Karen Springen

Stories by Karen Springen

  • MCDONALDS: HOLD THE CHEESE, PLEASE

    Nearly a year ago, Cathy Kapica, a director of nutrition education at Quaker Oats, got an offer to be McDonald's first "global nutrition director." "I was skeptical," she says. And for good reason: in a nation plagued by obesity, McDonald's is viewed as public enemy No. 1. But the more Kapica considered the job, the more she saw the good she could do, since McDonald's serves 47 million meals a day. "What better way to effect change?" she says. And so Kapica signed on last fall. In-house nutritionists are now a vital part of food companies' efforts to respond to increasing pressure from health officials. Critics, like Michael Jacobsen of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, deride these dietitians as "PR agents for indefensible products." Nonetheless, fast-food companies do appear to be thinking healthier: before Kapica's arrival, McDonald's already planned to phase out supersize items and add entree salads and lower-fat McNuggets. Kapica is helping to develop a line of low...
  • MONUMENTS: GIVE ME LIBERTINI

    The Statue of Liberty isn't reopening for two more months, but the hoopla has already begun. This week the Ritz-Carlton at Battery Park is adding an edible statue-shaped swizzle stick to its $13 green Libertini cocktail and launching a $339 Liberty for All package that includes a telescope-equipped guest room, two tickets to Liberty Island and a statue replica in chocolate. Macy's has commissioned a statue-inspired song, "The Gift of Light," and will feature a tribute to Lady Liberty in its July 4 fireworks displays. (It will also add a Statue of Liberty float to its Thanksgiving Day parade.) Publishers are jumping aboard with offerings like "Liberty" by Stephen Coonts, a thriller partly set inside the statue. Two standouts for kids: "Building Liberty: A Statue Is Born" by French author Serge Hochain and "The Statue of Liberty" by Elaine Landau. "It's an upbeat event," says Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. "There's very little...
  • YOUR YARD IN 500 B.C.

    Eager to distract your kids from their bug collections? Hook them on geology. With a few books and some easy-to-gather gear, you can delve into the ancient history of your own backyard. To collect rocks and (if you're lucky) fossils, find a hammer, an old screwdriver and an eye shield--"your own personal collecting tools," advises San Diego State geologist Eleanora Robbins, coauthor of "What's Under Your Feet?" ($5 at pennirubin.com). Fossils, she says, aren't necessarily rare and can be found near the surface. Consult the "Geology Underfoot" and "Roadside Geology" series or the kids' book "On This Spot" by Susan Goodman. Still have questions? Call the U.S. Geological Survey (www.usgs.gov) at 888-ASK-USGS. If you live in Minnesota or Wisconsin, you might learn your yard was once cut by a glacier. Now that rocks.
  • DRASTICALLY DOWNSIZED

    At the age of 7, Nikki Morace weighed 160 pounds. By 9, she was up to 250 and had tried every diet from salads to Slim-Fast. Despite her efforts, she tipped the scales at 363 pounds by 14. Her heart was enlarged, her liver was inflamed and her face turned blue when she exercised. Finally, she told her mom she wanted to take a drastic step. Together, the two flew from their Deer Park, Texas, home to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital for bariatric surgery. Doctors bypassed part of Morace's stomach and small intestine so she could eat and absorb far less food. Today, a year after surgery, Morace carries 207 pounds on her 6-foot-1 frame, pitches for her softball team and happily recounts attending a recent school dance. "I feel like a whole other person," she says.More teenagers are following Morace's example. Roughly 140,000 people will undergo gastric-bypass surgery this year, up from 103,000 last year, according to the American Society for Bariatric Surgery. And though no one tracks...
  • In The News: Make Mine Rare

    All right, so maybe Atkins wasn't a nut. Two papers published in the Annals of Internal Medicine last week report that low-carb diets help patients lose weight faster than conventional plans. In a six-month study of 120 obese people, those on a low-carb diet lost an average of 26 pounds, compared with those on a conventional low-fat, low-calorie diet, who lost just 14 pounds. In a 12-month study, however, the carb counters lost about the same amount as those on a conventional diet--though they tested slightly better on triglyceride and blood-sugar levels. "The take-home message is that, in the longer term, there isn't a whole lot of difference in weight loss between a low-carbohydrate and a low-fat diet," says Dr. Christine Laine, senior deputy editor at the Annals of Internal Medicine. An editorial accompanying the studies says it's fine to experiment with reduced-carb diets--as long as you maintain weight loss and eat "healthy sources of fat and protein and incorporate regular...
  • The High Cost Of Summer Cash

    Soon the final school bell will ring, and 4 million teenagers will start their summer jobs. Aaron Janssen is one of them. Janssen, 16, is psyched to have landed a stint as a cook near his home in Iowa; working makes him feel like his dad and will help him buy a car. The job's hazards don't concern him. "Everyone knows to be careful," he says. But a working teenager can be a perfect storm of eagerness and inexperience, and here's a case in point: last week a 15-year-old boy died in a job-related accident while working for a Maryland landscaping firm.While putting high-school students to work has obvious benefits, it also holds considerable risks. Each year, more than 70,000 working teenagers end up in the emergency room because of work-related injuries, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Even more worrisome are fatalities: about 70 teens die on the job each year, mostly in farm and retail work. Government agencies hope to cast new light on these...
  • Family: New At The Zoo

    So what if an African safari isn't in the family budget? These new exhibits may be the next best thing. For info on other animal havens, go to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association's aza.org.Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, Jacksonville, Fla., jaxzoo.org. Watch jaguars in their natural habitat, joined by some 100 other animal species like tapirs, capybaras and howler monkeys. Adults: $9.50. Kids 3 to 12: $5.Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, Neb., omahazoo.com. The Hubbard Gorilla Valley hosts 11 apes (including the world's first test-tube gorilla) as they climb on vines and mate beneath 24-foot trees. Adults: $9.75. Kids 5 to 11: $6.Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, clemetzoo.com. Animals need their checkups, too. Stop by the Center for Zoological Medicine to watch vets in action. Adults: $9. Kids 2 to 11: $4. Opens July 23.Point Defiance Zoo, Tacoma, Wash., pdza.org. The Asian Forest Sanctuary simulates the habitat of Sumatran tigers and gibbons. Opens July 18. Adults: $7.75. Kids 4 to 13: $6.
  • Alcohol's Deadly Triple Threat

    Pat Staples's childhood gave birth to the demons that nearly killed her. Her father was a volatile alcoholic. "I was physically, verbally and emotionally abused," she says. "Nose broken, head into the walls." In kindergarten she started dreaming about running away; she finally escaped in 1959, at the age of 20, when she married young to get out of the alcoholic house. But she couldn't flee her past. Over the years she gradually became an addict herself--first with pills and then with alcohol. Still, her life seemed good on the surface. The marriage endured, defying the odds, and she and her husband had two daughters. "Our house was on the home tour," she says. "Our kids were perfect."The reality was far more bleak. She felt constantly under stress, anxious and terrified. "I was taking pills and drinking to keep it up," she says. Her husband started marking the liquor bottles, but she would just add water so he couldn't tell how much she had drunk. Finally, one day in 1985, Staples...
  • Putting It All Together

    Like most women, Helen Bryce, 44, wife, mother and manager at a London-based computer company, was well acquainted with the emotional chambers in her heart. Joy, sadness, love. But Bryce never thought much about her heart as a muscular pump: the size of a fist, weighing less than a can of soda, beating 100,000 times a day. And she certainly didn't think it was vulnerable to disease. Neither did her doctor. When she went to him complaining of stomach cramps last May, he told her it was indigestion. When the cramps didn't go away, the diagnosis changed to gallstones. But while Bryce was waiting for her nonpriority gallstones appointment--weeks away--the pains got so bad that she was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. The diagnosis: heart attack. "I didn't think [the doctor] was talking to me," she says. "I was thinking, 'Women my age can't have heart problems'."That's a misconception many women share. According to the World Heart Federation, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of...
  • Mysteries: The Kid 'Code'

    Harry Potter" author J. K. Rowling is "happily writing," says Scholastic Book Group president Barbara Marcus. But sorry, kids: there won't be a new installment this year. Instead, Harryheads can turn to "Chasing Vermeer," a mystery out this month that critics are calling a "Da Vinci Code" for tweens. ( "It's darn clever," says Joe Monti, a buyer for Barnes & Noble. "A real gem," says Linda Bubon, co-owner of the Chicago bookstore Women & Children First.) The tale, about a sixth-grade girl and boy searching for a stolen Vermeer painting, is by first-time author Blue Balliett, a former art-history major and teacher. Brett Helquist, illustrator of the Lemony Snicket series, arted the book, which five U.S. publishers bid on. "If somebody had told me that [would happen] when I was picking salamior old gum off my classroom floor, I would have said, 'No way'," Balliett says. She's already writing a sequel, a mystery surrounding a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Chicago's Hyde Park....
  • Smoking Gun

    Quick--what's the leading cancer killer of women? If you answered "breast cancer," you're not alone--but you're wrong. Lung cancer is far deadlier. Its five-year survival rate is 15 percent, compared with 86 percent for breast cancer, and it takes a bigger toll. Though the disease is largely preventable, the annual toll has grown by 600 percent since 1930. The reason: cigarettes. In the United States, more than 85 percent of women who get lung cancer are current or former smokers--yet one woman in five still smokes. "People have a general sense that tobacco is harmful," says Dr. Michele Bloch of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, "but they don't appreciate the magnitude of the risk."Cigarettes can kill anyone, but the risks are especially high for women. New studies suggest that women develop lung cancer at a younger age than men, and after fewer years of smoking. Why are women more susceptible? They may metabolize the carcinogens in tobacco differently, says University of...
  • Health: Hit Your Stride

    If you're not already taking steps to stay in shape, here's some extra incentive. A study in the May issue of the American College of Sports Medicine's journal, Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, reports that 40- to 66-year-old women who walked more than 10,000 steps a day (about five miles) averaged 18 percent less body fat and had slimmer waists than those who walked fewer than 6,000 steps.To calculate how many steps you take buy a pedometer, a motion-sensitive device that resembles a tiny beeper and clips onto your waistband. "It's a great motivator," says Dixie Thompson, the study's lead author. Penn State University exercise physiologist Guy Le Masurier recommends the Walk4Life LS2525 ($29, available at walk4life.com) and the Yamax Digi-Walker SW-701 ($24 to $30, at thepedometercompany .com). Track the number of steps you take on an ordinary day and work up to your goal. Aim for a brisk pace of 100 to 150 steps per minute. But don't fret if you walk slower--anything...
  • Alcohol's Deadly Triple Threat

    Pat Staples's childhood gave birth to the demons that nearly killed her. Her father was a volatile alcoholic. "I was physically, verbally and emotionally abused," she says. "Nose broken, head into the walls." In kindergarten she started dreaming about running away; she finally escaped in 1959, at the age of 20, when she married young to get out of the alcoholic house. But she couldn't flee her past. Over the years she gradually became an addict herself--first with pills and then with alcohol. Still, her life seemed good on the surface. The marriage endured, defying the odds, and she and her husband had two healthy daughters. "Our house was on the home tour," she says. "Our kids were perfect."The reality was far more bleak. She felt constantly under stress, anxious and terrified. "I was taking pills and drinking to keep it up," she says. Her husband started marking the bottles in the bar area, but she would just add water so he couldn't tell how much she had drunk. He checked the...
  • Women, Cigarettes And Death

    Quick--what's the leading cancer killer of women? If you answered "breast cancer," you're not alone--but you're wrong. Lung cancer is far deadlier. Its five-year survival rate is 15 percent, compared with 86 percent for breast cancer, and it takes a bigger toll. Breast cancer killed 40,000 U.S. women last year; lung cancer, 69,000. And though the disease is largely preventable, the annual toll has grown by 600 percent since 1930. The reason: cigarettes. More than 85 percent of women who get lung cancer are current or former smokers--yet one woman in five still smokes. "People have a general sense that tobacco is harmful," says Dr. Michele Bloch of the National Cancer Institute, "but they don't appreciate the magnitude of the risk."Cigarettes can kill anyone, but the risks are especially high for women. New studies suggest that women develop lung cancer at a younger age than men, and after fewer years of smoking. In January, researchers reported that women smokers were more than...
  • OLYMPICS: PUT HER ON A WHEATIES BOX!

    Like synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics is a Summer Olympics sport that's easy to make fun of. Americans are used to seeing girls leaping on balance beams--not twirling ribbons and tossing hoops, balls and clubs. "You're never going to have a strong male demographic watching rhythmic," says Brian Eaton, a spokesman for USA Gymnastics. "Until you have that mainstream mentality about the sport, it's going to be the joke on the TV show 'Bernie Mac'."But is the joke on the United States? In Eastern Europe, rhythmic gymnasts are celebrities, selling out arenas and posing for magazines. "They grow up with a hoop and a ball and a ribbon in their hands," says Jan Exner, senior director of USA Gymnastics' rhythmic program. Their males get it: after all, the girls flaunt their flexibility and leggy figures in tight-fitting leotards and showgirl makeup.USA Gymnastics is now trying to catch up. The association's promoting the sport through the nation's 4,600 private gymnastics clubs,...
  • BOOKS: WILL CHOPRA, LIKE, SELL?

    In the past two decades spiritual guru Deepak Chopra has sold more than 20 million copies of his 40 books for grown-ups. Now he's targeting kids 12 and older with "Fire in the Heart: A Spiritual Guide for Teens" (Simon & Schuster), with a 100,000-copy first printing. That number may seem optimistic. But then, notes Ilene Cooper, children's books editor for the American Library Association's Booklist, "he's got a whole chapter on how to make your wishes come true!"Wishing aside, some wonder whether Chopra's star power will register with his target audience. ("It's the first time I've heard of him," says Lizzy May, 12, an avid Chicago reader.) Lynn Stuertz, children's books buyer for The Book Stall in Winnetka, Ill., ordered six copies of the book but doubts that it will sell well. "I know I bought that book, but even when I bought it, I thought, 'Who's going to read this?' " She suspects the book will be more popular with adults--as gifts for confirmations and bar mitzvahs....
  • HOME: EARTH DAY

    Every gardener wants his flower bed to cause a flutter. To mark Earth Day next week, pick plants that will attract colorful butterflies all summer long. Here's how:Find a sunny site. Most butterflies prefer sunshine and hate to fight the wind, so choose a warm, sheltered spot. Also, provide some flat rocks, where they can take a break, and a source of water--like a nearby puddle.Choose native plants. Most butterflies like white, orange and yellow flowers, like daisies, marigolds and yarrow. Monarchs are also drawn to purple aster. The benefit of local flowers is that they grow without insecticides, which would kill the butterflies. And don't bother to plant roses: bred for their beauty, they've become nectar deficient.Read up. Arm yourself with books like "Watch Me Grow: Butterfly" ($7.99), for kids. Adults should check out Kenn Kaufman and Jim P. Brock's photo-filled "Butterflies of North America" ($22).Watch. Unlike birding, butterflying doesn't require early-morning rising....
  • FAMILY: 'AND SHE WAS, LIKE...'

    Your child already has a phone in her room. Now she wants one in her backpack. Should you give in? Child psychiatrists say kids are often ready for a cell phone by the age of 12, when many start baby-sitting and becoming more independent. "If they can take care of a living thing, they can take care of an electronic thing," says Elizabeth Berger, author of "Raising Children With Character." Start your kids on an inexpensive device, and let them use it to check in with you. But set ground rules. Talk time shouldn't interfere with homework. Warn them to watch their overtime minutes--or risk having charges deducted from their allowances. Parents need to ask themselves if a cell phone would serve constructive ends--or if it would end up as just another toy or fashion accessory.
  • FAMILY: THE ABC'S OF VOTING

    Most kids can't wait to turn 16 so they can drive. Here's how to get them equally excited about turning 18, when they can vote.Hit the books. For elementary-school kids, check out Linda Granfield's "America Votes" and Eileen Christelow's "Vote!" Kids can laugh over Doreen Cronin's "Duck for President."Talk about the issues, but don't be a policy wonk. "Break everything down to a very small-scale, local level," says David Roberts, director of the Council for Excellence in Government's program, takeyourkidstovote.org. For education, talk about class size. For Iraq, talk about friends who might be sent to the Gulf.Don't be afraid to be partisan. Arguing politics in front of your kids lets them know where you stand and why.Stay tuned. Watch Nickelodeon's "Kids Pick the President," debuting in April, and don't forget to unfurl the flag on Election Day.
  • FAMILY: 'OW' IS JUST FOR NOW

    Ear infections are a childhood rite of passage. But don't automatically treat them with antibiotics, say new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Most ear infections in kids 2 and older are mild and can be treated with Tylenol or Advil (check aap.org for more info). Take your kids to the doctor for an exam, but don't push for drugs. Some 80 percent of ear infections go away on their own. Worse, the drugs can contribute to antibiotic resistance and cause mild side effects like diarrhea or nausea. But if the fever stays above 101.6 degrees or the aches don't get better after 48 to 72 hours, then antibiotics are OK. Better yet, help prevent infections in the first place by breast-feeding, limiting pacifier use and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • MUSIC: STRIKING THE RIGHT CHORD

    Movies benefit from Oscar exposure--and so do weird instruments. In the week after Sting played a hurdy-gurdy (a wooden stringed instrument with a keyboard and a crank that turns a wheel that acts as a bow), "people are coming out of the woodwork," says John Byce, a salesman at Chicago's Different Strummer. "They're like, 'There's this instrument that we saw on the Academy Awards.' We're like, 'Yes, we know'." At Ft. Bragg, Calif.-based Lark in the Morning, which sells exotic instruments, order processor Melody Gaston marvels at the influx of phoners: "I can't remember the last time I got a call for a hurdy-gurdy." (No word yet on whether Hoover sales are spiking from the use of a vacuum during the "Belleville Rendezvous" number. It "enhances that brand identity" but "doesn't automatically translate to an additional sale," says Hoover spokeswoman Lynne Dragomier.) Not to sting Sting, but he's no virtuoso. "He was, to be honest, more or less using it as a prop," says hurdy-gurdy...
  • IN THE NEWS: AFFAIRS OF THE HEART

    Heart disease has long been thought of as a man's illness. But in the past 20 years it's actually killed more women. To help prevent more deaths, the American Heart Association last week released new guidelines to help women assess their risk and stay healthy.First, understand the major risk factors: smoking, diabetes, a family history of premature heart disease, blood pressure higher than 140/90, an elevated LDL ("bad") cholesterol level and a low HDL ("good") cholesterol level. To calculate risk, see americanheart.org. If you are at high risk for heart disease, the AHA recommends taking a statin. To boost good cholesterol, take niacin--but only by prescription.Counter to conventional wisdom, the new guidelines also caution against taking antioxidant supplements, citing a lack of evidence that they work. "If people think that they're tak-ing something that is preventive and in fact they're not, they may feel a little off the hook," says the AHA's chief science officer, Dr. Rose...
  • REISSUES: NANCY'S STILL NICE

    In 1774, when Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther" was published, the cover probably wasn't a close-up of a man nibbling on a woman's bare midriff. It is now, thanks to a new Modern Library translation out this week. The book's about passion, says publishing director David Ebershoff. Why not play to that and--crazy idea!--sell a few copies. (Bookstore orders have been better than expected.)Young Werther isn't the only one being made over. Next month Simon & Schuster is launching a new Nancy Drew series. And Warner Bros. is developing the character's first film. The 2004 Nancy drives a hybrid, and now her locks are a trendy strawberry blond--but she's still dating Ned Nickerson. "They are not going to get busy, if you know what I mean," says Robb Pearlman, brand manager. "She's going to stay as PG and sweet as she's always been." Unlike the 175 old stories, the new books will be written in the first person. And Nancy's doing more than solving mysteries and not making out with...
  • TIP SHEET

    HEALTHHOPE SPROUTS ETERNALKen Washenik, 44, uses every available weapon in his battle against baldness. More than 15 years ago he started rubbing Rogaine onto his scalp twice a day. Five years ago he added the pill Propecia to his daily regimen. And over the past two years he's relocated 2,200 follicles from the back of his head to the sparser region on top. His next step? Washenik, a New York University dermatologist who recently took over as medical director of the hair-transplant company Bosley, is tackling the holy grail of hair loss: trying to figure out how to clone the cells responsible for hair growth.OK, so curing baldness won't save lives. But it will undoubtedly ease the emotional suffering of millions. Each year those 80 million follicularly challenged men and women pour $2 billion into the quest for the magic pill, medical procedure--or at least the perfect wig, says Chris Webb, editor of The National Hair Journal. tip sheet offers a guide to what's available now--and...
  • HEALTH: HOPE SPROUTS ETERNAL

    Ken Washenik, 44, uses every available weapon in his battle against baldness. More than 15 years ago he started rubbing Rogaine onto his scalp twice a day. Five years ago he added the pill Propecia to his daily regimen. And over the last two years he's relocated 2,200 follicles from the back of his head to the sparser region on top. His next step? Washenik, a New York University dermatologist who recently took over as medical director of the hair-transplant company Bosley, is tackling the holy grail of hair loss: trying to figure out how to clone the cells responsible for hair growth.OK, so curing baldness won't save lives. But it will undoubtedly ease the emotional suffering of millions. Each year, those 80 million follicularly challenged men and women pour $2 billion into the quest for the magic pill, medical procedure--or at least the perfect wig, says Chris Webb, editor of The National Hair Journal. Tip Sheet offers a guide to what's available now--and what's on the horizon...
  • FAMILY: POTTY TALK

    Toilet training can cause plenty of anxiety--for parents. Dr. T. Berry Brazelton urges calm in his new book "Toilet Training: The Brazelton Way." Advice from the expert:Most parents can't wait until their kids are out of diapers. You say that's a mistake. Why?There are a lot of pressures on parents today, which are adding to the competitive feelings of toilet training being a marker of their child's success... Let the child be the leader.What should parents do?Watch for signs of readiness: They're ready to sit down. They're imitative. They put things where they belong. They have receptive speech.It sounds great to let kids take their time, but what should parents do about preschool and ballet teachers who won't take kids in diapers?Fight 'em. It's completely insensitive to the individuality of the child.What's your vote on Pull-Ups?Try them. If they don't work, go back to diapers.You're a father of four. When did you potty-train your kids?My children hate for me to talk about them!
  • BOOKS: REWRITING HISTORY

    Ann Dehovitz, 46, doesn't remember learning much history as a kid. "The Revolutionary War and the Civil War--that was about it," she says. But it's easy for her daughter, Rebecca, a sixth grader in Palo Alto, Calif., to go way beyond George and Abe. On her reading list are books like "The Breadwinner," about an Afghan girl who helps support her family after the Taliban jails her father. And for a school assignment, Rebecca, who is Jewish, read "No Pretty Pictures," about a girl during the Holocaust. "I can relate to the story," she says.Just as history books and historical fiction loom large on adult best-seller lists, children's publishing is also getting a blast from the past. Nobody specifically tracks sales of kids' history books, but publishers and booksellers agree it's a hot niche, and not the old sanitized version of events. Many of the new books aimed at kids 4 and older take a surprisingly sophisticated look at our world and our heroes, warts and all. "There's been this...
  • THE ANCIENT ART OF MAKING BABIES

    For centuries, kings and queens tried myriad ways to increase the odds of giving birth to two boys--an heir and a spare. Even in these high-tech times, couples still use unproven, often wacky methods to try for the boy or girl of their dreams. It's easy to see why couples might fervently believe that a particular folk remedy is effective: they forget that even without messing with Mother Nature, they've got a 50-50 chance of getting their preferred gender. Whatever crazy thing they do, half the time it's going to work. A guide to some old wives' tales.SEXUAL POSITION: For an X-bearing (girl) sperm to win the race to the egg, folk wisdom counsels that the woman should initiate sex, try the missionary position, achieve orgasm first and then sleep on her partner's left side. For a Y-bearing (boy) sperm to win, the man should enter from the rear, penetrate deeply at climax and achieve orgasm first. Alas, it's difficult to ever document efficacy--or lack of it. "How are you going to...
  • RESTAURANTS LOCAL FLAIR

    Tired of inhaling fast-food fries? Seek out chefs who use locally grown, seasonal ingredients. Organic Style Editor in Chief Peggy Northrop shared her favorites with TIP SHEET.Blue Hill ...
  • HEALTH: THINK BEFORE YOU CUT

    Going under the knife has never been safer. Americans now have 40 million surgical procedures under anesthesia each year, and only about 160 die of anesthesia-related complications. But the death last week of "First Wives Club" author Olivia Goldsmith, who suffered a heart attack after receiving anesthesia for a cosmetic procedure, should be a wake-up call to anyone who thinks "minor" surgery is risk-free. Here are steps a patient can take to make surgery safer:
  • Holiday: Seven Things To Do

    Forget swearing to run a marathon or lose 20 pounds. TIP SHEET suggests New Year's resolutions you can actually keep:Register to vote: Primaries are around the corner; sign up at www.fec.gov.Check your credit rating: For less than $40, get a combined credit rating and score from all three bureaus--Equifax (equifax.com), TransUnion (tuc.com) and Experian (experian.com).Get (or renew) your passport: Find out what you need for a new one (two photos with a light background) at travel.state.gov. You can usually renew online.Read a really good book: For suggestions, check ala.org/recommended reading.Buy a scale and tape measure: A key to keeping off those pounds is a weekly weigh-in. Also, measure your waist. A circumference of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men places you at high risk for diabetes and heart disease. Check out lifespan.org.Plant a tree: For help choosing the variety for your climate, go to americanforests.org. It'll even plant one for you.Write your will:...