Archive for December, 2015

Staying Fit the Old-fashioned Way

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

Stroll down the aisles of any department store these days, and your eye will be drawn to an appealing collection of labor-saving gadgets. These can include everything from bush cutters to remote controls for the TV and DVD player.

It’s enough to alarm every health and exercise expert in the land and for good reason. These labor-savers are associated with America’s slide toward laziness. A large part of the general public isn’t getting enough exercise. Medical problems like heart disease and high cholesterol are linked to a lack of exercise. They are a growing threat to public health. In addition, an inactive lifestyle increases the risk for overweight and obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer.

Modern conveniences

Much of the decline in physical activity can be blamed on the modern conveniences that are rapidly replacing old-fashioned physical work. Our high-tech and increasingly inactive lifestyle is also to blame.

With no more leaves to rake or snow to shovel, people are finding it harder to fit physical activities into their schedule. But it’s not that difficult. Consider this: You already have certain activities built into your daily schedule. You can build exercise in as well.

A manual approach

Certainly modern devices can make life easier, but they also can rob you of needed exercise. Maybe it’s time to dust off the old push lawn mower. When you watch TV, try changing the channels by hand. During commercials, use the farthest bathroom, especially if it’s upstairs. Get in the habit of sweeping your sidewalk and scrubbing your floors.

Try new ways of doing things. Realize that for a 154-pound person even 10 minutes of light gardening and leaf raking can knock off 50 to 60 calories. Even bursts of activity like this can improve blood pressure and blood sugar control, and also put off depression.

Declare war on labor-saving devices. Build in a certain kind of way of thinking, the kind that says, “I’m going to resist as many of these machines as possible.”

Build your own low-tech exercise tools, inexpensively. For example, take a plastic, one-gallon milk jug and fill it with water. It now weighs eight pounds. Now include that jug in a variety of stretching and pulling exercises that call for weights.

Look for ways to make your surroundings exercise-friendly. When you’re doing brisk physical chores, play loud, upbeat music. Research shows that you’ll work faster and burn more energy.

Try taking the stairs each day instead of the elevator, or park at the farthest corner of the parking lot. Get off before your stop on the subway and walk a few extra blocks.

Before beginning any exercise program or increasing your level of exercise, always check with your health care provider. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.


Hearing Loss is Hitting Children Hard

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

Parents, now hear this: More American children are losing some or all of their hearing. But too few parents seem to be aware of any hearing hazards, according to a recent survey. By taking steps now, you can help keep your child’s hearing well-tuned into adulthood.

Hearing hazards

Since 1988, the number of children with hearing loss has jumped more than 30%. Nearly 1 out of 5 adolescents ages 12 to 19 may have a hearing problem. Excessive noise—mainly from personal music players—is partly to blame. Listening to loud music with headphones can gradually affect hearing. Environmental noises, such as heavy traffic, can also be harmful.

In a recent survey of more than 700 parents, two-thirds of them didn’t believe their child was at risk for any hearing problems. Of all the potential hearing harms, headphone use was the most recognized culprit. But many parents didn’t know that using a lawn mower, playing in band at school, or talking on a cell phone could damage hearing, too.

Ear protection

The human ear is a delicate instrument. As sound travels into it, small hair cells transform the sound waves into electrical pulses for the brain. Repeated exposure to loud noise—especially over an extended period of time—can permanently damage these cells. The result: partial or complete hearing loss. A ringing or buzzing in the ears—known as tinnitus—is also common.

It can be hard to tell if your child has any hearing loss. Some possible signs include turning up the volume on the television too loud or not following directions. Your child’s tendency to not pay attention or even ignore you may actually stem from a hearing problem.

If you think your child may have hearing loss, talk with your child’s health care provider about a hearing test. In general, children receive such a test before entering school. But hearing loss can happen at any time.

To help protect your child’s hearing, consider making these changes at home:

  • Turn down the volume on televisions, radios, and personal music players. The sound should be set to the lowest level that you can hear clearly.
  • When your child listens to music, discourage the use of ear buds that insert tightly into the ear canal. If possible, opt for noise-reducing headphones. They limit outside noise so you can keep the volume low.
  • Make sure your teen wears ear plugs when doing loud outdoor chores, such as cutting the grass or using a leaf blower.
  • Choose toys that either don’t make a lot of noise or have a volume setting.
  • Minimize noise from within and out. Decorate your home with soft furnishings—thick carpet, area rugs, cushions, or curtains—that muffle sound. To keep outdoor noise at a minimum, caulk any cracks or other openings near windows and doors.

Hearing hazards are all around us.

Obesity May Impair Your Child’s Hearing

Obesity has been linked to many health woes. Perhaps surprisingly, you can add hearing loss to the list. A recent study of nearly 1,500 adolescents found those who were obese were twice as likely to have hearing problems.

What’s the possible connection? Excess body fat may lower the production of a hormone called adiponectin. That, in turn, may damage organs in the body, including the ears.

Online resources

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery

CDC

National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

 

 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions


Keep Your Heart Healthy for Brain Health

Monday, December 28th, 2015

Here’s a good reason to keep your heart hearty: your mind. Recent research suggests that unhealthy heart habits may impair brain function—no matter what your age.

The head-heart connection

Like any super computer, your brain needs a power supply. The source: the heart. It pumps oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Without adequate blood flow, your mind may suffer glitches in memory, thought, and other intellectual processes.

What might limit blood flow? The same unhealthy habits that harm your heart, such as smoking and eating high-fat foods. Over time, these behaviors can cause blood vessels throughout the body to narrow. They can also lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

In the journal Stroke, researchers explored this head-heart connection. Using a tool called the Framingham Risk Score (FRS), they calculated the heart health of more than 3,700 people ages 35 to 82. FRS predicts a person’s risk of developing heart disease within 10 years. It factors in age, sex, and smoking history. It also takes into account whether a person has diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.

After determining participants’ heart health, researchers measured each person’s brain function. They used two different tests to assess brain activities, such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning. Regardless of age, people with unhealthy hearts had poorer working brains overall.

Beyond normal aging

Your mind ages—just like your body. Forgetting words or losing track of your car keys is a normal part of aging. Poor heart health, though, may worsen the problem. It may also lead to serious diseases of the mind, such as vascular dementia and Alzheimer disease.

Vascular dementia results from restricted blood flow to the brain. Many small strokes gradually damage blood vessels in the head. People most likely to develop this type of dementia are those who have suffered a stroke n the past. Uncontrolled blood pressure sets the stage for stroke.

High blood pressure has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. In a past study, researchers used imaging tools and other tests to look at the brains of 115 healthy older adults. They found that those with high blood pressure showed early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

7 ways to build up your brain and heart

Want to fend off age-related forgetfulness and perhaps diseases like dementia? Here are seven tips to build up brain and heart health:

Exercise regularly. Physical activity boosts blow flood throughout the body, even the brain.

  1. Don’t smoke. It’s a leading risk factor for heart troubles and other diseases.
  2. Watch what you eat. Avoid foods high in saturated fat. Over time, they can clog arteries, limiting blood flood.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight. Research shows obesity contributes to heart disease and dementia.
  4. Invigorate your mind. Do crossword puzzles or read books. Want to go more high tech? Some research suggests video games may help keep the brain sharp.
  5. Stay involved. Social interaction with family and friends can liven up your life and reduce stress on the heart and brain.
  6. Mind your heart numbers. Work with your doctor to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range.

 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.


The Hygiene Rules You Thought You Knew

Monday, December 7th, 2015
There’s more to it than “lather, rinse, repeat.”

You wash your hands when they’re dirty and cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze. It’s not just doing those things regularly that matters, though, it’s doing them the right way. Here’s a refresher course on the steps you may be missing.

Hand washing. Rubbing your palms together while singing “Happy Birthday” twice isn’t going to cut it. According to the World Health Organization’s standards on hand washing, there’s a better way. Spend between 40 seconds and one minute at the sink, and follow these simple rules:

  • Don’t neglect the tops of your hands, in between your fingers, the tops of your fingers, your fingertips and your thumbs.
  • After applying soap, try using your palms to help scrub your fingertips: Place the fingertips of your right hand on your left palm, and rub them in a circular motion. Switch sides after several seconds.
  • Coughing and sneezing. When a cough or sneeze comes along and you don’t have a tissue handy, hold the crook of your elbow up to your mouth instead of your hands. It’s sometimes called “the vampire rule” as the motion is reminiscent of Dracula covering his face with his cape. The benefits? A new study from MIT shows that it’s not just fluid you’re containing. With every sneeze and cough, you actually emit a gas cloud that can carry germs even farther. Researchers say your arm is the best line of defense.
  • Contact lenses. Contacts come in many different forms in terms of how long you can wear them and how often you can dispose them. One universal rule: Always clean and store them in fresh solution. Topping off old solution in your case exposes your lenses to bacteria from previous wears.
  • Bath towels. You’re squeaky clean from your shower, so your towel is clean too, right? Not the case. A damp towel is ideal for growing mold and mildew, which thrive on damp surfaces. Between uses, air-dry your towel completely to keep spores at bay (in other words, get that towel off the floor and onto the rack!).
  • Toilet lids. Germs may be hiding in the same room you keep your toothbrush and toiletries. A recent study found that flushing with the lid up could spread bacteria through the air. Put the lid down with every flush to prevent airborne bacteria from landing where it isn’t wanted.