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May 18, 2009

Calming a crying baby

Posted: 04:29 PM ET

To a first-time parent, there is nothing quite as scary as not being able to calm a crying baby. And I don't mean one that just fusses a little and stops. I mean a baby that cries non-stop for what seems like hours - and often is. My first son was not colicky but he was often inconsolable, so I spent hours carrying him around in a front pack, pushing him around the house in the stroller and even sitting him next to a running clothes dryer. Many nights I was at my wits end, as was my husband. What an ordeal. But there is hope for new parents who feel helpless around their wailing baby. Pediatrician and author Harvey Karp has come up with parenting tools to help soothe a crying infant. He calls them the five S's.

Crying baby

1) Swaddling. After 30 years of working with parents and newborns, Karp says that in an odd sort of way, babies are born 3 months before they are really ready for the world. He tells parents that babies need a fourth trimester of holding, rocking and nurturing to help them feel safe and comfortable. In other words, the baby misses the feel, sounds and motion of the womb. One way for parents to mimic those familiar surroundings is to swaddle a child by wrapping him snugly, arms at the sides, in a blanket. The baby is used to the close quarters of the uterus and is very comfortable in this position.

2) Side/stomach & shushing. The second and third S's have to do with how you hold your baby and the soothing sounds you make. When a baby is crying holding him on his side or stomach is comforting. The thought is that this lessens the sensation of falling that is sometimes triggered when a fussy baby is on her back. Parents are then advised to make a loud shushing sound and the baby often quiets down. Karp says loud shushing helps because the baby is used to sounds as loud as a vacuum cleaner from his time in utero. But a word of caution: Never put a child to sleep on his stomach, always place a baby on his back in his crib. The incidence of SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, increases when a child is put to sleep on his stomach.

3) Swinging and sucking. At this point, the baby is wrapped snugly and being held either on her side or stomach by a parent who is loudly shushing in her ear. I know it sounds complicated but stay with me. The fourth S, which is swinging, is really more of a tiny jiggling motion thought to mimic the movements of a busy mother-to-be. Now you're ready for the final S which is sucking, and for this you'll need a pacifier. Karp calls this the icing on the cake because once you've calmed the baby with the first four S's, the sucking seems to help the baby become quite calm.

I didn't have the opportunity to try these calming techniques with my wailing child, but witnessed a friend try them out. Unless her baby was hungry or sick, the five S's had a soothing effect. Parenting is a tough job and babies don't come with instructions, but hang in there and give these tips a try. You may find that both you and your baby manage to get a little more sleep - a precious commodity at this time of life.

Health Minute airs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays

 

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Getting a real deal

Posted: 12:33 PM ET

We all know money is tight these days, but your spending needn't necessarily boil down to belt-tightening and sacrifices. It may never be a better time to score a sweet deal and save some cash.

Buying a car

Let's start with getting a car not just below the sticker or invoice price, but below dealer cost. Almost unheard of, right? Well, not anymore. Transaction prices are down, incentives and cash-back figures are on the rise, and according to data from truecar.com, last year dealers sold 21 percent of 2009 models for less than what they paid for them. This year, that number is up to 25 percent.

Start by arming yourself with as much information as possible before you head to the lot. Edmunds.com can tell you the "true value" of the car you're interested in - what they call a fair price, based on what other consumers are paying - plus vehicle inventory, dealer incentives, sales conditions, and current economic trends.

Knowing all this info before you go will put you in the driver's seat when it comes time for negotiation. But you have to be prepared, too, to walk away if you're still not seeing eye-to-eye with the salesman.

Bank fees

Large national banks have gotten billions from tarp - your tax dollars - but you don't have to give them another dime.

Cut your bank fees by avoiding all out-of-network ATMs; and watch out for overdraft fees that can be as high as $40! This is especially important now, since so many more people are using debit cards. You can incur multiple overdraft fees in a single day if you don't stay on top of your balance. Watch out, too, for account maintenance fees and teller fees - sometimes charged to those who use human tellers instead of ATMs.

Remember, you can always vote with your feet and move to a credit union.

Haggle at the store

A new poll out this week as part of a special 'rebuild your finances' issue of consumer reports found that more than two-thirds of Americans have haggled to secure a better deal in the last six months. So here are some tips to improve your haggling skills.

Be patient and be nice - demanding a discount rarely works. And avoid an audience. If everyone else is asking for a deal, chances are you won't get yours.

Time your haggle late in the month, when salespeople are trying to meet their quotas; also to early morning or evening hours, when clerks have more time to talk. And offer to pay cash. Merchants don't like to pay transaction fees to credit card companies - anywhere from two to eight percent - so this might be a great place to get them to cut you some slack.

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Filed under: Auto • Economy • Living • Willis


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May 15, 2009

Healthy heart = healthy brain

Posted: 11:32 AM ET

We are starting to learn more about how heart health may impact your brain. A study out this week found people with an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, were 44% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. It’s been well documented in the past that a fluttering heart can lead to blood blots or stroke. But researchers are puzzled by the association to Alzheimer’s disease. What we do know is there are several risk factors heart disease and Alzheimer’s patients share. So perhaps the key to lowering your risk of both disease is keeping your ticker healthy.

sanjay.gupta

Here are a few tips to get you started:

KNOW YOUR NUMBERS High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being overweight are all risk factors for heart disease. Controlling these factors when you're younger promises healthy dividends when you're older. Visit heart.org for a list of what levels your vital signs should be at. Also, exercise is a great way to keep your heart strong and your numbers in check. Aim for 30 minutes of cardiac exercise a day, five days a week.

STOP SMOKING! Smoking causes your good cholesterol levels, or HDL, to drop and causes high blood pressure. Smoking robs some of the oxygen from your body, reducing blood cells to freely flow to heart.

CALL YOUR DOCTOR If you or a loved one is living with atrial fibrillation, call your doctor and ask about treatment options. Depending on its severity, atrial fibrillation can be treated by a simple blood thinner. Because this condition is associated with an increased risk of stroke, and perhaps Alzheimer’s disease as well, it's important to get the optimal treatment as soon as possible.

Taking care of your heart will lower your risk for many ailments—including your brain! No excuses from this point forward. Making healthy changes now will keep you healthier, longer.

Be sure to tune in to Dr. Sanjay Gupta every weekend on HOUSE CALL. You'll find the answers to your medical questions Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET on CNN.

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May 12, 2009

Prepare yourself for the game

Posted: 09:56 AM ET

Fitness, friends, fun: All are great reasons to play organized sports. No matter the intensity of the sport, there are a couple of things you should do prior to each game to get your body ready.

Kickball

Forrest Pecha, Certified Athletic Trainer with Emory Sports Medicine, offers these tips to would-be athletes who want to leave behind their couch-potato status.

1) Warm it up. Before beginning any type of exercise, getting the circulation going is a must. Take a brisk walk or a light jog for 6-10 minutes. Once the muscles are warm, they have more pliability.

2) Stretch it out. After your body is warmed up, a proper stretching routine for most sports includes the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Depending on the activity, you may also want to include trunk and lower back stretches.

The Mayo Clinic offers more stretching how-to’s.

And, consider:

3) Soreness, sprains & strains. When you first become active, you're putting some otherwise unused muscles to work. For instance, in the game of adult kickball, simply kicking the ball and sprinting to first base may be enough to cause soreness if your body's not used to it. The soreness usually appears a day or two after the workout, and lasts about 48 hours.

If you fall, twist something, or have other trauma, you may experience a sprain or a strain. More than likely, says Pecha, you’ll know it when it happens. If the swelling or pain lasts 3 days or more, seek medical attention.

Pecha stresses that any increase in activity level brings with it a risk of injury, but that shouldn't stop you from getting in the game. However, if you're older than 40 or if you haven't been active in the past year, he recommends first seeing a doctor.

Health Minute airs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays

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$4 a gallon gas again?

Posted: 08:16 AM ET

Gas prices are rising. Experts say they won't rise much more and the Energy Department sees a summer high of $2.30. Don't worry: this recent run up is no stepping stone to $3.00 and $4.00 a gallon gasoline.

Oil is obviously the starting point for gasoline; and oil prices are up 30 percent this year. But that's because of money, not supply and demand. Investors are betting the economy will improve eventually.

Why have we been paying more for gas?

Gas prices have been rising for 13 days. According to AAA, gas prices are up 16 cents in the last week. Conrad DeQuadros of RDQ Economics blames higher oil prices, low gasoline inventories, and a belief that people will start driving more if the economy gets better.

Why have oil prices gone up?

Optimism that the worst of the economic crisis is behind us is fueling bets that oil demand will increase and that has pushed up prices.

Has demand increased?

No.

How much more can we expect prices to rise?

The Energy Department predicts a summer high of $2.30 this year. Every penny pinches, but consider this: Americans have had a huge break on their gasoline bill so far this year. According to Tom Kloza of Oil Price Information Service, Americans spent just under $777 million per day on gasoline in April 2009, compared with $1.338 billion in April 2008.

Am I going to see $4.00 a gallon gas again?

Not likely. The economy is still very weak and demand is flat. Even $3.00 a gallon is a longshot.

"Demand is down because unemployment is at post-war highs and many people are driving on a 'must go' basis, with a minimum of discretionary use," says OPIS's Kloza.

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May 11, 2009

Pedal your way to work

Posted: 12:15 PM ET

Leave those keys at home and grab your helmet as we embark on National Bike to Work Week.

Sure, cars give us a shorter commute time and shelter from the elements, but when was the last time you added some physical activity to your daily routine?

In 2007, the American Heart Association recommended healthy adults ages 18-65 should get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week or 20 minutes of vigorous activity three days a week. This exercise is supposed to be in addition to daily routines.

Only about 30 percent of adults actually do this, according to the CDC.

We know a lack of physical activity leads to an assortment of health problems down the road, from heart disease to diabetes, so why not start preventing it now?

I recently traveled to Europe where I saw an amazing thing:  People actually walk and ride bikes to get from Point A to Point B. In Amsterdam, there were parking lots and paths solely for bicyclists. Here in the U.S., cities aren’t always designed to allow for this lifestyle, but there are still parks and sidewalks ready to be used.

What changes need to happen with you to add more physical activity to your life using the resources you already have? What changes would need to happen to adapt this lifestyle in your community?

Even if conditions don’t permit for you to hop on a Schwinn this week, take the opportunity to revive those New Year’s resolutions and create a healthier you.

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May 8, 2009

Natural remedy for hot flashes, digestion and more!

Posted: 03:20 PM ET

Bet you wouldn’t have guessed that seeds from a flax plant could provide a natural boost to your health. Flaxseed is a great health remedy. What's so beneficial about it is that it seems to aid in lowering the bad levels of cholesterol, the LDL, which is so hard to do. It contains a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for the heart. Also high in soluble fiber, the same kind is found in oat bran, which aids with digestion. Some studies even show that flaxseed and flaxseed oil are even good at preventing hot flashes. Many CNN viewers have written in to us echoing that thought based on personal experience.

sanjay.gupta

Here are a few tips on ways to incorporate flaxseed into your daily diet.

BEST MIXER? Flaxseed is typically consumed by adding it to your favorite beverage or meal. It can be mixed with water or juice. Also, flaxseed is commonly added to cereals and yogurts – mix it in and you won’t even taste it. Some people choose to consume flaxseed oil straight up. It is also available in capsule form.

GROUND OR WHOLE? Flaxseeds can be purchased whole or ground up. But most doctors suggest ground flaxseed is better. Whole flaxseed may be hard to digest and you may not get the full health benefits as you would digesting it already grounded. You can purchase ground flaxseed at your local grocery store.

HOW MUCH? To get the most health benefits, aim to consume about a tablespoon of ground flaxseed per day.

Studies show the side effects of consuming flaxseed are minimal. However, avoid taking flaxseed at the same time as conventional medications. The fiber in flaxseed may lower the body's ability to absorb medications that are taken by mouth, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Be sure to tune in to Dr. Sanjay Gupta every weekend on HOUSE CALL. You'll find the answers to your medical questions Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET on CNN.

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May 6, 2009

Networking online

Posted: 03:34 PM ET

On Friday we'll get the latest snapshot of the unemployment industry. If you're one of the many people out there looking to land a job, here are some tips on how you can get an edge on the competition.

gerri.willis

1) Get your resume to the top of the pile

Just applying on a company's Web site isn't going to get you anywhere: the percentage of online applications viewed by an actual human being ranges from 5 percent to 25 percent. A lot of companies use software programs to screen candidates, so, when you're writing your resume and cover letter, use the same phrases or keywords found in the job description, or reference a particular project that company has done to get it over that first hurdle.

2) Use Social Networking more effectively

And if you're using online social networking sites to get noticed, make sure you're using all the tools at your disposal. Don't just create a Linked-in profile: join groups, post comments, and actively update. On Facebook, diligently search for job listings in the Facebook Marketplace, and message hiring managers directly.

Finally, don't understimate applying to places where you know someone who can physically hand a resume to whoever's in charge of hiring. It's easy to get lost in the online shuffle- inboxes overflow- so getting a resume on a desk can go a long way towards scoring an interview.

3) Prepare for the Interview

Another great reason to apply to companies where you know someone is that you can grill them on the interview process

Luckily even if you don't know an insider, you can use online resources to get tips on specific companies. Glassdoor.com is a great site where you can get salary details for specific employers and interview tips from people who have actually sat in the hot seat.

For more of Gerri's Top Tips, watch CNN daily at 11:20 am Eastern Time.

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Filed under: Career • Economy • Finance • Living • Willis


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Time to look at stocks again?

Posted: 10:43 AM ET

After weeks of steady gains, the stock market has regained all of its losses sustained since the beginning of this year. If you were to chart the year-to-date performance for the S&P 500 index, it would look like a big letter 'V'.

Imagine a line starting on January 1, sliding down to this year's low point on March 9, and then shooting back up to this week, back at the same level from the start of the year. Since the S&P is tied to so many of our 401(k) retirement plans and mutual funds, now may be the time to take a look at stocks again.

The stock market is what we call a "leading indicator" on the economy, meaning stocks can be one of the first signs that a recovery is around the corner. And, there are other signs out there showing we may have bottomed out in this recession: Pending home sales jumped 3.2 percent in March, and construction spending inched up 0.3 percent in the same month.

Last week, the Economic Cycle Research Institute - a leading research group that has a near perfect record in forecasting this stuff - predicted the recession could end as soon as this summer. And now, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says recovery will begin later this year.

So, what can you do now to plan for a recovery later this year? If you still have a job, and you're in good health, you can start by prioritizing your finances:

1) Take a fresh look at your high-interest debt. Make a serious attempt to pay off your credit card balances as the economy starts to improve.

2) Save for a rainy day. Set aside at least six months worth of cash to get you by, just in case.

3) Revisit your investment portfolio. Review your retirement accounts and mutual funds, and re-balance your investments to meet your long-term goals.

Stocks may have recovered this year's losses, but they're still down over 40 percent from their highs in October 2007. But, as prospects grow for an end to this recession, the stock market could be poised for more gains going forward. So, now is the time to start planning ahead.

Visit my online tool at at cnnmoney.com/ali to help you measure your investment goals. There you will be prompted with seven simple questions that will help you balance your portfolio to fit with your goals and your appetite for risk.

Ali Velshi is CNN’s Chief Business Correspondent

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May 4, 2009

Heading to the beach? Avoid the lobster look

Posted: 06:09 PM ET

I grew up on the water and, as far back as I can remember, summertime meant trips to the beach. My sister, brother and I spent hours swimming, building sandcastles and skimming sand dollars across the top of the surf. By the time mom dragged us home, our faces and shoulders were usually pink or sunburned.

Sunscreen

Unfortunately all of those hours in the sun mean an increased risk of skin cancer. And I'm not alone. My dermatologist told me a person's chance of getting skin cancer doubles if you're had five or more sunburns.

Melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer, is the most common cancer found in young adults ages 25 to 29. But there's good news: if caught early before it spreads beyond the skin, melanoma has a 99 percent five-year survival rate.

The American Academy of Dermatology has some tips to help protect us from the sun's rays and offers guidance on the warning signs of skin cancer.

1) Slather Up. Did you know that you need to use about an ounce of sunscreen every time you apply it? That's the amount in a shot glass. If you're going to the beach for a week, by the end of your trip, you should have used up an entire 6 – 8 oz. bottle – all by yourself. Dermatologists recommend a sunscreen with a high SPF and one that offers both UVA and UVB protection. Preventing sunburns may be one of the the most important things you can do to keep from developing melanoma or the other less serious types of skin cancer.

2) Check it out. It's recommended that you see a doctor once a year for a skin cancer check especially if you've spent a lot of time in the sun. You don't necessarily have to see a dermatologist, you can ask your physician to take a look when you go for your annual check-up. Let your doctor know if you've noticed any moles or areas of skin that bleed easily, have changed in color, size or shape, have irregular borders or are larger than a pencil eraser. Any mole or skin lesion that is evolving or changing should be brought to your doctor's attention. Skin cancer doesn't always develop in an existing mole, it can appear as a bump on other areas of the skin without warning.

3) Don't forget about your birthday suit. It's also important every month or two to do self skin exams. Call upon your partner or a loved one to help if you don't have a mirror handy. You want to become familiar with your moles, freckles and "beauty marks" literally from head to toe, and if they look different from one month to the next, book an appointment with your doctor. The most common hot spots are on the upper back, torso, lower legs, head and neck. But this doesn't mean you can forget to look between your toes and on your scalp. Part your hair and look through all of your scalp. And when you get your hair cut, ask your stylist or barber to look as well.

Finally stay away from tanning beds. The ultraviolet light from these beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you have a tan, there are plenty of tanning products available to give you the look you want. But remember to use sunscreen with them if you head outdoors.

Health Minute airs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays

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About this blog

Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!