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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What are Eye Floaters?

What are Eye Floaters?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.
Asked by Paul from New York
I'm 39 years old and have had a few floaters in both eyes for as long as I can remember. I go to the eye doctor every year for my glasses but forget to ask about these floaters. What causes them? Do I need to worry?

Expert answer
Thanks for your question. Floaters, or little spots or thread-like objects, can be seen particularly well if your eyes are moving and looking at something bright, such as a page on a computer screen or a blue sky.
Most of the time, they do not cause any problems. For more details, I consulted Dr. Ravi Goel, a board-certified ophthalmologist at Regional Eye Associates in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and an instructor with the Wills Eye Institute Cataract and Primary Eye Care Service in Philadelphia.
Goel describes the following analogy about floaters: Imagine the central part of the eye (the vitreous gel) as being a solid ball of ice or solid clear gelatinous material when you're born.
As you grow older, that ball of ice starts to turn into a liquid and starts to pull on the retina, the innermost part of the back of the eyeball. This process can lead to flashes (from the tugging of the gel-like material along the nerve layer of the retina) or floaters (cells that float in the central part of the eye and are seen by the central retina, called the macula).
Flashes and floaters may also be a sign of an ophthalmic migraine, which Goel says is similar to an aura of a migraine headache but without the pain.
The retina examination can be completely normal and ophthalmologists will send patients for a medical evaluation. Patients are typically evaluated for underlying headache, which may include cardiac and carotid evaluation.
If the gel-like material tugs too hard, there may be a sudden shower of floaters, which is a sign of a possible retinal detachment. This can happen in patients who have had recent trauma or surgery, are nearsighted (myopic), or who have sudden loss of central or peripheral vision, flashes or hazy vision.
These patients should be evaluated immediately. Goel recommends that anyone with floaters receive an initial ophthalmic consultation that includes pupil dilation - an evaluation that it sounds like you have already had.
Patients should review their symptoms and also possible triggers (such as coffee, chocolate and stress) that might suggest a migraine. It can be helpful to keep a journal of repeat episodes.
When a floater-like episode begins, Goel suggests immediately covering each eye to determine if it occurs in one eye or both, and documenting the time of day, activity and possible stressing events.
If you have any of the concerning symptoms or have further questions, be sure to consult your ophthalmologist. Good luck!

Monday, May 30, 2011


Today, we observe and pay tribute to those that have fallen and those still standing in bravery for our country. 

We Thank, Love, and Honor You. 

God Bless All.

-HCG Diet America

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Big Bad News About the Big Mac (Avoid Fast Food)

Higher Food Costs Will Eat Into McDonald's Profit MarginsBy Trefis

McDonald's (MCD) expects food costs to rise between 4% and 4.5% in the United States and Europe this year, a situation that would put pressure on the company's profit margins. McDonald's is the market leader in the fast food business, with about a 19% share. In its primary operations, it competes with Wendy's (WEN), Subway, Burger King, and Yum! Brands (YUM), and, in its recent move into the specialty coffee market, it's going up against Starbucks (SBUX).

McDonald's plans to offset some, but not all, of its higher food costs through small price increases throughout the year. Although it has a size advantage in the fast food market, McDonald's is still finding it difficult to pass on its rising wholesale costs to customers.

Boosting what it charges for food could repel customers already facing a pinch in their pockets due to higher inflation. However, we believe McDonald's has an edge because it can raise prices on its premium offerings, such as its premium burgers and McCafe drinks, which appeal to higher-end customers.

According to CFO Pete Bensen, the company intends to sacrifice some short-term profit margin to protect long-term growth. McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner said "Customers are getting pinched everywhere. They should not suffer the same fate at McDonald's."

In March, McDonald's put through a 1% menu price increase in the U.S., where it plans additional increases. Prices in Europe are up by the same amount, and increases are also planned for China.

If McDonald's does pass its increased wholesale costs on to its customers, average spend per customer visit and annual customers per McDonald's restaurant could be adversely affected.

We currently maintain a
$82.53 price estimate for McDonald's stock, roughly in line with market price.

Blog chronicles Facebook fury over fake news

Blog chronicles Facebook fury over fake news
By Doug Gross

Call them curmudgeons if you will. But some folks on Facebook were shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that the last four minutes of the "Harry Potter" series will be split into seven different movies.

They railed against a State Department official being fired for making a "perfectly valid, well-reasoned point" against Israel and were horrified to learn of Planned Parenthood's new $8 billion (with a "B") "Abortionplex."

Probably just as well, then, that none of it was even vaguely close to true.
Instead, they were all headlines from satire site The Onion.

Now, a new blog is capturing those moments of not-so-observant incredulity for the world to see ... and mock.

Literally Unbelievable is the brainchild of Hudson Hongo, a 24-year-old humor writer. He says that he heard about Facebook users not realizing that the Planned Parenthood story was a joke and that, when he started poking around last week, he found plenty of public Facebook pages were full of "Onion"-related confusion.

"When I found out that people were reacting the same way to many other Onion articles, I felt the phenomenon was worth documenting and put it up my blog," he wrote in an e-mail. "Y'know ... for science."

What's so amusing about these posts sometimes is the utter outrage. It's like watching a movie when you know something the hapless protagonist doesn't.
"Wow ... really? I guess it's one way to milk a franchise," one user wrote about the "Harry Potter" claim (spelling and punctuation tweaked here for readability). "Eh, I've enjoyed the last few, but paying around $70 to basically see the end of one movie is a little sad."

The disbelief of others forges boldly into irony territory.

"This is unbelievable," one person wrote about the "Abortionplex." "Can this be real?"

"THIS IS SICK ... really unbelievable that our taxes are paying for this!" wrote another.

"My favorite posts are the ones that express complete shock but not an ounce of doubt," said Hongo, whose work has appeared on McSweeney's among other sites. " 'I can't believe this!' is a pretty funny response to something you should not believe."
He said he hasn't heard from anyone at The Onion about his blog. But its pop culture site, The A.V. Club, had a blog post about it Friday.

"Let's save that anger for the real news, folks," writer Steve Heisler wrote. "As delivered by Ryan Seacrest."

While a big chunk of the fun is laughing at the naivete of others, Hongo says he is somewhat sympathetic.

"I think folks are willing to believe Onion articles because the real news so often seems unreal these days," he said. "Add to that the publishers who write articles that are designed explicitly to incite and the line between the sincere and the satirical becomes vague."

That being said, all of our reporting indicates that a giant, angry, rampaging Osama bin Laden did not rise from the sea this week to have his revenge.
Hear that, folks? We said did not.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Getaways 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Getaways 2011

Memorial Day kicks off the unofficial start of the summer season. From grilling outdoors to spending long lazy days at the beach, this holiday that honors the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our nation offers Americans some time to get away and enjoy time with family and friends. Before you start making those travel plans, check out our picks for five affordable Memorial Day 2011 weekend getaways.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts: This New England location becomes a serious travel destination once the temperature rises. An absolute ideal Memorial Day 2011 weekend getaway, Cape Cod is the perfect place to kick off the unofficial start to the summer with some lobster and locally made ice cream. Other ways to spend a day in Cape Cod include sipping wine at the Cape Cod Winery and riding your bike along the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which is a 25 mile bike path from Dennis to Wellfleet (just don't do these two activities together).

Austin, Texas: "Keep Austin Weird" is the slogan of Texas' capital city. So chances are you will enjoy a truly unique Memorial Day 2011 weekend getaway when visiting. Let loose by Lake Travis with locals and visitors or head over to Fiesta Amistad for food, music, games and more! Stop by the Austin Wine and Music Festival, which offers up live music and Austin restaurants provide free samples from their menu.

Atlantic City, New Jersey: This Memorial Day 2011 weekend getaway will only remain affordable if you spend less time by the slot machines and more time by the beach. While it is always fun to try your luck at the games in the casinos, Atlantic City offers up plenty of inexpensive things to do like strolling along the wildly popular boardwalk and playing games at the various arcades. A weekend at the Jersey Shore can be both relaxing and eventful on the cheap.

Yellowstone National Park: National Parks are becoming more and more popular again as affordable vacation ideas for travelers. Celebrate Memorial Day 2011 at America's oldest national park - Yellowstone. Located in both Montana and Wyoming, this 139-year-old park offers up such amazing sites as mountains, geysers and waterfalls. The most popular attraction to check out is Old Faithful, which erupts every 90 minutes to the amazement of onlookers.

Washington D.C.: What better travel destination to spend a Memorial Day 2011 weekend getaway than our nation's capital. You will truly feel like a patriot as you visit various the monuments throughout the D.C. area. Special Memorial Day 2011 events include the annual wreath laying ceremony at several monuments and memorials in Washington, DC, a free National Symphony Orchestra concert on the Capitol's West Lawn and a fun-filled Memorial Day parade that runs down Independence Avenue.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Savings Experiment: How to Suffer Less Pain at the Pump

Savings Experiment: How to Suffer Less Pain at the Pump
Barbara Thau

The rising price of gasoline -- an unavoidable expense for many -- is a worrisome fact of life that can send your blood pressure up right along with those price hikes.

And ongoing turmoil in the Middle East could push gas prices up further to over $4 a gallon in some parts of the country, experts say.

Those price increases are also being fueled by an improving economy, Patrick DeHann, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, tellsWalletPop. "More people are working and taking vacations," he says. And "When the economy is doing better, there is more of a demand for gas."

Don't despair. We've outlined some simple ways to trim your gas bill to help cushion the blow from pain at the pump.

Tap Small Stations, Early Week Fill Ups for Savings

Knowing where and when to buy gas can help trim your bill.

Contrary to common knowledge, your local, independent gas station is likely a cheaper option than the big suppliers. "Branded outlets like BP, Shell and Exxon Mobiltend to be priced higher," DeHann says.

The large gas companies are required to purchase a particular type of gas to meet contract requirements, "and many times that's more expensive. The difference in price can be anywhere from the same price to 5 cents to 10 cents cheaper a gallon," he says. While not a huge number, "it's enough to make a difference."

You also should consider filling up on gas at the beginning of the week, such as on a Monday or Tuesday.

That's because the Department of Energy releases a weekly report on Wednesday, and when the news is sour, "gas prices tend to rise," which impacts prices on Thursday and Friday, DeHann says. So filing up your tank early in the week can save you a few pennies a gallon.

If you're a smart-phone owner, tap free apps from GasBuddy.com and Cheap Gas that guide you to where to buy the least-expensive gas in your area.

You can also use tap Fueleconomy.gov's app to calculate gas mileage (MPG), annual fuel costs, annual petroleum use, and the carbon footprint information for your car or truck.

Premium Vs. Regular Gas

If you're buying premium gas when your car only requires regular gas, you're throwing money down the drain -- anywhere from 20 cents to 35 cents a gallon, experts say.

"Consumers should use regular unless they have a luxury or high performance car that requires premium," Michael Omotoso, an analyst with J.D. Power & Associates, told WalletPop.

Also, don't waste your money on mid-grade gas, which can range from 5 cents to 10 cents more per gallon than regular gas in some states, he says. "Mid-grade is so close to regular in terms of octane level that it hardly makes a difference."

Driving Style, Car Maintenance Equals Gas Savings

How you drive, as well as how you maintain your car, can also keep your gas bill down.

Many cars have tire pressure monitoring systems that will alert drivers when their pressure is low, but some people ignore those warnings, a costly mistake, Omotoso says.

Indeed, keeping tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3%, or save you up to 10 cents per gallon of gas, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. (The correct tire pressure for your particular vehicle can typically be found on a sticker on the driver's side or in your car owner's manual.)

Fixing a car that has failed an emissions test and is out of tune can also improve its gas mileage by about 4%, which translates into 14 cents a gallon in gas savings.

In addition, defensive -- versus offensive -- driving can save you some gas money. Aggressive driving -- speeding, rapid acceleration and braking -- wastes gas, can lower your mileage by about 33% on the highway and by about 5% in town, and can cost you from 18 cents to $1.16 per gallon of gas, according to the Department of Energy.

Planning, Combining Trips

It might seem obvious, but try cutting down on driving to save on gas.

If you're commuting to work, consider participating in carpools and ride-share programs, which can chop your weekly fuel costs in half, the Department of Energy says.

Also think about using public transportation if it's an option in your area. The American Public Transportation Association offers information about public transportation in your state.

Comparing The Gas Savings: Fuel Efficient Vs. Standard Cars

Are you are in the market for a car and considering a fuel-efficient hybrid, which uses both gas and electric power, or a diesel, which use diesel fuel?

If saving money on gas is why you're considering a hybrid, which on average sells for about $6,500 more than a gas-powered car (according to J.D. Power & Associates), you need to first compare the extra cost of the vehicle to what you'll reap in gas savings over time.

According to Omotoso, a Ford Fusion hybrid -- which costs $4,600 more than astandard Fusion with a four-cylinder engine -- is rated at 36 miles per gallon compared to 25 miles per gallon for the non-hybrid.

Driving 12,000 miles per year (the average mileage of a typical driver in the U.S.) with the Ford hybrid, assuming that gas is $3.50 per gallon, would cost you about $1,167 in annual fuel costs.

With the regular Fusion, you'll spend about $1,680 for a year's worth of gas--$513 more than the hybrid.

But will your gas savings cover the $4,600 more you've paid for the hybrid over five years -- the average length of time drivers own a car? With the Ford Hybrid, you'll save about $2,565 at the pump over five years, but the cost of the hybrid still exceeds your gas savings over that period by $2,000, Omotoso says.

It's up to you to decide "if paying the hybrid price premium is worth it to you in terms of image and the feel-good factor" of owning a fuel-efficient car, he says.

Diesel cars are not as common in the U.S. and tend to be less expensive than hybrids, although they cost between $1,000 to $4,000 more than gas-powered cars, Otomoso says.

A Diesel Jetta is rated at 34 miles per gallon, compared to 25 miles per gallon for a standard Jetta. You'll save $410 a year with the Diesel Jetta, assuming that diesel fuel is $3.50 per gallon. "Over five years, that's a $2,050 in fuel savings," Omotoso says.

So let's say you buy a diesel car that costs $1,600 more than a gas-powered car, you'll save $450 over five years -- but that's assuming that you're buying one of the least expensive diesel cars.

If you have your heart set on a new fuel-efficient car, consult The U.S. Department of Energy's Find and Compare Cars section to help you find one that meets your needs and your budget.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Improve Your Diet Plan: Quit Smoking - But How?

Exercise Away the Urge to Smoke

If you want to stop smoking, you have to get past the cravings and overcome the psychological hooks. Find out how exercise can help you get through it.

Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
If quitting smoking isn’t the hardest thing you’ve ever tried to do, it surely ranks right up there. The nicotine in cigarettes is as addictive as it gets. Plus, throw in the psychological addiction — like lighting up when you’re nervous, having a drink with friends, or doing the Sunday crossword puzzle — and you’ve got one serious habit to break.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 percent of smokers really do want to quit. There's no question that quitting smoking is difficult — the American Lung Association reports that quitting smoking often requires multiple attempts, and that success often comes through combining counseling with smoking cessation medication.
But in addition to these efforts, there’s an often overlooked but very simple secret weapon that can help you to stop smoking: regular physical exercise.
The Benefits of Exercise When You're Quitting Smoking
The beauty of exercise is that it helps you deal with both the physical and psychological aspects of nicotine addiction:
  • Exercise helps limit weight gain and it also helps in dealing with cravings for a cigarette, says Norman H. Edelman, MD, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.
  • Studies have shown that even moderate physical activity reduces the urge to smoke.
  • Withdrawal symptoms and cravings for cigarettes decrease during exercise and for as long as 50 minutes afterwards.
Besides limiting weight gain, exercise:
  • Decreases appetite
  • Eases nicotine withdrawal symptoms when you first quit smoking
  • Distracts you from thoughts of smoking
  • Improves your mood
  • Helps you cope with stress and feel more energetic
How to Get Started With Exercise
Follow these tips to stay motivated:
  • It often helps to set aside a regular time for exercise — find a time that works well for you.
  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week.
  • Make exercise a priority, and put it on your schedule. If you can’t set aside the recommended 30 minutes, you can exercise in 10-minute sessions.
  • Be sure to choose activities that you can confidently do. Start slowly, and build up to more frequent or more intense exercise.
  • It may make it easier to stick to your plans if you sign up for a class or arrange to exercise with someone else.
Exercise Suggestions
You don’t have to challenge yourself with an activity like kickboxing your first time out. It’s okay to take small steps:
  • Walking is one way of getting more physical activity. Take a walk at lunchtime or after dinner, perhaps finding a coworker, friend, or family member to join you. Be sure to choose companions who don't smoke! Gradually lengthen your walks and step up the pace.
  • Think about other activities that you might enjoy, like biking, swimming, dancing, yoga — just about any sports activity will help.
  • Housework and gardening provide exercise benefits, too. And there’s always that garage to clean out. Playing music you enjoy will help you step up the pace.
  • Plan family activities or social gatherings that involve physical activity like hiking, a volleyball game, or a trip to the beach.
Exercising at Work When a Craving Strikes
You’re at work and the urge for a smoke is making you crazy. But what kind of exercise can you do in your work clothes? Plenty.
  • Do some deep-knee bends.
  • Go up and down a flight or two of stairs.
  • Sit at your desk and alternate between relaxing and tensing your muscles.
  • Shut your office door, or find a private spot, and do some push-ups. Try doing standing push-ups against a wall if you don’t want to get down on the floor.
Sticking With Your Exercise Program
Smokers often experience shortness of breath with physical activity. But after you've quit, you'll probably notice that it's becoming easier to exercise. That's because your lung function gets better when you're not smoking.
Some people find that they really enjoy exercise, but others find it difficult to stick to an exercise routine. Boredom often settles in after a while. But changing up your routine, or your form of exercise, can help. Try signing up for an exercise class or learning a new sport. Or set a goal, such as entering a race or participating in a tournament. The competitive challenge may be just what you need.

Monday, May 23, 2011

HCG diet promotes celebrity usage among 'Jersey Shore' Stars

HCG diet promotes celebrity usage among 'Jersey Shore' stars, Britney Spears

The HCG diet is rocking Hollywood bodies and celebrities like Jersey Shore stars Snooki (Nicole Polizzi), J-WOWW (Jenni Farley) and Britney Spears have reportedly found fast weight loss with the newest diet drug that's being dubbed a "diet for the masses".

As reported on ABC News and other sources, the HCG diet is said to help patients lose "abnormal stores of body fat", resulting in extreme weight loss for some of Hollywood's hottest. Jersey Shore star J-WOWW even sells the stuff on her website.

The HCG diet (standing for the Human Chorionic Gonapotropin diet) tricks the body into thinking it's pregnant and works for both male and female bodies.

it's also received first-hand testimonies from celebs and real bodies alike that tout the diet drug as everything it's cracked up to be.

"HCG Drops are my key to keeping the weight off," reality TV star J-WOWW says on her site, giving her girlfriend credit for the diet drops intro and then passing the HCG diet onto her co-star Snooki. "My girlfriend lost 40 pounds in six weeks on the plan. She tried everything and it worked for her. So I thought if it worked for her, it would work for me," she said in a different interview with AOL's That's Fit.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

10 Foods That Are Good for Heart

The Best (and Tastiest) Foods for Your Heart

A heart-smart lifestyle starts with the foods on your plate. Improve your diet with these tasty choices that contain the top nutrients your heart needs, from vitamins and minerals to antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.

Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

"Most people know that heart-healthy foods are a big part of heart health. The key is educating them on how to make changes in their diet," says Cindy Neels, MPH, RD, LDN, a dietitian with the cardiac rehabilitation program at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass. Great heart-healthy foods that include antioxidants, lean proteins, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids will all help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your lipid levels in check for better heart health — and best of all, they taste good, too.

"Coldwater fish like salmon contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and are a great source of lean protein," says Neels. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids because they are important for heart health — and your body can't make them. That means you need to include them in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower your bad cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish like salmon, tuna, and halibut at least two times every week.
salmon for better heart health

"Walnuts and other nuts have plenty ofomega-3 fatty acids, but they are also high in calories,” says Neel, so stick with a handful. “You also want to eat them without salt." Studies show that walnuts can lower bad cholesterol levels, as well as lowering a chemical called endothelin that contributes to the inflammation that causes plaques to form in coronary arteries. Also to consider: Nut oils are one of the highest sources of dietary omega-3 fatty acids for heart health.

walnuts for better heart health

"Blueberries are packed with antioxidants, which help remove free radicals that can cause damage to heart cells," says Neels. Free radicals are harmful molecules that get into your system when you break down foods and from environmental pollutants such as tobacco smoke. These molecules contribute to heart disease, so foods with antioxidants are especially good for heart health.
blueberries for better heart health

"Spinach is a really great heart-healthy food,” says Neels. “Spinach has just about everything your heart needs, including plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, B vitamins, and fiber." Spinach is particularly rich in the water-soluble B vitamin called folate. Folate is important for building and maintaining healthy cells, especially healthy red blood cells needed for heart health.

spinach for better heart health

Olive oil, an unsaturated fat, is one of the key ingredients of the Mediterranean diet, and studies have found that people who follow aMediterranean diet are less likely to develop heart disease. Unsaturated fat has the ability to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, so it’s excellent for heart health. Olive oil also adds a rich taste to cooking and makes a great salad dressing for heart-healthy greens when paired with a little red wine vinegar or lemon juice.

olive oil for better heart health

The grains in whole-wheat breads and other whole grain products are great heart-healthy foods. "These whole grains reduce bad cholesterol and add an important source of fiber,” says Neels. “Since fiber fills you up and slows down your digestion, it is important for maintaining a healthy weight.” In addition to whole wheat, barley and oats are other good options to include in your diet. Natural whole grains deliver B vitamins, iron, and magnesium for heart health.

whole grains for better heart health

The difference between brown and white is the difference between whole and refined grains. When grain products like rice, pasta, and bread are refined, the outer kernel of the grain is removed, and so are most of their heart-healthy food benefits. The outer capsule of the grain is where most of the vitamins and fiber are. Think of that capsule as a slow-release pill — grains with their capsule are always better for heart health.

brown rice for better heart health

Although you should base your heart-healthy diet around fruits and vegetables, you also need protein. Saturated fats in many meat proteins are not heart-healthy foods, but poultry can be. "Chicken or turkey without the skin is a great source of lean protein, almost as lean as fish," notes Neels. Watch out for chicken that is pre-marinated or self-basting, such as rotisserie chicken. These products may have lots of added salt and calories that are not conducive to heart health.

poultry for better heart health

"Other than chicken, the best lean meat for heart health protein is pork tenderloin," says Neels. If you just have to have some red meat, round steaks, roasts, tip loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder are better for you than other cuts. "Read the label carefully if you are buying ground beef," advises Neels. "'Reduced fat' ground beef can still be close to 30 percent fat. You can get down as low as 3 percent if you look for it."

lean meats for better heart health

Dried beans are a great meat substitute. For optimum heart health, at least once a week, base a meal around beans instead of meat. "Beans are non-fat, high protein, and fiber-rich, so they are great heart-healthy foods," says Neel. One final thought as you cook with beans and other heart-healthy foods is to reduce your salt intake. Too much salt is a major cause of high blood pressure and heart disease. Try using fresh herbs and a little touch of antioxidant-rich lemon juice to flavor your foods in place of salt.

beans for better heart health