This time of year, conscientious parents want to make sure Santa delivered toys that are as safe as they are fun. So here are some easy-to-follow tips that will help you make sure your kids have a great new year.
To reduce the risk of exposure to lead in toys, jewelry and paint sets, buy North American.
U.S. and Canadian manufacturers have safety standards set by federal, state and provincial governments. Although the Consumer Protection Agency has confiscated 8.5 million units of imported toys in recent years – the Canadian Product Safety bureau also monitors them – contaminated toys still slip across the borders.
If you want to use an at-home lead tester, Consumer Reports found:
• The kits work for surface, not interior, lead levels (still helpful).
• The cheapest and most expensive at-home lead testers were the most reliable.
• Low lead levels (still a problem) can take a couple of hours to register, while high levels show up immediately.
Also, make sure that art materials are labeled non-toxic, which means they’re free of hazardous substances. Crayon and paint labels should say ASTM D-4236, which indicates that they’ve been tested for safety.
Get smart about statins
No matter what medication you’re prescribed, if you decide not to take it, you may miss profound benefits – benefits you amplify if your habits are more healthy, too.
Statins – medicine to lower lousy, LDL cholesterol – do double, triple, even quadruple duty. And we want you to listen up because 66 percent of people with statin prescriptions either don’t take them or stop taking them.
Statins help millions of North Americans reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke. And statins can do even more: If you have radiation for prostate cancer, they boost the eight-year "all-clear" rate from 74 percent to 80 percent. They reduce complications after hip-replacement surgery, help people with COPD breathe better, and improve outcomes of inflammatory breast cancer.
We don’t know all the whys, but bet some of these benefits come from statins’ overall inflammation-reducing powers. And we have even better news. You can slash inflammation by losing excess body fat, managing stress (everyone has it, just don’t let it manage you), being physically active every day (10,000 steps a day works) and eliminating the five food felons (trans and most saturated fats, any grain that’s not 100 percent whole, and added sugars and sugar syrups). Then, you may not need a statin – and you’ll save money, feel better and look younger.
Brain booster breakthroughs
Science fiction doesn’t do justice to the astounding three-pound supercomputer between your ears. It’s got 100 billion neurons and 1,000 times that many connections. So it takes some TLC to keep it in tip-top shape. That’s why it’s so exciting that recent research reveals how to enhance your intellect, strengthen perception and protect your gray matter over the long haul.
Start with your ’tude, dude. When you think of yourself as “older" and associate aging with declining abilities, you’re five times more likely to test positive for dementia than if you have a youthful sense of self. Luckily, you’re never too old to renew your inner youthfulness. Three sure-fire ways: Touch and be touched – hugs, intimate contact or massage stimulate feel-good hormones; learn one new thing a day, as it keeps the brain young; and meditate 10 minutes daily to build resilience and manage neuron-damaging stress.
Build neurons and muscles. Physical activity stimulates the growth of new neurons and new connections between them. That preserves your memory and overall cognitive function.
Get some fat-isfaction. Your brain reacts to the fats you eat, and a new study found that saturated fats (in meats and dairy) KO brain function. But cognitive, verbal and memory skills are amped up by monounsaturated (olive oil) and polyunsaturated (canola and safflower oil) fats, omega-3s in walnuts (six times more than other nuts), and DHA in fish and omega-3 supplements.
A look into the future
Here are some remarkable medical "inventions" that we bet you’ll hear more about in 2013 and beyond.
• Cavity-proof teeth. There’s a chemical out there that kills bacteria responsible for cavities. Designed by Chilean dentists and dubbed Keep 32 (as in 32 teeth), it’s been undergoing tests for seven years and will soon begin human trials.
• Scanning without radiation. Combination scanning technologies, such as the current omni-tomography – an MRI with a CT scan – greatly reduce radiation exposure. That’s a good start. In the future, we’re looking forward to further developments in 3-D ultra-sound and MRI technologies. You get the picture.
• Stem-cell treatments for personalized medicines. Using stem cells from your skin, doctors will study your diseased cells in a lab and then tailor treatments that amplify your body’s specific strengths and overcome its weaknesses.
• A 3-D printer that produces artificial cartilage. Using an inkjet printer and an electro-spinning machine, researchers have created a prototype of a low-cost fabrication process that produces personalized, artificial human tissue needed for your aching joints.