Archive for the ‘Health & Lifestyles’ Category

Stimulating your brain with gum

In Health & Lifestyles on January 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm

By: Brianna Jordan

Students are sometimes thought to be rebelious for chewing gum. Photo courtesy of Google images

        How many times has your teacher said for you to spit your gum out because it’s distracting? That teacher probably has not done enough research to know that chewing gum actually stimulates your brain and can help to improve your focus. United Kingdom psychologist did memory and attention testing on 75 people, and of these 75, 25 of them chewed gum while the rest did not. The results for the gum chewers were 24 percent higher on immediate word recall tests and 36 percent higher on delayed word recall tests.

            “These results provide the first evidence that chewing gum can improve long-term and working memory,” Psychologist Andrew Scholey explained. Scholey later on showed off his research at an annual British Psychological Society in Blackpool,Lancashire,UK. The trick to getting your brain stimulated is to convince it into thinking a meal is about to be consumed. Once the brain realizes the chewing action, it thinks a meal is about to come and that causes it to release insulin to soak up all the extra glucose and sugar in the body, therefore; the brain gets all the extra energy it can.

            By chewing gum, it not only stimulates your brain, but it causes the heart to pump faster to get the blood moving faster, so when this sudden burst of energy happens, the body begins to focus more. Most people would assume that such a sudden increase in heart rate and blood and oxygen flow could actually cause harm, but this has not been shown. The increase is not so dramatic that it causes a shock to the body.  

            The Japanese noticed changes of activity in the hippocampus, a part of the brain important for memory, in March 2000, but they could not explain why such activity happened. The gum chewing tactic is really used to just trick the brain into releasing chemicals, so there may be other things someone can do to get the same effect. This research is still going on and who knows, maybe in the future it could be recommended to chew gum in school or work. The next time a teacher says “spit your gum out,” a student could explain to him/her how it could help improve grades, but remember, the teacher may not agree and he/she may still have to spit it out.



Child abuse leads to brain damage

In Health & Lifestyles on January 6, 2012 at 7:46 pm

            By: Persephone Mccollough

              It could be agreed upon that most people would assume physical child abuse leads to brain damage if hit on the head, but according to a study led by Eamon McCrory at University College London, “children exposed to family violence show the same pattern of activity in their brains as soldiers exposed to combat.” Children are affected from the overall experience, not just the physical aspect.  When soldiers return home from an exposure of violence and gore, their brains have adapted to that. Little things often trigger these memories from the events that traumatized them. This is also evident in abused children.

Abused children suffer for the rest of their lives. They suffer mentally and sometimes physically. Photo courtesy of Google images

             In this study, when the abused children were showed photos of angry faces, their brain scans showed their brains detecting threats. The children have adapted to being on guard all the time. These types of emotions are said to lead to depression and other closely-related mental illnesses. Maltreated children are thought to be at risk two times more than an average child. All of this is because of the threatening feeling children get when parts of the brain called the anterior insula and the amygdala respond.

             Imagine how it feels to always anticipate pain and always live in fear. Whenever an abused child adapts to this lifestyle, it is hard for them to mold into society. As a kid going through abuse, it is fair to imagine that they probably have problems getting along with other children. As an adult with an abusive background, it is equally fair to imagine that they would have more problems opening up to others. It is a very sensitive problem that can be fixed sometimes through therapy. Others cannot be fixed at all. Sometimes the damage is irreparable.

             Too many people are getting away with the maltreatment of children and there needs to be an end to this. Too many parents are seen on the news for abusing children. Children can die from this and so can adults. Children can be beaten to death and starved and often, adults just cannot take constant reminders of their past and do the inevitable.

Staying on top of fitness resolutions

In Health & Lifestyles on January 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm

By:Jordan Brown

This time of year many goals and resolutions are set, but at the end of the year not many have been achieved. Resolutions that are commonly dropped are “I will get healthier this year,” or “I will exercise every day.” Exercise and a healthy lifestyle are some of the hardest goals to stay motivated and to stick with.

It’s difficult to find time, courage and commitment to exercise, but everyone should. Sure health risks and medical conditions are great reasons to exercise, but emotional aspects can also reap exercise benefits. With these obvious benefits, why not exercise? Well the simple answer is no one wants to do it. There is no immediate gratification with exercise, so it’s tough to see the real effects of it.  Long term effects help people to live a longer and happier life. Exercise can help drop pounds, increase immunity against the common cold and flu, reduce overall health risks, promote healthy organ function, add years to a person’s life and reduce stress.

These long term effects are enough to get off the couch and exercise, but how? Jumping into a rigorous work out plan might seem like the right way to go about exercising, but it isn’t. Working out two to three times a week for 20 or 30 minutes is the best way to start out. Between school, friends, social activities and an after school job, making time for working out seems next to impossible. It isn’t; making time in the mornings and on the weekends is essential to becoming more fit.

Exercise and healthy lifestyle are some of the hardest resolutions to stick with. Photo courtesy Google images

Another essential is to get active enjoyably. Think outside of the box for work out ideas. There a so many new and fun ways to exercise like Zumba, cycle class, aerobics and Wii Fit at home. All of these can really boost will power and produce results. But don’t try doing some advanced cycling class full of experts with music that sounds like screeching cats. By working out in pleasurable conditions it will become more enjoyable and more likely to become a routine. Once working out becomes a routine, there is always time for reward. This reward is not chocolate, McDonalds or Starbucks gift card, but a trip, a new pair of tennis shoes or work out equipment. An exercise regiment should become more like life. Life can be different for different people; a regular high school student can’t exercise during the day so that student has to make time before or after school. Life also means interacting with people. When exercising it helps if there is a person that can help to motivate and acknowledge that the other person is trying to better themselves.

While at the gym, it’s hard not to compare this person to that person, but refrain. This can lower self confidence and crush built up work ethic. It is important to remember that everyone is an individual, and it takes courage and commitment to step inside of that gym, running group or to buy that fitness equipment. Remember the common goal of all people trying to get healthy is to get fit; it’s not to judge or be judged.

Keeping New Year’s resolutions can be life changing for the better. Living a long and healthy life can start this year, or any year. The important thing is to start. Even through these chilly winter months when working out outside is not an option, hit the gym and stay active.

Teen dating abuse

In Health & Lifestyles on December 16, 2011 at 8:03 pm

By: Kristen Hegel

            According to a study, researchers reported in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine that dating violence among teens has become commonplace. In their study conducted at an emergency room that sees mostly inner-city teens, over half of the young adults reported domestic abuse from their partner.

Parents, teachers and doctors should talk about the dangers of teen dating violence. Photo courtesy Google images

           Within the 327 young adults, between the ages of 13 and 21, boys and girls reported dating violence. The claims of abuse ranged from physical to sexual abuse, including hitting, kicking and rape. Of the teens questioned, 55 percent said they had experienced abuse during a relationship. About 59 percent said they had been the abuser in the relationship before. When it came to being injured, 16 percent of girls revealed that they feared being injured in their relationship. Only three percent of boys could say the same. Even though the girls feared being injured, more girls than boys were found to be more physically violent than their partner.

            “Both boys and girls perpetrate violence and sometimes girls perpetrate more violence. It is an enormous mistake to fall into the trap of equating those types of violence,” Dr. Bronwen Carrol, author of the study, said. Just because the violence occurs more often in girls, does not mean it should be ignored when dealing with boys. “The violence that is perpetrated on girls is much more severe. The injuries sustained on girls are much more severe, much more frequent,” Dr. Brian Wagers, an ER doctor who studies dating violence at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said. “When boys experience it, they need to realize that this is not something that’s right.”

            While the results do not represent all groups of adolescents, they indicate that there need to be programs to assist the victims of teen violence. According to Carroll, teens should have their parents and peers involved in their relationship if such violence does occur. Carroll also encourages parents, teachers and doctors to talk about the dangers of teen dating violence. “We need to be aware about this, we need to ask. My guess is that just a meaningful discussion for an adolescent with an adult that he or she trusts about, ‘What does a healthy relationship look like?’ can go a long way,” Carroll said.

Stem cells, fixing broken hearts

In Health & Lifestyles on December 16, 2011 at 8:03 pm

By: Danzig Decsy

                Stem cell research recently made a huge breakthrough in the world of medicine with promising news for those with broken hearts. After much experimentation with mouse hearts, Australian scientists unveiled a new stem cell. This new discovery was believed to have been the key to maintaining heart muscle and blood vessels and, as originally hoped, produced successful results.

                Stem cells were applied to the hearts of several individuals who had suffered from majorly declining heart health. These cells are designed to grow, and that’s just what they did. Damaged tissues were repaired and replaced, and the hearts of these patients improved to remarkable levels.

By injecting stem cells directly into the heart, damaged tissue can be restored. Photo courtesy of Google images

                This discovery shows convincing evidence that the human heart already contains what it needs to repair itself if called for – stem cells that can re-grow into new heart cells. It’s simply a matter of harnessing that power, which is exactly what a group of researchers led by Robert Bolli attempted to do. According to a study published in The Lancet, this very group grew stem cells from patients with previously damaged hearts. Bolli stated, “Once you reach this stage of heart disease, you don’t get better. You can go down slowly, or go down quickly, but you’re going to go down.”

                However, the patients that received care in Bolli’s study improved quite miraculously. This is excellent news, considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death in theU.S.

                Stem cell research, as most people know, is a major topic discussed all around the world. Its validity and importance is debated amongst politicians, scientists and researchers of medicine, but perhaps this new discovery with heart stem cells will change the minds of some of the skeptics. Stem cell research is becoming more and more promising, and covers a wide range of health issues. Essentially, the same technique used with the heart cells could be applied to repair damaged vital tissues in kidneys, spinal cords or just about anything. It’s almost as if stem cell research could be our link to helping more and more people diagnosed with deadly diseases become future survivors.

The cookie dough monster

In Health & Lifestyles on December 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm

By: Jordan Brown

            Everyone is guilty of sneaking a piece of raw cookie dough after mom said not to, but really who has ever gotten sick from the harmless treat? More people than you might. Raw cookie dough, homemade or pre-packaged, should not be consumed. It’s hard to believe that the gooey delight everyone has indulged in once or twice can be harmful.

            In 2009 during the infamous E-coli breakout, it was believed that only one specific producer of raw cookie dough was to blame for the spread of disease, but recently it has been found that no matter what brand, all raw cookie dough is bad.   The real culprit, in both the E-coli cases and illness’ today caused by raw cookie dough, is flour. Previously it was thought to be raw eggs contaminating people with E-coli and other sicknesses. The flour found in almost all brands of cookie dough does not go though any “cleansing process”.

            “It didn’t undergo any specific processing to kill pathogens, so we feel that’s the most likely suspect for what may have introduced contamination into the cookie dough. We couldn’t prove it conclusively, but that’s what we suspect,” Dr. Karen Neil, a medical professional from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), said.

            Most companies have clearly stated on their packages: DO NOT CONSUME RAW.        When cookie dough from that brightly colored holiday package is consumed, there is a chance of messing with some pretty powerful bacteria. These bacteria can cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The same principles apply for baked goodies like cake batter and biscuit mix. Consuming any of these raw can result in the same nasty symptoms of E-coli and salmonella. Although cookie dough can be harmful, it isn’t necessary to stay away from things like Dippin’ Dots cookie dough dots, or just regular cookie dough ice cream. These products all use pasteurized flour so no harmful bacteria is present.


It’s hard not to eat those tempting treats before popping them in the oven, but try to refrain. The cookie dough, cake and biscuit dough pre-made or homemade is dangerous, whether it’s the flour or raw eggs that make you sick. Raw cookie should not be consumed this holiday season.  “If the package says cook it, cook it,” David Hirshwerk, MD, stated. But leaving the cookies for Santa could mean the difference between a nice holiday at home and a trip the emergency room.

Breakfast cereals pack in the sugar

In Health & Lifestyles on December 16, 2011 at 7:58 pm

By: Morgan Deal

Cereals on the "danger list" include popular names like Froot Loops, Cap'n Crunch and Honey Smacks. Photo courtesy of Google images

            Everyone remembers the brightly colored boxes of fun cereal from their childhood. However, recent studies have shown that these cereals that claim to be part of a balanced breakfast can contain more sugar than some desserts.

            The government recommends that cereals have less than 26 percent added sugar by weight. These guidelines, designed to help stop childhood obesity, are not mandatory. However, the report provided by the Environmental Working Group stated that only one in four cereals adhere to this guideline, with most popular cereals containing more than 40 percent added sugar. Cereals on the “danger list” include popular names like Froot Loops, Cap’n Crunch and Honey Smacks. “Our children deserve better,” Environmental Working Group representative Rosa DeLauro says.

            Some cereals are reported to have more sugar than a Twinkie or Chips Ahoy cookies per cup, while a typical serving of cereal is ¾ of a cup. Cereals with the highest sugar levels had about 12-19 grams of sugar per cup, while a Twinkie has 18 grams, and Chips Ahoy cookies have 11 grams in three cookies. The fact that most children have more than one serving of cereal at one time also adds to their sugar intake from these high-sugar foods. Jeannie Mooloo, spokesperson for the American Diabetic Association, comments, “My 9-year old would eat three servings in one sitting if he could.”

            Big-time cereal companies are notorious for advertising to children of a younger age. Marion Nestle, nutrition professor at NYU, says that companies tend to imply that their cereals are “fun” in an attempt to get young children to eat them. Responding to this, several companies such as General Mills and Kellogg have stated that they will reduce the amount of advertising they do on unhealthy foods. Quaker Oats Company commented that Cap’n Crunch, fourth on the list, includes essential vitamins and minerals and could be a low-fat option for breakfast if paired with the right foods. Kellogg’s claims that they have reduced sugar added to their cereals by 16 percent.

            “I only give him [my 9-year old] sugary cereals once in a while. He wants them all the time, so it’s a real battle,” Mooloo says. Healthier cereal options include Rice Krispies and Cheerios, which clock in with less than five grams of fat per serving. Kellogg’s Mini Wheats and General Mills Kix are also low sugar options. Breakfast cereals can be a perfectly healthy option in the morning, just be aware of what the labels say.

Whistle while you workout

In Health & Lifestyles on December 16, 2011 at 7:58 pm

By: Drew Marshall

Running or other monotonous activities may diminish ones wish to exercise but the endorphins it brings outweight the work. Photo courtesy of Google images

For many people, working out can be a hassle. During the holidays, it can become especially more difficult to force oneself out of bed and into a new workout routine. The holidays get everyone in a better mood, though, and what better way to be happy than to workout. Studies have shown that working out, in general, makes one a happier person, due to the endorphins released in your body during a workout. In a way, working out could be just one other thing to make this the happiest time of the year.

            In the cold weather, some people may feel slow and resistant to a change in routine. Exercise may not fit into one’s schedule, but with a little planning, everyone should be able to make it work. Not only will one’s body look good, but it will bring a new happiness that could change one’s life. The sense of accomplishment while working out, in addition to the chemical changes in the body, also causes a rise in self-esteem. Exercise can even improve depression, which can also be brought about by the harsh winter months.

            Some people may be bored with physical activity, as sometimes running in place can be tiresome. But if one can break through the boring workouts to find something that he or she enjoys, it can make one’s body feel better. Exercise reduces cortisol in the body, a chemical that produces nervous tendencies like anxiety, according to fitness writer Debbie Mandel. The endorphins that flow through the body can also give one’s body the feeling of happiness after a difficult workout.

            Even if long-term fitness plans can’t really fit into one’s schedule, just trying to exercise a little at a time can create a healthier lifestyle, bit by bit. Small exercises ranging from 20-30 minutes at a high level of effort can still release the endorphins that bring happiness. Even if trying to stay in shape for a long time seems too difficult, just working hard for short periods of time can produce the same, pleasant experience.

            While it is December, and the temperature is dropping, there are still ways to workout. There are plenty of local gyms in the Fort Mill area and there is a large variety of indoor activities to partake in. Through exercise, one can become a happier person, and the holiday season can be even more cheerful.

Health officials say ‘no’ to the morning after pill for teens under 17

In Health & Lifestyles on December 16, 2011 at 7:56 pm

By: Kristyn Blackwood

After much debate, the Plan B One Step pill will not be made readily available to teens under the age of 17 without perscription. Photo courtesy of Google images

The new drug that has just recently become popular in today’s society is the Plan B- morning after pill. It is similar to birth control, but is also very different. Plan B is used to prevent pregnancy as long as it is taken within three days of having unprotected sex. The big controversial issue regarding this pill has been whether or not it should be readily available to teens under the age of 17 without a prescription, thus becoming,  an over-the-counter drug.

            Plan B is chemically wired to avert implantation in a woman of a fertilized egg through the use of the hormone levonorgestrel. Plan B contains 1.5 milligrams of this synthetic hormone, more than “the Pill.” Although many say it is not, the manufacturer of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, says that it should be made available to younger teens as they need it because it is safe and there is no risk in them taking the drug.

            Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Health and Human Services made her decision on the issue Wednesday, December 7. She concluded that this emergency contraceptive, Plan B, will not be readily available to teens under the age of 17 without a prescription. Women 17 or older must provide proof of age before they can purchase it, but they are not required to have a prescription to do so. Sebelius says that she does not think younger teens are capable of following the instructions properly, so it cannot be safe for them.

            Former CEO of a political action group agrees with Sebelius in saying that without adult and medical supervision, young teens could face serious health risks. Teva Pharmaceuticals were taken aback by this verdict because this entire month they have been working towards selling the over-the-counter drug by the end of December. FDA commissioners are also surprised at the decision. They already took into account the question of younger girls understanding the use of the drug and they think the age limit should be lifted. An FDA commissioner said, “There is adequate and reasonable, well-supported and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential.”

Although many major doctors’ groups and women’s health advocates argue that making these pill quickly and easily accessible would lower the high number of our nation’s unplanned pregnancies; the decision has been made and the people of the country, as well as doctors, must abide by this new rule.

The dark side isn’t so dark after all

In Health & Lifestyles on December 16, 2011 at 7:46 pm

By: Trevor Ottley

Filled with antioxidants, dark chocolate serves as a great alternative for a desert. Photo courtesy of Google images.

When you think about chocolate, the thought of a delicious, decadent treat that melts in your mouth comes up. Unfortunately, you also think about how unhealthy chocolate really is. Luckily, it is not like that in all cases. There is chocolate that is actually healthy if used right; dark chocolate: dark chocolate is known to lower your blood pressure and contains antioxidants that are beneficial to your health. 

                Dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate are all made from plants, so they naturally have antioxidants in them. The reason that dark chocolate is healthier, however, is that dark chocolate doesn’t contain milk, thus giving the chocolate more antioxidants, making it healthier for you in the long run. The plant that gives dark chocolate such healthy attributes is cocoa. Instead of having milk as the major add-in to dark chocolate, it actually contains 65 percent more cocoa then any other form of chocolate out there. This makes dark chocolate have a large amount of antioxidants in it. There is actually almost eight times the number of antioxidants in dark chocolate than in strawberries. Along with the antioxidants, dark chocolate also contains a chemical that stimulates your endorphin production, which is the chemical in your body that produces the feeling of pleasure. Also, it contains serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that acts as an anti-depressant in your body, so dark chocolate literally brings happiness to your life.

                Even though dark chocolate contains all of these healthy benefits, you need to be aware of how you eat it. You can’t just eat giant portions at a time, and expect to get these antioxidants right away. You need to eat small portions at a time and you can’t eat dark chocolate with milk as your drink. That defeats the purpose of eating dark chocolate completely. You can eat dark chocolate in a few different ways, such as pure dark chocolate, adding in orange peels or, the most popular, dark chocolate with nuts. Also, try to stay away from dark chocolate with nougat, caramel, or other flavor add-ins that could potentially contain fatty substances, also defeating the purpose of dark chocolate’s effects. If you’re looking for a tasty treat which isn’t detrimental to your health, then try dark chocolate.