life: super powers not included

Category — Research

Workaholics Die First

First of all, you guys blow me away with your kindness. Thank you so much for your comments on yesterday’s post. I have the best readers ever.

To say thanks, I baked you brownies. Or, um, Charlie McDonald did:

Second, I was browsing for new and interesting studies yesterday and came across one that found working long hours is linked to heart disease. (Work more than 11 hours a day and your risk goes up by 67 percent compared to people who work less than you, possibly because of lack of exercise, a worse diet, added stress, and less sleep.)

This caught my eye because, at a time when we can get our work emails on our phones and are plugged in nonstop, I wonder whether working fewer than 11 hours is even the norm anymore. I know most days I work about nine or 10, but there are times when I’m on deadline and at it for more than 11. (Who was it that said my life was interesting? Yes, you can have a takeback.)

And that’s not counting recreational work. After my real job ends I’m at the computer working on two blogs or my book. True, I do these things because I enjoy them, but I’m not sure that counts.

What about you? How many hours a day do you spend working? And do you find you’re still working (responding to emails, taking work home, blogging, etc.) after you’re off work?

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April 7, 2011   17 Comments

When You’re the Oldest Child


I’m nothing if not observant. And judging from yesterday, I’m guessing you guys are over hearing about my book picks. So instead of telling you about more, I thought I’d talk about a new study.

The basics: Birth order might play a role in whether you have allergies. Zee researchers found that firstborns are more likely to have pink eye, hay fever, and food allergies than the rest of their siblings. (Read the details here.) The scientists said we need more research to answer everyone’s first question: why?

Here’s where I come up with my own theory and ask you not to treat me like a scientist because A. I don’t even know how to light a Bunsen burner, let alone create a sound study, and B. the last science course I took was in 2000.

I’m betting that kids whose home environments are super clean aren’t exposed to allergens. So when they finally come into contact with them? It’s like:


But the kids who roll around and eat lint off the floor? Well, yeah. Their bodies are like, “Whatevs. That was yesterday’s lunch.”

That got me thinking about birth order. Because most of the moms I’ve met are super cautious with Baby No. 1. You need to use hand sanitizer to touch her, the pacifier gets washed every time it drops, and other things I’d probably do if I were a mom.

And then Baby No. 2 comes along and the mom, now frazzled and running on an hour of sleep from five months ago, is faced with a dropped pacifier. And she realizes that it’s not worth the bother of standing up and walking all the way to the sink while one of the kids finger paints the walls and the other attempts to scale the coffee table. The pacifier gets wiped off and popped back in the baby’s mouth.

But it’s totally just my theory.

Speaking of birth order, I thought it’d be fun to find out where you guys stand. Are you the first born? Middle child? Youngest?

If you’re an only child, know that most of us hated you as kids. Sorry, but you always had the most toys and never had to share.

I’m sure you guys know this (right, because you monitor my life so closely) but I’m the oldest. I have one younger sister. And, yeah, I was the typical oldest child:

A perfectionist (still am)

Bossy (as a kid, so cut me some slack)

Always in trouble for crimes I didn’t commit

I was am also a major klutz. I think I’m missing a sense of balance or something, and I’m not sure if that’s an older child thing. Probably not. Still, I spent most of my childhood like this:



So where do you fit in? And were you a typical first, middle, youngest, or only child?

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March 24, 2011   29 Comments

Prevent Side Stitches While Running

First, a reminder: You still have time to win a cool poster and Not Superhuman square bumper sticker by commenting on this post. Depending on how many people enter, there’s a chance everyone who comments wins. So, yeah, get your tookus over there.

Girl runningphoto from we heart it

Next, I thought all of you runners would appreciate this … The New York Times ran a story about side stitches.

Before reading I knew three facts about side stitches:

1. They hurt.

2. Drinking more water and stretching it out does not work.

3. They hurt.

I always thought it had to do with breathing. (As in, you’re not doing it right, idiot.) But new studies are finding that it’s more about posture. (As in, you’re not doing it right, idiot.)

Apparently bad running form affects the nerves in the upper back and abdomen. Or, another theory goes, bad posture causes friction on a membrane that surrounds the abdomen.

If you’re getting stitches often, it might be time to learn better posture. (Runner’s World has a great article on the basics.)

Do you get side stitches often? And how much attention do you pay to your posture while running?

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March 1, 2011   24 Comments

Do Menu Labels Work?

Menuphoto from we heart it

It was really interesting reading over your comments from yesterday’s post. One more point:

I probably wouldn’t be giving up sugar entirely if my feet didn’t burn five hundred times a day.

So, I came across an interesting article today. The New York Times reported on a study that found when calorie counts were posted in fast-food restaurants parents and older children noticed the signs—but that didn’t change their ordering.

And I quote…

The children and teens in the study ate an average of 645 calories per meal before and after the labeling rules took effect. Nearly 60 percent of the children said they had noticed the calorie counts on restaurant menus before ordering, but more than 90 percent said the labels didn’t influence how they ordered. Even when parents ordered the food for their children, the calorie information on menus had no effect on how much the children consumed.

I’m going to redirect you there for all the information, but I have a question for you:

When you see nutrition information at a restaurant, does it affect what you order? Do you think that’s because youre health-conscious to begin with?

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February 23, 2011   25 Comments

Brrr…It’s Cold In Here*

Girl in cold

photo from we heart it
Well, that’s taking it a bit far, I think…

Friends, I finally have a reason to cheer. A new study says cranking the thermostat up in the winter may make people fat.

I might be sedentary…

My feet might burn like they’re stuck in boiling acid…

But, gosh darn it, I live in an icebox. Score!

Here’s the deal: Even without shivering, scientists say, people generate heat when the temperature is nippy. They think that’s because humans have this stuff called brown fat, which acts differently than normal fat. Normal fat stores energy and calories while brown fat consumes calories.

But in order for it to expend that deep-fried burrito you just ate, it needs a trigger—like cold temperatures. So, to activate your brown fat, you’d need to hang out in a 60-degree room instead of a 70-degree one.

Titanic Picphoto from we heart it
OK, well not that cold. Also: Jack! Don’t go!

The authors of new study say the trend to heat our homes in winter could factor into the obesity epidemic. Check out these statistics from the New York Times: In Britain, the average living room temp rose from 64.9 degrees in 1978 to 70.3 degrees in 2008.

And get this, according to a researcher in the New York Times article:

“When we put people in a 60-degree room, they increase their energy expenditure by 100 or 200 calories a day if they’re in light clothing,” like hospital scrubs.

First, I’ll say neener, neener, neener. (Oh, come on. When do I ever get to brag about EM life actually benefiting me?)

Second, I’m dropping the temp even lower. Why, hello, 63.

At what temperature do you keep your home?

*Does anyone else instinctively want to respond with: There must be some Clovers in the atmosphere? Or am I the only one with a Bring It On cheer permanently stuck between brain folds?

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February 2, 2011   27 Comments

Why You Might Want to Eat Ginger

Cutting gingerphoto by cookthinker

I have some interesting news for you but first, I have to give one of my readers major credit for the funniest comment I’ve read all month.

If you’ve never watched How I Met Your Mother, feel free to skip this part as it will make absolutely no sense to you. Also, it won’t be funny. But if you do… holy crap did Maren make my day with this:

“It’s gunna be legend…wait for it!! and I hope you’re not lactose intolerant because the second half of that word is…DAIRY!!!”

Um, Maren, I almost love you as much as Barney Stinson.

Ahem. Sorry, just a little housekeeping.

So that interesting news… The New York Times reports that eating ginger might prevent muscles soreness. They forced a bunch of people to do super hard workouts that would leave them sore for days. (Yes, scientists are sadists. You didn’t know that?)

Well, for 11 days half of them ate ginger and the other half pointlessly swallowed a placebo pill. Guess what? The people who ate ginger had a 25 percent less pain 24-hours after exercise.

So all you marathoners and half marathoners and triathaloners and other “-thers” who do crazy things like run for too long can now add ginger to your pre-race snack. You might be able to avoid the post-race ice bath.

Not that I have anything against ice baths.

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January 20, 2011   20 Comments

Research Says: Duh

Fried Fishphoto by powerplanttop

First off, thank you all for letting me vent yesterday. I’ve been pretty down the past couple of weeks, so it’s good to let it out. And I’m taking your funny movies to heart. I expect to laugh until my stomach hurts in the near future.

So I was catching up on my health news yesterday and I read a study that made me roll my eyes. Apparently—and this is according to an actual study that actual researchers spent actual time on—frying takes away the health benefits of fish.

I’ll summarize:

Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, while healthy when grilled or baked or sautéed, cease being a good dinner option once you bread ’em and deep fry ’em. Go figure. Next thing I’m going to read in my newspaper’s health sections is:

  1. Deep fried chicken is less healthy than a grilled piece.
  2. Fried asparagus is less healthy than roasted.
  3. And fried green beans, while amazing with soy sauce, don’t cut it as a veggie.

I’m starting to wonder whether fried foods just aren’t healthy. But I won’t believe it until I read a study. You know, just to be sure.

OK, anyone surprised by this? Anyone?

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December 30, 2010   13 Comments

A Waste of Money? Or Not.

Converse sneakersphoto by d. sharon pruitt

Early on in this whole broken-knees thing, I found out I have super flat feet. Imagine a penguin here. (Not that my feet look like that, but oh my gosh they’re so cute.)

The treatment, naturally, was to spend $500 on a pair of orthotic inserts for my sneakers and another pair for my dress shoes. I splurged on them because A. my knees really hurt, B. I would have tried anything for relief, and C. I had nothing better to do with my money.

Of course I’m kidding about C.

Anyhow, I really thought that having custom-made inserts and sneakers specifically designed for flat feet left me better off. And I still think that. My body mechanics are too screwed up to go au naturale.

Still, I recently read about a study in which researchers gave a bunch of Marines shoes designed for their specific arch height and another group general stability shoes. After 12 weeks, the number of injuries each group sustained didn’t differ—hinting that those $165 running shoes made specifically for high arches or low arches or tweener arches might not be worth the money. (Unless, of course, they look super cool as cool-looking shoes are the most important thing when training.)

Instead of arch support, the real importance, the researchers say, is in getting new shoes often enough. Which I guess is easier when you’re not forking over close to $200 for them.

That said, I’m going to be honest: I’ll still probably keep buying arch support sneakers. The 20 years I went el cheapo with running shoes left me shuffling around like Frankenstein. And though my knees still aren’t fixed (don’t even get me started on that), I do notice a positive difference when I’m not flat footing it.

What are your thoughts on sneakers that support your specific arch needs? And also: How much are you willing to spend on a good pair of running shoes?

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September 10, 2010   12 Comments

Save the Memories

2004_the_notebook_003photo from all movie photo

So glad you guys liked the peach baked oatmeal. Seriously—it’s good. I’m going to bet it’d be even better with whipped cream, but—thank heavens—I don’t have any. That could get dangerous.

So the other day, as I was reading through some medical news, I came across two studies about Alzheimer’s and dementia and general mental decline that I thought were interesting. The first found that even a small amount of exercise—walking for 40 minutes three times a week—can prevent mental decline in couch potatoes. The other showed that drinking wine is linked to better brain function on mental tests.

Bottom line: Keep active and drink some wine. Your brain cells will thank you.

I always find Alzheimer’s and dementia really sad. (It might have something to do with The Notebook and how I want to curl up into the fetal position and bawl every time I see it.) But there’s another reason. About four years ago, I saw a Notebook-type scene play out when I was vacationing with my family in Cape Cod.

2004_the_notebook_005photo by all movie photo

We were in Chatham, a small town with rows of shops lining the main street. It’s one of those towns you see in the movies, where the boy and girl hold hands and drink milkshakes and maybe kiss in the gazebo under some twinkling lights. Only it was daytime and the gazebo was a stretch of grass across the street from a candy shop and a store that sells Life Is Good T-shirts. From the sidewalk, I could see an old man with khaki pants and sneakers talking to a police officer.

The old man was frantic, tears snaking down his cheeks, hands flailing in the hot air. “She was gone. Just gone,” the old man said.

“Well she’s okay now,” said the police officer. His voice was calm but sad. He turned toward the lawn and nodded at another officer. Waved. An old woman shuffled beside the officer, eyes fixed on the street. Unaware of the tearful old man.

The old man held her gaze, then ran to her. He wrapped his arms around her neck and buried his face in her neck.

“I thought I lost you,” he said. The tears slowed, salty remnants still streaking his cheeks. “I didn’t know where you went. And I looked everywhere but you were gone.” The old man’s voice was shaky, like rocks in a tin can.

“I went for a walk,” she said, confused.

The old man grabbed her hand. He guided her to the sidewalk, mouthed “thanks” to the officers, and walked toward town. His hand clamped hers like a vice. He’d never part with her again.

Do you ever think about keeping your mind strong to prevent future mental decline?

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September 8, 2010   22 Comments

Why It Might Be OK to Call Dr. Google Sometimes

Doctor's Visitphoto by laura4smith

Another day, another study telling us we too often consult Dr. Google when we’re feeling sick. (Remember our discussion about that here?) Turn to the Internet, experts say, and you risk freaking yourself out bigtime. And diagnosing yourself with a rare, life-threatening disease native to a small island off the coast of Africa when you really have a rash.

I’ve been there, too. There was the first time I got a migraine with an aura, when I was absolutely positive I was having a stroke. I’m pretty sure, if I thought long and hard enough about it, I could find reason to believe I have typhoid fever, boils, or prostate cancer. (I’m not sure how I’d rationalize that last one, but never underestimate the ability of a hypochondriac to imagine body parts.)

But still. Sometimes visiting the doctor is a big, fat, expensive waste of time.

Case in point: About a month ago, I googled a health problem I was having. I printed out a page—my self-diagnosis, if you will—and brought it to my primary care physician. Here’s how it went down (keeping in mind I have insurance):

Cab ride to primary care physician: $20

Copay: $20

Bill for blood tests: $85

Cab ride to work: $20

And then I got a referral to a specialist. From there:

Cab ride to specialist: $40

Copay: $40

Bill for visit not covered by insurance: $47

Cab ride home: Free, thanks to The Man

The total, out of pocket: $272

The diagnosis? The same as what I’d found for free online.

I’m not saying we should ditch our docs and stick with Google. Obviously, the only way to confirm a diagnosis is to make an appointment, and brushing something off because some site said you’re in the clear could lead to a missed diagnosis. Scary stuff. (Not only that, but when else will you get to wear a thin paper robe in a freezing room? Seriously.) But will I ever ditch the medical web searches because I might misdiagnose an eye twitch for Parkinson’s? Probably not.

What are your thoughts on paying a (free) visit to Dr. Google?

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September 2, 2010   17 Comments

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