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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Tips for Help Keep Your Cell Phone Working at Its Best

Want to keep your phone working as well as it can—and should? We'll bet at least one of these tips from our experts will surprise you.

1. Weak signals kill your battery. Phones use more power when they're trying to access a weak network signal. In fact, just leaving your phone on in area with little or no signal can completely drain your battery in a handful of hours—even if you never touch your phone. And avoid stashing the phone in a crowded purse or briefcase or inside a lower desk drawer: It can be harder for a phone to get a signal in those places.

2. Smart phones need a fresh (re)start. With Facebook, Twitter, and so many other compelling apps to keep you glued to you cell-phone screen, you may be tempted never to turn your phone off. But smart phones, which are actually full-fledged computers, need to be restarted every one or two days to purge memory reserved by programs no longer running and to correct various other glitches that can hinder performance.

3. Smart phones get slower with age. Operating systems are designed and updated for the newest smart phones, with their faster processors, expanded memory, larger displays, and improved cameras. Accepting over-the-air updates to your OS and apps helps stave off obsolescence. But within a few years, your phone could struggle to muster the processing power, memory, or features it needs to make the most of new apps or an upgraded operating system—if it can handle them at all.

4. Video kills your data allowance. It's easy to burn through the 2-gigabyte monthly allowance of typical data plans. For example, a single HD movie could eat up 700 megabytes of data—or more than a third of that 2-gigabyte budget. Other data drainers include streaming music and playing connected games online. Try to use your phone's Wi-Fi connection instead of the data connections when you're doing these things.

5. Skip screen protectors. Many of today's touch screens already come with a protective layer of Gorilla Glass or other hardened material that make scratching them nearly impossible. Some screen protectors reduce glare, but they can also make your display less responsive and harder to see in other ways. And screen protectors, even when properly installed, often develop unsightly air bubbles and annoying scratches of their own.

6. A weak case for cases. Today's smart-phone bodies often include Kevlar, carbon fiber, or other hardened materials that are quite tough. Aftermarket cases may offer a bit of extra protection, but they'll often hinder access or slow the responsiveness of the phone's screen, buttons, and ports that you access frequently.

7. Phone camera zoom lenses really aren't. Unlike standalone cameras, cell phones don't have optical zoom lenses. Instead they come with digital zoom, which enlarges pixels and actually reduces image detail as you zoom in. For those close-up shots, we recommend you move in closer. Also consider trying small, affordable add-on lenses that fit over a smart phone's own tiny lens. They let you get in closer to the action or shoot a wide-angle or fish-eye photo without reducing image quality.

8. Think twice about insurance and extended warranties. It can easily cost $500 to $600 to replace a smart phone. But a recent survey conducted by Consumer Reports found that only 15 percent of those polled bought a new phone because the old one broke, and only 2 percent bought one because their phone was lost or stolen. And the warranties themselves are no bargain: Plans cost $5 to $9 a month and come with a deductible of between $50 to $150. What's more, you might be entitled only to a repaired, refurbished phone rather than a new one. Here's a better idea: Keep your old phone until the new handset's contract ends.

9. Prepaid carriers are great place for smart phones.
The phones offered with prepaid plans used to be just the basics. But some prepaid carriers now offer smart phones. The Samsung Galaxy S III is even available from Metro PCS and the Apple iPhone 5 is available from Cricket—another prepaid company. What's more, two-thirds of Consumer Reports subscribers who switched to prepaid knocked off $20 or more off their monthly bill. Even though you have to pay full price for the phone, you'll save in the long run.

10. Haggling works. Most shoppers don't think to negotiate for a lower cell-phone price, but 17 percent of our cell-phone-buying survey respondents took a shot. Of that group, more than one in four succeeded. The median discount was $54, but a handful knocked $100 or more off the price.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Teach the baby in the womb

If you are pregnant or have a special interest in the prenatal period, be sure to check out BrillBaby's Prenatal Education section. There are so many ways that you can interact with your baby during pregnancy!

In particular, you can provide auditory stimulation from 20 weeks (when your baby's hearing becomes fully developed), and tactile stimulation from around 28 weeks (when you will start being able to feel the baby through Mom's belly).

Auditory stimulation

  • Use BabyPlus if you can afford it.
  • Play relaxing music to your baby during pregnancy. Classical, jazz, chill-out and songs designed for meditation are all suitable. Avoid music with frenetic beats or dissonant chords.
  • Take some time out of every day to read, talk and sing to your baby during pregnancy.

Tactile stimulation

  • Massage the baby through Mom's belly.
  • Respond to your baby's kicks by pressing gently back.

Optimize your mood

  • Mom, be as calm and happy as possible. Your mood has a direct effect on the chemicals secreted into your bloodstream. Too much cortisol (the stress hormone) is bad for the baby's developing nervous system.
  • Plan some relaxing "couple time" - a gentle hike, trip to the beach, or meal at your favorite restaurant. If possible, go on a babymoon during the second trimester, when moms tend to have the most energy.

Optimize your diet

  • Mom, eat a healthy, balanced and varied diet.
  • Don't take over-the-counter or prescription drugs without your obstetrician's approval.
  • Don't drink alcohol, or keep it to one small measure of wine or beer on very special occasions.
  • Don't smoke or take recreational drugs.
  • Take folic acid (starting from one month before conception) and DHA supplements.

Why teach your baby early?
The period from birth to age eight - and especially, from birth to age three - is a critical time in baby brain development.

This is because the first years of life lay the neurological foundation for intellectual growth into adolescence and adulthood.

From the moment of conception, the neurons (nerve cells) of the brain multiply faster than any other cells in a baby's body.

The rapid pace of baby brain development continues into early childhood: at birth, the brain weighs 25 percent of its adult weight; by age one, 50 percent; by age two, 75 percent; and by age three, 90 percent.

The brain of an adult has over 100 billion neurons, the majority of which were formed during the first five months in the womb! Recent research suggests that new neurons can be created throughout life - but probably only in sufficient numbers to replace those that have died.

Each of the brain's neurons is connected to roughly 5,000 others. In general, the more dendrites (branches between neurons) and synapses (connections between neurons) the brain has, the greater its processing power. More pathways mean information can travel in a number of ways, opening the door to faster and more complex thinking.

This is true in the adult, but not in the infant. Your baby's brain actually has more synapses than yours - but only because it hasn't passed an important developmental stage, known as pruning, in which the brain deletes unneeded neural connections in the interests of organization and efficiency.

"Use it or lose it"

The process of pruning is illustrative of the high plasticity (adaptability) of young brains, which are literally sculpted by the environments in which they are raised. Scientific testing of how exactly experience shapes the brain has led to the theory of "critical periods" - specific time periods in which stimulation must occur, or the chance to develop normal functioning will be lost.

In a now-classic experiment, kittens blindfolded for several months after birth were left unable to see properly once the blindfolds were removed. Their brains had not had the opportunity to develop the neural pathways needed to process visual information. Likewise, babies with cataracts must have them removed within the first few months of life or suffer permanent visual impairment.

Nothing is more disastrous for baby brain development than a dearth of stimulation.

Likewise, a surfeit of appropriate stimulation will produce better-than-average neural circuitry.

In one study, rat pups were placed in one of two environments - an "enriched" one filled with toys and obstacles, or an "impoverished," empty one. After 80 days, the rats that had been stimulated were found to have brains with a heavier cerebral cortex (the part of the brain that controls memory and perception), larger neurons, and more intricate dendritic networks.

The same principle applies to baby brain development in humans. Scientists have discovered, for instance, that certain areas of the brain are larger and more developed in children who play musical instruments than in those who do not. These include the cerebellum, which processes rhythm and timing, and the corpus callosum, which acts as the conduit for communication between the brain's left and right hemispheres - vital for musicians coordinating their right and left hands.

Giving kids a Head Start

Education initiatives such as the US's Head Start and Early Head Start are producing measurable cognitive and emotional benefits in children - benefits that can last into middle and even high school. Some of the Head Start programs, which focus on helping disadvantaged children, have produced boosts in IQ equivalent to eight IQ points. In general, the younger intervention is staged, the more significant and long-lived the effects. Full-day Head Start programs for infants have been shown to produce IQ gains lasting into adolescence.

The question is: why limit such programs to disadvantaged children?

Waiting until school to begin providing consistent intellectual stimulation to a child is no disaster. But in doing so, we miss a unique opportunity to enhance baby brain development.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The cause of acne in unknown

All of a sudden, you have a zit to zap. A pimple to pop. How, you wonder, did it get there? What went so wrong that your once flawless skin is covered with a red spot or two or three? Blame your yoga mat. Or your cell phone. Or even that pretty new shade of eyeliner you've been wearing. "Acne is a complex medical condition caused by four factors: hormones, inflammation, bacteria, and dead skin cells that clog pores," says dermatologist Jessica Krant, founder of the Art of Dermatology practice in New York. Triggers include "stress, poor sleep, and dietary choices. For some people, chocolate really does cause breakouts; for others, it's greasy foods, or a diet heavy in dairy."

And that's just the beginning of the list. Be alert to these often-sneaky causes of acne:


Zit-causing ingredients could be lurking on your beauty shelf. Unlike most prescriptions, however, you do have control over what you put on your face and hair.

Acne caused by topical creams, lotions, and makeup is known as Acne Cosmetica, and is most common on the face, neck, hairline, and scalp.

If you regularly apply a product to an acne-prone area, it’s possible that it's doing more harm than good. Products that contain mineral oil clog pores, so switch to brands labeled non-comedogenic, which are oil-free, don't strip skin of necessary moisture and nutrients, and don't block pores.

Some people may also go to bed with ointments or oils in their hair that can get on the pillow case and then rub on your face, Fusco says, in which case it’s best to put a clean towel over your pillowcase every night to prevent buildup. Washing that foundation and powder off every night is important too.

Makeup brushes are constantly collecting leftover makeup and gathering bacteria and yeast, which can lead to a type of acne known as Folliculitis. Fusco recommends cleaning makeup brushes once a week to keep them gunk-free and face-friendly.

Cell phones

Cell phones like your iPhone or Android is a cesspool of dirt and bacteria. It's gather all kinds of dirt and bacteria throughout the day, and there's a good chance it'll trigger breakouts on your chin and around your mouth. Wiping down your Smartphone daily with alcohol or Clorox wipes will keep your phone—and your face—clean.


Check your medicine cabinet and tread particularly carefully with prescriptions that emphasize steroids, such as prednisone, cortisone, and hydrocortisone. These can both aggravate and cause acne. Also watch out for lithium, lithium chloride, and certain forms of iodine. "Unfortunately, many of these medications are given for serious conditions, and there are few available substitutes," Krant says. "So people can get stuck in troubling situations, having to take important medication that causes distressing side effects." Keep an open line of communication with your doctor, and make sure he's aware of your concerns.

Yoga mats

Your workout could be making you break out, but it's not the act of exercising that is causing those unsightly spots. Go to class, grab a mat ... and consider all those who have come before you. "You're using a mat other people have been on, and who knows whether they had their feet where your head is," Fusco says. Soon, you'll be dripping with sweat and oil, and rubbing your face against the bacteria on the mat. "That provides a fertile environment for breaking out." The solution? Place a clean towel on the end of the mat where your head and face will be, even if you're using your own personal yoga mat.

Touching your face

Beware of contact acne: "It can appear anywhere you apply repeated or extended pressure on your skin," says dermatologist Ava Shamban, author of Heal Your Skin. "Resting your chin on your hand while you work, pressing your cell phone on your chin, or wearing tight clothing can all contribute to acne." She recommends trying not to touch your face, switching to a headset, and opting for a ponytail holder instead of a headband. And during the summertime, don't sit down in a wet bathing suit: Doing so puts you at risk of developing butt acne.

Avoid touching your face at all costs—even after you wash your hands. "Touching can inflame the skin, and if you're touching the same area, you might get an increase in oil production, so it's three-pronged: it's the bacteria, the inflammation, and the increased production in oil," Fusco says. And don't even think about trying to pop that pimple!


Dead skin blizzard? Not fun, for plenty of reasons. And it doesn't help that dandruff often causes acne, typically in the form of tiny pimples lining the scalp. Using shampoo designed to treat dandruff is helpful, Fusco says. "A lot of people don't like to because of its medicinal nature and smell," she says. "But there are new lines that smell nice and can be used every day." Fusco recommends, for example, Clear Scalp and Hair Beauty Therapy products.


Yes, you need it when you venture into the sun. But make sure it's oil-free and non-comedogenic. Avoid sunscreen with perfume or dyes, and steer clear of spray-on formulas; many of these contain alcohol, which may irritate sensitive skin, Shamban says. Products made with zinc oxide are often more tolerable than those with titanium dioxide.


Changes in environment—humidity, weather, and even minerals or fluoride in water—can trigger breakouts. There's nothing you can do about the heat index, of course. But wash your face with bottled water when you can, and avoid using hotel soaps.


It triggers heightened levels of androgens, hormones that contribute to adulthood breakouts. Stress also releases cortisol and other adrenal steroids that can stimulate the sebaceous glands and lead to acne flare-ups, Shamban says. Though it doesn't always cause new cases of acne, stress tends to worsen matters in those already struggling with the condition. Make sure to get enough sleep, and allot 15 minutes each day to relaxing or doing something you enjoy. Squeeze in some exercise, too, since research suggests it helps deflate stress.

Hair-styling products

It's called pomade acne: Breakouts caused by hair gel or any other styling staple. These cause oil to seep onto your forehead, trapping acne-causing bacteria in your pores. Apply products with your hands, keeping them away from the hairline, and wipe your skin with facial cleanser to remove any remaining traces. Be wary of bangs, too, since they bring hair products directly against your forehead.

Chin straps

Bikers and athletes who wear helmets are prone to this type of acne, caused when straps rub against the skin. "Wash your face before and after putting it on, and keep the strap clean," Fusco says. She also recommends using an antibacterial pad to wipe straps down before and after use.

Anti-aging creams

Think you're doing your skin a favor? Think again. Many of these contain retinol, which stimulates cell turnover, increasing the number of acne-like lesions. "Too much turnover can cause a traffic jam in the skin layers," Krant says. Though Retin-A, which contains retinol, is sometimes prescribed to treat acne, experts warn that many people find it to be a skin irritant; plus, anti-aging creams tend to be oily. "Always use these sparingly, and ideally, under a dermatologist's instruction."


A study published the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that boys who had two or more servings of milk a day were the most likely to have acne. Researchers believe this applies to older men, too.

“Milk contains many biological products apart from protein and nutrients, like insulin growth factor-1, which is similar to insulin, and alpha reduced sex hormones,” explains study author Clement Adebamowo, M.D., professor at the University of Maryland. “These molecules are designed to enhance the growth and development of the calves, which can cause a biological response in the person who drinks it,” he says. One response: Increased sebum production, an oily substance that can clog pores. Researchers aren’t sure why some people have this reaction while others are fine.

Just one cup of milk can cause breakouts, says Adnan Nasir, M.D. and Men’s Health dermatology advisor. If you break out frequently, opt for almond milk, instead. Try this for 2 months and see if it makes a difference, Dr. Nasir recommends.


Researchers gave young men a face cleanser and assigned them to one of two 12-week diets: Either an eating plan high in carbohydrates, or one high in protein, vegetables, and whole grains. Though both groups saw a decrease in the number pimples, the high-protein subjects had double the drop.

The researchers believe increased insulin can cause inflammation in the skin, leading to breakouts, but more research still needs to be done. “Processed foods could be another factor,” says Alan Aragon, M.S. and Men’s Health nutrition advisor. Lay low on the sugar and switch to whole grains to be safe (solid advice for even smooth-skinned men).

Not Enough Omega-3s

A 250 mg supplement of EPA—the kind of omega-3 found in sardines and anchovies—reduced the number of pimples in a study published in Lipids in Health and Disease. The total lesion count among five people dropped from 63 to 40 after 2 months, presumably because of reduced inflammation.

“Inflammatory chemicals increase the production of sebum,” says study coauthor Alan Logan, N.D., an independent researcher. Omega-3s prevent these chemicals from making sebum, which is known to cause acne, he says.

Using Toothpaste to "Treat" a Zit

Contrary to the popular belief that toothpaste will stop a breakout in its tracks, certain toothpastes can actually cause you to develop acne or an acne-like eruption called perioral dermatitis on the lower third of your face. Fluoride and other whitening and anti-cavity ingredients, especially sodium pyrophosphate, are quite abrasive, Fusco says, and could potentially burn the skin, cause irritation, and initiate breakouts.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Seafood Good for Your Sex Life

Is seafood the aphrodisiac it's cracked up to be, or is someone telling fish tales?

It appears that any seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids may indeed help put you in the mood, according to RealAge experts Mehmet Oz, MD, and Michael Roizen, MD. Here's how it helps light your fire.

Bringing Sexy Salmon Back
The omega-3s in fish like salmon and herring may boost sex-related hormones that increase desire, write Oz and Roizen in their best-selling book YOU: On a Diet. Same goes for the zinc in oysters, crab, lobster, and shrimp.

Shrimp, High in iodine, shrimp and other types of seafood are vital to the thyroid gland, which is vital for energy.

Oysters! Myth has it that oysters are the food of love. Science may agree. Just two to three oysters deliver a full day's supply of zinc, a mineral critical for normal functioning of the male reproductive system. Scientists are divided over reports that sperm counts have declined over the last 50 years and that environmental factors are to blame. Nutritional deficiencies do seem to be the cause of certain cases of low testosterone. Getting adequate zinc is sometimes the answer (11 mg per day is recommended for men; more than 40 mg can pose risks). In one trial, 22 men with low testosterone levels and sperm counts were given zinc every day for 45 to 50 days. Testosterone levels and sperm counts rose.

Other Foods that stimulate sexual:

  • Chocolate. Not only does chocolate provide a jolt of caffeine, the plant has a flower that looks like sex organs.
  • Ginger. This root reportedly increases blood flow to the genitals in both men and women.
  • Olives. Green ones are believed to make men more virile, while black ones increase women's sex drive.
  • Tomatoes. Known as "love apples" by Puritans, they have a reputation as a sexual stimulant. 

Tips: More Super Strategies

Some foods that resemble anatomical parts (think asparagus and artichoke hearts) have been linked to a stronger libido, too. But because it's hard to do a proper clinical study on this theme, we'll just pass along the limited facts and leave the rest to your imagination. In the meantime, here are some better-sex strategies with a bit more research behind them:
  • Exercise regularly for better blood flow.
  • Take it easy on the alcohol. Too much can shut down sexual response.
  • Get rid of that gut. Besides helping you feel better about your body, losing weight if you're overweight can also reduce the risk of sexual problems like Erectile Dysfunction.

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