Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Women Using Compounded 'Bioidentical' Hormones Miss the Full Story About These Drugs

/PRNewswire/ -- Women in, or past, menopause who use specially compounded "bioidentical" hormones to treat menopause-related symptoms, such as hot flushes, often don't get adequate information from compounding pharmacists about the drugs' risks and realistic potential for benefit. That's one of the concerns about these medications addressed by menopause expert JoAnn V. Pinkerton, MD, in "'Bioidentical' hormones: What you (and your patient) need to know," in the January issue of OBG Management.

So-called bioidentical hormones are chemically similar to hormones released by the body, including those produced in the ovaries -- estrone, estradiol, estriol, progesterone, testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone, to name some.

"The FDA has approved many prescription products that contain 'bioidentical' hormones," says Pinkerton, "but 'bioidentical' is often used to refer to custom-compounded hormones. The major difference between FDA-approved prescription bioidentical hormone products and custom-compounded products is that only the former are regulated by the FDA and tested for purity, potency, efficacy, and safety."

"That means it's up to physicians who prescribe compounded hormones to educate their patients -- about potential risks and benefits, absence of FDA oversight, purity and potency concerns, and lack of peer-reviewed data on efficacy and safety," Pinkerton says.

"Practitioners need to recognize that women who ask for these hormones may be vulnerable -- because of anxiety and depression that often accompany menopausal symptoms -- to unsubstantiated claims or recommendations of self-proclaimed experts."

"Compounded hormones aren't safer, or more effective, than traditional FDA-approved hormone therapies," Pinkerton emphasizes. "No data support individualized, personalized therapy based on testing hormone levels in saliva. And compounded bioidentical hormones don't prevent cancer; they probably have the same potential to cause cancer, and present the same other health risks, as FDA-approved hormones."

Bioidentical hormones are one of the biggest products of the multibillion-dollar US pharmaceutical compounding industry, observes Bruce Patsner, MD, JD, who contributed to the OBG Management article. Patsner, an expert on pharmacy compounding of prescription hormone therapy, served as senior medical officer at the FDA and is now Research Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law Center.

JoAnn V. Pinkerton, MD, is Professor and Vice Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, where she directs The Women's Place Midlife Health Center. She is a member of the Board of Editors of OBG Management, a review publication for ObGyns (www.obgmanagement.com).

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Chic Change-Transform Haircolor With Expert Tips And Quality Products

(NAPSI)-It's easier than ever to make a commitment to achieving natural-looking haircolor with long-lasting benefits. Whether looking to enhance color, cover grays or change shades, there are a variety of award-winning products available today. According to Clairol Color Director Jason Backe, "Haircolor is one of the simplest ways to achieve a total makeover-it's an artistic expression of personal beauty and a great way to invest in your look." Backe, the go-to colorist for celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Kim Raver, and CEO of ted gibson salon, shares tips on affordable, high-quality haircolor makeovers.

What is the secret to at-home haircolor?

"Spending a few extra dollars at the shelf for products with guarantees and carefully crafted shade palettes will pay off in the long run. Haircolor should always be easy to apply and give a natural-looking, long-lasting result. I like Perfect 10 by Nice 'n Easy, one of the biggest beauty breakthroughs this year and a product with the benefits women crave. Perfect 10 gives high-gloss, high-shine color and 100 percent gray coverage in just 10 minutes. The patented comb applicator allows for quick, precise application and also gives full and even root-to-tip coverage."

How can I find a product and a shade that is right for me?

"When deciding between products, I recommend the award-winners or products featuring a beauty seal of approval from magazines like Allure. You know these products have been tried and proven effective by beauty experts. Haircolor shades should enhance your skin tone and complement your eyes. The shade should be within two shades-lighter or darker-of your natural color. Cool colors work best with pink and olive complexions while golden tones shine when paired with tan skin and light eyes or medium skin and dark eyes. This is especially important during the start of the year, when skin tones tend to need a boost."

What is the best way to apply haircolor?

"I prefer haircolor with non-drip formulas and easy-to-use tools such as applicator combs or brushes. Choosing a product with these tools will save you time and give a better end result. Start application near the nape of the neck and work to the front hairline. When touching up color, apply directly to the roots, hairline and temples."

What can I do for routine haircolor upkeep?

"To care for your new look, try a maintenance product that rids the part, temple and forehead areas of roots or pesky grays. A product like Nice 'n Easy Root Touch-Up, a best-in-beauty winner for root coverage, gets rid of pesky roots or grays in a snap! It works in just 10 minutes, easily fitting into morning routines."

Does color-treated hair need special maintenance or treatment?

"Treat haircolor with special care-like a favorite cashmere sweater. Haircolor stays fresh and maintains radiance and shine with a notable product like Pantene Pro-V Expressions Shampoo with Liquid Crystals. The Pro-Vitamin formula with patented liquid crystal technology creates a protective layer on the hair shaft that helps repel water and condition hair to help keep vibrant color radiant.

"Achieving a beauty transformation or routine upkeep can be affordable and effortless this year by choosing award-winning, high-quality products available in stores today," says Backe.

For more information about Allure magazine's "Best of Beauty" Award Winners-Perfect 10 by Nice 'n Easy, Nice 'n Easy Root Touch-Up, and Pantene Pro-V Expressions-please visit www.clairol.com and www.pantene.com/expressions.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Make the Most Important Investment This Year -- Invest in Your Health

(ARA) - Obesity is a mounting health problem locally and worldwide. More than 1 billion adults globally are overweight, and at least 300 million are obese, according to the World Health Organization.

Obesity not only takes a toll on personal health, it can inflict a huge monetary cost on individuals as well as the economy in general:

* When compared with their healthy-weight counterparts, healthcare spending among the obese is 37 percent higher, reports The Policy Journal of the Health Spheres.

* The rise in obesity contributed to the increase in spending related to diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Fortunately, a sustained 10 percent weight loss may reduce an overweight person’s lifetime medical costs by $2,200 to $5,300 by lowering costs related to hypertension and high cholesterol, among many other related illnesses. Additionally, sustaining a 5 to 10 percent weight loss over six months or longer has been shown to improve health by helping to:

* Lower the risk of heart disease.
* Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
* Reduce the risk of some kinds of cancer.
* Reduce the strain on joints.

So if weight loss is your resolution this year, or you want to make an important investment in your health, consider an approach that is not just designed to take weight off, but to help you change your behavior.

Just in time for the new year, Weight Watchers has introduced the Momentum program which encourages smarter food and lifestyle choices. Your weight loss plans can absolutely stay on track in 2009, but it’s important to choose a weight-loss plan that truly teaches you how to make healthy, sustainable changes.

Here are Weight Watchers 10 Tips for a Healthy 2009:

* Look for low-calorie substitutions that don’t sacrifice taste. For example, switching from mayo to mustard can add to big calorie savings over time.

* Losing weight with a friend or group of friends really helps with weight-loss success.

* Ounce for ounce, the nutrition in fruits and vegetables can’t be beat. To get the best blend of nutrients, include as many colors as possible.

* Put a napkin over your plate as soon as you’re satisfied -- it’s like turning off a light switch.

* Purge unhealthy food from your pantry, freezer and fridge.

* Make physical activity as convenient as possible. Keep your sneakers and jacket ready and nearby for short, frequent walks.

* Try creating a new favorite dish. Visit www.weightwatchers.com for delicious recipe ideas.

* Wear something you feel fabulous in -- a compliment goes a long way in sustaining motivation.

* Set new goals to keep yourself motivated. Goals do not have to be weight related.

* Know what you’re doing. Write down what you’re eating each and every day to keep you on target.

To find out more, visit a Weight Watchers Meeting for free or go to www.weightwatchers.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Find the Perfect Pearls For Your Wedding Ensemble

(ARA) – Pearls are the perfect wedding companion. Known by some as the “Queen of Gems,” the classic elegance of pearls transcends centuries and style fads. Nothing looks more beautiful with a bridal gown than a single strand of flawless pearls.

But pearls are not just for the bride -- they’re the perfect accessory for bridesmaids as well. Today, you can find pearls in shades ranging from the traditional white all the way through the color spectrum, including pink, green and even black, so they will coordinate with the wedding party’s dresses.

If you’re confused by the different types of pearls on the market, you’re not alone. “Pearls are classified according to their origin and their shape,” says Natalie Parman, vice president of merchandising at Jewelry TV. “Because of the wide variety of pearls available, you can choose a look and a price that is right for you.”

Pearls are formed when a foreign object enters the shell of a mollusk and triggers the release of nacre, which builds layer upon layer until a pearl is formed. Most pearls in retail stores today are cultured pearls. They are less expensive than natural pearls because they are mass-produced with the aid of technology. Instead of waiting for nature to take its course, pearl farmers insert an irritant and a nucleus (often a mother of pearl bead) into an oyster to speed up the process. Cultured pearls come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and many are dyed, which means you can find a wide range of colors.

Akoya cultured pearls are produced by the Akoya oyster found in the waters surrounding Japan. They are almost perfectly round and are well known for their high luster and rich color, which can range from white to cream, pink, green, silver and gold. These pearls can vary in size from between 2 millimeters to 10 millimeters. “Cultured Akoya pearls are the quintessential ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ strand in a creamy white color,” says Parman. “Multiple strands or choker styles are hot wedding trends.” Because they are affordable, cultured Akoya pearls also make great bridesmaids and mothers’ gifts.

South Sea cultured pearls are larger than Akoyas, usually more than 10 millimeters. Produced in the warm waters of the South Seas, they come mainly from Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. These pearls are usually white, yellow or gold. Due to their size and rarity, South Sea pearls are expensive. Exotic golden South Sea pearls in particular have gained popularity in the United States in recent years. “If you’re choosing a special strand of pearls for your wedding, this can be a good jewelry investment,” says Parman.

Tahitian pearls are produced in Tahiti, the Cook Islands and Mexico. They range in color from black, to aubergine, pistachio and many other colors, often with overtones of blue, pink or green. These pearls range between 8 and 15 millimeters and are highly valued because of their rarity. “Wear Tahitian pearls to your rehearsal dinner, or pack them as part of your honeymoon wardrobe,” says Parman.

When choosing pearls, look for nacre thickness and quality. Nacre quality determines how long the pearl will last as well as how light reflects through the pearls. Check for any cracks or peeling in the nacre. Also, look for how the pearls on a strand are matched. Pearl matching affects the value of the piece, as mismatched pearls are not as aesthetically pleasing. Finally, look for pearls that are individually knotted between each pearl instead of just strung one after the other -- that’s a sign of quality.

Whatever your jewelry wish for your wedding day, visit www.jtv.com for a great selection of pearl necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Financial Woes Can Add To Health Concerns

GBB Note: Part of women's beauty comes from taking care of themselves.

(NAPSI)-Financial problems may have an effect on the health of women and their families.

That's one of the key findings of a new survey that indicates many women have failed to seek health care for themselves or their families to save money. Findings also indicate that many women say their health has gotten worse over the past five years and that the primary cause women cite for this decline is stress.

"Today's financial crisis and increasing health costs are clearly impacting women's decisions around health care, and their physical and emotional well-being," said Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, executive director of National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC), which commissioned the survey. "It's hard to stay calm and relaxed given our hectic lives-even in the best of times. But women need to understand that skimping on health care to save them money may cost them more in the long run."

Conducted by Harris Interactive, the fourth annual, national Women T.A.L.K. survey found a significant number of women report making sacrifices in order to reduce their expenditures on health care and that their health is declining.

• Nearly half of women have failed to seek medical care in the past year because the cost was too high. This includes skipping doctor's visits, recommended medical procedures and medication for themselves or their families.

The study also showed that while women were most likely to put off doctor visits for themselves, they were least likely to put off doctor visits for their children.

• Hispanic women were most likely to have skipped health care in the past year.

• More than 40 percent of women report their health has declined over the past five years and the most common reasons given for this were stress and weight gain.

• At the same time, a solid majority of women reported a willingness to make lifestyle changes -such as improving their diet, exercising or eliminating smoking-if it would help lower their health care costs.

"Long-term stress and weight gain can significantly increase women's risk for other health problems," said Battaglino Cahill. "Women need help in managing stress and part of that equation is good nutrition and regular exercise. There are many simple, no-cost steps they can take to manage stress, including eating better, exercising, deep breathing, meditation and organizing and prioritizing activities."

For more tips on managing stress, visit www.healthywomen.org/wellness.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Be Sun Smart All Year Round

(NAPSI)-Many people think that summer is the only time to take caution with the sun, but sun protection is important year-round. While skiing or visiting warmer climates in the winter, it is important to remember to protect yourself.

Surprising to many sun-loving Americans is that 40 percent of the more than 250,000 new cases of squamous cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer) may be the result of ignoring a condition few people have ever heard of: actinic keratoses, or AKs. These are precancerous skin lesions that have the potential to progress to a more serious condition.

What Are AKs?

An AK is a small, crusty or scaly bump or horn that arises on or beneath the skin surface. The base may be light or dark, tan, pink, red or a combination of these, or the same color as the skin. The crust is horny, dry and rough. Occasionally, it itches or produces a pricking or tender sensation. It can also become inflamed and surrounded by redness. In rare instances, actinic keratoses can bleed.

Who Is At Risk?

• People 40 and over who have had chronic sun exposure; burn rather than tan in the sun; and spend large amounts of time in the sun without sunscreen are at higher risk for AKs. Doctors recommend a regular skin screening by a dermatologist. The good news is that AKs are treatable when identified-before they have the potential to progress to a more serious condition such as squamous cell carcinoma. One of the medications doctors use is Carac® (Fluorouracil Cream 0.5%), a topical cream that is safe and effective in the treatment of AKs. It is available by prescription and is the only topical with convenient "once daily dosing." Carac is indicated for the topical treatment of multiple actinic or solar keratoses of the face and anterior scalp.

Important Safety Information

Carac should not be used by women who are pregnant, considering becoming pregnant, or nursing. Carac should not be used by people with dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase (DPD) enzyme deficiency. The most common side effects are skin reactions including redness, dryness, burning, pain, erosion (loss of upper layer of skin), swelling and eye irritation. For more information, visit www.carac.info.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Five Anti-Aging Tips Under $5

(NAPSI)-Let's face it. A youthful appearance often comes at a price, and in these tough economic times, many are slowing down on their spending. A recent consumer confidence poll indicates that 59 percent of women have cut spending on cosmetics and 55 percent decreased their skin care purchases.

But according to celebrity makeup artist and beauty consultant Mickey Williams, one need not sacrifice beauty to save some bucks. While many celebrity clients pay hundreds to look like a million, she says similar results can be achieved with $5 or less.

"By simply changing a beauty technique or looking at products beyond the medicine cabinet, you can make a real difference in achieving a more youthful appearance at a reasonable price," said Williams. "Also, beauty buys can be had at your local drugstore. For example, Blistex Deep Renewal is a new lip treatment that contains advanced ingredients found in high-end anti-aging products, but at a fraction of the cost."

For those who want to dip into the fountain of youth without getting soaked in high costs, Williams suggests the following five anti-aging tips for under $5:

• Raid your pantry. People underestimate the aging power of stained teeth. Many teeth-whitening products are available, but nothing is more affordable and effortless in restoring your pearly whites than baking soda. Simply mix baking soda with water or your favorite minty toothpaste and brush right onto your teeth.

• Give some lip service. A slip from lips isn't the only thing that can reveal age. Fine lines and wrinkles on lips add years to the face. Keep lips looking young by moisturizing them regularly with lip balm containing SPF-15 sun protection. Also consider looking for an anti-aging lip product, such as Blistex Deep Renewal, that offers hyaluronic acid to improve skin condition and give lips a fuller appearance, and co-enzyme Q-10 for moisturization and overall revitalization. It's clinically proven to reduce the length and depth of lines and wrinkles on lips.

• Lighten up. White eyeliner eliminates the red rim that creates a tired and aged look. Gently apply a white or beige liner to the inner rim of eyes for an immediate pick-me-up and eye brightener.

• Tame the tweezing. Not only are fuller, thicker eyebrows all the rage this season, they also push the rewind button on an overall look. If brows are over-tweezed or thin by nature, use a light blond or taupe pencil-regardless of skin color-to create an illusion of a light shadow for a more natural look.

• Use concealer correctly. Using a lightweight concealer as a spot corrector is one of the best ways to hide bags and discoloration and ultimately erase years from your appearance.

"Spending less never looked so good," said Williams. "Smart shopping and correct application are things of beauty, especially in these tough economic times."

For more information on lip care tips, visit Blistex.com.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Opinion: The Quest for Youth, Beauty and... Cancer?

As I was walking on the treadmill this morning I listened to a health segment showing on Fox News. It was not good news gals! There's a new study out that shows a strong link between occurrences of breast cancer and those lotions we use to keep ourselves looking younger.

Yikes. You should see my bathroom counter! Every time I go to the store I pick up some new cream that promised eternal youth, no wrinkles, slimmer thighs and other miracles. I figure if I mix and match maybe one of them will work.

There's the under-eye stuff that helps minimize puffiness and discoloration. Then there's another that promises no wrinkles and that it's the absolute best, works overnight, I'll be twenty years younger if I use it... Why take a chance on choosing the wrong one?

I "assumed" they were safe since they're made by mainstream companies that must be regulated since they're sold in the United States, right?

Wrong.

Now I hear as I'm drinking my first bottle of water (which according to studies has its own problems), walking on the treadmill to slim those thighs (so much for the thigh slimming cream) and keep the heart healthy, that the stuff I slathered on my face last night and then the other stuff I added this morning might result in breast cancer.

According to the study, many lotions contain estrogen or estrogen related ingredients. The extra estrogen could, and there's the magic word, could, increase the risk of breast cancer.

What's a girl to do to stay looking as young as possible? Can't go get one of those liposuction type things, I'm allergic to pain and my pocketbook is allergic to the cost. I can't go for facials and massages, again it's the pocketbook with a good no-time allocation factor tossed in for good measure.
The medical expert on Fox News, and I apologize for not remembering her name, said she used sunflower oil to moisturize. Yep, straight old sunflower oil right out of the bottle. The kind you find at the grocery store. When Megan Kelly asked her about others, she said olive oil or pretty much any other oil was fine. No chemicals, no preservatives, just straight oil. She said it wasn't sticky or gunky (my paraphrase) when asked.
Hmmm... I don't know about if those with oily skin or skin prone to acne could handle that one.

Here's another startling fact I found when I followed up on the story: "Due to gaping loopholes in federal law, companies can put virtually any ingredient into personal care products. Even worse, the government does not require pre-market safety tests for any of them." (per Skin Deep, see below)

Whoa. I was shocked to say the least. Here I go trusting my government again. I should know better. I am usually pretty good at checking out what goes into my body, I just had a major mental lapse when it came to what I put on my body. Even though I've heard whispers about problems with some ingredients I hadn't given it much thought. I mean, gee, it seems that there's a problem with everything these days!

I decided to do some research of my own on the Internet. As I wandered around reading articles the news got worse. There are studies showing increases in the rate of cancer in those who started using makeup at younger ages! There are articles all over the place, many from respected sources, warning against ingredients in lotions, creams, cosmetics and other products we regularly use to keep ourselves looking good --- on the outside.

Given the choice between an extra wrinkle and laying in a wrinkled bed while getting chemo treatments, I think I'll go with the extra wrinkle on the face. However, it seems I may not have to make that drastic a choice, staving off aging as I can for as long as I reasonably can! There are product choices that don't have the known nasty carcinogens. I'm going to be doing some research and will be finding those products. I found one site (www.cosmeticdatabase.com) that seems to be a good neutral starting place. Below are a few articles I've chosen to help you get started on your own research:

From Cornell University (this is the best of all articles I found, has some great videos)
Breast Cancer - The Estrogen Connection
Cosmetics and More
Ingredients in a wide variety of cosmetics and personal care products can mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen. Scientists are concerned that even at low levels, these environmental estrogens may work together with the body’s own estrogen to increase the risk of breast cancer.
http://envirocancer.cornell.edu/research/endocrine/videos/makeup.cfm

Visit www.cosmeticdatabase.com -
Skin Deep is a safety guide to cosmetics and personal care products brought to you by researchers at the Environmental Working Group.
Skin Deep pairs ingredients in more than 41,000 products against 50 definitive toxicity and regulatory databases, making it the largest integrated data resource of its kind. Why did a small nonprofit take on such a big project? Because the FDA doesn't require companies to test their own products for safety.

Other articles:

Pretty Ugly: Cosmetics Ingredients Linked to Breast Cancer?
Author: Karen Barrow
Medically Reviewed On: January 04, 2007
Even at the youngest ages, little girls find their way into their mother’s makeup kit, making a mess of lipstick, eye shadow and mascara on their face. And as girls grow older, they begin the delicate debate with their parents over what type of makeup they can wear and when. However, mothers and fathers everywhere may have one more tool in their arsenal for convincing their daughters to delay that trip to the cosmetics counter.
http://juneauempire.healthology.com/main/breast-cancer/breast-cancer-%20prevention/article4037.htm

Cosmetics Popular With Latinas Linked to Cancer, Other Serious Health Problems
Bill Requiring Cosmetics Companies to Report Use of Hazardous Chemicals Would Protect Salon Workers
SAN FRANCISCO—Several cosmetics products that are popular with Latina consumers have been found to contain ingredients linked to cancer and other serious health problems, according to an analysis of cosmetics ingredients.
http://www.breastcancerfund.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=kwKXLdPaE&b=1745617&ct=1286431

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Georgia Southern University Expert Offers Tips on Reducing Holiday Stress

The holidays are supposed to be a joyous time, but many people feel overwhelmed by the extra cooking, shopping, spending and expectations that come with the celebrations.

Dr. Pamela Feldt, Assistant Professor in Georgia Southern University’s Department of Psychology, offers these five tips to keep holiday stress in check.

Keep Expectations Realistic
Become aware of your stress inducing ideas about the holiday season and challenge them. No one’s house, children, gifts or baking is perfect. Yours don’t have to be perfect, either. It’s a better idea to focus on what gives you and your family pleasure, rather than what you think you ought to be doing.

Watch What You Eat
It’s OK to eat some cookies and other sweet treats if you follow two simple rules. First, don’t beat yourself up for doing so. Second, don’t skip real food (like vegetables and protein) in order to cut calories after you’ve eaten sweets. It is entirely possible to sugar-stress your body, which makes it more difficult to cope with other stressors.

Only Drink In Moderation
If you drink, drink no more than two drinks per day. Also, make sure that you give your body time to metabolize the alcohol before you go to bed. If you don’t, you may wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep. Getting enough sleep is an important stress reducer.

Exercise
Make time for some exercise. Even minimal exercise (ten minutes at a time) outside in the sunshine and fresh air helps to reduce stress and improve your mood.

Organize
Make a calendar on which you put everything that needs to be done during the holiday season, including special activities for all family members and routine things that need to be accomplished, such as car maintenance and medical appointments. Once you have all of your appointments down on a calendar, you can see if you are scheduled to be in two places at once and make plans to deal with the schedule conflict. Creating the calendar can be a fun activity for the whole family to enjoy together.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Savor the Taste of the Holidays

(ARA) - We’ve all seen the statistics revealing that many of us are guilty of overindulging during the holiday season. Stress, frequent holiday parties and the office candy dish are all common culprits that can contribute to adding a few extra pounds by the end of the year.

But with a few simple, convenient and healthy modifications to holiday fare, you can still savor the wonderful flavors of the holidays without missing out on some of your favorite dishes for fear of overindulging. Remember, ‘tis the season to enjoy, not deprive!

A common cooking myth is that using light- or no-salt-added ingredients means losing the rich, comforting flavors often associated with traditional holiday meals. With a few easy tricks to help lower sodium, cut cholesterol and reduce saturated fats in holiday recipes, you and your family can look forward to delicious holiday meals as well as a healthy and happy start to the New Year.

Here are some quick and convenient tips for a more enjoyable and healthier holiday celebration:

It Pays to be Prepared
A simple trip to the grocery store can often turn into a stressful and costly venture. Poor planning and last minute grocery store trips also often result in unhealthy decisions. So avoid those long lines at the supermarket and stock your shelves ahead of time with healthy pantry staples such as canned products, olive oil, low-sodium dried herbs and seasonings and garlic cloves. A perfectly stocked pantry will allow you to have healthy options on-hand even during the chaotic holiday season.

Contrary to popular belief, canned vegetables contain all the nutrients of fresh vegetables when prepared in recipes. For example, Del Monte 50% Less Salt Vegetables contain vitamins and minerals, and 200 milligrams of sodium less per serving than regular canned vegetables. Stocking up on lower sodium varieties is a smart, convenient option for full-flavor cooking while reducing overall sodium intake in dishes -- and your finicky relatives will be none the wiser.

“Modifying ingredient choices in your diet such as swapping healthy fats for unhealthy trans and saturated fats and opting for foods with less salt can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and ultimately help reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease,” says Keri Glassman, a registered dietician. “It's a small step that goes a long way. Incorporating more vegetables and less salt into your holiday diet can lead to a happier, healthier year ahead for your family.”

Say Bye-Bye to the “Bs” in Holiday Hors d’oeuvres
Avoid bacons, heavy breads and buttery dough ingredients when planning your hors d’oeuvre selections. Yes, this means passing on the traditional bacon-wrapped scallop bites and cocktail wieners blanketed in buttery dough. Instead, focus on healthier, less-filling items such as baked tortilla chips and a fresh homemade salsa. Or, opt for a colorful and festive spread of fruits and vegetables served alongside healthy dips -- such as hummus -- which won’t leave your guests feeling overstuffed and lethargic before the real meal actually begins.

Banish the Butter, Love Your Lemons
Classic cooking calls for basting the turkey or chicken with butter -- an ingredient typically high in cholesterol and saturated fat -- to create that rich golden brown skin color. Avoid the artery clogging ingredient by whisking together a delicious glaze of lemon, olive oil and dried herbs to create a unique, refreshing alternative that keeps turkey just as moist as butter but with a lighter, healthier zest of citrus flavor. Additionally, olive oil naturally contains good dietary fats and can help lower cholesterol.

When the Meat Thermometer Just Won’t Pop
Roasting a turkey often takes a little longer in the oven than anticipated, and guests usually wind up with a little extra time on their hands before sitting at the dinner table. Down-time often leads to extra snacking, and your guests may become full and tired before the main course. Plan to have classic games such as Monopoly, Connect Four, and Scrabble strategically placed in common areas where guests can easily play. This is a wonderful way to pass time and re-connect with family members.

Sweet as Pie
A wonderful holiday meal isn’t a smashing success without something irresistibly sweet to top it off. Instead of the heavy cakes, pastries and sugary pies, opt for light and refreshing palate-cleansing desserts that won’t weigh guests down. Try arranging a beautiful dessert bar with fresh fruit sorbets, light and airy biscotti, plates of fresh berries with creme fraiche and an assortment of hot teas. Not only are fruits packed with vitamins and minerals, but low-sugar desserts tend to be better for digestion and still a sweet end to a delicious meal. (The pie will not be missed.)

By following a few simple rules and modifications this season, your holiday dishes will offer the wonderful comforting tastes of traditional holiday fare with a lighter, healthier touch your guests will surely appreciate. For more helpful ideas and recipes for the holidays, visit www.delmonte.com/solutions.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Weddings Tailored To Friends And Family

(NAPSI)-Tradition has it that the "big day" belongs to the bride and groom. Yet from the bachelor party to catching the bouquet, the "Hokey Pokey" to the "Electric Slide," it's the happy couple's friends and family who help make the occasion memorable.

You Look Marvelous!

The bride isn't the only person at a wedding who feels the need to look her absolute best. Friends and family feel the same way. According to a survey conducted by Kelton Research for Doubletree Hotels, more than three in five (63 percent) put extra effort into looking their very best, including buying new clothes (53 percent), changing their hair (23 percent) and losing weight (17 percent).

Food For Thought

What's the formula for a terrific wedding? How about friends and family, a big meal and plenty of celebratory drinks? One in three (33 percent) Americans most look forward to the food at weddings they've attended while nearly one in eight (13 percent) look forward to the open bar.

Party People

When invited to an out-of-town wedding, nearly half (45 percent) of Americans most look forward to the opportunity to celebrate with friends or family. Meanwhile, getting away from home and work is enticing for one in five (20 percent) parents, compared to 13 percent of those without kids. Another aspect of the wedding that guests often look forward to is the location of the reception-and that's one thing that the happy couple has a little more control over.

For example, Doubletree Hotels and Resorts are an excellent choice for planning a wedding that is luxurious, simple or intimately detailed. Whether planning for the rehearsal dinner, reception or just a comfortable and affordable place to host friends and family, Doubletree's careful attention to detail and variety of amenities help ensure the wedding party and guests enjoy a relaxed stay.

Grab The Popcorn

And how do the bride and groom's guests get themselves in the mood to celebrate? With their favorite wedding flicks, natch. With all the food, revelry and libations going around, it's no surprise that America's favorite wedding movie is "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (25 percent). The R-rated, edgier comedy "Wedding Crashers" comes in second at 16 percent.

For help planning your next wedding or event, visit Web sites such as www.doubletree.com/weddings. The site offers useful tips that include location information, a wedding planning checklist and help creating a personalized Web page.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Party Hair: Easier Than You Think

(NAPSI)-Adding that special something to transform everyday ordinary hair to extraordinary is easier-and less expensive-than you might imagine.

First, "get inspired by trend-setting red carpet styles like Beyoncé's" recommends Rachel Hayes, DailyMakeover.com beauty editor.

According to Hayes, you can reinvent and refresh a simple half-up style by creating dramatic volume in front. This romantic look balances long hair and creates a dramatic, sophisticated contrast for special events.

Styling this look is easy and affordable since all you'll need is a brush, a comb and a few easy tips.

• Hayes suggests isolating a halo section of hair in front to start. Using a tight-toothed comb, backcomb 2-inch sections at a time in short strokes along the back section down toward the scalp.

• Finish the look by smoothing it with a natural-bristle brush. Crisscross 2-inch sections on either side; pin into place.

VoilĂ -instant romance and glamour!

Try the look on yourself by uploading a photo at DailyMakeover.com DailyMakeover.com, a virtual makeover site, and read more expert how-to's.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fun Shoe Trends Can Walk Your Wallet Farther

(NAPSI)-Keeping your feet in fashionable shoes need not hurt your pocketbook.

There are many chic choices for budget-conscious fashionistas and that's good news, because a recent survey shows shoes are essential to a woman's happiness. According to the survey, the average shoe addict has about 40 pairs of shoes and even the pragmatic buyer has 20.

Fifty-six percent of women would give up chocolate and dessert for a month for the perfect pair of shoes. But price does matter. Sixty-eight percent said they would rather find a favorite pair of shoes at the right price than go out on a hot date.

Fortunately, the kind of shoe therapy required to lift your spirits doesn't have to cost a lot. Nine West, known for its stylish glamour favored by star customers Halle Berry, Eva Longoria-Parker and Blake Lively, has many reasonably priced footwear finds under one hundred dollars.

Two of the season's most sought-after trends are the exotic square-toe pump and the highly sought-after Gladiator sandal. These trends represent just a few of the must-have looks of the season.

Pair your favorite footwear finds with the latest trends in bags, including exotic python prints, studded details, fringe and more, all at affordable prices.

Lucky magazine previously awarded Nine West the best retail source for chic and affordable footwear for its runway-worthy styles that don't put a dent in your wallet. All styles are available in-store and online at www.ninewest.com.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New National Report Reveals the High Price of Low Self-Esteem

/PRNewswire/ -- Self-esteem has become a national crisis in this country. The majority of girls (seven in ten) feel they do not measure up in some way including their looks, performance in school and relationships. Most disturbing is that girls with low self-esteem are engaging in harmful and destructive behavior that can leave a lasting imprint on their lives. These new findings come from Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem(1), conducted with girls between eight and 17 and commissioned by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund. In response, the Dove(R) brand is launching its largest effort yet to bring self-esteem programming to girls across the country and to encourage everyone to make a difference in the lives of girls. This new initiative is part of the Dove Self-Esteem Fund goal to reach 5 million girls globally by 2010 with self-esteem programming.

Destructive Behaviors

An alarming number of girls are turning to destructive action when feeling insecure, and girls with low self-esteem are three times more likely to participate in dangerous behaviors during these times.

-- 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative and potentially harmful activities, such as disordered eating, cutting, bullying, smoking or drinking, when feeling badly about themselves-compared with 25 percent of girls with high self-esteem.

-- 61 percent of teen girls with low self-esteem admit to talking badly about themselves (Compared to 15 percent of girls with high self-esteem)

-- 25 percent of teen girls with low self-esteem resort to injuring themselves on purpose or cutting when feeling badly about themselves (Compared to 4 percent of girls with high self-esteem)

-- 25 percent of teen girls with low self-esteem practice disordered eating, such as starving themselves, refusing to eat, or over-eating and throwing up, when feeling badly about themselves (Compared to 7 percent of girls with high self-esteem)

"Low self-esteem among girls and young women has reached a crisis level," said Dr. Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., a psychologist and self-esteem expert who collaborated on Real Girls, Real Pressure. "The new report from Dove confirms the importance of healthy self-esteem and the dangerous consequences that can arise when hang-ups about looks, academics and popularity erode a girl's sense of self-worth and self-acceptance."

Self-Esteem Tipping Point

Girls are also craving better communication with adult figures as they struggle with challenges in their lives. The top wish among girls is for their parents to communicate better with them, including more frequent and more open conversations, as well as discussions about what is happening in her life. However, as girls enter their teenage years there is a significant loss of trust and communication with adults, particularly when they are feeling badly about themselves.

-- 67 percent of girls ages 13 - 17 turn to their mother as a resource when feeling badly about themselves compared to 91 percent of girls ages 8 - 12

-- Only 27 percent of girls ages 13 - 17 will turn to their father for help when feeling badly about themselves compared to 54 percent of girls ages 8 - 12. Interestingly, at 16, girls become more likely to seek support from male peers than from their own dads.

"We cannot underestimate just how vital the words and actions of parents are in fostering positive self-esteem in girls. However, it can be challenging because adolescence is not typically a time when girls are reaching out to their parents and speaking candidly," said self-esteem expert Jess Weiner, a best-selling author and the Global Ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Fund. "The good news is that if parents and other role models are willing to create a steady conversation of encouragement, honesty and openness it can definitely help girls gain confidence and reach their full potential."

Making a Difference

This fall, the Dove Self-Esteem Fund is extending its outreach in an effort to tackle the self-esteem crisis among girls. As part of its largest efforts to date, Dove is continuing to support uniquely ME!, a long-term partnership with the Girls Scouts of the USA that helps build confidence in girls 8 - 17 with after school programs, self-esteem building events and educational resources. The brand is also embarking on a new partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of America to conduct educational workshops in 20 cities across the country for both girls and the adults who influence them.

The Dove Self-Esteem Workshops for girls have been developed to empower them and promote new ways of thinking about beauty, body image and self-esteem. Separate "Train the Trainer" workshops will also be held in each city for mentors and educators to provide them with the skills and information they need to host workshops with girls in their own organizations.

"We know that if you spend time giving girls new ways to think about beauty, body image and self-esteem it can make a real difference," said Kathy O'Brien, Dove marketing director. "This program has been developed to provide the resources necessary to create positive change and ensure the next generation of young women grows up feeling good about themselves and appreciating their own unique beauty."

To ensure everyone has access to self-esteem resources, Dove has developed a range of powerful and engaging self-esteem online tools, workbooks and facilitator training guides for girls, moms and mentors that can be downloaded for free on the Dove Web site. To learn more visit campaignforrealbeauty.com.

About Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem

Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem was conducted nationally online among 1,029 girls 8 - 17, and is representative of the U.S. based on census indicators (region, ethnicity and parental education). An additional 3,344 girls 8 - 17 were surveyed in a targeted study that was conducted in 20 major U.S. cities representative of each DMA based on ethnicity and parental education. The research was conducted by StrategyOne, an applied research consulting firm, in collaboration with Ann Kearney-Cooke, PhD.

Methodology: Interviews averaged 15 minutes and were conducted between May 6 and May 28, 2008 using the online field services of ResearchNow.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tips To Help You Care For Feet In Winter

(NAPSI)-Chilly weather, drying indoor heat and hectic schedules can be so rough on feet that it may take a little extra pampering to keep them healthy and happy.

"The colder months often leave our bodies susceptible to hosts of health problems and foot ailments are no exception," said Dr. Ross Taubman, president of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). "However, being proactive about things such as proper footwear and moisturizing are just two of the ways to prevent seasonal foot ailments."

According to the APMA, the No. 1 way American women like to show their feet a little TLC is by applying moisturizer (48 percent), followed by an at-home massage (14 percent) and stretching (11 percent).

The APMA suggests these fixes to help get you back on your feet:

1. Massage your feet. Rub feet to release tension, increase circulation and rejuvenate the skin.

2. Soothe your soles. Soak feet for at least five minutes in a container filled with warm water. Pat your feet dry and apply lotion to hydrate your feet.

3. Elevate your legs. Lift your legs above your heart while lying down to help reduce swelling.

4. Rotate your ankles. Cup the foot under the back portion of the heel to brace the foot and leg and turn slowly at the ankle five times. This loosens the ankle joint and relaxes your feet.

5. Point your toes. While standing, do toe raises, toe points and toe curls for five seconds; repeat 10 times. This alleviates toe cramps and strengthens calf muscles.

6. If high heels are creating a burning sensation on the balls of your feet, use colorful ball-of-thefoot cushions such as Foot Petals Tip Toes. Not only do they pamper the feet, but they stop them from sliding forward by moving the center of pressure toward the heel.

7. If your heels hurt, you can put some spring in your step with the help of Spenco for Her Comfort Casual Insoles. Designed to absorb shock and curtail odor, they also prevent blisters, as well as cracked and callused heels.

8. If sassy party slingbacks are digging deep into your skin, create a protective barrier by using a moleskin or Foot Petals Strappy Strips to prevent blisters and strap slippage.

Check out the APMA's Web site, www.apma.org, for a list of approved products, including foot creams, scrubs and powders that are beneficial to maintaining good foot health.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Bell Ventures Launches Breakthrough Radical Defense Skin Care Ingredient

GBB Note: Beauty foods? This will most likely be interesting to follow as the beauty industry looks at foods with potential positive effects.

/PRNewswire/ -- Bell Ventures LLC, a leader in innovative antioxidant solutions in food, nutrition, and skin care, announces the release of its new, high-performance natural ingredient, GlobalPAX(TM).

GlobalPAX(TM) is a proprietary extract made from the world's finest natural sources of proanthocyanidins (PACs), a powerful class of antioxidants. It is the first high-performance ingredient to standardize antioxidant capacity to Total ORAC, which analyzes antioxidant protection against 5 free radicals.

Bell Ventures also uses recognized markers of skin damage to demonstrate efficacy. GlobalPAX(TM) is standardized to collagenase and elastase inhibition, evidence that it helps defend against skin damage.

David Bell, President of Bell Ventures, says, "GlobalPAX(TM) is the result of our deep understanding of the science of antioxidants and our appreciation for their benefits to the skin. PACs are a very versatile antioxidant family, and we see this in the protection GlobalPAX(TM) delivers."

GlobalPAX(TM) provides powerful broad-spectrum defense against hydroxyl, peroxyl, peroxynitrite, singlet oxygen, and superoxide anion. Each of these radicals is implicated in skin damage.

The premium anti-aging skin care market is hungry for novel, high-performance naturals. The benefits of antioxidant protection provided by GlobalPAX(TM) make it ideal for differentiating next-generation products.

GlobalPAX(TM) has already received the attention of significant players in the industry. "We outperform a wide range of popular antioxidant ingredients, such as vitamin C, green tea extract, and green coffee cherry extract," Bell reports.

GlobalPAX(TM) can also be used to differentiate dietary supplements and the emerging category of inside-out skin care products and "beauty foods."

With standardized Total ORAC greater than 25,000 per gram, PACs, and skin outcome markers, GlobalPAX(TM) differentiates itself in a crowded market. As Bell says, "GlobalPAX(TM) lives up to its slogan, Prove what goes in before it goes on."

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

New Style Series Presented by Diet Coke Premieres

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Style Series presented by Diet Coke, a new live and online entertainment and lifestyle program, will make its debut on December 9th with renowned fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, Grammy Award winning artist Robin Thicke and international Grammy Award winning superstar Rihanna, as the show’s first guests. This new program is designed for individuals with sophisticated taste and will provide continuous insider access to stylish entertainment and fashion icons that have significantly impacted their craft.

Hosted by former West Coast Editor of Glamour and broadcast fashion expert, Rachel Zalis, Style Series presented by Diet Coke will explore fresh, contemporary talents through appearances, interviews and performances. For the inaugural show, Zalis will interview fashion icon Cynthia Rowley and 2005 Grammy Award winner Robin Thicke at New York’s Reuters studio. Rowley will share her latest fashion collection, while Thicke will perform his newest single ‘Sweetest Love’ and other songs from his new album ‘Something Else.’ Style Series presented by Diet Coke will also provide an exclusive sneak peek at Grammy Award winning artist Rihanna’s E-film which focuses on her design collaboration with Frida Giannini of Gucci.

Style Series is being digitally produced and distributed by Digital Broadcasting Group (DBG) in partnership with Diet Coke. The full program will air live on the NASDAQ and Reuters electronic billboards in Times Square and will stream simultaneously through online video banners and at www.DietCoke.com/StyleSeries. After the live events, each show will be edited into a webisodic format that will be released weekly on the Style Series website and distributed across the Internet through the DBG Video Network. The December 9th Style Series show will be the first event of a multi-part series, with ensuing episodes premiering in early 2009.

“As the leading diet beverage in the US, Diet Coke has always stood for sophisticated taste for stylish individuals,” said Bill Kelly, senior vice president, Coca-Cola Trademark Brands, Coca-Cola North America. “Through Style Series presented by Diet Coke, we’re offering style-conscious people a new way to keep up with the latest in fashion and entertainment that complements their contemporary lifestyles.”

To produce Style Series, Diet Coke teamed up with New York-based DBG, a digital production house and digital video distribution network that specializes in concepting, producing and distributing video.

“Through our innovative digital production and distribution, DBG is helping bring Diet Coke together with amazing talent like Robin Thicke, Cynthia Rowley and Rihanna,” said Rick Kleczkowski, Chief Operating Officer, DBG. “With Style Series, we’ve coupled a premier brand, marquis talent and exclusive content to create compelling programming that will be offered through a diverse combination of outdoor, mobile and digital media distribution.”

Style Series presented by Diet Coke will be promoted through online video banners on entertainment and lifestyle focused websites across the DBG Video Network, People.com, InStyle.com and Yahoo, newsletters, mobile TV pre-roll spots, WAP banners, and outdoor digital billboards in Times Square.

Regarding her involvement with Style Series presented by Diet Coke, Cynthia Rowley said, "As a fashion designer I'm constantly working to be as inventive as possible, to push the limit not only in my collection but also to be the first to explore new ways in which people experience fashion. The Style Series is creating a whole new stage for fashion to reach people everywhere."

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Education is Key in Choosing the Best At-Home Beauty Devices

/PRNewswire/ -- The at-home beauty tool category has seen significant growth in 2008, with a number of devices launching in the marketplace. One segment of beauty tools that has sparked considerable interest among consumers has been the emergence of hair removal systems. The December issue of Allure Magazine, the go-to source for all things about the beauty industry, validates the importance of this segment by naming the TRIA Laser Hair Removal System one of "the most promising" Do-It-Yourself (DIY) systems on the market.

However, this new category can be confusing for consumers who are faced with many new choices but possess minimal knowledge on choosing the best device. According to Kevin Appelbaum, CEO of TRIA Beauty, the biggest challenge for consumers is to determine which devices actually work -- and which provide value for their money.

"Clearly the most dramatic breakthroughs in the beauty industry over the next five years will be light-based devices that feature technology previously available only at doctor offices," said Appelbaum. "But, not all technologies translate into safe, effective tools that deliver the desired long-lasting results. The consumer needs to be educated about the choices and technologies."

In the case of hair removal beauty tools, manufacturers use a variety of technologies to achieve smooth, hair-free skin. According to Appelbaum, the market is divided into three categories:

High-power lasers -- Diode laser technology is the gold standard for physicians and continues to be the preferred method for in-office hair removal. Its precision technology and single-band light enable it to target just the dark pigment in hair. This makes it easier to use, less painful and more effective at delivering permanent hair reduction. Clinical studies show that the laser energy not only removes the hair but prevents it from growing back. After six monthly treatments, consumers can expect virtually hair-free results. The TRIA Laser Hair Removal System uses the same diode laser technology used by the professional systems and was developed by the same scientists who invented the technology back in 1993. Clinical studies demonstrate that it too delivers long-lasting hair reduction and prevents the hair from growing back.

Low-power flashlamps -- Less expensive, broad-spectrum light devices do a good job at removing hair short-term, and are a great option for consumers who only want temporary hair reduction. These devices are typically used once or twice a month to maintain a hair-free appearance. Clinical studies show that the hair typically grows back when the monthly treatments are stopped.

Heat-based razors -- Using technology created for the consumer market, these hand-held tools are effectively thermal razors, burning the hair away from the surface of the skin. They require more regular use.

To make the process of choosing the most effective DIY device easier, consumers should first decide whether they want lasting results, such that the hair won't grow back, or if they would prefer temporary hair elimination. There are a variety of devices that deliver temporary hair elimination, and cost and comfort will likely determine which product is best for each consumer.

For consumers who desire long-lasting results and a device that actually prevents the hair from growing back, they should ask three questions:

1. Is the device FDA-cleared? FDA clearance indicates a safe and
effective product, although actual performance can vary dramatically
between products.
2. Does the device deliver sufficient power? Typically, higher power
levels are required to deliver better performance and more lasting
results.
3. Are there clinical studies published in respected journals to support
the science behind the device and the claimed benefits? Tools that
have published clinical data that supports their effectiveness are the
most reputable within the market.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Creative Budget Tips For Weddings

(NAPSI)-There's good news for brides and grooms. Experts say it's possible to have a wedding to remember without breaking the bank. The key is planning. From flowers to attire to the wedding cake, here are some great wallet-friendly tips that will ensure you will still have a fabulous wedding:

• Set your priorities-How you budget your money is going to depend on your priorities. If serving a four-course dinner is more important to you than hiring an incredible photographer, then you'll want to budget more on food.

For starters, a Web site called WeddingChannel.com has a budget tool calculator where you just enter your budget and the number of guests you're expecting, and it'll give you a suggested breakdown on how much you should spend for each wedding item.

• Pare down the guest list. One of the easiest ways to save money is to invite only close family and friends.

• Choose flowers in season and choose a location such as a garden or a vineyard that already has built-in decor. Even a location that has really ornate details may require fewer flowers and can help you save. If your bloom of choice isn't in season, swap out expensive flowers for ones that still provide the same look and feel.

• A popular way to save on the wedding dress is to hit a sample sale, which experts say can help cut costs by as much as 80 percent. If you're having a fall/winter wedding, check out sample sales during April/May, and if you're having a spring/summer wedding, hit the sample sales in October/ November.

• To save on alcohol, consider unlimited beer and wine with a signature cocktail.

• Get creative with the cake. If you have your baker create a fake layer or two in your wedding cake, and actually serve slices from a sheet cake hidden in the kitchen, you can save about 50 percent per slice.

• Find a comprehensive Web site that can serve as your consultant all through the planning process. For example, many have come to trust the expert advice and tips at the Web site www.weddingchannel.com.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pointers for Pampering Yourself in Just 30 Minutes a Week

(ARA) - Work, children, spouses, school and friends – your life is hectic. It’s hard to find time to do it all, let alone a half hour of quiet time for yourself. Yet setting aside just 30 minutes of “me time” each week can help you look refreshed and feel beautiful for days. Here are some tips for making the most of your weekly pampering routine.

* Make time during a shower or bath to exfoliate with a scented body wash, using a sponge or cloth. Concentrate on the areas where skin toughens up like the elbows and knees. Follow up with moisturizer on all areas of your body to keep skin smooth and soft. If your hair is feeling flat and dry from winter’s cold temperatures, try applying a hydrating masque before you blow dry your hair. These concentrated conditioners saturate and smooth the strands, nourishing the scalp for healthy, shining hair all season long.

* Flip on the humidifier as you emerge from the shower. Winter air is much drier than in the summer months, and the body notices it. Having a humidifier running in the bedroom keeps the skin softer and reduces breakage in the hair. Plus, humidifiers also can help with your breathing by loosening up the airways and defeating congestion.

* Treat your teeth to some pampering as well. Remember that smooth, polished feeling you get when you run your tongue over your teeth after walking out of the dentist's office? Now you can enjoy this intensely clean feeling at home. Crest Weekly Clean Intensive Cleaning Paste polishes teeth with ingredients similar to what dentists use, says Dr. Michael Apa, a dentist in New York City, and should be used as a complement to your regular brushing and flossing routine.

* Soak your feet in warm water with salts. Use a pumice stone to soften heels and calluses before giving yourself a foot and lower leg massage to relieve any remaining tension. Also, make professional pedicures last by touching up nail polish in between appointments.

* Finally, before crawling under the covers for a blissful night's sleep, continue the moisturizing treatment for your hands and feet. Lotion helps your nails grow strong and also slows down the signs of aging. Apply lotion on your hands and feet – avoiding the spaces between your toes – and slip on socks or gloves to hold in the moisture while you dream. Make sure you remove any jewelry before this treatment to protect the metal and stones.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Beating Holiday Indigestion

GBB Note: Beauty is in the air during the holidays. Be sure to keep your beautiful smile on your face by following some basic holiday tips.

(StatePoint) Everyone wants to be home for the holidays -- but not on account of embarrassing digestive upsets.

Hollywood nutritionist and registered dietitian Ashley Koff offers advice for avoiding digestive pitfalls and helping you overcome these unwanted holiday episodes that can result from stress, overeating and overindulgence.

* Don't Be a Last Minute Shopper -- Nobody wants to be shopping at the last minute, and the same holds true for preventing holiday digestive distress. Begin addressing your digestive woes as early as possible with a clinically-proven probiotic, such as Align, to help establish the right balance of good and bad bacteria. Also, become aware of known gastric irritants and begin to make appropriate replacements.

* Gift-Wrap a Healthy Dish -- Volunteer to bring a tasty, healthy dish that works for your digestive system to a holiday meal and turn worry about a potential embarrassing upset into delicious enjoyment. You'll be less stressed for the get together and your host will undoubtedly appreciate the gift.

* Great Things DO Come in Small Packages -- Allow yourself to enjoy a treat during the holidays, but treat yourself to a taste or bite. The smaller portion will be better for your digestive system and keep you from feeling deprived.

* It's a Holi-DAY Not a Holi-MONTH -- While certain foods can trigger digestive distress when consumed even once, avoid ongoing irritation and the resulting more intense (chronic) distress by limiting your celebration to one day each month.

* Holiday Healers -- Did you know that some well known holiday treats such as peppermint and ginger are natural digestive healers?

* 'Tis the Season -- Because life happens despite the best laid plans. Keep yourself hydrated (i.e., water, coconut water), get a day of liquids to rest the digestive system and avoid known gastric irritants. What's the best way to deal with a bad day? End it ... Go to bed as early as possible.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Varicose Veins Can Be A Family Affair

(NAPSI)-When it comes to your health, family history plays an important role-and can often predict future issues. Varicose veins are no exception. If a parent has them, experts say there is a strong possibility that you may develop them, too.

Heredity is one of the main risk factors for developing varicose veins. It's believed to account for 80 percent of varicose vein disease. In fact, the risk of developing varicose veins doubles if both parents have the condition.

While you can't control your genetic makeup, you can pay close attention to your symptoms and personal risk factors in order to minimize the effects of varicose veins.

Varicose veins may not always be visible to the naked eye. That's why patients are advised to be aware of the following leg symptoms:

• Aching/throbbing/itching

• Heaviness or fatigue

• Skin discoloration

• Restless legs syndrome (an irresistible urge to move your legs)

• Leg cramps.

According to Dr. Ted King, Medical Director of the Vein Clinics of America, varicose veins are usually thought of as a cosmetic issue, but they actually result from a chronic, progressive disease process and may cause serious health conditions, including leg ulcers, bleeding and even blood clots, if not treated early and properly. Said Dr. King, "While there is no cure available, effective treatment can help control vein disorders and halt their progression."

He also advised that if symptoms persist or become severe, you should talk to your physician about appropriate treatment options.

"The good news is today there are far better, superior treatment options that are safer, more effective and noninvasive, that won't keep you sidelined from your daily routine," said Dr. King.

To learn more about varicose veins or available treatment options, visit www.veinclinics.com or call (866) 617-VEIN.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Atlanta's Esteemed Medical Professionals Embark on Extreme Makeover Challenge

24-7 -- Based on the successful television special documenting people who undergo makeovers, some local Atlanta-area doctors are embarking on their very own version of the show, "Atlanta's Ultimate Makeover". The private kick-off celebration with sponsors, friends, celebrities and supporters, is at 7 pm, Thursday, December 4th, at the Tracy Nicole Boutique in Vinings. RSVP is required.

Dr. Shai Hall, cosmetic dentist at The Dental Spa, is the creator of this philanthropic effort. She was initially visited by the patient who is now the first winner of what is expected to be a continuing initiative. Dr. Hall explains, "I was visited by a patient, Carolyn, who had a very tear-jerking story of why she needed to have new teeth. She had lost a son to violence, had been in two abusive marriages and really wanted a nice smile because one of her sons was getting married, she was in desperate need of a new smile but she didn't have the resources to pay for her medical needs."

Dr. Hall has desired to share her talents with others less fortunate, but since opening her spa-like dental practice in 2006, she's had little time to assist local philanthropic causes. She shares, "It was like a light bulb went off in my head. I then realized I could create my own philanthropic cause that would directly resonate with my fellow peers and I called them up and they all said, 'Yes!' Thus our project began."

Given the new popularity of ABC's "The Doctors", these Atlanta-area doctors are on time with the launch of this project. The goal of "Atlanta's Ultimate Makeover" is to give back to the community in a tangible way by selecting two individuals per year - a man or woman in need of a life-changing medical makeover. The doctors' efforts will surely improve the self esteem and add to the overall quality of life of these very special patients.

The team of doctors involved are:
Shai T. Hall, DDS - The Dental Spa, Cosmetic and Preventive Dentistry
Vikisha Fripp, MD, FACS, FICS - Premier Plastic Surgery
Kenneth Collins, DDS - Oral Surgeon, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
Marya Barnes,D.M.D - Buckhead Periodontics

Invited celebrity guests include "Chili" of TLC, Allen Payne, reality stars of Real Housewives of Atlanta, comedian, AJ Jamal, actors, Michael & Deena Beasley, news anchor, Karyn Greer, Kannick Sky of American Idol, celebrity make-up artist, Toni Acey, retired WNBA star, Rushia Brown, songstress Melissa McCloud and radio personality, Frank Ski.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for this wonderful cause! If interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact Tamika Morrison at 678-402-8184 or via email at publicist@thewritestylzprfirm.com and reference "Sponsorship: Atlanta's Ultimate Makeover".

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Do You Have Genetic COPD?

/PRNewswire/ -- To everyone around her, Melissa Biggs appeared to have it all -- a thriving acting career, a successful clothing line that was attracting international attention, and an adoring daughter. What people didn't know was that for years, Melissa suffered from severe breathing problems, extreme shortness of breath, and that her doctors couldn't find the cause.

After multiple breathing-related incidents, including a collapse while she was rehearsing a scene on the set of the television program Baywatch, Melissa was finally diagnosed with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, or AATD. AATD is often referred to as a genetic form of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COPD is the fourth leading killer in the United States and is also widely recognized as one of the most common causes of disability. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that 12 million individuals have been diagnosed with COPD in the U.S. alone, with an additional 12 million people being symptomatic or in the process of developing COPD. It is thought to affect primarily smokers and the elderly, though the number of younger people diagnosed is slowly increasing.

What many people don't know is that COPD has a genetic form -- AATD -- which is extremely under- or misdiagnosed. Of the estimated 100,000 people in the U.S. who may have this disorder, 95 percent have not yet been diagnosed. A recent study conducted by the Respiratory and Allergic Disease Foundation found that more than 3 percent of study participants diagnosed with severe asthma or COPD actually tested positive for low levels of alpha-1 antitrypsin. Alpha-1 antitrypsin is a protein produced by the liver that protects the lungs from being damaged. A lack of this protein in the body is the cause of this disorder. Symptoms of AATD include shortness of breath, wheezing, repeated lung infections, and cough. In its late stages or if left untreated, AATD can cause significant lung damage, emphysema, and cirrhosis of the liver.

On average, it takes patients six years to obtain a proper diagnosis of AATD because tests for the condition aren't often performed. The condition is genetic, and Melissa urged her family members and daughter to be tested. Not surprisingly, many relatives received the same diagnosis. Medications called alpha-1 proteinase inhibitors are available for the treatment of AATD, and replace the missing protein that helps the lungs function properly.

"A simple blood test is all that is needed to detect AATD," said Peter Wagner, MD, former president of the American Thoracic Society. "Receiving a proper and prompt diagnosis can make a real difference in the lives of patients by allowing them to receive appropriate medical care sooner and can have a profound impact on a family's health for generations to come."

Today, with treatment, Melissa is able to manage her COPD and lead the life everyone thought she had -- without the stress of an undiagnosed breathing condition threatening her success. She continues to pursue new acting opportunities and her clothing design company is thriving. She has even begun to take up breathing-intensive activities, such as tennis.

"I'm so thankful I was tested early, because it could be a lot worse," Melissa added.

If you or someone you know has any of the symptoms of AATD, or has been diagnosed with severe asthma or COPD, visit www.TestTodayChangeTomorrow.com for more information and an AATD screening test.


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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Beauty Tips for All Maintenance Levels

(ARA) – While the beauty routine of some women consists of little more than a hairbrush and moisturizer, others spend hours in front of the mirror mastering the latest beauty trends. But no matter how high- or low-maintenance you may be, the right beauty tricks will have you looking your best in no time.

Celebrity makeup artist BJ Gillian and hairstylist to the stars Brett Freedman share some of their beauty tips for everyone from women with little time for beauty, to those prepping for a night out on the town.

Low -- In a time crunch:
* Tinted moisturizers with SPF and gradual self-tanners not only protect you from the sun, but also add color to the skin. “I like the new Olay Definity Color Recapture, which also has anti-aging properties,” says Gillian.

* For wash-and-wear hairstyles, get a good haircut with layers to keep hair from being weighed down, says Freedman. “Try Pantene Pro-V Volume Root Lifter Spray to wake up your roots and Pantene Pro-V Volume Mousse all over to give hair a gorgeous amp up,” he says. “My tip: Less is more. Don’t bog hair down with product.”

Medium-- Easy beauty tricks with maximum impact:
* Use your eye color to determine what shades of shadow to use. Blue eyes work best with brown and sea green colors, while green eyes pop with plum and violet shadow colors. Brown-eyed gals can wear any color.

* To easily fake a chic look, try combining sleek, pulled back hair or a tousled bun with a vivid or smoky eye.

High -- Heading out for a night on the town:
* Women who prefer liquid or powder foundations should avoid moisturizer and find the right kind of makeup suitable for their skin, says Gillian. For example, oily skin needs an oil-free foundation and dry skin will benefit from a moisturizing foundation or tinted moisturizer.

* Big-night-out hair requires an intense-hold hairspray. “I recommend Pantene Pro-V Sheer Volume Hairspray with Maximum Hold, not only after styling, but before using any hot tools like curling irons or hot rollers,” says Freedman. “Spray a small amount on each section before curling. It makes a huge difference.”

No matter how complicated you make your beauty routine, keep these tips in mind to help keep your skin and hair looking their best.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Friday, November 21, 2008

New Acne Cream with Manuka Honey by Honeymark

24-7 -- Manuka Honey is the first breakthrough in the area of acne treatment in many years. This special type of honey is produced by bees that feed on the nectar of the flowers that grow on the Manuka bush, which is indigenous to New Zealand. It has been discovered that Manuka Honey contains extraordinary healing properties not found in other types of honey and even outperforms most medications. Manuka Honey is not only effective in eliminating existing acne but it can also prevent new breakouts from forming under the skin. It also treats acne in a way that is far less damaging to the skin than many other acne treatments.

The antibacterial properties present in Manuka Honey kills the excess bacteria that builds up on the skin. This bacteria can become trapped in hair follicles and pores. Once these bacteria enter the skin, they react with oil and other substances, resulting in acne.

Sometimes, traditional acne treatments can dry the skin. However, Manuka Honey has a hydrating effect and natural moisturizing effect on the skin. As a general rule, hydrated skin heals faster. Also, unlike other ingredients commonly found in most acne products, Manuka Honey has been found to have no negative side effects. Since Manuka Honey is a natural ingredient and an anti-irritant it doesn't aggravate sensitive skin.

There are also other benefits to using Manuka Honey to treat acne. For example, Manuka Honey has an anti-inflammatory action that relieves pain and reduces redness on the skin as a result of swelling and inflamed tissue. If pimples become infected, Manuka Honey's natural antibacterial properties go to work on disinfecting the area very quickly. Manuka Honey also has an osmotic effect that has the ability to draw impurities out of pores, leaving the skin clean and smooth.

In some severe cases, acne can create scars. When a scab forms over damaged skin, new skin growth can only occur under the scab, causing the new tissue to grow uneven with the surface of the skin. This is how skin deformity and scars are formed. However, the moist healing environment created by Manuka Honey naturally lifts scabs off the skin, allowing new skin tissue to grow flush with the surface of the skin. This is another major benefit to using Manuka Honey to cure acne.

Manuka Honey unclogs pores by drawing impurities out of the skin. It also has the ability to draw moisture out of bacterial cells that may be present in acne breakouts, helping pimples to heal faster. All of these factors make Manuka Honey a valuable ingredient in Honeymark's Acne Cream. This unique formulation works very quickly so you won't have to wait to see results. When applying the Honeymark's Acne Cream with Manuka Honey to pimples, you can expect to see a significant improvement within 2-4 days.

"The topical use of Manuka Honey helps maintain a positive skin environment which is why we use it as a main ingredient in our Acne Cream," says Frank Buonanotte, CEO of Honeymark International. "Manuka Honey has natural healing properties which help to repair skin affected by acne."

For more information or to purchase Honeymark's Acne Cream with Manuka Honey, call 1-866-427-7329 or visit http://www.HoneymarkProducts.com.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Advice For Caregivers

(NAPSI)-The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have launched a new service called Ask Medicare to support the more than 44 million Americans--one in five adults--who provide care to a loved one.

Chances are, you know a Linda.

Linda takes care of her mother, a widow, who lives 1,200 miles away and takes care of her recently disabled husband at home. Linda also commutes 45 minutes to and from a full-time office job.

Family caregivers such as Linda actually hold down more than one full-time job. They respond to the demands of the workplace and then come home to meet the needs of elderly or disabled loved ones. In fact, family caregivers provide almost 80 percent of long term care in the U.S. They're providing this service, which some estimates place at a staggering $350 billion a year, for free.

Now Medicare offers some help.

Ask Medicare provides information on a wide range of issues and help in navigating social services networks around the country. Linda and others can click on www.medicare.gov/caregivers and browse such topics as Medicare basics, planning for a healthy future, help with hospitalization, home health care and community services, nursing homes and housing options and many others.

"I didn't have any preparation for this stage of my life," says Linda. "When my mom needed help, I had a million questions."

Ask Medicare is a one-stop shop with online tools to compare health plan choices across the country, find a prescription drug plan or find a doctor. It can point searchers to helpful telephone numbers, links to partner Web sites and help them connect with financial assistance.

Caregivers can use Ask Medicare to find information on how to take better care of the people close to them and take better care of themselves. According to a recent study, about one in six caregivers report they are in fair or poor health.

Linda agrees. "When it's a choice between something I need and someone else, what gives? Usually, I do," she says. "I've had a doctor's appointment that I've postponed eight times. But my husband and my mother are more important."

"I really don't think of myself as a 'caregiver,'" says Linda. "Whatever comes up, it's just one more thing I have to juggle."

Chances are, you recognize Linda. She may even bear a strong resemblance to you. If that's the case, we hope you'll go online to www.medicare.gov/caregivers.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting Older Doesn't Have To Be "Painful"

(NAPSI)-These days, older Americans are on the go and are spending their retirement traveling, playing sports and volunteering. While some older adults are enjoying longer, healthier and more productive lives thanks to advances in medicine, countless others needlessly suffer in pain.

While pain is a common aspect of life for those 65 and older, it's not something that comes "naturally" with growing older and shouldn't be dismissed. There's often an underlying problem that should be addressed.

For instance, back injuries, headaches and arthritis are frequent causes of pain. With proper diagnosis and treatment, pain caused by these ailments can be effectively managed. Left untreated, pain can lead to problems sleeping, the loss of mobility--even anxiety or depression.

"Older adults should address pain with their health care professional--they shouldn't assume pain is just a natural part of aging--it may be a sign of a medical problem that can be managed," said Penney Cowan, founder of the American Chronic Pain Association. "Communicating effectively with your health care professional is the first step to proper diagnosis and treatment. Your health care professional can help develop a treatment plan that best fits your needs."

In fact, if you are an older person in pain, you should talk to your health care professional first, rather than trying to remedy the problem at home. Treatment options vary, and often a multidisciplinary approach may work best--even with a chronic medical problem, your pain can be treated. Your health care professional may suggest counseling, relaxation techniques, aerobic exercise, or may prescribe medicines, such as opioids, to treat your pain.

The bottom line: Pain shouldn't slow you down in your "golden years."

More information and helpful tips for coping with pain are available at www.partnersagainstpain.com.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quick Fixes For Healthy, Hydrated, Beautiful Skin

(NAPSI)-Skin, the body's largest organ, is exposed to harmful elements every day. However, there are simple things you can do to prevent dryness damage and help keep your skin looking healthy and beautiful. You may be surprised to learn that some everyday habits can be harmful to your skin.

Habit No. 1: Getting Clean with Soap

The soap you shower with every day can be contributing to dry skin damage. The tight feeling experienced after washing with soap is actually leaving your skin dry and covered in a layer of soap scum. Soap causes damage to the stratum corneum (the top layer of skin) resulting in loss of moisture, which over time contributes to dullness and the appearance of fine lines. When regular soap mixes with calcium found in hard water, a layer of soap scum is formed. Soap scum residue on skin can further increase soap's negative effects on skin.

Beautiful Skin Fix: Use a mild, soap-free cleanser such as Dove Beauty Bar for the best skin care results. It only leaves natural moisturizers that help repair and rebuild your skin. The unique formula adds moisture every time you wash, which over time reduces the appearance of fine lines and improves surface texture of skin. Skin is left feeling moisturized, healthy and beautiful.

Habit No. 2: Letting Dead Skin Cells Build Up

Even if you are regimented about cleansing your skin each day, dead skin cells can accumulate on the surface if you do not exfoliate. These cells can build up on skin's surface, leaving it looking dull and potentially clogging pores, leading to breakouts.

Beautiful Skin Fix: Put a little more muscle into cleansing your skin once or twice a week to help shed dead cells on the skin's surface and reveal a more radiant complexion. Using a soft washcloth or shower pouf can help remove buildup on the skin's surface.

Habit No. 3: Blasting Your Home with "Dry" Air

The heating and cooling system in your home is designed to keep a comfortable living temperature, especially while you sleep. The same system may also be contributing to skin discomfort and dryness. Furnaces and air conditioners rob air of moisture, leaving very little humidity to properly keep skin moisturized.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

How to Create a Sleep Haven and Catch Some Z's

(ARA) – You know the feeling. You’re in bed, but you can’t fall asleep. Your mind is racing and you’re tossing and turning so you read a book or watch television until the wee hours of the morning. Getting good quality sleep is vital to our health, so it pays to create a sleep haven and improve your rest.

A recent sleep survey conducted for AmericInn Hotels found that six in ten U.S. adults (62 percent) had trouble falling asleep at least one night per week and nearly 10 percent had a tough time sleeping every single night. That's a total of 3.1 billion hours of sleep lost in America each week or 161 billion hours per year.

So what are the leading causes of all this lost sleep in our country? The survey found economic fears (36 percent) lead the reasons for American sleeplessness followed by high energy prices (29 percent), health and medical concerns (28 percent), stress over politics (22 percent) and concerns about war and global terrorism (12 percent). No wonder America is having a hard time sleeping.

"With all the worries and concerns of modern life, sleeplessness is happening whether we like it or not,” says Dr. Christopher Drake, bioscientific investigator at Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders and Research Center. "But continued bouts of insomnia can wear down the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to illness. The key is to get a handle on the source of the stress causing sleeplessness before it becomes a full-blown medical issue."

Stressed out Americans need to create their own bastion of peace so they can rest and renew their mind and bodies to handle the demands of modern life. Drake recommends turning your bedroom, or hotel room when traveling, into a sleep haven, a place of peace and serenity that gives your body every possible advantage of achieving a restful night’s sleep.

Below are 10 easy tips periodic insomnia sufferers can use to create their own sleep haven, whether at home or on the road:

1. Cut out all caffeine. If you're caffeine-sensitive, it's not just coffee that is your biggest sleep culprit. Avoid tea, sodas and anything with chocolate.

2. Make your bed. Ever noticed how much more comfortable a freshly made bed is? The uniform snugness of the sheets can create a cradle effect around the body and the fresh smell of clean sheets can mimic the feel of a luxurious hotel bed.

3. Leave work out of the bedroom. Keeping your bedroom free of anything work-related is key in creating a true sleep haven. That means leaving files, laptop computers or PDAs on the kitchen table, not the nightstand. This may be difficult when traveling, but try to keep the bed and side tables free of work-related clutter.

4. Eliminate outside noise. If you live in a noisy neighborhood, shut your windows and use air conditioning during the summer months. If you reside in an apartment or are staying in a hotel that doesn’t use soundproofing construction like AmericInn Hotels does, invest in noise-canceling headphones, white noise or sound effect machine.

5. Block out all light. When at home, use double thick curtains like the ones you find in hotels. Make sure you turn off all electronics in your room that emit light, including DVD players. A piece of masking tape over the display works great.

6. Avoid using alcohol and nicotine before bedtime. Even though alcohol may initially help you fall asleep due to its sedating effects, it causes severe sleep disruption during the second half of the night with frequent and long duration awakenings. Also, studies have shown that smoking before bed delays the time to fall asleep and is associated with a worsening insomnia in some individuals.

7. Banish the TV. Watching TV while in bed stimulates the mind, encouraging restlessness. Consider listening to classical music, but stay away from news or talk radio.

8. Distract your mind. Break away from daily stresses by reading a book before going to sleep at night. Counting sheep isn't just a silly remedy. The combination of the counting and the visualization distracts your mind and lulls or bores you to sleep.

9. Workout in the morning. If traveling, take advantage of your hotel’s exercise room. By adding an extra hour in your morning for some cardio-vascular exercise you will stay energized throughout the day and sleep better at night. Beware of working out too close to bedtime, as it can leave you over stimulated.

10. Pay attention to your eating habits. Eating right while traveling is always a challenge since many restaurant entrees are loaded with calories and served in huge portion sizes. Try picking healthier food options and you don’t have to clean your plate even if your mother used to make you. Finally, make sure you don't eat more than two hours before bedtime, so your food has time to digest.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Is There Really Such a Thing as Hope in a Jar?

PRNewswire/ -- When it comes to cosmeceuticals, consumers are bombarded by marketing claims that often fail to live up to their hype. Banking on promises that a product can "reverse the aging process" or "deliver the results of a facelift" leads consumers to spend billions of dollars each year to try an array of anti-aging skin care products. Their hope is that one day they will find a product that actually lives up to its claims.

Speaking today at the American Academy of Dermatology's SKIN academy (Academy), dermatologist Patricia K. Farris, MD, FAAD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, discussed how to separate fact from fiction when evaluating cosmeceuticals and tips for gauging the validity of product claims.

"When consulting with our patients, dermatologists can suggest skin care products that have strong science behind them and that have been proven to be safe and effective in human studies," said Dr. Farris. "The biggest problem with cosmeceuticals is not that they don't work, but that their benefits are greatly exaggerated."

Cosmeceuticals can be divided into categories based on their active ingredients. Anti-oxidants represent the largest category. They are followed by peptides (small proteins that stimulate the production of collagen and thicken the skin) and growth factors (compounds that act as chemical messengers between cells and play a role in cell division, new cell and blood vessel growth, and the production and distribution of collagen and elastin). More recently, Dr. Farris noted that the new trend is toward combination products. For example, cosmeceuticals with multiple anti-oxidants, retinol plus anti-oxidants, growth factors plus vitamin C and other unique combinations that are now being mass marketed. Consumers tend to favor combination products, embracing the philosophy that if one ingredient is good, then two must be better.

"The important thing to understand about combination products is that often the individual ingredients have been studied, but the combination of active ingredients has not," said Dr. Farris. "More rigorous scientific studies are necessary to assure that biologic activity is maintained when ingredients are formulated together, and clinical studies should be done to determine if combination products really offer any added benefit."

Consumer demand is high for cosmeceuticals containing "natural" or "organic" ingredients. However, Dr. Farris advised that the notion that these ingredients are safer than synthetic ones is a common misconception. In reality, there is no data to support the notion that natural or organic ingredients -- derived from the root, stem, leaves, flowers and fruit of plants -- are safer or even more effective than their synthetic counterparts.

"The problem with cosmeceuticals labeled 'natural' is that the labels themselves don't mean anything because these products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)," said Dr. Farris. "In fact, 'natural' skin care products are less tested and scrutinized than synthetic products and pharmaceuticals."

Dr. Farris noted that most compounds as they exist in their natural state cannot be formulated into skin care products. They must be chemically altered before they can be incorporated into cosmetics. For instance, compounds including retinol, vitamin C, and soy are among those that require chemical alteration -- after which they are referred to as enhanced natural ingredients. Enhanced natural ingredients tend to be more stable, penetrate better and have more long-lasting effects on the skin than unaltered plant extracts, which is the reason why most cosmeceuticals contain chemically-altered ingredients.

"There are a number of cosmeceutical ingredients that are completely synthetic, such as collagen-boosting peptides and synthetic forms of vitamin A," explained Dr. Farris. "These compounds are among the most potent anti-aging ingredients and have been used extensively by dermatologists. So, it's important for consumers to understand that synthetic ingredients are not necessarily bad and, in fact, skin care products containing these ingredients are probably among the most effective in the marketplace."

Dr. Farris explained that the key to evaluating the effectiveness of cosmeceuticals is understanding how they are tested. After an active ingredient has been identified, it is evaluated using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, which is used to characterize biologic activity and determine if the ingredient is an anti-oxidant or anti-inflammatory. PCR testing also can tell if an ingredient increases collagen production or reduces collagen breakdown. Although PCR testing is a valuable part of the testing process, many of the claims made as a result of PCR testing are not substantiated by human studies.

"For dermatologists, the gold standard for confirming a product's efficacy remains the double-blind, vehicle-controlled study," said Dr. Farris. "In this type of objectively designed study, the product containing the key ingredients is tested against the vehicle, or the product formulation that is similar to the product being tested but without the key active ingredients." Dr. Farris explained that even though a compound may stimulate collagen production in PCR testing, it does not mean that the ingredient will cause any visible improvement in fine lines and wrinkles.

"Since cosmeceuticals are not subject to the FDA's rigorous approval process, most cosmetic manufacturers do not perform double-blind, vehicle-controlled studies," said Dr. Farris. "Instead, they rely on what are called open-label user studies where subjects apply test creams for a few weeks and then assess their improvement over baseline. Unfortunately, these types of studies are of no real value in determining product efficacy because they do not assess the vehicle's effect and there are no objective measures. People participating in these studies want to believe that they look better after using the product, but that does not necessarily mean it works."

Dr. Farris offered these tips when purchasing cosmeceuticals:

-- Ask yourself what the product claims to do and what kinds of studies have been performed.

-- Trust your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

-- Stick with products and brands that you know to be reputable. Well-known manufacturers have more money behind their active ingredients and product testing.

-- Beware of Web site claims, as many are biased even if they say they are objective.

-- For day, use products containing anti-oxidants, as they have sun-protection properties. At night, use products containing retinoids, peptides or growth factors for their repair properties.

-- Talk to your dermatologist about the best options for your skin care needs.

For more information on aging skin, go to the "AgingSkinNet" section of http://www.skincarephysicians.com/, a Web site developed by dermatologists that provides patients with up-to-date information on the treatment and management of disorders of the skin, hair and nails.

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