Warning: Pain Relievers, Like Tylenol, Can Cause Death

Each year, over-the-counter pain relievers containing acetaminophen are to blame for more than 100,000 calls to poison control, nearly 56,000 emergency room visits, over 26,000 hospitalizations, and more than 450 deaths from liver failure.  

Many consumers believe that taking over-the-counter medications are safe as long as taken as directed.  The truth is, even a low dose of acetaminophen can put us at risk for severe liver damage, a liver transplant, and even death.  But you would never know it just by reading the warning on the label.

Most likely, your acetaminophen bottle has this simple message on it,

“Warning:  Taking more than the recommended dosage can cause severe health problems, including liver damage.”

As it turns out, however, this widely used pain reliever causes liver failure even at doses that are within the recommended range.  Doctors have reported cases of liver failure among individuals who were taking acetaminophen while following the dosage rules on the package.  From these individuals, doctors have concluded that when acetaminophen is taken by consumers who are not eating (perhaps due to vomiting, fasting, or anorexia), or are drinking alcohol, the pain reliever would become very toxic and the consumer would basically be taking an accidental overdose, possibly resulting in liver failure.  Yet, the warning on acetaminophen packaging is weak and does not convey the serious risks.

Why isn’t anyone changing this?

When comparing the above statistics to the millions of people taking acetaminophen without harm, the liver failure and death rates are fairly low.  However, they are high enough that you would think the FDA would require the drug companies to list stronger warnings on their labels … that is, if the FDA is at all concerned about our safety.  The FDA’s own guidelines require drug companies to list adverse drug events on packaging “even if there are only one or two reported events.”  With acetaminophen, there have been many.  It appears to be a case of the FDA protecting the pharmaceutical companies.

What you can do to protect yourself.

Acetaminophen is found in many over-the-counter medications (such as Tylenol) as well as numerous prescription drugs (such as Vicodin, Lortab, and Lorcet).  You can protect yourself by:

  • only using one acetaminophen product at a time
  • avoiding the pain reliever during vomiting or fasting
  • and avoiding alcohol while using the drug

Half of the people who overdose on acetaminophen do it unintentionally.  They are not aware of either how much they are taking or that they are taking it under conditions that could make it toxic.  Taking precautions will help decrease your chances of liver damage.

10 Important “Don’ts” To Ensure A Successful Workout

When I first got serious about exercising, I just kind of jumped in and learned as I went along, putting all my faith into the person leading my workout class.  But believe me, as time went on, I came to realize there were plenty of things I was doing, or not doing, that were preventing me from having a successful workout.  So I want to share some “don’ts’ to follow if you want to have a safe, successful, and injury-free workout.  I guess my first “don’t” is don’t always rely on the instructor leading the class, as she usually has new people coming in all the time.  Unless you are lucky enough to have a personal trainer, you may be missing out on small, but important, things you need to know.

Here are 10 other important things to know to ensure you will have a successful workout:

  1. Don’t wear improper footwear. Improper footwear increases the pounding on your joints and can lead to injury.  When purchasing shoes, shop at stores that specialize in athletic shoes and choose shoes specific to your activity.  If you don’t know, then ask the salesperson.  And always replace the shoes as soon as they begin to show signs of wear.
  2. Don’t try to burn fat only in an isolated area. You can firm muscles in an isolated area, but you’ll be unsuccessful if you attempt to isolate fat burning to one part of the body.  Such as your stomach, thighs, hips, or arms.  Incorporate cardio into your workout with the goal to reduce all over body fat.  That being said, unfortunately, the areas that gain fat the fastest will be the most stubborn areas to let it go.
  3. Don’t stretch before your workout. Like me, you probably grew up being told to always stretch before a workout.  Now experts are saying that is wrong!  Your muscles should never be stretched while they are still cold as this puts you at risk for pulled or torn muscles.  Go straight for the warm-up.  Which brings me to the next “don’t”.
  4. Don’t skip a warm-up before your workout. Or you will increase your risk of injury.  If you skip a nice warm-up before a cardio workout, you raise the heart rate too fast.  And skipping a warm-up before lifting weights could result in torn muscles.  A 5-10 minute warm-up is needed to get the oxygen and blood flowing.
  5. Don’t assume cardio is enough. Cardio is a great fat burner, but don’t forget strength training.  Keep in mind that we begin losing muscle at age 30.  And strength training builds muscle, which increases metabolism, which burns more calories.   It is very important to do both.
  6. Don’t use bad form on cardio marchines. Never set the resistance so high that you have to hunch over or hang on to the handrail with a death grip.  Doing so is preventing your body from a good workout and it can throw off your alignment, which jars your spine, shoulders, and elbow.  And never read while using cardio machines, as this will take away your focus on form.  No matter the exercise, you’ll never have a successful workout if your form is bad.
  7. Don’t think “no pain, no gain” is always true. Yes, some muscle aches and pains are normal and should be expected.  But sometimes pain is your body telling you to back off.  Joint and bone pain,  muscle strains, or ligament and tendon strains are all signs that something is wrong.  They will only get worse if you choose to ignore them because of the “no pain, no gain” theory.
  8. Don’t think drinking water during a workout causes cramps. Quite the opposite is true.  If you are thirsty, you are dehydrated, and this actually increases your risk for cramps.  Always stay well hydrated.
  9. Don’t skip the cool-down. Just like you should take 5-10 minutes to warm-up, you should also take 5-10 minutes to cool down giving your heart rate a chance to slow down properly.  Never just come to a sudden stop at the end of your workout.
  10. Don’t let loss of motivation put an end to your workouts. You may be pumped up about your workouts for a long time, and then suddenly feel unmotivated.  Loss of motivation is a sign of over training.  When this happens, take a break or change the pace.  You may skip the weights and only do cardio for a while.  Or rest a day between workouts.  Another option is to reward yourself with a massage or new workout clothes.  (That sounds good to me!)

How Many Calories Does Weight Lifting Burn?

You can burn 8-10 calories per minute just by pumping iron. 

Compare that to running or bicycling, where you burn 10-12 calories a minute, and that’s not too bad.  But wait, it gets better.  Lifting weights gives you a metabolic spike which lasts for approximately an hour after your workout.  This is due to the fact that your body is trying to help your muscles recover from the workout.  During this spike, your body will continue to burn calories even though you have finished your strength training session … and even while you are relaxing.  And, because muscles use a lot of energy to sustain themselves, for every 3 pounds of muscle you build, your body will burn an additional 120 calories per day.

Knowing this makes it easy to understand why weight lifting should be included in a weight loss plan.  And no matter what your weight lifting goals are, it is a good idea to keep a journal of your progress as you increase your weight load, otherwise you just may be working sporadically.  To help you keep track of your progress and reach your weight lifting goals, I have created for you a printable Strength Training Journal.  This journal includes a chart for 3 strength training sessions per week.  More than that is not recommended as it could result in over training.  Keep a log of how many reps you do and how much weight you are lifting for each move.  Then, every 4 weeks, review your charts to see how well you have increased your workout.

Why Do We Need Lycopene Anyway?

If you regularly read about eating healthy foods, then I’m sure you’ve read it too … “Tomato sauce provides us more lycopene than raw tomatoes.”

But rarely do we hear why we need lycopene. So here is the scoop on lycopene and the “why” for which we need to eat our spaghetti.

What is lycopene?

Lycopene is a disease fighting antioxidant. It is found in watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricots, guava, papaya, and, of course, red and orange tomatoes. It is the compound that gives these foods their color. And lycopene comes in different forms too. Some of which are easier for our body to absorb. While it is true that red tomatoes have more lycopene than do orange ones, the orange varieties (while harder to find) provide a form of lycopene that our bodies more readily use. And, for instance, heating up tomatoes as you would when making tomato sauce (vs. raw tomatoes) creates another form of lycopene which is easier to absorb. That is why tomato sauce is a better source for lycopene than raw tomatoes and why we should eat our spaghetti … preferably with sauce made from orange tomatoes.

Lycopene is believed to …

  1. Be good for heart health as it may lower the risk of heart disease.
  2. Have anti-cancer protective effects, especially for protection against prostate, lung, and stomach cancers.
  3. Be an excellent source for managing high blood pressure (recent studies say).

And another good-to-know tidbit …

Eat your lycopene with a healthy fat, such as olive oil. Lycopene needs fat to latch onto in order to be absorbed by the intestinal wall.

So add a little olive oil to that spaghetti.

The Reverse Lunge: The Best Lower Body Exercise For Women

In order to achieve the shapely proportions that most women desire, training should be focused on the hips, buttocks, and thighs as this is an area where 90% of all women gain the majority of their weight.

Therefore, it only makes sense that a woman’s exercise routine should have specific exercises aimed at working the larger muscles of the lower body.  Working the larger muscles will burn calories at a faster rate than will working the smaller muscles.  And there is no better exercise for working the lower body than the reverse lunge.

Why the reverse lunge vs. the forward lunge?

Lunge-300x240The forward lunge itself is a great exercise for women.  It works nearly every major muscle group in the lower part of the body. Plus, it improves flexibility in the hip flexors, which can become tight during aerobic exercise, which could pull your spine out of alignment thereby increasing your risk of back injury.  When done properly, the lunge is safe for joints, it is back friendly, it burns maximum calories for the energy expended, it promotes lean muscle tone, and it works!

But the safest and most effective variation of lunging is the reverse lunge.   When you reverse your lunge, the effects on the muscles are the same, but less stress is placed on the knees because they cannot extend beyond the toes.  And by taking a step backwards instead of forwards, it is easier to maintain balance because your weight is primarily centered upon your forward leg, which remains stationary.  The main purpose of the reverse lunge is to develop the quadriceps and hamstring muscles in the thighs and to shape the glutes.

How to do the reverse lunge.

First of all, remember these proper form rules.

  1. Always keep your head up, shoulders back, chest out, and back straight.
  2. Never allow the knee to touch the floor.
  3. Your striding knee and thigh should always line up with your foot as misalignment can cause injury.

Torani Taste Test, Just In Time For The Holidays

Recently, I received two free bottles of Torani flavored syrup to try in exchange for a product review post on my blog.

Being the coffee and tea lover that I am, I was looking forward to getting these products so as to liven up my drinks a bit and try some new recipes.  However, when my package arrived from Torani, to my disappointment it contained a large bottle of Classic Hazelnut syrup and a large bottle of Sugar-Free Pumpkin Pie made with Splenda.

Torani … Are you kidding me!

First of all, hazelnut is a very common coffee flavor.  I already have great hazelnut flavored coffees in my home and was not the least bit impressed to receive another.  And as for the sugar-free pumpkin pie … while I love pumpkin pie, I could never write a positive review on my health blog about a product made with artificial sweeteners.  Sorry Torani, but I will definitely be looking for a new home for this sucralose laden liquid.

All that being said, Torani is a successful company that has been in existence for 80 plus years.  It produces flavored syrups (made with natural flavors and pure cane sugar) for coffees, teas, and sodas.  And Torani sells these products in over 40 countries.   I knew, despite my lack of excitement for the flavors I received from Torani, that I needed to follow through with my review.  So off to Cost Plus World Market I headed to find some Torani flavors of my choosing.  Luckily, Torani also provided me with generous coupons so I could do just that.  I ended up with a bottle of blue raspberry syrup, a bottle of peppermint syrup, and a bottle of bacon syrup … yes bacon!  Now, it was time for a little Torani sampling party at home.

Using my family as my taste testers, I proceeded to whip up a few different drinks using recipes I found on Torani’s website.  I made teas, coffees, lemonades, and shakes using hazelnut, blue raspberry, and peppermint flavors.  And to my delight, I enjoyed them all.  The flavors I used were made with pure cane sugar and had a very good flavor.  The recipes were simple and provided a nice alternative to my usual drinks.  And with the many flavors Torani offers (over 122 of them), there are numerous drinks and desserts that could be made for the holidays.  The recipes I used mostly called for a 1-oz. serving of Torani syrup, which equaled 80-90 calories per ounce.  While I wouldn’t suggest making these drinks on a daily basis, they certainly are good for an occasional treat.

Here are some oh-so-easy recipes for you:

If you would like to purchase Torani online, you can receive a 10% discount by ordering through the ad on the left.  (Note, this is not an affiliate link and I do not make any money from your purchase.  This review came to me through SheSpeaks.)  To receive a 10% discount when purchasing online at Torani.com, use the promo code “shespeaks”.

The sugar-free product did not get sampled during my taste test as artificial sugars always leave me with a migraine the following day.  Plus, I am just not a fan of artificial sweeteners as I believe long term use of them to be dangerous, and I believe pure cane sugar to be the best option.  However, I am also not blind to the fact that many people have a health issue, such as diabetes, which does not allow them to consume pure cane sugar, and their options are more limited than are mine.  Sugar-free recipes can be found at Torani.com.

I also did not yet sample the bacon flavored syrup.  The recipe I planned to use calls for bourbon.  After an afternoon of drinks containing different flavored syrups, coffee, tea, lemonade and ice cream, I did not feel it a good idea to top it all off with bourbon and bacon.  Perhaps on New Year’s Eve.  To be continued ….