Friday, December 08, 2006
Finding Your Genius
If you asked me where to find big thinkers, I might point you toward Silicon Valley, where some of the Internet's biggest companies have their headquarters. Or, I might tell you to begin your search in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to MIT and Harvard.

Francestown, New Hampshire, is not known for producing beautiful minds, but that's where we caught up with Matt Savage, a 14-year-old piano playing savant. We profiled Matt for an hour-long special report on genius.

Matt lives on a small farm along a picturesque country road, with his parents, a sister, seven cats and a few head of Belted Galway cattle. The farm is about an hour's drive from Manchester, New Hampshire, the nearest city.

Not only does Matt possess prodigious piano playing skills, he composes beautiful jazz melodies that have won national awards. What's more, the home-schooled teenager has an encyclopedic knowledge of geography and, of all things, roller coasters.

With the encouragement of his parents, Diane and Larry, Matt is thriving some distance from any intellectual mecca.

By the same token, creativity can be found in unlikely places. Eureka moments tend to come not at work but when we're relaxing. People who study creativity calls this phenomenon the three B's: bed, bath and bus. Shift the mind into idle while riding the bus, lying in bed or relaxing in the bath, and big ideas will come.

The ideas don't come from nowhere, though. You're much more likely have a creative burst if you've been working hard, according to the experts.

Have you had creative ideas in unusual places? Tell us about them, and don't forget to watch House Call this weekend to hear more about Matt and other geniuses. That's Saturday and Sunday at 830 AM Eastern.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Leaving Maternity Leave?

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Diapers? Check. Bottles? Check. Work clothes? Check. Sanity? to check on that one!

This is my first week back from maternity leave, and even though it's the fourth time I've done this, it's always a challenge. There are the emotions of leaving a little baby; the logistics of finding care; the struggle to locate, for the first time in three months, socks that match. Here's some advice from Linda Mason, author of "The Working Mother's Guide to Life"; the Mayo Clinic; and a few thoughts from myself and my mommy friends:

1. Go back to work midweek. As Mason says, "going back to work can be overwhelming. If you know you only have to do two or three days, you can make it through."

2. Work out child care way in advance. The last thing you want to be doing in your final days of maternity leave is interviewing nannies or visiting day-care centers.

3. Mason suggests taking a picture of your baby on your cell phone every morning so you have a very current photo every day.

4. Accept that you'll feel sad or guilty sometimes. There's really no way around it.

5. Here's one from me: You'll be a better worker and mommy if you spend a little time on yourself. Develop a 15-minute exercise routine you can do at home (15 minutes of yoga, 15 minutes on the treadmill, or lifting weights). Let's face it: For a few weeks at least, you'll never have more than 15 minutes each day to exercise, so why set yourself up for failure? And if you do find more than 15 minutes, I don't want to hear about it =)
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Maneuvering the Menu
New York City's ban on artificial trans fats in restaurants underscores the difficulty of eating heart healthy when eating out. It means not only looking for low-fat and low-calorie choices, but also cutting the artery-clogging trans fats. Nutrition coach Kendra Coppey offered these pointers on how to navigate a restaurant menu, with healthful eating in mind.

Her main tip: Ask whether the food is prepared with trans fats. The server may not know, and you may have to ask the manager or owner, but increasingly, restaurants are serving concerned customers. So they may not be surprised to be asked whether the food is prepared with the "bad stuff:" hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil, which includes most vegetable oils, shortening, and margarines or similar spreads.

Course by course, Coppey says, there are red flags to look for:

When ordering a salad, cut out the croutons, which are made from bread and probably a lot of shortening. If they're a must, order them on the side. Choose olive oil with vinegar for dressing, or balsamic vinaigrette, which is more likely to be made with olive oil, a healthy fat.

In choosing a veggie, ask for it to be cooked in olive or canola oil, or even sauteed in a little butter. Rule of thumb: The more a food looks like its original form, the more likely it is to be lower in trans fats. For example, mashed potatoes are probably going to be higher in trans fats than a baked potato with butter, and with the latter you can control the amount of added fat.

Most meat courses are probably OK because they're eaten right away and don't require stabilizers; trans fats are often used for that purpose to prolong shelf life. But avoid fried meats (e.g., chicken-fried steak), and breaded meats; those bread crumbs are probably high in trans fats.

When the dessert cart rolls around, skip the pastries, cookies and cakes, which are probably made with shortening. Safer choices are fruit with fresh whipped cream, ice cream, and maybe even chocolate pudding or mousse.

As always, portion control is a must. I'm sure there are a lot of other good strategies out there for eating healthy in restaurants. What are yours?
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Surgeon General's Warning: Exercise... I Do!
The U.S. surgeon general recommends that everyone get at least 30 minutes of activity a day... but do the surgeons general really follow their own advice?

Former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher does. During a recent interview for a "Fit Nation" segment for House Call, I learned that Dr. Satcher gets up before 5:30 a.m. every day and exercises. His morning ritual in Atlanta includes rowing on the lake behind his home.

"It doesn't matter what the temperature is and it doesn't matter if it's dark or light," Dr. Satcher says. "I'm out there. To be out there when the sun comes up... that's one of my favorite times of the day."

The 65-year-old travels frequently as director of the Center of Excellence on Health Disparities at the Morehouse School of Medicine. Dr. Satcher takes a brisk morning walk - in China, Kenya or Washington.

"When you live the kind of life I live and you are working all day with people, answering the phone and making speeches... I like having a part of the day that's quiet," he says. "I even make meditation part of my physical activity."

Dr. Satcher says he plans to work out every day, so that not exercising becomes the exception. A knee injury forced him to stop jogging so he rows. He also does strengthening exercises using his body weight, push-ups, sit-ups and straight leg raises. He will do these exercises at home or in a hotel.

He has a saying: "If you have enough time to eat and enough time to sleep, you have enough time to exercise."

So, are you following the surgeon general's advice? Dr. Satcher sure is.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Polonium and You
On Friday morning I was shown into a radiation lab, and, wearing no goggles, gloves or other special protection, held a vial containing a tiny sample of polonium 210, the chemical believed to have killed former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. It's Monday morning, and I'm still OK.

The intrigue of espionage has brought public awareness to a substance that has been around for over 100 years, but had yet to be cause for public panic. If you are one of the many out there worried about polonium 210 showing up somewhere near you, perhaps the following info will help calm your nerves.

The most important thing to remember about polonium 210 and other alpha emitters is that basic hygiene can save your life! An alpha emitter can do damage only if it gets into your system. The same is true for the flu, salmonella and numerous viruses. Washing your hands remains your first line of defense.

And about those traces found on commercial airlines - Dr. Cham E. Dallas, director of the University of Georgia's Center for Mass Destruction Defense, says not to worry. In fact, there are very small amounts of it all around us - in the in the soil, in the atmosphere... and even in the human body. In extremely low levels, natural traces of polonium 210 can be found just about everywhere.

With that said, it is also important to know that there are very tight government protections on the extraction of polonium. The substance is produced in large quantities generally for the production of nuclear weapons. As a result, in the United States this is not a substance that just anybody can get his or her hands on.

After a full week of researching the topic, I feel confident in saying that, of the many potentially deadly things we civilians have to worry about, polonium 210 should not be one of them. To learn more on how polonium 210 was used on Alexander Litvinenko, be sure to watch Anderson Cooper 360 tonight at 10 p.m. ET
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
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