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Plenty Of Information, But ...

graphic with caduceus and computer, for medical information on the web
AP / CBS
Using the Internet to find information about health and fitness is a mixed blessing. On the positive side, there are many extremely useful Web sites, run by knowledgeable people and organizations. But there also are plenty of charlatans on the Net as well as those who, while well meaning, are just a wee bit unscientific in their approach.

Of course one person's highly useful information could be another person's nonsense. Health and fitness, like most subjects, is not always an exact science. There are plenty of opinions out there when it comes to what is best for your body and, I'm afraid, it's up to you to figure out which ones make sense

Personally, I'm a bit conservative when it comes to health and fitness information. I don't believe everything I read, no matter what the source. While I recognize the value of nontraditional medicine, I'm not naïve enough to think that all the "alternative" healers necessarily know what they are talking about. Yet I've seen plenty of reasons to be suspicious of so-called "experts" in Western medicine.

You can learn more about alternative medicines at the Web site of the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (nccam.nih.gov/). All sites listed in this article, along with many other useful fitness-related sites, can be found at my fitness Web page, www.NoBellyPrize.com

When it comes to general medical information, there are some pretty well-respected sites: WebMD, Drkoop.com, MayoClinic.org and Dr. Dean Edell's HealthCentral.com are all useful sites where you can learn about common medical problems and solutions. There also are the condition-specific sites like the American Diabetes Association (www.diabetes.org), American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and the American Heart Association (www.americanheart.org).

Each of these has a great deal of useful information, including tips on diet and exercise. Happily, the advice on these sites is mostly consistent. It turns out that exercise and weight control help prevent or control heart disease, diabetes, cancer and a host of other conditions

The general health sites have information about prescription and non-prescription drugs, but the best source for that information is MEDLINEplus (www.medlineplus.gov), a site operated by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. That site also has extensive information on conditions, diseases and wellness.

When it comes to fitness, sports medicine and aging, one of the most thorough and useful health sites is www.bragmanhealth.com, operated by Dr. James Bragman, a West Bloomfield, Michigan, physician, clinical professor of medicine and health commentator for CNN Radio News. Dr. Bragman is an internist who is board certified in geriatric medicine and is working on a certification in sports medicine.

I came across the site's "Sports Medicine and Injury Index" when researching possible exercises for my wife, who is recovering from a "Jones Fracture" in her right foot. That section did indeed have information about foot injuries, but it also has information about every other part of the body as well as information on the medical aspects of just about any sport and activity you can imagine. Broken into 36 chapters, it is an approachable encyclopedia of just about anything you might need to know about how your body reacts to the stresses of various sports and fitness activities.

I won't plagiarize too much of his online book, but I will quote from the first chapter, "Work Out to Win." Dr. Bragman cautions people to develop a "workout master plan" to avoid muscle soreness, injuries and decreased performance. His five steps are: (1) "Warm up properly"; (2) "take time to stretch"; (3) "add conditioning or strengthening exercises"; (4) "warm down gradually"; and (5) "stretch again." He goes into details at each Web page.

The site has an equally comprehensive section on aging and health.

In addition to his written material, Dr. Bragman also posts the audio files from his "Prescription for Health" radio programs. There are literally hundreds of one-minute segments on file, organized by subject. You'll need the free RealAudio player to hear the segments, but chances are you already have it on your PC. My only criticism of these highly useful and approachable audio files is that they do not include the date they were posted.

In addition to the better-known sites, there are all sorts of places online where you can find information about even the rarest conditions. If you don't know where to turn, you can almost always find something by typing in the name of the condition on Google (www.google.com), but be very careful about the results. Google uses software - not a human editor - to rank listings, so there is no guarantee that the sites you find are credible or accurate.

A syndicated technology columnist for nearly two decades, Larry Magid serves as on air Technology Analyst for CBS Radio News. His technology reports can be heard several times a week on the CBS Radio Network. Magid is the author of several books including "The Little PC Book."


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By Larry Magid