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Quitting smoking should be your No. 1 resolution

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If you're a smoker, quitting is the single best New Year's resolution you can make — and keep. That's because tobacco is the single greatest cause of death in the United States, responsible for more than 430,000 deaths each year. And a new report from the Surgeon General emphasized the dangers of even occasional secondhand smoke to the nonsmokers around you. • So quitting is smart, but it's not easy. • Experts say you'll improve your odds if you tackle your mission with careful planning and support. And it doesn't have to be expensive — Tobacco Free Florida offers lots of free resources.

• Call the Florida Quitline toll-free at 1-877-822-6669 to speak with a Quit Coach who will help create a plan that's right for you.

• Enroll in online counseling with the Florida Quitline: quitnow.net/florida, where you can create your own Web-based plan and read inspiring stories of others who have quit.

• Want face-to-face contact? Visit the Florida Area Health Education Centers website (ahectobacco.com) to sign up for Quit Smoking Now group classes in your area.

• Above all, don't give up. Studies indicate it takes anywhere from five to more than 10 attempts for most smokers to kick the habit.

• "Relapses happen,'' said Kim Berfield, deputy secretary of policy and advocacy for the Florida Department of Health. "But it's important that people keep trying and trying, as each attempt to quit is a learning process and a step in the right direction."

Times staff

good and bad ab solutions: ShopSmart, a publication of Consumer Reports, has good and bad news in its January issue for those in search of taut tummies.

First, the good: One of its 10 Hottest Products of 2010 is Levi Strauss & Co. Perfectly Slimming Jeans 512 ($44), of which the magazine wrote: "During our fit tests using female staffers, we were wowed by the figure-flattering effects of these tummy-flattening, curve-smoothing jeans."

And the bad: Among its 20 worst products of the year is a $250 piece of exercise equipment called the Ab Coaster. "Using it correctly isn't easy, and some testers had lower back discomfort,'' editors declared.

Times staff

the vitamin-sleep connection: Millions of Americans take multivitamins daily, looking to get all sorts of health benefits. But when it comes to a good night's sleep, can these pills do a disservice?

Over the years, anecdotal reports have suggested as much, with some users claiming that multivitamins shorten sleep and lead to more frequent awakenings in the middle of the night. In one study in 2007, researchers recruited hundreds of subjects and had them keep sleep diaries for two weeks.

After controlling for age, sex and other variables, the scientists found a slightly higher rate of poor or interrupted sleep in people taking multivitamins. But because they found only an association, they could not rule out the possibility that people with poorer sleep are simply more likely to seek out multivitamins.

If there is an effect, the problem is separating the effects of individual vitamins. There is some evidence that B vitamins may play a role. Some studies have shown that ingesting vitamin B-6 before bed can lead to very vivid dreaming, which can wake people up. B-6 helps the body convert tryptophan to serotonin, a hormone that affects sleep. Other studies have shown that vitamin B-12 can affect melatonin levels, promoting wakefulness.

For those who suspect their multivitamins may be curtailing sleep, the best solution may simply be to take the pills in the morning, or at least several hours before bed.

New York Times

Scaled response: Maybe you bought a bathroom scale to help you monitor your weight. But maybe you never step on it — and if you do, then you head straight to the fridge for consolation.

If any of that sounds familiar, you might want to meet Damon Reio, a St. Petersburg fitness trainer who thinks the only value of a bathroom scale is to use it for bicep curls. In fact, if you bring your scale to his St. Petersburg Boot Camp New Year's Day session, you can work out with it, then trade it in for a free fitness evaluation. It all happens today from 2 to 4 p.m. at North Shore Park, 901 North Shore Drive (in the field between pool parking and tennis courts). For info, call Damon at (727) 320-7952.

Times staff

Workout wonders: Physical exercise isn't just good for your heart and muscles. "Any kind of exercise will keep blood flowing to your brain, and there is evidence it may help new brain cells grow," says Gino Colombara of the Alzheimer's Association Southeastern Virginia. Here are some workouts that may be really helpful to brain health:

• Take a dance class. You'll be increasing your heart rate and also challenging your brain as you learn various steps. Tai chi, karate or step aerobics — or any class that's new to you — will have the same benefits.

• Do some circuit training. The quick alternation between resistance and cardio will force you to work on both memory and coordination.

• Go to a group class. Keeping up social connections also boosts brain health, according to the Alzheimer's Association. So after a workout, invite a fellow exerciser out for some coffee.

• Sign up for yoga. The deep breathing will deliver a good dose of oxygen to your brain, and the learning curve for new moves is a mental challenge.

• Lift weights. Strength training requires concentration and focus. It also builds muscle, which improves the heart's ability to pump oxygen-filled blood to all parts of the body, including the brain.

• Take a walk . . . Walking will increase blood circulation and send more oxygen and glucose to feed your brain cells (especially because your leg muscles won't take up too much of either substance during a less strenuous workout).

• . . . or a run. Studies in mice have indicated regular running can boost brain cell survival rates.

• Use your less dominant hand. Say you're right-handed: Try playing tennis or catching a ball with your left hand for a while. See if your brain adjusts.

Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

Quitting smoking should be your No. 1 resolution 12/31/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 31, 2010 3:35pm]

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