can. If you're serving food at a party, keep hot food at 140 degrees F or warmer, cold foods at 40 degrees F. Never leave perishable food out for more than two hours, especially if the weather is warm. This will help ensure that neither you nor your guests end up sick.
  4. Not washing hands before eating or preparing food. Contamination of foods from dirty hands is a big cause of many cases of food poisoning. Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling foods at home (for at least 20 seconds) and only eat at restaurants with strong showings in health department assessments. Additionally, always make sure your hands are clean before eating food as well, especially if you will be touching them. Without these precautions, you could put yourself at risk of coming in contact with bacteria like staphylococcus-aureus and clostridium-perfringens.
  5. Contamination of other foods by raw meat. Cross-contamination of foods is a major health issue and one that many out there should be highly conscious of avoiding at home. When juices from contaminated meat get onto cutting boards, hands and into the refrigerator, contamination can spread to other foods, some of which you might not plan to cook at all. It is essential to keep raw meat, poultry and fish separate from other foods. Always wash any utensils, countertops and cutting boards that have come in contact with them immediately, sanitizing them with bleach and water, or even having separate tools for handling meat can be a big help.
  6. Eating raw shellfish. Raw oysters may be a delicacy, but ingesting them doesn't come without some serious risks. Oysters from the Gulf of Mexico are commonly contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus bacteria which can cause mild to serious food poisoning. Additionally, even oysters that do not come from this region are often left unrefrigerated for several hours while being brought to shore. While you may be fine after eating raw oysters, be aware that ingestion of these shellfish uncooked is a big risk and could lead to serious health issues.
  7. Improper canning. Canning foods at home has been a common practice for several decades, but it's one that needs to be carefully monitored in order to ensure that the food being preserved won't carry contaminates along with it. Botulism is perhaps the most common bacteria contaminant in improperly canned food, and is one of the most serious and potentially deadly forms of food poisoning out there. Always boil jars and lids to be used in canning to kill off any lingering bacteria and make sure that all cans are properly sealed. Improper canning can also happen with foods you get off grocery store shelves so look out for bulges, discolored food, or seepage.
  8. Ingesting expired food. We've all done it at one point or another, but eating expired food comes with a big risk for food poisoning attached. Always check expiration dates before ingesting any food in your home or purchased at the store. If there is no date on the package, no packaging or only a sell by date, use the government guidelines for cold storage to help you determine if a food is safe to eat or not.
  9. Not reheating food thoroughly.You might think that you only have to worry about food poisoning in foods that haven't already been cooked, but that's not entirely the case. You should also be careful with foods that you're reheating, especially if they've been hanging out in your fridge for more than a couple of days. When reheating foods, make sure that meats reach a temp of at least 160-170 degrees F and that other foods come to around 165 degrees F. This will ensure that any bacteria that might have made its way into the food will be killed off and that you'll be able to avoid a common cause of food poisoning.
  10. Not washing produce thoroughly before preparation. Even those seemingly innocuous veggies can be the source of food poisoning if not washed and prepared properly. Prior to reaching your table, there's no telling how many things they may have come in contact with, so always clean any fruit or vegetables with a soft kitchen brush and water (or a pre-prepared veggie wash) to ensure that any bacteria it contains will be largely washed away. This is especially important with foods that you do not plan to cook. While foodbourne illness is more commonly caused by meats, recent outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli have originated in spinach and tomatoes.
  11. Unclean cooking utensils and surfaces. When it comes to food safety, cleanliness matters. Dirty kitchens attract mice and rats that can spread disease and also create ideal places for bacteria to grow and thrive and access your food. It's essential to keep any space you plan to cook in and any tools you plan to use highly sanitized. The USDA advises putting a tablespoon of bleach into one gallon of water to create a sanitizing liquid. This can help prevent any bacteria hanging out in your kitchen from getting on food and will ensure that none are able to cross contaminate one another.
  12. Unpasteurized foods. For the most part, people are fine after eating foods that are unpasteurized, provided they have been stored and served in a safe manner. Yet for those with compromised immune systems, who are pregnant and the very young and very old could be at risk for food poisoning from these. Commonly pasteurized foods include milk, cheeses, yogurt, ice cream, ciders and juices. Unpasteurized versions of these foods can carry Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which can make individuals very sick.

15 Interesting Facts About For-Profit Hospitals

May 1st, 2011

If you haven't spent much time in the hospital, you've probably never thought about the difference between non-profit and for-profit facilities. Yet for those in the health care industry, and who have medical conditions that need constant care and the larger community, the difference between the two can be substantial. As a nurse or health care professional, these are issues that may affect how you practice, where you want to work and what kind of facilities are available where you live – so it's important to know as much as you can. As many communities are divided between those who support and those who oppose for-profit health care, you'll need to know the facts to make an informed decision. Here are some to get you started, letting you know the pros, cons and stats of for-profit hospitals.

  1. Over 17 percent of hospitals are for-profit. In 2002, that number was only around 10%, demonstrating a marked growth in the for-profit health care industry over the past decade, growth that's expected to continue over the next five years.
  2. For-profit hospitals often focus on high-end, high-revenue treatments. Visit a for-profit hospital and you're likely to see a gleaming cardiac wing, top-notch brain surgeons and fancy CT scanners. What you are less likely to see are family planning services, emergency rooms and psychiatric care. These services have a low rate of return on investment and may actually cost rather than bring in money, so many private institutions opt out of providing them. Of course, there are some for-profit hospitals that provide the bulk of these services (and others) to their local communities.
  3. More for-profit hospitals engage in morally questionable practices like patient dumping. A study found that for-profits were twice as likely to dump emergency room patients onto other facilities as not-for-profits. Patients who do not have insurance or whose plans will not cover emergency care were more likely to be transferred, often in a manner that violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. Not-for-profits certainly aren't in the clear here, but the difference between the two is striking.
  4. For-profit hospitals are buying out may non-profits. In communities around the nation, many not-for-profit hospitals are struggling to stay afloat. Rising costs, a heavy patient load and outdated equipment make some simply not economically viable. For-profit medical groups are often stepping in and buying these hospitals. While some community leaders are relieved that the hospitals are being saved, others worry that it will be at a cost to the economically disadvantaged in the community. With more hospitals on the auction block every day, the effect of this change is likely to become clear in the coming months and years.
  5. It'll cost you more to go to a for-profit hospital. Not necessarily because they just want to charge you more, though profit margins certainly are an issue. For-profit hospitals don't get the tax breaks that not-for-profits do, meaning they have to charge more to make up for it. How much? Expect to pay around 19% more for a visit to a for-profit than a not-for-profit.
  6. For-profit hospitals have a higher death rate, on average. While the results of the study have been hotly contested, a group of Canadian researchers found that for-profit hospitals have a slightly higher death rate — around 2% higher. While the study found a difference, researchers were unable to pinpoint just what was causing the disparity, but some think it might have to do with for-profits cutting corners in order to generate more revenue. Of course, that number doesn't mean every for-profit has a higher death rate — it is an average– some may have a much lower chance, while others are much higher.
  7. A woman is 17 percent more likely to have a C-section at a for-profit hospital. While the number of C-sections performed nationwide at all hospitals has skyrocketed in the past decade, a fact many see as a direct threat to the safety of both women and their children, a California study found that women are even more likely to get a C-section at a for-profit hospital. The reason isn't hard to figure out. A surgical birth costs twice as much as a vaginal one, and more C-sections means more profit. Additionally, once that baby is born, it's more likely to end up in a pediatric ICU, whether it needs it or not, at a for-profit.
  8. You're more likely to get diagnosed with costly conditions at a for-profit. And that would be fine, provided that was really what was ailing you. A study in a German medical journal found that many for-profits may be guilty of up charging. They compared admissions of patients with respiratory infections and pneumonia, two conditions that can be pretty hard to tell apart from a medical standpoint, but with one usually paying about $2000 more to the hospital. Over the past decade, for-profits diagnosed the more expensive condition at rates much higher than that of not-for-profits. Lawsuits have since reduced this phenomena, but more recent data shows that for-profits still routinely cost Medicare more than their non-profit counterparts.
  9. For-profit hospitals may have an advantage when it comes to efficiency. There is one area in which for-profits often excel. Because they're watching the bottom line, for profits are better at reducing waste, streamlining their processes and running a more efficient, tightly managed facility. Of course, there are exceptions, and studies have found that it depends more heavily on ownership than on profit status whether or not a hospital will be efficient.
  10. For-profit hospitals may stretch staff more thinly. Because they're focused more operating efficiency, for-profits often have lower staffing ratios. This may not mean much for patients, as these staff members are usually compensate by being more productive (most patients often rate than standard of care similarly.) Yet it can make a difference in terms of stress and job satisfaction for those who are working in a for-profit institution. A study found that hospital workers are more likely to feel valued as a person, receive praise and feel their job is important at not-for-profits than at for-profits.
  11. Dementia patients are more likely to be over treated at a for-profit. The practice of tube-feeding patients with advanced dementia has been widely criticized by the top medical journals and isn't medically necessary in most cases, yet doctors are still using it as a treatment for dementia patients. While it occurs in for-profits and not-for-profits alike, patients at the former are 33% more likely to be given a feeding tube. It is even more common at large hospitals in either category, with a whopping 50% greater chance of feeding tube insertion in hospitals with over 300 beds.
  12. Patients rate higher loyalty and satisfaction in for-profit ERs. While some for-profits might shy away from these low-return facilities, those who do have them tend to have higher rates of patient satisfaction than their not-for-profit counterparts. Some suggest that the reason for this may be due to for-profits having access to greater capital, meaning they can more easily invest in updated equipment and services. Additionally, not-for-profits are often chronically overburdened with patient volume and suffer from short staffing, factors that could reduce overall satisfaction
  13. For-profit hospitals rate consistently lower when delivering care for these common conditions: congestive heart failure, heart attack and pneumonia. If you've got any of these conditions, or suspect you might, you may be better off heading to a not-for-profit if you have a choice. A 2006 study by the Harvard Medical School determined that patients with these conditions were more likely to get high-quality care diagnosis and treatment for these conditions as not-for-profits– a fact they suggest is due to increased staffing and more technology.
  14. For-profit hospitals have lower costs per patient. Whether this is for better or worse for patients is up to you to decide, but Census data in 2008 recorded that the average total cost per patient per stay is about $7,985 at a for-profit hospital compared to $10,081 at a not-for-profit. This could be due to greater cost-cutting measures, efficiency or differences in staffing at for-profits versus their counterparts.
  15. The impact of for-profit hospital conversion on the community is varied. Some may see for-profit hospitals taking over not-for-profits as a blessing, others as a curse, but the facts don't have much to lend either side. Studies conducted by the Boston University School of Public Health found that some for-profits dramatically increased care to the poor while others decreased it, sometimes as much as 40%. The study found that, on average, there were no long-lasting changes in care between the two types of hospitals, meaning a lot of worries communities have about for-profit health care could be unfounded.

The 10 Best Movies About Mental Health

April 27th, 2011

Accurately depicting mental illnesses — not to mention the psychology and psychiatry professions as a whole — in the media is apparently a daunting task. Most tend to lean towards the sensational for the added drama, but unfortunately end up perpetuating stigmas against the disordered. Even the more sensitive ones still veer into wallbanging territory from time to time. Picking out the 10 best was, of course, a thoroughly subjective task. So please refrain from taking any offense to certain inclusions or exclusions. Leave the high blood pressure for genuine injustices rather than some internet article, OK? OK!

  1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: Probably the absolutely quintessential film about psychiatric care, this adaptation of Ken Kesey's classic novel brings to light many of the patient abuses he witnessed while working as a mental health hospital orderly. Things may have improved since the 1960s and 1970s, but many of the condescending, dismissive and downright cruel attitudes towards those with mental illnesses (as chillingly represented by Nurse Ratched) unfortunately persist today. Now a thoroughly respected, oft-referenced film completely independent of its literary origins, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest remains a must-see for anyone interested in the history of treating psychiatric disorders through a fictional lens.

  2. Antichrist: Following the death of their young son, a grieving mother and father isolate themselves from the world and become embroiled in sex, violence, depression and self-destruction. Not inherently about clinical depression or bipolar disorder, but rather the erratic mental state that settles in alongside trauma, it does shed light into how some individuals experience the conditions. Psychology and psychiatric care both factor significantly into both the plot and character development. The mother, known only as She, represents the more primal emotions associated with the grief process. While not a general symbol of how such situations outwardly manifest in the real world, the overwhelming emotions boiling beneath the surface might seem familiar to anyone intensely struggling inside.

  3. Girl, Interrupted: Based on the memoir by Susanna Kaysen's memoir of the same name, Girl, Interrupted chronicles the life of a suicidal woman interred in a mental health facility for her own safety. For over a year, she forms a small coterie with other patients, resists therapy and deals with traumas outside the hospital. But when her issues spiral past the event horizon, the psych ward siren finally displays the drive to take recovery seriously. Both the book and the film candidly discuss the ins and outs of both depression — most especially the form involving suicidal behaviors — and borderline personality disorder. Considering so many in mainstream society don't know about or fully understand the condition, taking the time to grow absorbed in this movie might very well prove a valuable educational experience.

  4. The Virgin Suicides: Sofia Coppola's adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides' debut novel perfectly preserved the tragic pressure central to its characters, plot and overall theme. Religious fanatic parents suspend their five daughters in a perpetual state of childish naivete sheltering them from all the pleasures and the pains the world has to offer. Such a lifestyle initiates increasingly desperate, erratic rebellions, most especially in eldest child Lux. Though ultimately a tragic tale (the title pretty much spoils everything), it does delve considerably into how untreated depression and stifling parenting might end up manifesting themselves externally.

  5. The Informant!: The Informant! blends corporate espionage with pitch-black comedy. An adaptation of the infamous Mark Whitacre's very real whistleblowing on lysine price-fixing, the bizarre twist stems directly from his battle with bipolar disorder. The film depicts him as a m–lange of repugnancy and sympathy, touching upon on Whitacre's delusions and how they fed into his bizarre, brilliant, thoroughly unethical scheming. Not everyone with bipolar disorder operates in such a manner, of course, but nevertheless the narrative does reflect some common ways it might present itself. Considering the main character's proclivities, it also appears as if he might sport more than a few traits of sociopathy and narcissism.

  6. Wristcutters: A Love Story: Set in a purgatory state where suicide victims drift about a life more somber than the one they voluntarily sloughed off. A teen discovers his ex-girlfriend suffered the same fate, and he embarks on an oneiric, deeply psychological journey to find her. Bizarrely romantic, Wristcutters: A Love Story approaches its delicate subject matter with a lauded blend of humor and insight. Like most psychological phenomena, the narrative presented here cannot be interpreted as universal to all experiencing it. But nevertheless, it does sensitively dissect the myriad reasons why the depressed and desperate oftentimes perceive death as the only escape from pain.

  7. The Soloist: Between 20% to 40% of the homeless population is comprised of the mentally ill with few options, and The Soloist peers into the compelling biography of one such individual. Nathaniel Ayers enjoyed a promising start as a brilliant bassist (cellist in the movie for some reason), but succumbed to the ravages of schizophrenia. He ended up homeless and floundering in obscurity until a journalist finally crosses his path. Both men find themselves reaching out and trying to improve the other, and today Ayers continues to perform and works as an activist giving hope, support and opportunities to mentally ill musicians.

  8. Psycho: One of Alfred Hitchcock's most iconic, oft-parodied films — based on a book, natch — takes a walk on the darker side of mental health. By no means representative of the entire community, it does showcase the small sliver of the population whose diagnoses directly lead to violence. In this case, dissociative identity disorder takes center stage in the spine-tingling tale of Norman Bates and his "mother." Fans of Freudian psychology will especially find plenty to discuss about the way the two personalities battle for dominance and control within the mind of one truly suffering man.

  9. All About Eve: All About Eve may not be explicitly about mental illness, but the eponymous antagonist displays all the searing signs of sociopathic, narcissistic behavior. To Eve, usurping a rival starlet by passive-aggressively pursuing her career and life alike — including a handsome boyfriend — sounds like a perfectly reasonable plan of action. She lacks any sort of conscience and believes that her ends justify such selfish, reaching needs. At no point does she pause to think about how her machinations might negatively impact those around her, most especially the actress who takes her in as an assistant and protege. All of these signs point to a severely mentally ill individual, though the film itself does not really touch upon that element. Despite that, though, it still serves as an interesting lesson in such a diagnosis.

  10. Lars and the Real Girl: Sweet-natured but emotionally and mentally damaged Lars Lindstrom grew up with a distant father, avoidant brother and the crushing guilt of his mother dying giving birth to him. Diagnosed with a delusional disorder, he seeks solace in the arms of his dream woman, Bianca…who just so happens to be a Real Doll. Rather than portraying owners of the sexual aids as shameless perverts trapped in a perpetual state of arrested development, Lars exudes sympathy and realistic motives for his unusual behavior. Diagnosed as delusional and depressive, he attaches to Bianca out of fear. He withdraws from people who love him — not to mention a woman who very much hopes to someday — and runs towards something incapable of making the hurt worse. While some of the featured strategies behind his treatment will raise more than a few eyebrows, in the end it still provides an interesting glimpse into some mental illnesses.

50 Best Blogs for Physiology Students

April 26th, 2011

Despite considerable advances in science and technology, the human body still harbors a litany of secrets. Biology students, regardless of whether or not they elect to go on and practice medicine, frequently enjoy exploring anatomy and physiology. Doing so provides them with a first-person look at the myriad beautiful nuances of how every bit works together. And, with the internet being as it is, plenty of online resources exist to serve as valuable supplements to their classroom studies. More than the following 50 are available to visit and discuss, of course, but they certainly make for a nice starting point.

Anatomy and Physiology

  1. Morbid Anatomy: Art, medicine and culture collide in one bizarre, beautiful resource perfect for the philosophical physiologist.

  2. Street Anatomy: Another seriously cool, provocative blog standing on the intersection of art and science, this time focusing on how creative types use the human anatomy in some incredible, unexpected ways.

  3. I Heart Guts: The organs of the human body never looked so adorable. I Heart Guts' wide range of products will greatly appeal to anatomy and physiology students hoping to make light of their research.

  4. Dr. Greg Wells: Sports and other stresses have unique positive and negative impacts on human physiology, which students can peer into at Dr. Greg Wells' blog.

  5. The A&P Professor: Anatomy and physiology students hoping for a career in education would do well to bookmark Kevin Patton's useful blog and website. It may not update as much as some of the others, but it certainly has plenty to offer.

  6. Anatomy and Physiology: Despite being kept for a specific course, the resources (including PowerPoint slideshows) listed here make for excellent supplements no matter what school one attends.

  7. Anatomy and Art: Check out some incredibly useful medical illustrations and animations as well as bits of news and opinions from the industry.

  8. A Blog Around the Clock: Though a general science blog focusing on sleep and education, A Blog Around the Clock often (and unsurprisingly) features physiology-related articles.

  9. A Repository for Bottled Monsters: Follow the National Museum of Health and Medicine's unofficial blog for some real human anatomical and physiological oddities of interest to students and professionals alike.

  10. UCL Museums and Collections Blog: Presented by University College London, this resource offers up discussions of its extensive holdings, which include some interesting tidbits for comparative anatomy buffs.

Cardiology

  1. Dr. Wes: This internist, cardiac electrophysiologist and cardiologist keeps readers frequently updated about the latest news and views regarding the cardiovascular system.

  2. Cardiology Blog: Alegent Health cardiologist Dr. Eric Van De Graaff makes the subject of heart health and science accessible to a broad audience, making it a nice read for physiology students looking for some lesson supplements.

  3. The Journal of Invasive Cardiology Blog: Anyone considering (or holding) a cardiology career would do well to bookmark this industry journal's official blog, which builds upon many of the concepts discussed in the publication itself.

  4. Emory Cardiology Blog: Emory University presents a blog focusing on cardiology events and research. It may not update as frequently as some of its peers, but its content still warrants consideration all the same.

  5. The Heart Scan Blog: Stop here for thorough advice on heart health, particularly pertaining to controlling plaque and other physiological phenomena that compromise it.

  6. Sherman Heart & Vascular Blog: Dr. Maciej K. Malinski with the Sherman Heart and Vascular Center writes easily digested articles about keeping the cardiovascular system as happy and healthy as possible.

  7. The Cardiologist's Wife: Though blogger Lisa Tedder keeps everything informal, physiology students will appreciate her quick and easy take on heart health.

  8. Vegan Heart Doc: As an ardent runner, iron man triathlete and vegan, this interventional cardiologist knows more than a few things about the cardiovascular system's nuances and maintenance.

  9. The Heart Beat: WebMD's Dr. James Beckerman informs visitors about the various measures big and small they can take to reduce their risk of heart attacks and strokes.

  10. The Jim Moran Heart and Vascular Center Blog: This informative resource looks at multiple facets of cardiology, from the technology involved to more general health tips.

Genetics and Evolutionary Biology

  1. Gene Expression: Razib Khan keeps an incredibly popular blog covering a wonderfully wide range of genetics topics, with commentary on politics, culture and religion rounding out the content.

  2. Genetic Future: Physiology students who enjoy philosophizing about humanity's potential evolutionary patterns will absolutely adore this Wired blog.

  3. Genomicron: Read some excellent postings regarding genetics, evolutionary biology, genome size and other relevant topics at the thoroughly engaging Genomicron.

  4. The DNA Exchange: Multiple contributors weigh in on all things genetics, particularly the political, social and ethical issues surrounding the subject.

  5. MassGenomics: Physiology students with an interest in medicine, technology and genomics might like browsing MassGenomic's intelligent, informative content.

  6. Blogs at GenomeWeb: Check out some of the internet's best (and, occasionally most provocative) postings on genetics, the pharmaceutical industry, medicine, informatics and more.

  7. Pharyngula: PZ Myers presents one of the most well-respected online resources regarding evolutionary biology — an essential field of study for anyone finding genetics fascinating.

  8. This Week in Evolution: Stop by This Week in Evolution for updates on the latest news and views on a broad spectrum of relevant topics. Human evolution and genetics both receive ample attention as well.

  9. The Dispersal of Darwin: Politically-charged physiology students wanting to learn more about the politics of evolutionary biology and, to a lesser extent, genetics will want to check out this blog.

  10. The Panda's Thumb: Fans of comparative physiology and anatomy, evolutionary biology and genetics have plenty to love about The Panda's Thumb and its highly informative content.

Internal Medicine

  1. Clinical Correlations: NYU's internal medicine blog covers a beautifully broad amount of subjects for the physiology student fascinated by the science and technology behind various treatments.

  2. db's Medical Rants: Take internal medicine musings with a generous shot of education, healthcare issues and other related subjects, compliments of Dr. Robert M. Centor.

  3. Cypress Internal Medicine Blog: This relatively new blog by a quintet of doctor moms showcases the internal medicine practices that stretch far beyond the town they call home.

  4. ACP Internist: Presented by the American College of Physicians, ACP Internist posts up some excellent resources centering around internal medicine.

  5. The American Journal of Medicine Blog: One does not have to subscribe to the eponymous periodical to benefit from the latest research it posts up on the official blog.

  6. Internal Medicine News: Everything students need to know about this resource, which includes much more than just a blog, can be found right there in the title — this is an almost one-stop shop for anyone studying internal medicine for school or fun.

  7. Clinical Cases and Images: Casesblog: Internal medicine buffs should tune in to Clinical Cases and Images: Casesblog and geek out over the research, technologies and new developments on display.

  8. Internal Medicine of Southwest Florida: Follow a variety of news and opinions from around the internal medicine world, with some useful general health articles sprinkled in for good measure.

  9. cancerwise: When looking for information about oncology, physiology students can do no better than this essential read by the world-famous M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

  10. Respectful Insolence: Read the candid, exceptionally popular rants of a surgeon and scientist as he navigates the complex world of medicine and healthcare.

Neurology

  1. Mind Hacks: At the intersection of neuroscience and psychology sits Mind Hacks, an amazing read about an even more amazing organ.

  2. Frontal Cortex: Wired's Jonah Lehrer keeps a wildly popular brain science blog accessible to a general audience without isolating anyone with a professional interest in the subject.

  3. NeuroLogica Blog: Dr. Steven Novella keeps an incredibly detailed blog covering neurology, medicine and other fields tying directly into them.

  4. The Neurocritic: Psychopharmacology and human brain imaging blend with cognitive and neuroscience, resulting in a very provocative read dissecting the latest relevant medical and health news.

  5. Neurophilosophy: Like the title implies, neuroscience and philosophy converge here for an excellent, provocative glimpse into both subjects — and their myriad overlaps.

  6. Neuroanthropology: Study the human brain and nervous system through an anthropological lens at this highly illuminating, engaging resource.

  7. Neuroskeptic: This neuroscientist turns a critical eye towards his field, offering up some different perspectives on the way doctors and researchers approach the human brain.

  8. Neurobonkers.com: Enjoyable Neurobonkers.com presents its psychiatric and neurological content with both biting humor and welcome insight.

  9. NeuroDojo: A University of Texas-Pan American biology professor writes up some of the internet's very best writings on all things neurological.

  10. Talking Brains: Neurology and linguistics share an utterly unsurprising overlap, as Greg Hickok and David Poeppel frequently — and provocatively – attest.

40 Best Blogs to Follow During Stress Awareness Month

April 24th, 2011

April is Stress Awareness Month, a time to examine the areas in your life that are causing you to feel anxious, unproductive, and overwhelmed. Addressing your stress is part of a holistic health care plan that will improve your mood, your relationships, your work life and even your relationships and free time. Keep reading for 40 awesome blogs to follow to improve your quality of life, this month and beyond.

Daily Habits

These blogs point out the daily habits that will keep you mentally balanced, happy, productive and stress-free.

  1. Zen habits: Try to copy the mantra shared on this blog: "smile, breathe and go slowly." Recommended Posts: How to be Insanely Productive and Still Keep Smiling and 9 Mindfulness Rituals to Make Your Day Better
  2. Lifehack: Get daily tips to improve your life here. Recommended Posts: Manage Stress with Daily Goals and 45-Second De-Stress Tips
  3. Success: Get out of your own way so that you can achieve success the healthy, sensible way. Recommended Posts: Time: Don't Manage it: Channel It and Flexibility and the Adaptability Factor
  4. Unclutterer: A cleaner home, office and mind will help you de-stress. Recommended Posts: Say the thing you need to say, and do the thing you need to do and Scientists find physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus, process information
  5. Steve Pavlina: You've most likely bumped into Steve Pavlina's blog already, but start visiting it regularly "to help you grow as a conscious human being." Recommended Posts: Building a Happier Life and How to Squash Negative Thought Patterns
  6. Dumb Little Man: An all-around productivity blog, Dumb Little Man shares tips to "simply keep you sane." Recommended Posts: Are Your Systems Letting You Down?
  7. The Happiness Project: Gretchen Rubin has made a career out of testing research studies on how to be happier, and then sharing them with readers of her book and blog. Recommended Posts: Doing Things That Scare Me Can Make Me Both Happy and Unhappy, and the Line is Often Surprising and 11 Happiness Paradoxes to Contemplate As You Think About Your Happiness Project
  8. Life Optimizer: Learn how to live to your maximum potential. Recommended Posts: 10 Ways to Reduce Stress and Improve the Quality of Your Life Today! and How to Deal with Anxiety
  9. Scott H. Young: Learn how to get more out of life by improving yourself in every way. Recommended Posts: Do You Use "Lack of Motivation" as an Excuse? and Energy Management
  10. Pick the Brain: You'll learn more about yourself and become more productive and motivated as you read this blog. Recommended Posts: Improve Your Personal Effectiveness by Finding Balance and What do you REALLY Want?
  11. Illuminated Mind: This blog aims to help readers "live and work on your own terms," free from stress, anxiety, guilt, and ineffectiveness. Recommended Posts: Your Dissatisfaction is a Gift and Why People Hate Productivity
  12. The Positivity Blog: Improve your "general awesomeness" so that being productive doesn't have to be painful. Recommended Posts: The Extremely Simple Guide to Handling the Overwhelm in 3 Quick Steps and 5 Reasons to Slow Down Your Life Today, and How to Do It
  13. Steve-olson.com: Become more effective, balanced and streamlined in all areas of your life, from finances to family to your own relationship with yourself. Recommended Posts: Are You a Past, Present, or Future Oriented Person? and How to Think Yourself Free
  14. Your Life. Organized: Get tips to help you step up and take more responsibility for your life. Recommended Posts: 5 Ways Disorganization Wastes Your Money and Screw the Joneses
  15. Matthew Cornell: This blogger shares life experiments to help you live a more fulfilling life. Recommended Posts: Just do it? But HOW? 24 productivity experiments I tried, plus a QS time management recap and How to Bottle Up Good Feelings (Group Experiment)
  16. Goal Success: Get tips on prioritizing and organizing your life and your future. Recommended Posts: Forget About New Year's Resolutions: What's Your Mission? and Overwhelmed By Your Goals? Discover 3 Questions to Maintain Momentum
  17. Effective Time Management: This blog aggregates GTD posts to help you realize that the better you can manage your time, the less stressed you should be getting everything done. Recommended Posts: How to Schedule Your Day According to Your Priorities and Get Things Done and 5 Categories for Effective Time Management
  18. Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life: Learn how to simplify but improve your life by changing your mindset. Recommended Posts: 7 Rocks That Are Holding You Back in Life and 6 Reasons Why You Might Be Feeling Bad Now
  19. Neat and Simple Living: Written for people with ADHD or similar conditions, this blog can help anyone learn to focus on their tasks so that they can live a better life. Recommended Posts: If you were inspired and had a customized game plan, how much more of your potential be realized? and Making Peace with Your Morning Routines
  20. The Lazy Way to Success: Discover how to be smarter and change your attitude so that success becomes a reality. Recommended Posts: How to Light the Inner Fire and Finding Your Calling
  21. David Seah: David Seah's blog is all about empowerment, inspiration and personal development. Recommended Posts: The Art of Acting: Like Yourself and "Life Balance" Revisited

Meditation and Exercise

Take time out to release energy and refocus your priorities through meditation and exercise.

  1. Stress Relief and Meditation: You'll find out why natural meditation is an effective strategy against stress. Recommended Posts: Stress Relief Tips for All and Meditation and Quieting Your Mind
  2. The Wise Open Mind: Ronald Alexander, Ph.D helps readers recover from stress and anxiety by changing their chaotic environments with mental strength and exercises. Recommended Posts: The Wanting Mind of Depression & Unhappiness and Too Busy to Meditate? Think Again!
  3. Zen Life Blog: The Zen Life and Meditation Center helps you find clarity and calm in your hectic life. Recommended Posts: Being Peace and Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
  4. Tiny Buddha: This blog is full of happiness and de-stress tips, and shares great advice if you're new to meditation or want to refocus your energies on something more positive. Recommended Posts: 5 Easy Ways to Get Into Yoga This Spring and The Gift of Anxiety: 7 Ways to Get the Message and Find Peace
  5. YogaDork: Find out how a modern-day yoga lifestyle will relax you and lead to better health and wellness. Recommended Posts: A Word on Tara Stiles, The New York Times and Yoga Snobbery and Your Brain on Yoga: New Studies in Neuroscience Show Meditation Positively Changes Your Brain
  6. wildmind buddhist meditation blog: Ask Aunti Suvanna questions about meditation or just read the blog for tips and inspirational quotes. Recommended Posts: How "self-compassion" trumps "self-esteem and A list of ways to practice mindfulness
  7. The Zennist: Discover modern paths to enlightenment here. Recommended Posts: The meaning or goal of Zen and How does one become enlightened?
  8. YogaHub.org: This community blog should help to inspire you to find time to add yoga and meditation into your life for less anxiety, better relationships and a reason to help others. Recommended Posts: Meditate- oh sure and Lighten Up!
  9. Daily Spark Blog: This exercise blog is designed to keep you motivated and to help you understand the holistic benefits of exercise. Recommended Posts: Is Your Diet Making You Cranky? and You Asked: How Do I Breathe In Yoga?

Medical and Informational Blogs

Get tips from doctors and other experts on relieving stress.

  1. Stress Blog: Dr. Edward T. Creagan's blog on MayoClinic.com points out common problems and habits that lead to stress. Recommended Posts: Count to 10 before hitting send and Wake up to the dangers of sleep deprivation
  2. Stress Free Kids: Stress isn't just an adult condition. Read this blog to help your kids relax and feel less anxious. Recommended Posts: Effects of Stress on Kids and Raising Optimistic Children
  3. Recovering from Trauma: Brian Trappler, M.D. helps readers find ways to deal with major trauma and emotional stresses. Recommended Posts: Issues with Power Failure or Submission and What Happens to the Brain in PTSD
  4. Stress and Sex: If stress is getting in the way of your sex life, let Laurie Mintz, Ph.D. help you regain your sense of composure and relief. Recommended Posts: Work out to Rev Up and Orgasms: You Can't Fake it Till You Make It

Wellness and Nutrition

Eating right and living a generally healthy life also contribute to stress-free living.

  1. Time for Wellness: This blog encourages readers to cut out the negative habits and conditions affecting their health and well being, like obesity, insomnia and drugs and alcohol. Recommended Posts: Anger management might save your life and Naturopathic medicine for anxiety
  2. Replenishing Soul: This alternative health blog is great for learning about hidden triggers for stress and anxiety, and then curing yourself through mindfulness and healthier habits. Recommended Posts: Forming new habits — why will power is not enough and Find your purpose
  3. Stay Healthier: Through fitness, better nutrition and sleep, and other helpful strategies, you'll learn how to manage stress. Recommended Posts: Sleep More, Tense Less and Lose Weight — Simple and Get energized with food
  4. HealthyLife: Carin Lane's TimesUnion.com blog promotes "living well in body, mind and spirit." Recommended Posts: Fit Tip Tuesday! and 75 tips to a healthier you
  5. A Woman's Guide to Saner Living: While it's marketed towards women readers, everyone can find tips for "creating a life that feels good." Recommended Posts: What are you waiting for? Get your life on! and Tie Up Loose Ends
  6. Thriving Lifestyle: This holistic nutrition and lifestyle coaching blog has the end goal of turning readers into happy, fulfilled, and healthy individuals. Recommended Posts: What have you done for YOU lately? and Relationships: A Form of Nourishment

40 Blogs to Follow for Parkinson’s Awareness Month

April 19th, 2011

Thanks to the efforts of numerous activists worldwide, the general public possesses some modicum of knowledge about Parkinson's Disease. Unfortunately, however, myths still persist regarding what the condition actually entails, and a cure has yet to be discovered. Although the following blogs do not take the place of professional medical consultation — yes, even the ones written by doctors themselves — they do make for a diverse start when learning more about how a Parkinson's diagnosis impacts patients, their loved ones and their caretakers.

  1. Shake, Rattle and Roll: Kate Kelsall does not allow Parkinson's to interfere with the life she loves, and she dedicates her blog to spreading awareness of the realities behind having it.

  2. Wobbly Williams: Humor makes for a valuable educational tool, and the bloggers here at Wobbly Williams use it to promote Parkinson's awareness and dispel many of the myths associated with the disease.

  3. Recently Diagnosed with PD: Anyone adjusting to life with Parkinson's Disease should head to this blog first, which overflows with myriad resources and inspiration for patients and loved ones alike.

  4. Life With Shaky: Despite its comparatively infrequent update schedule, Life With Shaky makes for a sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking insight into day-to-day dealings with Parkinson's.

  5. Positively Parkinson's: Turn to Bob Kuhn's blog for excellent advice and altruistic support when looking for Parkinson's information and inspiration.

  6. Studio Foxhoven: Terri Reinhart opens up about Parkinson's and Dystonia, chronicling her experiences with the hopes of shedding light on the ups and downs of life with both.

  7. Off and On: Off and On largely covers Parkinson's as it relates to Alaskan news, views and experiences, but anyone living anywhere can still benefit from the research and stories it relays.

  8. Walking My Path with Parkinson's: Art and Parkinson's therapy collide in one simultaneously educational and emotional read about learning to take life with the disease one day at a time.

  9. Bibmomma's Blog: New patients recently diagnosed with early onset Parkinson's will find Bibmomma's Blog a nice sea of solidarity amidst the confusion and adjustments.

  10. Today with Pokie Too and Parkinson's, Acute Arthritis and Epilepsy: This blog's 2011 updates have been sparse, but the extensive archives provide great support for Parkinson's patients dealing with other diseases and conditions on top of everything else.

  11. bobology: A Midwestern Parkinson's patient proves that the condition challenges, but does not always prevent, patients from doing the things they love most.

  12. Sitting Comfortably?: Despite Andy Daly's desire to avoid the subject of Parkinson's, he nevertheless does delve into the subject on occasion — particularly how he earnestly attempts to avoid thinking about it.

  13. Parkinsons Journey: Whether a patient, caregiver or loved one, Parkinsons Journey kindly covers all the questions and concerns people have about living with it, including medication and exercise advice.

  14. My own Arcadia Blog: Individuals and families dealing with Parkinson's who prefer Spanish-language resources must absolutely bookmark My own Arcadia Blog.

  15. METAMORPHOSIS of BTRFLYNANA/LIFE WITH LYME DISEASE: Despite the title, this blog also covers plenty of topics associated with typical and atypical Parkinson's in addition to Lyme disease.

  16. But This is the Hand that I Shoot With: Consult Marc Sherman's little corner of the web when looking for comfort and inspiration when Parkinson's-related challenges arise.

  17. Bill Schmalfeldt: Musings of a Parky Pundit: This writer serves up Parkinson's advice and information with a hefty helping of social commentary, politics, humor and plenty more.

  18. Parker's Climb: The Parker's Climb crew hope to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro with the hopes of raising money for Parkinson's research, which they hope to accomplish in July 2011. Follow their training and goal progress here.

  19. Moving Forward: Take a look at Parkinson's from a clinical (and activisist) lens, courtesy of neurologists at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

  20. Partnerships for Parkinson's: This organization brings together patients, loved ones, researchers and businesses together to work towards finding a safe, effective Parkinson's cure.

  21. pearlies of wisdom: Children of Parkinson's patients — most especially those tasked with caretaker duties — can turn towards pearlies of wisdom for inspiration, advice and resources for making sure their parents live as happily and healthily as possible.

  22. About Parkinson's Disease: Blogs are not a replacement for medical advice, but caretakers and patients considering natural and homeopathic cures might find this one interesting and informative. Make sure to consult a doctor before embarking on any of the discussed strategies, of course.

  23. Talk Parkinson's: Parkinson's UK, consisting of patients, family, friends, medical professionals and other supporters, wants to put its resources towards discovering a cure and dispelling many of the myths associated with the disease.

  24. Sarasota Neurology: Not all of the content provided by The Florida Headache and Movement Disorder Center's neurology blog revolves around Parkinson's, but it is one of their most frequently covered subjects.

  25. Caregiving.com: This general caregiving resource provides a great boon to anyone assisting a Parkinson's patient — or others suffering from a similarly difficult, degenerative condition.

  26. Uniquely Young Onset: Neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Short works with Parkinson's sufferers and family members, devoting his blog to individuals struggling against a diagnosis at a particularly young age.

  27. On the Blog: Updated monthly, this blog by the National Parkinson Foundation discusses strides made in researching the disease. Though the target audience is comprised of medical professionals, patients and their loved ones still greatly benefit from the information posted.

  28. Team Fox: Both the Team Fox blog and website promotes efforts of activists worldwide, who host events with the hope of raising money for Parkinson's research.

  29. The Value of Openness: PatientsLikeMe keeps a general blog meant to inspire and empower individuals with various conditions, but it does frequently cover issues of interest to the Parkinson's community.

  30. Parkinson's Unity Walk: Parkinson's patients, their loved ones, medical professionals and supporters should hit this blog if they're interested in following this fundraising and awareness event.

  31. Parkinson's Resource Center of Spokane: Both a blog and a useful website, the PRCS posts up relevant local events as well as national and international news and views regarding Parkinson's.

  32. Ask the Doctor: Ask the Doctor, Weekly Journal and Programs and Events — all presented by the Parkinson Research Foundation — blend blogging and forum posting together in order to address various concerns and news relating to the disease.

  33. Clinical Research News: PDTrials keeps visitors updated on the latest findings in Parkinson's studies, with particular attention paid to treatment options.

  34. News: Presented by the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation, this feed looks at the disease from a clinical perspective, focusing mainly on all the latest research.

  35. HeroTeo — The Parkinson's Journey: Teo Kim Hoe chronicles his battle with Parkinson's in both book and blog form, hoping to inspire others in the situation and pass on information about exercise, medication and plenty more.

  36. Ride with Larry: A blog, website and documentary all in one, Ride with Larry serves as an inspiration to anyone impacted by Parkinson's, be they patient, caretaker or loved one.

  37. Dr. Diane's Blog: This busy professional discusses brain disorders, Parkinson's, stroke, MS and other neurological issues. Her schedule may be sporadic, but she does have some valuable things to say.

  38. Day by Day with a Movement Disorder: Blogger Rosemary was diagnosed with Parkinson's and Peripheral Neuropathy, but later discovered it was Essential Myoclonus. Here, she provides an intimate glimpse at coping with life when suffering from any sort of neurological or movement disorder — including Parkinson's, for which she links to some incredibly valuable resources.

  39. On Being a Christian With Parkinson's Disease: Not everybody afflicted with Parkinson's will find solace in faith, but those who do — particularly if they adhere to Christine doctrines — might find this blog inspirational.

  40. Move 4 Parkinson's: This new read hasn't been around for too long, but the content it features still opens up a broader understanding of how Parkinson's impacts people — and the exercise and nutrition suggestions they may want to try.

50 Tiny Changes You Should Make During Stress Awareness Month

April 17th, 2011

April is Stress Awareness Month, and it's a great time to assess the stress in your life. If you find yourself full of anxiety, worry, and stress, it's important for your physical and mental health to consider the ways you can make a change. Here, we've listed 50 small ways you can make a big difference in the stress that impacts your life.

General

These changes will help you reduce stress throughout your life.

  1. Ask for help: Know that you're not alone, and seek help when you need it.
  2. Set boundaries: Prioritize tasks and learn how to say no to avoid being over-scheduled.
  3. Take care of yourself: Don't forget to put yourself on your to-do list.
  4. Give yourself time-outs: Take the time to have fun, rune a few extra miles, or do something you enjoy to clear your head.
  5. Get daily pockets of peace: Keep stress levels from becoming toxic by giving yourself a little peace time every day.

Relationships

Take the stress out of your relationships with these tiny changes.

  1. Avoid people who stress you out: If you are constantly stressed by someone, limit your time with them or end the relationship.
  2. Specifically define problems: Give your relationship problems a real name.
  3. Commit to staying calm: Even when your tempers flare, make a commitment to being calm and respectful in conversations.
  4. Say thanks: Be thankful for others and what you have in order to recognize your blessings.
  5. Just listen: It's frustrating to feel that you're not being heard-give your partner respect and a listening ear.

Problem Solving

Problems create stress in our lives, and although they are not avoidable, there are things you can do to cut down on their impact.

  1. Practice preventative maintenance: Think and act before problems happen so they're solved before you even have to fix them.
  2. Identify the cause of stress: Even if you can't fix a problem immediately or at all, giving the source of your stress a name can make it better.
  3. Be honest about temporary setbacks: Remind yourself when your troubles are only temporary-but be careful not to explain away chronic problems.
  4. Plan ahead: Don't let preventable stress like traffic get the better of you-plan ahead to reduce the impact of stressful situations.
  5. Accept what you can't change: Follow the Serenity Prayer and learn to accept the things you can't change.
  6. Stay in perspective: Consider the true importance of the event or situation you're stressed by.

To-Dos

Tackle your never-ending list with a fresh attitude by making these changes.

  1. End procrastination: Allowing tasks to pile up will stress you out-learn how to take care of stuff right away.
  2. Schedule dreaded tasks early: Instead of putting off dreaded items on your list and worrying about them, just get them out of the way early.
  3. Appreciate your achievements: Each time you achieve a goal, give yourself a pat on the back.

Emotional

Make these changes to take an emotional load off.

  1. Laugh: Make time to laugh, and look at the humorous side of any situation to reduce stress and stress hormones.
  2. Give yourself a mental spa: Take your mind on a spa treatment with a stress CD or book on tape.
  3. Physically let go of stress: Cry or yell into a pillow to release anxiety and stress.
  4. Pay attention to negative thinking: Observe when you are thinking negatively, and commit to replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
  5. Write a journal: Organize your thoughts and work through problems by writing them out on paper.
  6. Meditate: Spend time meditating on a regular basis to cut out some of your stress.

Financial

With these changes, you can avoid letting financial stress overtake your life.

  1. Talk about money: Sometimes just having a conversation about your finances can cut down on stress in a relationship.
  2. Listen to suggestions: If you're fighting with your partner about money, make a point to pay attention to their ideas.
  3. Prioritize: Think about what's most important in your life, and prioritize how you spend your money accordingly.

Health

Improve your health to reduce stress by making these small changes in your life.

  1. Drink black tea: Healthful compounds in black tea can help you recover from stress more effectively.
  2. Eliminate caffeine: Although this may sound counterintuitive to some caffeine junkies, cutting out caffeine can help you stop experiencing nervousness, peaks, highs, and lows.
  3. Prioritize sleep: Forget staying up late to finish work-make sleeping a priority so you'll be fresh and happy when you need your energy.
  4. Stretch: Stretch to reduce muscle tension, with activities like air punches and other simple exercises.

Activities

These small actions can have a big impact on your stress level.

  1. Talk to yourself: Try positive affirmations and intentions to keep yourself upbeat.
  2. Shrug your shoulders: Release tension and pain in your shoulders with a simple shoulder shrug.
  3. Spend time outside: Get out and enjoy nature at some point in your day.
  4. Be creative: Spend time nurturing creativity through a hobby like art or knitting.
  5. Sing: Even if you're a terrible singer, spend a little time singing to pick up your spirits.

Home

Make these changes to ensure that your home is a stress-free environment.

  1. Hire help: If you're having trouble staying on top of cleaning, hire a helper to clean on a regular basis, even if it's just once a month.
  2. Get rid of clutter: Clutter is a reminder of things you have to do-get rid of clutter to find more energy and happiness.
  3. Keep your home tidy: A clean home is a happy one, and open to visitors.
  4. Check the emotional climate of your home: Make sure your home is a place where your family can de-stress.
  5. Light a candle: Use aromatherapy candles to burn away negative energy.

Work

Cut out stress at work by making these changes.

  1. Leave work at work: When you walk out the door, don't think about work or take it home.
  2. Stop multitasking: Focus on one thing at a time to avoid feeling over-committed.
  3. Try to drop stressful tasks: Talk to your boss about assignments that are especially stressful.

Quick Pick-Me-Ups

When all else fails, take a moment to use these quick pick-me-ups for a better day.

  1. Get clean: Wash your cares away with a quick shower or bath, even if you've already bathed.
  2. Use aromatherapy: Sniff essential oils to quickly boost your mood.
  3. Call a friend: Talk to a friend and relate with each other about the stress in your lives.
  4. Call your mom: Check in with your mom or someone else that you love for a little bit of quick happiness.
  5. Primp: Spend an extra 5 minutes making yourself look good and feel better about yourself.

10 Fascinating Health Effects of Urban Living

April 11th, 2011

More than any other time in human history, people today typically live in major urban centers rather than their suburban or rural counterparts. While many praise city life for its comparatively more vibrant nightlife, museums and art, food and music scenes, there inevitably exists some rather terrible downsides. Crime and violence usually spring to mind first, but more than a few serious public health issues may prove just as culpable (if not more so) in causing injury, illness and death. Though not meant to deter anyone hoping to call a sprawling metropolis home, it does pay to know the potential problems that might walk hand-in-hand with urban living. Please keep in mind that none of the following statements are meant to take the place of expert medical advice.

  1. Increased risk of outbreak: Infectious diseases such as cholera, yellow fever, the plague and myriad others spread much faster in urban environments. Unsurprisingly, this has pretty much everything to do with a condensed population living in close proximity. Europe's devastating outbreak of bubonic plague in the 14th Century, killing off 30% to 60% of the continent's population, is probably the most infamous example of this phenomenon. In more contemporary times, the World Health Organization notes the swelling risk of yellow fever in West Africa's fast-growing urban centers. Considering they increase in population at a rate of around 4% a year — the highest in the world and double than the international average — this stands as a particularly disconcerting scenario.

  2. Stunted mental functions: Urban living comes packaged with a melange of physical, mental and emotional stimuli, and on particularly active days can get more than a smidge overwhelming. Spending enough time in such environments may result in poor impulse control, reduced memory and complete exhaustion — among other lovely things. Scientists attribute this degradation to a distinct lack of nature, as exposure to greenery and other organics holds considerable sway over mental, physical and emotional well-being. Considering more people live in cities than rural areas, such a lack of exposure to the natural world spells out some disconcerting things about humanity's future. Some metropolitan areas now employ developers and scientists with the hopes of redesigning to allow for much healthier spaces.

  3. The "double burden" of diseases: City dwellers suffer from a heightened risk of both infectious and noninfectious chronic diseases, oftentimes referred to as the "double burden." This especially holds true in impoverished, squalid neighborhoods whose inhabitants lack adequate health care access as well as regions experiencing exceptionally quick urbanization. Asthma, for example, runs far more rampant in such areas, as many individuals and families end up forced to live in moldy housing. Even beyond diseases, deaths and injuries as a result of work or violence also increase when living in major metropolises. These frequently kill or debilitate victims long before chronic infections or conditions have a chance to take hold.

  4. Increased risk of depression: In addition to blunted mental functions, urbanites may also suffer from depression at a much higher rate. Poverty could especially stoke the metaphorical fires, as do poor working conditions — both of which sadly stand as major facets of city life. Many individuals with no prior history of depressive disorders develop them after further immersion low-income housing and careers. Research on the subject oftentimes turns up mixed results, of course, though few would be surprised if a definitive correlation finally emerges.

  5. Obstructive lung disease ravages the homeless: Air pollution unsurprisingly negatively affects the respiratory systems of pretty much everyone calling an urban area home. Anyone living in or near heavily industrialized regions face a far higher risk of coming down with chronic lung and/or pulmonary issues. Car exhaust, too, isn't the greatest thing to inhale on a daily basis. But one of the world's most marginalized demographics especially suffers from the damages of respiratory ailments the most. Obstructive lung disease occurs at a 15% rate in the homeless — double the average in the United States. Bronchitis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are also far more common in this population as well. Cigarette smoking, inadequate nutrition options and exposure to the elements only worsens their health.

  6. Poor water means poor health: No matter the socioeconomic bracket, exposure to a compromised public water supply leads to a health crisis of urban proportions. Of course, poorer areas unable to afford the sanitation technology necessary to lessen the chances of serious or fatal outbreaks suffer the highest risk of a public health nightmare. Whether by natural or man-made means, any sort of contamination to a city's water supply could spell doom for a much broader population segment than the ones found in rural regions. There's a reason why officials (or, at least, the few genuinely concerned about humanity) wring their hands over the possibility of bioterrorists directly infiltrating public wells, reservoirs and other major drinking water sources. Beyond that, callous corporations treating lakes and ponds as personal dumping grounds for pollutants and waste infamously make life that much unhealthier for the populace.

  7. Lessened risk of death or injury in a car accident: This probably sounds incredibly bizarre, but city slickers are actually far less likely to die or sustain a serious injury in a car accident than their rural counterparts. In some of the most egregious cases, particularly Wyoming, Montana and Mississippi, the rural death rate sits at double that found in urban areas. While the findings understandably pique their fair share of controversy, this phenomenon is attributed to the generally poorer condition of roads. Passing laws to help prevent such things almost always come packaged with a plethora of public outcry, making it exceptionally difficult to lower the risk across the board.

  8. Improper design of multifamily housing is a cause for great concern: Beyond the comparatively rapid spread of communicable diseases, multifamily housing units also cause serious problems for those concerned about respiratory and pulmonary conditions both temporary and chronic. Depending on its design, some homes may actually trap outdoor air pollutants indoors, making life dangerous and miserable no matter where inhabitants roam. Formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, radon, benzene, nitrogen dioxide and more can all creep inside – assuming they don't come from within the home itself! Asbestos, lead paint and mold, while not exclusive to urban areas, also pose massive health threats. Once again, poverty-stricken neighborhoods fall victim to squalid, unhealthily-designed housing options far more than those with the money to renovate and restore.

  9. Physical inactivity: Not all instances of obesity or being overweight are caused by physical inactivity — genetics, health and medical issues and diet can play a part in it as well. One cannot assume that all fitting the criteria necessarily incorporate little exercise or proper nutrition into their lifestyles, though sadly such stereotypes unfairly persist. However, in spite of this, the physical inactivity that stems from taking public transportation can (though not always) contribute to weight issues. As one can probably imagine, such health risks arise in developed nations far more often, as those in poorer ones must rely on biking or walking. Individuals concerned with the problems associated with an inactive lifestyle should consider supplementing it by exercising regularly or considering healthier options when going to or from work.

  10. It may be easier to correctly diagnose elderly women in urban areas: Please keep in mind such a statement only comes from one study conducted by the University of Alberta and Simon Fraser University, so take such statements as nothing yet definitive. Elderly women on the fringes of urban society typically self-analyze as living with fair to poor health, though in rural areas they're more likely to suffer from heart disease — at least in Canada. By contrast, the social determinants used when making diagnoses on elderly women in urban zones are far more accurate.

20 Incredible iPhone Apps for Troubled Sleepers

April 10th, 2011

If you have trouble sleeping, you know that your frustration leads to a vicious cycle: the more pressure you put on falling asleep quickly, the harder it is to relax, and the worse you feel the next day. If you're a light sleeper, suffer from a sleep disorder or just can't fall asleep, use your iPhone as a tool to help improve the quality of your rest. Good sleep is part of a healthy lifestyle, so stop settling for a mediocre night's rest.

Falling Asleep

Use these apps to help you fall asleep quickly.

  1. AmbiScience: The apps from this developer are each designed to help you take the ultimate power nap or full night's rest. Appropriate songs to help you sleep are loaded onto the nap, and the app also comes with an alarm and volume control.
  2. Relax and Sleep Well: This app runs 27+ minutes and uses a self-hypnosis meditation technique to lull you to sleep.
  3. Sleep+: Choose from different song sets like Indian sky, First snow or Diamond to help you overcome sleep problems due to health or just poor sleep quality.
  4. SleepStream: Get voice sessions, binaural beat modes and sound generators for better sleep.
  5. 20 Minute Deeply Relaxing Sleep: With hypnosis and soothing music, you'll be able to relax yourself into meaningful sleep.
  6. Short Sleep!: You can relax more easily when you know your cat nap is being timed with this customizable alarm.
  7. SleepFan: This app makes it easier to fall asleep on a train, plane or in another public or unfamiliar place by drowning out background noise with a steady fan.
  8. ZonkOut sleep timer: Select songs to help you fall asleep, and then customize how long you want them to play before fading out.
  9. Deep Chopra Sleep Meditation: If Deepak Chopra can't help you sleep with these meditation tips, we're not sure who can.
  10. Sleep Mood for iPhone free: Create your own fall-asleep mixes with this app.

Good Sleeping Habits

From eating right to tracking your sleep, here are more apps for better sleep.

  1. myZeo: You can actually track your sleep with this app, which records and charts total sleep, and different types of sleep — light, deep, REM and how many times you woke up.
  2. Sleep Hacks: Get tips to control your sleep with this app.
  3. Alarm Clock Music Sleep Timer: You can set regular bed and sleep times with this app that also shuffles iPod music on random to help you fall asleep and wake up the right way.
  4. Sleep Tracker TYLENOL: Keep a sleep journal with the help of this app to remember your mood, how fast you fell asleep, tricks that helped you sleep, and sleeping routines.
  5. The ABC of Better Sleep: Learn how to relax and enjoy higher quality sleep with this app.
  6. Sleep Talker: Find out if you're a sleep talker or a snorer when you use this recording app.
  7. Yoga Breathing Techniques: Doing these during the day can help you stay relaxed longer, and you can try these breathing techniques as you fall asleep, too.
  8. iEatHealthy: Eating healthier can help you lose weight and also make you feel better during the day, making it easier to sleep at night.
  9. Understanding sleep: Learn about sleep disorders and children, teens and adults here.
  10. Pedometer 24/7 Free: Encourage yourself to exercise more with this app, improving sleep quality.

How to Get a Green Business Education

April 8th, 2011

As the green economy continues to expand, more companies are looking for ways in which they can apply sustainable business practices to their day-to-day operations. Other organizations see an opportunity to grow in an environmentally responsible manner. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics points to the renewable energy industry — a key piece to the green economy. This sector, which is experiencing rapid growth, also generates thousands of U.S. jobs. Many business degree seekers may be reconsidering their career goals and are interested in enrolling in a program that will make their bank account and the planet a little bit greener. Entrepreneur Media recently teamed with The Princeton Review to identify 16 business schools that they felt offered a strong green education. Administrators and students from 325 graduate schools of business were surveyed regarding their institutions’ academics, curricula, campus policies and student services as well as their relation to the environment, sustainability and social responsibility. "Ground-floor trends for entrepreneurs in green business are approaching fever pitch, with big opportunities in everything from clean tech to sustainability management, ecological restoration and more," said Amy Cosper, vice president and editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine. Based on Entrepreneur and The Princeton Review’s list, here are a few academic institutions where environmentally conscious students can receive a green business education.

  • Babson College: Students who enroll in this Massachusetts-based college can take advantage of more than a dozen green-themed courses – including Imagining Sustainability, Water in America and Social Responsibility in Malaysia. In addition to offering green education options, Babson practices what it teaches. Between 2005 and 2010, the college reduced its consumption of electricity and fuel by 19 and 15 percent, respectively.
  • New York University: At the university’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, MBA students have the opportunity to select the social innovation and impact specialization. This area of concentration provides a blend of economic and environmental perspectives, according to the institution’s official website. Students who choose this specialization will acquire the conceptual strategies, frameworks and skills that are necessary to provide for-profit and nonprofit organizations with social and economic value. Among this specialization’s available courses are Energy and the Environment as well as Introduction to Environmental and Social Sustainability.
  • University of North Carolina: This MBA program at this university’s Kenan-Flagler Business School offers a concentration in sustainable enterprise. The institution’s official website states that through this area of study, enrollees can learn how to improve a company’s bottom line, society and the environment simultaneously. Students who choose this option may take such courses as Social Entrepreneurship, Environmental Strategy and Sustainability Immersion.
  • Duke University: The university’s Fuqua School of Business in North Carolina allows students who are enrolled in its MBA program to focus on energy and environmental studies, according to the institution’s official website. This MBA concentration provides students with knowledge regarding the energy industry, tools for analyzing environmental problems and strategies that can be used to advance in the evolving business world. Through a variety of available courses, students have the opportunity to choose offerings that best reflect their interests. Available classes include Sustainable Business Strategy, Energy Technology and Markets for Electric Power.
  • Other options: Other schools on Entrepreneur and The Princeton Review’s list include Brandeis University in Massachusetts, Portland State University in Oregon, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "These schools deserve kudos for their exceptional commitment to environmental and social responsibility issues both in their institutional policies and their academic offerings," added Robert Franek, senior vice president, publishing for The Princeton Review.