HEALTHY ONLINE HABIT: Are your Facebook friends getting tired of your Farmville obsession? (If you're our Facebook friend, the answer would be yes.) Then you might want to check out a free new online game that could help you find the tools and support you need to get healthier.
HealthSeeker is specifically aimed at helping people with diabetes, but it's loaded with diet, exercise and lifestyle challenges that apply to anyone interested in good health. Basically, you choose the missions you want to accomplish as well as the action steps to get you to lifestyle goals. These include eating healthier, achieving an optimal weight, lowering blood sugar levels and lowering cardiovascular risk factors. As you progress, you rack up experience points and other "awards'' that will make you the envy of your Facebook circle. Developed by the Diabetes Hands Foundation in collaboration with the Joslin Diabetes Center, HealthSeeker (along with very clear instructions) is available at www.healthseekergame.org.
DADS ARE LIFESAVERS: Any pregnant woman can tell you how important it is to have the physical and emotional support of her baby's father, but a new study by University of South Florida researchers suggests that he may be critical to the child's survival.
The study, reported online in the Journal of Community Health, "suggests that lack of paternal involvement during pregnancy is an important and potentially modifiable risk factor for infant mortality," concluded the study's lead author Amina Alio, research assistant professor of community and family health at the USF College of Public Health. Researchers examined Florida birth records from 1998 to 2005 — more than 1.39 million live births — looking to see which birth certificates contained the father's name.
Bottom line: The neonatal death rate for infants without a father named was nearly four times that of their counterparts with involved fathers. And the risk was highest for infants born to black women.
Paternal support may decrease the mother's emotional stress and promote healthy prenatal behavior, Alio suggested. High maternal stress has been linked to poor pregnancy outcomes. "When fathers are involved, children thrive in school and in their development. So, it should be no surprise that when fathers are present in the lives of pregnant mothers, babies fare much better," Alio said.
PUMP IRON WITHOUT THE PAIN
Pumping iron is good for your health — unless you hurt yourself in the process. From 1990 to 2007, nearly a million Americans wound up in emergency rooms with weight-training injuries, and annual injuries increased more than 48 percent in that period, a new study in American Journal of Sports Medicine found.
The top injury cause? Carelessness. People were most often injured by dropping weights on themselves, crushing a body part between weights or hitting themselves with the equipment.
Overexertion, muscle pulls and loss of balance accounted for about 14 percent of emergency room visits. More than 90 percent of the injuries occurred while using free weights rather than weight machines.
So keep lifting, but get instruction from a trainer, and be careful.
AND SPEAKING OF IRON . . .
The element iron affects everything from energy levels to the immune system. A quick primer:
• Heme iron, the most easily absorbed, is found in animal protein and comes from hemoglobin.
• Nonheme iron is found mainly in fortified packaged foods like breakfast cereals. But it's also in beans, lentils, dried herbs, spinach, blackstrap molasses, sea vegetables, sesame seeds and oatmeal.
• Ramp up your iron absorption by consuming some heme iron with a nonheme source, and also with vitamin C (top your steak with grilled peppers or sip orange juice with your oats).
• Ease off the coffee, caffeinated tea and red wine during meals high in iron, as the drinks inhibit iron absorption.
• The USDA recommends 8 milligrams per day for adult males and 11 milligrams for teenage boys. Adult women need 18 milligrams while teenage girls need 15. During pregnancy, a woman needs 27 milligrams daily, which is why many doctors recommend iron-fortified prenatal vitamins.