Health Buzz: Kids' Cholesterol Levels Have Fallen

Would you pay a stranger to cuddle with you? Plus, getting paid to stay fit


Cholesterol Levels Drop Among Kids

Good news: Kids' cholesterol levels are down significantly. Over the last 20 years, the proportion of young people ages 6 to 19 with high total cholesterol dropped 28 percent, according to government data released Tuesday. Levels of "good" HDL cholesterol and "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides improved too. Researchers aren't sure what's led to the encouraging changes, but speculate that it could be an environmental factor, such as a drop in adolescent smoking rates and lower exposure to secondhand smoke. Some research suggests that smoke has a negative effect on HDL cholesterol. "The study is a mixed bag," Sarah de Ferranti, director of preventive cardiology at Boston Children's Hospital, told HealthDay. "There is some good news in that cholesterol values are getting better, good cholesterol is getting higher and bad cholesterol and triglycerides are coming down, so all of the numbers are going in the direction that I would like." Still, "I am concerned that small gains are going to be dwarfed by the effects of excess weight and pediatric obesity," she said. "We are not out of the woods." 

  • 14 Heart Numbers Everyone Should Know
  • 7 Steps Toward a Healthy Heart (and Long Life)
  • Would You Pay a Stranger to Cuddle With You? 

    No nudity. No sex. Just cuddling. 

    That's what one New York woman is selling, for $60 an hour or $90 for 90 minutes. Yes, it's legal outside Nevada, and no, it's not what you think. Jacqueline Samuels' appointment-based business, The Snuggery, offers private, boundary-driven sessions to the snuggle-deprived. She's doing it because she believes in the healing power of touch—psychological and physical benefits she says Americans are sorely lacking. 

    "I've always loved to cuddle," says Samuels, 29, of Penfield, N.Y., who is pursuing a master's degree in social work. She once gave out free hugs at a local mall, but was told to leave by security. "I thought this discomfort with physical affection must mean something—that it deserved further exploration," she says. Later, while interviewing sex workers for a graduate school research paper, she learned that many of the women reported their clients didn't want to have sex "as much as they wanted a person to be physically close to and speak to." 

    Samuels is clear about her boundaries during cuddling sessions, and says most of her clients have been respectful. (In the past six weeks, she's had 19 customers; some have returned several times, while others are once and done.) [Read more: Would You Pay a Stranger to Cuddle With You?

    • Benefits of Yoga: How Different Types Affect Health
    • 10 Ways Your Sex Might Sink Your Sex Life
    • Getting Paid to Stay Fit 

      If more people were paid to stay fit, America would look like a very different nation. Becoming a personal trainer offers that incentive—and it's one of the country's fastest-growing careers, predicted to increase 30 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. 

      Much of that growth will be driven by 20- and 30- somethings like Alexander Pompa, 24. Pompa, spent five years in the Marine Corps before becoming a certified personal trainer. He says the discipline of the military has helped him manage other peoples' fitness goals. "You're in charge of these people. You have to learn how to manage your schedule as well as another person's health," says Pompa, who works at Fitness First in Bethesda, Md. "You have to keep up the intensity so they remain focused on the exercise and don't drift. People have to use their mind to tell their muscles what to do." 

      Apart from leadership skills, personal training involves creativity and empathy—and could be described as a professional buddy system, says Stephen Rodrigues, a longtime trainer who has watched the business evolve from a rich person's past-time to something of a mainstream luxury. The public's push to get fit—coupled with rising obesity levels—has made personal training a sought-after service. Getting certification has become much easier as a result, says Rodrigues, who owns his own gym in Lincoln, R.I., and coauthored The Everything Guide to Being a Personal Trainer. [Read more: Getting Paid to Stay Fit