IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  April 1, 2009

The aroma of Momma's cooking in your kitchen

The aromas of Italy have lofted across the world for centuries, creating a romance between diners and Italian food. The romance is accentuated by the large numbers of Italian eateries found on most continents.

Italian in origin and rich in complex carbohydrates, this hearty dish is filling and contains a sauce that is close to freshly made.

Forget the pasty store varieties of pasta and go for the whole grains, marinara and the aroma of your Momma Mia kitchen.

The sauce can be made from fresh tomatoes and spices or more accurately with flavored, finely-diced canned tomatoes. Fresh mushrooms and onions add a pleasing texture.

Whole Grain Spaghetti with Meatballs and Marinara

1 package Italian meatballs, thawed
6 cups of whole grain spaghetti
2 14-ounce cans of petite diced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil
3 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onions
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon canola or olive oil

For the sauce, place the tomatoes, sugar and fennel seeds in a two-quart pan and bring to a boil. Add the meatballs, mushrooms and onion. Simmer covered for a half hour.

For the spaghetti, use a four-quart pan half filled with water. Add the cooking oil, salt and the spaghetti. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain and set aside in a warm bowl or placed on a buffet warmer if one is available.

Ladle portions of the spaghetti onto plates and top with the sauce and meatballs. Garnish with shredded Parmesan or Italian hard cheese mixture. Serve with hot garlic bread and a choice of Italian wine if desired. Serves at least four.

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Generics are a good choice, except for NTIs.

Considering the huge cost of developing a new drug, drug companies have to charge a high price for it as long as they have patent protection.

When their patents expire, they and other drug makers can make generic versions that sell for far less than the original. Active ingredients in the generic are identical, but fillers, preservatives, color and shape can be different.

Generics are so cost-effective that pharmacists substitute a generic for a brand name unless the doctor has written "do not substitute" on the prescription.

Drugs with a narrow therapeutic index (NTI) are often not substituted and include some heart drugs, anticonvulsants, COPD drugs and immunosuppressants. Check with a doctor about generics.

Chuckles Corner

April is Cancer Control Month

A healthier life style will reduce your cancer risk.

Thinking of cancer in relation to your own health can leave you feeling fearful and wondering about what you can do to prevent it.

That sounds like a big order, but doctors at the Mayo Clinic say there are changes in your life style that can move you away from risk. Some changes are small.

1. The big number one change: quit smoking. If you smoke, that's the most difficult change. You may only fear lung and mouth problems, but smoking increases your risk of cancers of the bladder, esophagus, kidney, pancreas and other organs.

2. Step two is a little easier, because eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is also recommended for preventing heart disease. You should be doing it, but try to do it better.

3. Be physically active and control your weight. It will do your heart and your brain a favor too. Take this advice seriously, starting now.

4. Avoid skin cancer by protecting yourself from the sun. Sounds easy, but apparently not enough people do it. This is the most common cancer.

5. Get immunized. Some cancers associated with viral infections, such as hepatitis B, can be prevented.

6. Avoid risky personal behavior. Use a condom and limit your number of sexual partners. People with HIV or AIDS have a greater risk of several types of cancer. Never share needles.

7. Get screened. Many tests available to men and women that can detect cancer in its early, curable stage.

Ask your doctor which screenings or immunizations you should get.

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Here's how to stretch effectively

Whether you are going to play a sport, lift weights at the gym or do an exercise routine, you'll be better at it if you warm up first and you'll be less likely to hurt yourself or strain a muscle.

One caution: Stretching is not warming up. Before you stretch, warm your muscles with a low-intensity activity, such as walking, while gently pumping your arms. For a specific sport, use the muscles and joints involved, moving in slow, circular movements both clockwise and counterclockwise.

End the warm-up with a few minutes of aerobic activity before stretching.

Realize that it takes time to lengthen tissues safely. Hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds or up to 60 seconds for a really tight muscle. If you hold the stretch for this period of time, you only have to do it once.

Here's how to start.

  • Do an easy stretch for the first 15 seconds. Stretch just to the point where you feel a mild tension. The tension should be comfortable, not painful, for these 15 seconds.
  • Then stretch a fraction of an inch farther until you feel the mild tension again. If you feel pain, you have stretched too far. Back off to the point where the pain is gone and hold your stretch there.

    Remember to breathe. Exhale as you go into the stretch. Breathe slowly and evenly as you hold it.

    If you do the warm up and the stretches correctly, you'll get more out of your game or your exercise routine.

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    Good for the lungs: fiber

    Your oatmeal and your whole wheat bread may help you breathe well and avoid COPD.

    Researchers quoted in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that, among men and women ages 44 to 66, those who consumed 26.7 grams of fiber per day from fruits and whole grains performed better on lung function tests. They were less likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) over the 10-year study than people who ate 9.5 grams per day or less.

    The benefit was found both in smokers and non-smokers, but smokers benefited somewhat less.

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  • Kids' vaccinations reduce others' meningitis cases

    Developed in 2000, a meningitis vaccine for children aged 2 months to two years has reduced the number of pneumococcal meningitis cases among toddlers. But it has done more than that.
    With fewer contagious babies to spread germs, fewer older children and adults are getting sick. Episodes of pneumococcal meningitis have dropped by 30 percent. In the over-65 population, cases are reduced by 54 percent.

    Doctors at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry call it "herd immunity," meaning unvaccinated people are less likely to get sick because fewer people are spreading germs.

    DMARDS for rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

    Johns Hopkins University doctors say new disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS) have made remission a realistic goal for most people with RA. Once achieved, remission can usually be sustained as long as patients stay on their medications.

    Not all patients can take DMARDS. Some experience serious side effects and others have illnesses which prohibit its use.

    Methotrexate is the most common DEMARD and effectively treats half of patients when used alone. In combination with other medications, it successfully treats even more patients.

    Radiation therapy and human contact.

    Cancer patients who receive external therapy aimed at areas of tumor growth will not spread radiation to others.

    Brachytherapy implants, radioactive pellets about the size of a grain of sand, require a hospital stay during which patients should not come in contact with children or pregnant women.

    Patients who receive permanent implants should stay at least 6 feet away from children and pregnant women for several months. They should avoid all close contact, such as hugging.

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    If it's not fungus, what is it?

    If you have nail fungus, you might be able to cure it.

    Thick toenails are often thought to be caused by the growth of a fungus under the nail and in the nail itself.

    If you have one or more toenails that are discolored and thick, you probably do have an infection or fungus under the nail bed, say doctors at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere.

  • Some thick toenails, especially if the nail is not discolored, are the result of pressure to the nail. Just as skin calluses, the nail matrix produces a thicker nail in an attempt to relieve the pressure on a prominent area. The thickened nail plate may then pose extra pressure itself.
  • Podiatrists say that a toenail can become like this from a single trauma to the nail matrix. Severe or repeated injury can permanently distort the nail. There is no treatment other than filing.
  • A thickened, toenail that becomes yellow or brown is affected with a fungus. There are many home treatments and over-the-counter treatments, but the Johns Hopkins doctors say these cures don't work and are a waste of time and money. They might cure athlete's foot and fungal infections of the skin, but they won't work for nail fungus.

    Prescription medications like Spornox and Lamisil are the most effective treatments. They are taken daily for three months and work by killing the fungus at the nail root. It could, however, take up to a year for the entire nail to grow out and be fungus free.

    Some people are never cured in spite of medications. They must simply keep the toenail trimmed.

    Toenail fungus should be treated. If it isn't, there is a chance it could spread to fingernails and skin.

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    The big deal banana

    Bananas are a great pick-me-up, according to authors Mehmet Ozz and Michael Roizen in their book, YOU Being Beautiful: The Owner's Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty. They also contend that bananas not only help you think faster, they help you think happier thoughts.

    A banana a day may help brain cells communicate and enhance the effects of feel-good neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. They are rich in antioxidants and a good source of vitamin B6.