Odekirk Chiropractic Center

at 1302 S Chambers Rd, Aurora, 80017 United States

Dr. Rick Odekirk has been practicing in Aurora for almost 30 years. In that time he has developed a friendly and informative rapport with his patients demonstrating a wealth of knowledge about overall health and wellness. Dr. Odekirk operates a strong personal injury practice and specializes in whiplash and spinal trauma. In recent years Dr. Odekirk has enjoyed working with athletes ranging from youth league to NCAA athletes as well as sport officials. This has led Dr. Odekirk to volunteer extensively in the community and at local schools. The Odekirk Chiropractic Center is absolutely "kid friendly" and even has massage therapy on site. Dr. Odekirk's practice works with all insurances, as well as collaborates well with other health care providers to determine care. Please take time to discover how the Odekirk Chiropractic Center can help you focus on nutrition, wellness and chiropractic care that will get you feeling better than ever!


Odekirk Chiropractic Center
1302 S Chambers Rd
Aurora , CO 80017
United States
Contact Phone
P: (303) 340-3250
Website
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Opening time

  • Mondays: 09:00- 17:00
  • Tuesdays: 09:00- 17:00
  • Wednesdays: 09:00- 17:00
  • Thursdays: 09:00- 17:00
  • Fridays: 09:00- 12:00

Company Rating

21 Facebook users were in Odekirk Chiropractic Center. It's a 2 position in Popularity Rating for companies in Health/medical/pharmacy category in Aurora, Colorado

309 FB users likes Odekirk Chiropractic Center, set it to 2 position in Likes Rating for Aurora, Colorado in Health/medical/pharmacy category

Health/medical/pharmacy category, Aurora, Colorado

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5 foods that fight high cholesterol It's easy to eat your way to an alarmingly high cholesterol level. The reverse is true too — changing what you eat can lower your cholesterol and improve the armada of fats floating through your bloodstream. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and "good fats" are all part of a heart-healthy diet. But some foods are particularly good at helping bring down cholesterol. How? Some cholesterol-lowering foods deliver a good dose of soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Others provide polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And those with plant sterols and stanols keep the body from absorbing cholesterol. Here are 5 of those foods: Oats. An easy way to start lowering cholesterol is to choose oatmeal or a cold oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. It gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram. Beans. Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take a while for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That's one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices — from navy and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond — and so many ways to prepare them, beans are a very versatile food. Nuts. A bushel of studies shows that eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, on the order of 5%. Nuts have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways. Foods fortified with sterols and stanols. Sterols and stanols extracted from plants gum up the body's ability to absorb cholesterol from food. Companies are adding them to foods ranging from margarine and granola bars to orange juice and chocolate. They're also available as supplements. Getting 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols a day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%. Fatty fish. Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL in two ways: by replacing meat, which has LDL-boosting saturated fats, and by delivering LDL-lowering omega-3 fats. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms. But stay away from… As you consider eating more of the foods that can help dial down cholesterol, keep in mind that avoiding certain foods can also improve your results. To keep cholesterol levels where you want them to be, limit intake of: Saturated fats. The saturated fats found in red meat, milk and other dairy foods, and coconut and palm oils directly boost LDL. So one way to lower your LDL is to cut back on saturated fat. Try substituting extra-lean ground beef for regular; low-fat or skim milk for whole milk; olive oil or a vegetable-oil margarine for butter; baked fish or chicken for fried. Trans fats. Trans fats are a byproduct of the chemical reaction that turns liquid vegetable oil into solid margarine or shortening and that prevents liquid vegetable oils from turning rancid. Trans fats boost LDL as much as saturated fats do. They also lower protective HDL, rev up inflammation, and increase the tendency for blood clots to form inside blood vessels. Although trans fats were once ubiquitous in prepared foods, many companies now use trans-fat-free alternatives. Some restaurants and fast-food chains have yet to make the switch.

Published on 2014-12-08 15:26:41 GMT

Let’s do lunch — the healthy way From fast food restaurants and delis exploding with high-calorie sandwiches to salad bars stocked with high-fat and high-sugar add-ons, lunchtime can be a minefield of temptation for those trying to eat a healthy and balanced diet. But a healthful and enjoyable lunch can be done. These simple tips can help. Your meal should include lean protein, whole-grain carbohydrates, and produce. Roughly half of your plate should be vegetables or fruit; one-quarter should be lean protein such as fish, chicken, turkey, tofu, beans, or low-fat cottage cheese; and one-quarter should be whole grains, such as one slice of whole-grain bread, or half a cup of brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, or quinoa. You might include a small amount of healthy fat, such as a tablespoon of oil-and-vinegar dressing on your salad. Salad can be a good way to go, but you need to be careful. Regular salad dressings, cheeses, and mayonnaise-based salads (such as tuna, chicken, and egg salads) can contain unhealthy fats, hidden sugar, and salt. Not to mention lots of calories. Here’s the trick to a healthy and satisfying lunch salad. Step 1: Build a vegetable base. Load your plate with leafy greens and raw or grilled vegetables. Step 2: Add some protein — a few scoops of garbanzo or kidney beans. Beans are an excellent source of fiber — and they’re filling! Other good selections include grilled chicken, low-fat cottage cheese, or chopped eggs. Go light on the cheese. A sprinkle of a strongly flavored cheese like feta or Parmesan can deliver flavor with fewer calories. Step 3: Add a small amount of healthy fat. Sprinkle on the nuts and seeds. They are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fat and healthy protein, give you a feeling of fullness, and help food stay in your stomach longer. You might also opt for a dash of oil and vinegar. Step 4: Whole grains and fruit make a nice addition to a creative salad. Look for whole grains like barley or bulgur wheat to sprinkle on top. Or add a few slices of fruit.

Published on 2014-12-08 05:13:14 GMT

6 ways to ease neck pain Everyday life isn’t kind to the neck. You may be all too familiar with that crick you get when you cradle the phone between your shoulder and ear, or the strain you feel after working at your computer. Neck pain rarely starts overnight. It usually evolves over time. And it may be spurred by arthritis or degenerative disk disease and accentuated by poor posture, declining muscle strength, stress, and even a lack of sleep, says Dr. Zacharia Isaac, medical director of the Comprehensive Spine Care Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and director of interventional physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. The following six tips can help you take care of your neck. Don’t stay in one position for too long. It’s hard to reverse bad posture, Dr. Isaac says, but if you get up and move around often enough, you’ll avoid getting your neck stuck in an unhealthy position. Make some ergonomic adjustments. Position your computer monitor at eye level so you can see it easily. Use the hands-free function on your phone or wear a headset. Prop your touch-screen tablet on a pillow so that it sits at a 45° angle, instead of lying flat on your lap. If you wear glasses, keep your prescription up to date. “When your eyewear prescription is not up to date, you tend to lean your head back to see better,” Dr. Isaac says. Don’t use too many pillows. Sleeping with several pillows under your head can stifle your neck’s range of motion. Know your limits. Before you move a big armoire across the room, consider what it might do to your neck and back, and ask for help. Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep problems increase the risk for several different conditions, including musculoskeletal pain. Generally, neck pain is nothing to worry about. But if it’s occurring with other, more serious symptoms, such as radiating pain, weakness, or numbness of an arm or leg, make sure to see your doctor. “Other key things that might make one more concerned are having a fever or weight loss associated with your neck pain, or severe pain. You should let your doctor know about these symptoms,” Dr. Isaac says.

Published on 2014-11-25 05:57:46 GMT

Exercise is an effective stress-buster If exercise were available as a pill, experts say, everyone would be taking it. One reason is that exercise is very good at defusing stress. If you exercise — especially right when the stress response is triggered — you burn off stress hormones just as nature intended, instead of letting them pile up. What’s more, just about any form of motion on a regular basis helps relieve pent-up tension. Rhythmic, repetitive movements, such as walking, running, swimming, bicycling, and rowing — and specific types of exercise such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong — actually elicit the relaxation response, too. Regularly engaging in these kinds of activities can help you ward off everyday stress. To boost the stress-relief rewards, you’ll need to shift your attention to become aware of yourself — what and how you’re feeling — and your surroundings during exercise. This should leave you feeling calmer and more centered. During physical activity, try to become aware of how your breathing complements the activity. Breathe rhythmically, repeating the focus word, phrase, or prayer you’ve chosen. Coordinate your breathing with your movements, focusing your attention mindfully on the sensations in your body. When disruptive thoughts intrude, gently turn your mind away from them and focus on moving and breathing. You don’t need to sign up for a yoga class or lace up your running shoes. A simple mindful walk can do wonders. As you walk, expand your awareness to the sights and smells around you. Notice the freshly mown grass, flowers, fallen leaves, sun-dappled trees, or gray clouds. How does the outside air feel against your body? How does the surface beneath your feet feel and sound? What thoughts are moving through your head?

Published on 2014-11-21 05:02:45 GMT

Get relief from eczema Eczema is an itchy rash that’s often hard to get rid of. Most people can’t help scratching it, which further irritates the skin. Eczema is often, but not always, related to allergies. Skin affected by eczema loses water easily, so treatment involves rehydrating the skin by taking warm (not hot) baths or showers and then promptly applying moisturizers. Thick creams that lock in the moisture can help a lot. Be sure to choose creams or lotions without fragrances or preservatives. You should also limit the use of soaps and shampoos to once or twice a week. These products remove the skin’s natural oils and worsen dryness. Over-the-counter antihistamines can help with the ferocious itch, too. When moisturizers and antihistamines don’t provide adequate relief, doctors often will recommend a prescription or over-the-counter corticosteroid cream to help quell skin inflammation. If you need steroid cream, don’t apply it at the same time you use your moisturizer. The barrier the moisturizer creates to keep skin hydrated can also keep it from absorbing the medicine in the steroid cream. Medications that suppress the immune system can help severe cases of eczema. While it can be hard to get eczema under control, the good news is that studies suggest that once it is under control, you can help prevent flare-ups with regular use of a topical steroid. Your doctor can help you develop a plan to keep your eczema in check.

Published on 2014-11-17 01:49:36 GMT

Don’t fall for these skin myths Think you know a lot about skin and skin care? You might be surprised at how much “common knowledge” about how to keep your skin clear and healthy is simply not true. Here, we debunk 10 common myths about skin. 1. The right skin cream can keep your skin looking young. There are hundreds of skin treatments that claim to help you look younger or slow the aging process. For reducing wrinkles, the topical treatment with the best evidence behind it is retinoic acid (as in Retin-A). Many over-the-counter products contain retinoic acid as well, but it’s difficult to say if one is better than another. But the best ways to keep wrinkles at bay are using sunscreen and not smoking. 2. Antibacterial soap is best for keeping your skin clean. Skin normally has bacteria on it. It’s impossible to keep your skin completely free of bacteria for any amount of time. In fact, many experts are concerned that the use of antibacterial soap could lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibacterial soap is not necessary for everyday use. Regular soap is fine. Thorough and consistent hand-washing, not antibacterial soap, is what helps prevent the spread of infection. 3. Eating chocolate or oily foods causes oily skin and acne. The truth is that an oily substance called sebum causes acne. It’s made and secreted by the skin. In fact, there’s no evidence that any specific food causes acne. 4. Tanning is bad for you. Spending an excessive amount of time in the sun or in a tanning booth can increase skin cancer risk, especially if sunscreen is not used. Skin cancer risk is correlated with total lifetime sun exposure and frequency of sunburns. Excessive tanning can also damage skin, causing it to wrinkle and age prematurely. But developing a light or gradual tan through repeated, but careful, sun exposure isn’t dangerous. As long as you’re taking precautions — such as using a sunscreen of at least SPF 30, applying it thoroughly and reapplying when necessary, and avoiding peak sun exposure times — a light tan with no burning isn’t a warning sign. 5. Tanning is good for you. People often associate a dark tan with the glow of good health. But there’s no evidence that tanned people are healthier than paler people. Sun exposure does have a health benefit, though. Sunlight activates vitamin D in the skin. Vitamin D helps keep bones strong, and may also lower the risk of certain cancers and boost immune function. Depending on how much vitamin D you’re getting in your diet, a lack of sun exposure could increase your risk of vitamin D deficiency. 6. The higher the SPF of your sunscreen, the better. Above a certain level, a higher sun protection factor (SPF) has little added benefit compared with a lower SPF. Experts generally recommend using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks out 97% of UVB radiation. It may be worth a higher SPF if you’re planning to be outside for more than two to three hours, especially during hours of peak sun exposure (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). But in most circumstances, a higher SPF may not be worth the extra cost. 7. A scar that is barely noticeable is the mark of a good surgeon. The true skill of a surgeon is demonstrated by what he or she does between making and closing the incision. While surgeons routinely pay more attention to incisions on the face (using thinner suture, making stitches closer together, or avoiding the use of sutures altogether if possible), the appearance of a scar tells you little about the skill of your surgeon. 8. Vitamin E will make scars fade. There’s little evidence to support this claim. Talk to your surgeon or dermatologist if you have concerns about the appearance of a scar. There are many options for improving the appearance of scars, including laser treatments. 9. Crossing your legs causes varicose veins. There are a number of risk factors for varicose veins, but crossing your legs is not one of them. Heredity is one of the most important — an estimated 80% of people with varicose veins have a parent with the same condition. Other things that make a person prone to varicose veins include smoking, inactivity, high blood pressure, pregnancy, obesity, and having a job that requires prolonged standing. If you already have varicose veins, elevating your legs and using compression stockings may be helpful. But keeping your legs “uncrossed” won’t prevent or improve the condition. 10. Scalp massage can prevent baldness. There’s simply no evidence that scalp massage prevents baldness, tempting as it is to believe. If you see something unusual on your skin or have concerns about how to keep your skin healthy, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. And if you hear someone repeating these skin myths, you can set them straight.

Published on 2014-11-15 21:37:53 GMT

3 diet changes to help lower cholesterol levels If you have high cholesterol (a total cholesterol level of 240 milligrams per deciliter of blood or above), taking steps to lower it can greatly reduce your chances of having a heart attack. For every 10% drop in your cholesterol level, your heart attack risk falls by 20% to 30%. There are several steps you can take to lower your cholesterol level, like losing weight if needed, being more active, and choosing healthy foods. Here are three simple steps toward a healthier, cholesterol-lowering diet: Choose healthy fats. Avoid saturated fats, which increase unhealthy LDL levels, and steer clear of trans fats, which both raise LDL and lower protective HDL. Instead, substitute healthier unsaturated fats, found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. Go with whole grains. Whole-grain breads, pastas, and cereals help prevent a blood sugar roller coaster and make you feel full longer. Many of these foods contain fiber, which can help lower LDL levels. Make other healthy choices. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Ideally, substitute these for processed foods and sweets. Choose fat-free milk instead of whole milk. Opt for low-fat yogurt and pick brands that are not loaded with sugar. If lifestyle changes don’t get your cholesterol to a healthy level, ask your doctor if a cholesterol-lowering drug makes sense for you.

Published on 2014-11-11 04:34:32 GMT

Leverage your strengths for a more positive life Strengths are built-in capacities for certain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Everyone has these capacities to one degree or another. Your particular pattern of strengths is part of what makes you unique. When you play from your strengths, you are likely to feel more energetic and perform better than when you are trying to use a capacity that comes less naturally. For example, one person trying to influence a local school board to ban soft drink sales might have the strength to speak up forcefully and clearly at a general meeting (despite the almost-universal fear of public speaking). Another person strong in team-building might feel uncomfortable speaking out in a meeting but could successfully build consensus among parents, nutritionists, and others to weigh the issue and come to a decision. Leveraging your strengths can help you accomplish many goals. Making your strengths work for you, especially when the task at hand is well-aligned with your personal values, can leave you feeling more competent and connected.

Published on 2014-11-04 05:25:58 GMT

How to sleep well despite chronic pain Chronic pain and insomnia are an unhealthy combination. According to the National Sleep Foundation, chronic pain disturbs the slumber of one in five Americans at least a few nights a week. Whether it’s from a bad back, arthritis, or headaches, chronic pain puts you in double jeopardy: the pain robs you of restful sleep and makes you more fatigued, and thus more sensitive to pain. But you can start to break this vicious circle. “For chronic pain conditions, what you need is good sleeping habits from the beginning — things that will last,” says Dr. Padma Gulur, a pain medicine specialist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. That means relying on the brain’s natural sleep drive as much as possible. Try “relaxing distraction” Dr. Gulur recommends “relaxing distraction” to her patients. Some relaxation techniques use basic rhythmic breathing meditation; others focus on guided imagery, in which you imagine being in a calm, peaceful location. Find something that appeals to you and helps you fall asleep. You might look for these exercises on CD or consider group or individual training and sleep education. Getting back to sleep For some people, chronic pain not only makes it harder to fall asleep, but can also interrupt sleep. Simply shifting position in bed can trigger pain from a back condition or arthritic knee. One approach is to take your pain medication right before bed. Check with your doctor to be sure that fits into your treatment plan. If pain does wake you in the middle of the night, first try meditation, visualization, or whatever relaxing distraction you favor. But if it doesn’t work, getting up to read a book in a quiet room with low light can help you to get back to sleep. Avoid loud sounds and bright light (that means TVs, smartphones, tablets, and computers). Staying on a regular sleep schedule is also important. Go to bed at the same time every night and, no matter how the night goes, rise the next day at the same time and remain awake until your planned sleep time. This helps to set your internal sleep clock and enhances the natural sleep drive.

Published on 2014-11-02 05:49:05 GMT

5 ways to keep arthritis from slowing you down Arthritis is a painful problem that can interfere with your ability to do the things you enjoy. But you can take steps to protect your joints, reduce discomfort, and improve mobility. Physical or occupational therapists can be very helpful in teaching you how to modify activities and accomplish daily tasks more easily. But there are simple things you can do for yourself, starting today. Here are five of them: Keep moving. Avoid holding one position for too long. When working at a desk, for example, get up and stretch every 15 minutes. Do the same while sitting at home reading or watching television. Discover your strength. Put your strongest joints and muscles to work. To protect finger and wrist joints, push open heavy doors with the side of your arm or shoulder. To reduce hip or knee stress on stairs, let the strong leg lead going up and the weaker leg lead going down. Plan ahead. Simplify and organize your routines so you minimize movements that are difficult or painful. Keep items you need for cooking, cleaning, or hobbies near where they are needed (even if that means multiple sets of cleaning supplies, one for your kitchen and each bathroom, for example). Take advantage of labor-saving devices and adaptive aids. Simple gadgets and devices can make it easier to perform daily activities such as cooking, gardening, or even getting dressed. Long-handled grippers, for example, are designed to grasp and retrieve out-of-reach objects. Rubber grips can help you get a better handle on faucets, pens, toothbrushes, and silverware. Pharmacies, medical supply stores, and online vendors stock a variety of aids for people with arthritis. Ask for help. People with arthritis often worry about the possibility of growing dependent on others. But only a very small percentage of people with arthritis become severely disabled. Still, the emotional burdens of arthritis can be considerable. Educate family members and friends about how arthritis affects you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Published on 2014-10-26 04:19:35 GMT

Will continuing to run make my knees wear out faster? Q: I’m 68 and I’ve jogged regularly for decades, but I’ve developed a touch of arthritis in my knees. Will continuing to run make my knees wear out faster? A: Having mild arthritis in the knees should not stop you from running, and running probably did not create the problem in the first place. The knees absorb a lot of force when running, so many people think that running itself can accelerate the natural wear and tear on the joints. But in fact, the medical research tends to show that running has a protective effect against arthritis. Studies of large numbers of men show that recreational runners have a lower risk of hip and knee arthritis. This effect is partly explained by the lower body weight of these men. Other studies that measure knee cartilage suggest that running may stimulate cartilage to grow, not wear it out. But what should you do once arthritis appears? Keeping physically active and maintaining quadriceps (thigh) muscle strength are important, and running can help you with both. Softer running surfaces, like a track at a local school or a flat and smooth dirt trail, might be a little easier on your body. If you are developing pain with running, it is helpful to vary your exercise routine and include some lower-impact exercise. Swimming and cycling are two excellent choices. The most important thing is to maintain a healthy weight and get regular aerobic exercise.

Published on 2014-10-25 04:16:18 GMT

Conquering your salt habit Salt — sodium chloride — is essential for survival. Your body depends on sodium to transmit nerve impulses, contract muscle fibers, and, along with potassium, balance fluid levels in all your cells. The body is so efficient at conserving this vital mineral that you need to consume only a tiny amount of sodium each day. Too much sodium sets off a cascade of physiological changes that can raise blood pressure. Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure can stress the heart and blood vessels. Simple ways to control sodium The Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health teamed up with the Culinary Institute of America to create two dozen science-based strategies for cutting back on salt — without compromising the flavor of the foods you enjoy. Here are five of those tips. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Our bodies need more potassium than sodium. But most Americans’ diets are just the opposite, which can contribute to high blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium, and many fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium. Filling your plate with them will boost your potassium and shift the sodium-potassium balance in your favor. Embrace healthy fats and oils. Unfortunately, the big low-fat and no-fat product push in the 1990s wasn’t rooted in sound science. Many well-meaning product developers cut both the good and bad fats out of formulations, and in order to maintain consumer acceptance of their products, they were forced to increase levels of sugar and sodium. So skip most fat-free salad dressings and other similar products, and you’ll be doing your blood pressure a favor. Stealth health. The average person can’t detect moderate changes in sodium levels, including reductions of up to as much as 25%. Many food manufacturers and restaurant companies have already made or are in the process of making substantial cuts in sodium — some all at once and some over time — that their customers will not be able to detect. Retrain your taste buds. We can shift our sense of taste to enjoy foods with lower levels of sodium. One key to success: make the changes gradually and consistently over a period of time, rather than trying to cut back by a large amount all at once. Try this trick: combine a reduced-sodium version of a favorite product (like vegetable soup, for example) with a regular version in proportions that gradually favor the reduced-sodium version. Watch out for hidden sodium. “Fresh” and “natural” meats and poultry may be injected with salt solutions as part of their processing, and manufacturers are not required to list the sodium content on the label. Some foods that are high in sodium may not taste especially salty, such as breakfast cereals, bakery muffins, energy drinks, and sports drinks.

Published on 2014-10-14 03:25:50 GMT

Stretch to ease screen-time-related neck and shoulder pain A study from the Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Microsoft showed that holding a tablet too low in your lap can place the small, interlocking bones at the top of the spine (the cervical vertebrae) and the neck muscles into an unnatural posture. This can strain muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and spinal discs. How can you limit the damage? The first step is simply to become aware of your posture. If you spend a lot of time on a handheld phone or using a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet, pause occasionally to notice how your body is situated. Is your back curved? Shoulders hunched? Head bent downward? Chin jutting forward or head slumped toward one shoulder? Legs crossed, hiking one hip higher than the other? Good ergonomics, regular posture checks, and flexibility exercises designed with the deskbound in mind can help correct these problems. Ergonomics for computers, phones, and tablets If you use a laptop or desktop computer: Choose a chair with good lumbar support, or place a pillow against the small of your back. Position the top of your monitor just below eye level. That helps whether you use a desktop or a laptop, notes Dr. Jack Dennerlein, principal investigator of the tablet study and an adjunct professor of ergonomics and safety at the Harvard School of Public Health. Sit up straight with your head level, not bent forward. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows close to your body. Keep hands, wrists, forearms, and thighs parallel to the floor. If you use a handheld phone: As with any phone, avoid propping it between your head and shoulder. Consider investing in a comfortable, hands-free headset. Depending on your needs, you can choose one equipped for Bluetooth or designed for use with cordless phones, landlines, or computers. If you use an e-reader or tablet: Buy a case that allows you to prop the device at a comfortable viewing angle, and rest it somewhere that doesn’t require you to bend your neck much. Keep in mind that it’s best to position the device with the top edge just below eye level. Some surfaces, such as a kitchen table, may be too low even with the case. Take a break every 15 minutes. “Just change your hands, shift your weight. Stand up or sit down,” suggests Dr. Dennerlein. Good posture away from the screen also pays many dividends. When you’re standing, it trims your silhouette and projects confidence. It lessens wear and tear on the spine and helps you breathe deeply, so your body gets the oxygen it needs. Properly aligning your body during stretches, or other exercises, can net you greater gains and fewer injuries.

Published on 2014-10-09 03:16:06 GMT

The ideal stretching routine Stretching promotes flexibility and helps your joints maintain a healthy range of motion — and in doing so, also lowers the chances of joint and muscle strain. But how often should you stretch? How long should you hold a stretch? And how many times should you do each stretch? A panel of experts convened by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) reviewed a wide range of studies to help answer these questions. Stretching has been studied much less rigorously than other forms of exercise, so the science is not as strong. But, based on the evidence, the panel agreed that: Healthy adults should do flexibility exercises (stretches, yoga, or tai chi) for all major muscle-tendon groups — neck, shoulders, chest, trunk, lower back, hips, legs, and ankles — at least two to three times a week. For optimal results, you should spend a total of 60 seconds on each stretching exercise. So, if you can hold a particular stretch for 15 seconds, repeating it three more times would be ideal. If you can hold the stretch for 20 seconds, two more repetitions would do the trick.

Published on 2014-10-03 02:02:21 GMT

Want a stronger core? Skip the sit-ups Sit-ups once ruled as the way to tighter abs and a slimmer waistline, while “planks” were merely flooring. Now planks — exercises in which you assume a position and hold it — are the gold standard for working your core, while classic sit-ups and crunches have fallen out of favor. Why the shift? One reason is that sit-ups are hard on your back — by pushing your curved spine against the floor and by working your hip flexors, the muscles that run from the thighs to the lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. When hip flexors are too strong or too tight, they tug on the lower spine, which can be a source of lower back discomfort. Second, planks recruit a better balance of muscles on the front, sides, and back of the body during exercise than sit-ups, which target just a few muscles. Remember, your core goes far beyond your abdominal muscles. Finally, activities of daily living, as well as sports and recreational activities, call on your muscles to work together, not in isolation. Sit-ups or crunches strengthen just a few muscle groups. Through dynamic patterns of movement, a good core workout helps strengthen the entire set of core muscles — the muscles you rely on for daily activities as well as sports and recreational activities.

Published on 2014-09-26 03:47:46 GMT

Exercise 101: Don't skip the warm-up or cool-down You might be eager to leap into your exercise routine and get on with the day — but don't just dive in. Starting a workout with "cold" muscles can lead to injury. It's important to start each workout with a warm-up and end with a cool-down — and that goes for true beginners, seasoned pros, and everyone in between. Warm-up Warming up pumps nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood to your muscles as it speeds up your heart rate and breathing. A good warm-up should last five to 10 minutes and work all major muscle groups. For best results, start slowly, then pick up the pace. Many warm-up routines focus on cardio and range-of-motion exercises, such as jumping jacks and lunges. If you prefer, you can do a simpler warm-up by walking in place while gently swinging your arms, or even dancing to a few songs. Cool-down After your workout, it's best to spend five to 10 minutes cooling down through a sequence of slow movements. This helps prevent muscle cramps and dizziness while gradually slowing your breathing and heart rate. An effective cool-down also incorporates stretching exercises to relax and lengthen muscles throughout your body and improve your range of motion. To get the most out of these exercises, hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. The longer you can hold a stretch, the better for improving your flexibility. As with the warm-up, it's best to flow from one stretch to the next without rests in between.

Published on 2015-06-14 02:40:17 GMT

SMART ways to set core exercise goals Strengthening your core offers big payoffs, including sports successes, a stronger lower back, independent living, and all-around fitness. Sounds great, right? Even so, finding the time and will to do these exercises may not be easy. But experts say you're more likely to be successful if you set goals that are SMART - that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. So when you set a goal for your core workouts, make sure it passes the SMART test: S: Set a very specific goal. I will do a set of four different exercises on Mondays and Wednesdays. Or, This week, I will do a set of front planks on desk plus chair stands on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. M: Find a way to measure progress. I will log my efforts daily on my calendar, checking off days when I meet my goal. A: Make sure it's achievable. Be sure you're physically capable of safely accomplishing your goal. If not, aim for a smaller goal initially: I plan to master four easier exercises, then move on to their more challenging counterparts. R: Make sure it's realistic. Choose the change you're most confident you'll be able to make. Focus on sure bets: on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 equals no confidence and 10 equals 100% certainty, your goal should land in the 7-10 zone. If not, cut it down to a manageable size. For example, I'll do one front plank on desk three times this week. Or, Every week, I'll add five seconds to the length of time I hold front plank on desk. T: Set time commitments. First, pick a date and time to start. Starting today, I'll take 10 minutes from my lunch hour to do the Office Workout every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Or, Starting today, I'll do two stretches after my morning shower, when my muscles are warm, every day for a week. Second, choose one weekly check-in time to keep track of whether you're meeting goals or hitting snags. I'll check my calendar every Friday evening and decide if I should make any changes in my routines. Outside deadlines can be really helpful here, too: Signing up for tennis lessons or planning a beach vacation can prod you to get your core program under way.

Published on 2015-05-08 04:17:27 GMT

6 ways to ease neck pain Everyday life isn’t kind to the neck. You may be all too familiar with that crick you get when you cradle the phone between your shoulder and ear, or the strain you feel after working at your computer. Neck pain rarely starts overnight. It usually evolves over time. And it may be spurred by arthritis or degenerative disk disease and accentuated by poor posture, declining muscle strength, stress, and even a lack of sleep, says Dr. Zacharia Isaac, medical director of the Comprehensive Spine Care Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and director of interventional physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. The following six tips can help you take care of your neck. Don’t stay in one position for too long. It’s hard to reverse bad posture, Dr. Isaac says, but if you get up and move around often enough, you’ll avoid getting your neck stuck in an unhealthy position. Make some ergonomic adjustments. Position your computer monitor at eye level so you can see it easily. Use the hands-free function on your phone or wear a headset. Prop your touch-screen tablet on a pillow so that it sits at a 45° angle, instead of lying flat on your lap. If you wear glasses, keep your prescription up to date. “When your eyewear prescription is not up to date, you tend to lean your head back to see better,” Dr. Isaac says. Don’t use too many pillows. Sleeping with several pillows under your head can stifle your neck’s range of motion. Know your limits. Before you move a big armoire across the room, consider what it might do to your neck and back, and ask for help. Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep problems increase the risk for several different conditions, including musculoskeletal pain. Generally, neck pain is nothing to worry about. But if it’s occurring with other, more serious symptoms, such as radiating pain, weakness, or numbness of an arm or leg, make sure to see your doctor. “Other key things that might make one more concerned are having a fever or weight loss associated with your neck pain, or severe pain. You should let your doctor know about these symptoms,” Dr. Isaac says.

Published on 2015-04-25 14:31:38 GMT

Good balance requires mental and physical fitness Balance can't be taken for granted past a certain age; it must be maintained — both in mind and body. General physical fitness and targeted exercises to improve balance can prevent falls. But so can staying mentally active to maintain brain health. A sharp mind helps you to think — and stay — on your feet. "We need careful planning of our movements, decision making, reaction time, and attention," says Brad Manor, PhD, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Mobility and Falls Program at the Harvard-affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston. "Staying mentally active is very important to avoiding falls." We depend on several body systems to keep us upright. The inner ear, which senses head motions, has an important role. So does the body's somatosensory system, which relays the feeling of the ground beneath your feet. And, of course, vision tips you off to obstacles around you. The brain takes in all this information, plans out movement, and carries it out. "Balance is a complex system," Manor says. "Especially as we get older, cognition becomes a big part of it." Manor and his fellow researchers are conducting studies to evaluate the balance benefits of tai chi, a form of exercise that involves moving gently through a series of poses. Tai chi improves balance because it works with both the mind and body. Classes in tai chi and a related exercise system, qigong, are widely available. The American Tai Chi and Qigong Association provides a search engine for finding tai chi and qigong classes in your area. You can find it at www.health.harvard.edu/tai-chi. You could also perform daily "standing balance" exercises. These include repeated moves that involve standing on one leg while gently lifting the other. A personal trainer can also help you learn a balance-improving routine. Maintaining mental fitness, remaining physically active, and practicing tai chi, qigong, yoga, or some other mind-body exercise can help you keep your balance and avoid stumbling. But if you do lose your balance, recovering requires muscle power. Power is the ability to exert force quickly — the kind of conditioning an experienced ballroom dancer uses to "push off" during quick steps and returns. Rapid, forceful exercises like hopping and side stepping help to build power. For beginners, classes or trainers are valuable to learn how to exercise for power safely.

Published on 2015-04-22 01:28:05 GMT

Benefits of flexibility exercises Activities that lengthen and stretch muscles can help you prevent injuries, back pain, and balance problems. A well-stretched muscle more easily achieves its full range of motion. This improves athletic performance — imagine an easier, less restricted golf swing or tennis serve — and functional abilities, such as reaching, bending, or stooping during daily tasks. Stretching can also be a great way to get you moving in the morning or a way to relax after a long day. Activities such as yoga combine stretching and relaxation and also improve balance, a wonderful combination. However, note that experts no longer recommend stretching before exercise. Newer recommendations suggest that you start your workout routine with a warm-up such as an easy walk or a sport-specific routine, such as serving some tennis balls and practicing ground strokes before a match. This gets blood and oxygen flowing to your muscles. After five to 10 minutes of warm-up, your muscles are warm and supple. This is a good time to stretch. You can even do your flexibility exercises as a post-workout cool-down.

Published on 2015-04-20 13:17:56 GMT

Regular exercise reduces falls and fractures Your bone strength and size peaks by age 30. After that, bones tend to become less dense, making them more fragile and subject to breaks. Bone strength in later life depends upon your peak bone mass in youth. An active lifestyle in youth can increase maximum bone density. Even if you're older, exercise is still a great way to protect your bones. The physical stress placed on bones during exercise stimulates the growth of new bone tissue. The type of exercise you do matters. To bolster your bones, you need to get regular weight-bearing exercise. This includes weight lifting and resistance training, as well as any type of activity that forces you to work against gravity by standing or carrying your body's weight, including running, walking, dancing, and stair climbing. Activities such as swimming or biking aren't weight-bearing and thus don't build bone. Generally, higher-impact activities (such as running) or resistance exercises (such as strength training) have a more pronounced effect on bone than lower-impact exercises, such as walking. Only the bones that bear the load of the exercise will benefit. For example, running protects bones in the hips and legs, but not the arms. A well-rounded strength training plan can benefit practically all of your bones. Because exercise improves your overall strength, coordination, and balance, it also makes you less likely to fall, which means less opportunity to break a bone.

Published on 2015-04-18 03:49:07 GMT

Is it just midlife, or is your thyroid slowing down? Maybe you're feeling tired and having trouble concentrating — or perhaps you've noticed changes in your hair or weight, or just feel blah. You might easily attribute these issues to other health problems, or to simply getting older. But these symptoms can be signs of a sluggish thyroid. The thyroid is butterfly-shaped gland in the neck. It produces the hormones that regulate metabolism. Low levels of thyroid hormone can cause a range of symptoms including fatigue, constipation, dry skin, brittle nails, hair changes, aches and pains, and feeling down. Untreated, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can increase the chances of developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Women are more likely than men to have problems with their thyroid, particularly as they get older. In some women, the onset of thyroid trouble is so gradual that it's hardly noticeable; in others, symptoms come on abruptly over the course of a few weeks or months. These include: Fatigue. You may feel unusually tired and have less energy. Cold intolerance. You may feel chilly even when others around you are comfortable. Appetite loss, weight gain. When metabolism is dragging, you need fewer calories so your appetite may decrease — at the same time, you are using fewer of the calories you do eat, so more are stored as fat. Cardiovascular effects. Low levels of thyroid hormone can lead to high blood pressure as well as elevated levels of total and LDL cholesterol. Over time, an underactive thyroid can compromise the ability of the heart to pump blood effectively. Mental effects. Hypothyroidism and depression share many of the same symptoms, including trouble concentrating, memory problems, and loss of interest in things that are normally important to you. Other signs and symptoms. Hypothyroidism can cause symptoms throughout the body, from constipation to muscle aches and pain around the joints. Skin, hair, and nails may become dry and thin. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor. She or he will examine you for signs of hypothyroidism, and may recommend blood tests to check thyroid function. Hypothyroidism is usually treated with a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone, taken as a pill. This medication works exactly like your body's natural thyroid hormone. It may take some time to find the right dose for you. Once you do, symptoms usually improve dramatically. Your doctor will check your thyroid function usually once or twice a year to be sure that your dose of medication remains optimal.

Published on 2015-04-16 02:01:53 GMT

Stroke: Know when to act, and act quickly Identifying and treating a stroke as quickly as possible can save brain cells, function, and lives. Everyone should know the warning signs of a stroke and when to get help fast. The warning signs of a stroke can begin anywhere from a few minutes to days before a stroke actually occurs. The National Stroke Association has devised the FAST checklist to help determine whether a person is having a stroke. Act FAST If the answer to any of the questions below is yes, there's a high probability that the person is having a stroke. Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop? Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred? Does he or she fail to repeat the sentence correctly? Time: If the answer to any of these questions is yes, time is important! Call 911 or get to the hospital fast. Brain cells are dying. When stroke symptoms occur, quick action is vital. If you think you or someone with you is having a stroke, call 911. Ideally, the person affected should be taken to a hospital emergency room that has expertise and experience in treating stroke as it occurs (called acute stroke). If you or someone you love is at high risk for having a stroke, you should know the name and location of the nearest hospital that specializes in treating acute stroke. Ask your doctor for help in finding out which facilities fit that bill. The goal of stroke treatment is to restore blood circulation before brain tissue dies. To prevent brain cell death that is significant enough to cause disability, treatment is most effective if it starts within 60 minutes of the onset of symptoms. An important goal of ongoing stroke research is to find treatments that can buy time by protecting the person's brain until blood circulation is restored, which can increase the chances of survival and decrease the chances of disability.

Published on 2015-04-15 13:41:01 GMT

Controlling your weight is key to lowering stroke risk There is a lot you can do to lower your chances of having a stroke. Even if you've already had a stroke or TIA ("mini-stroke"), you can take steps to prevent another. Controlling your weight is an important way to lower stroke risk. Excess pounds strain the entire circulatory system and can lead to other health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obstructive sleep apnea. But losing as little as 5% to 10% of your starting weight can lower your blood pressure and other stroke risk factors. Of course, you'll need to keep the weight off for good, not just while you're on a diet. The tips below can help you shed pounds and keep them off: Move more. Exercise is one obvious way to burn off calories. But another approach is to increase your everyday activity wherever you can — walking, fidgeting, pacing while on the phone, taking stairs instead of the elevator. Skip the sipped calories. Sodas, lattes, sports drinks, energy drinks, and even fruit juices are packed with unnecessary calories. Worse, your body doesn't account for them the way it registers solid calories, so you can keep chugging them before your internal "fullness" mechanism tells you to stop. Instead, try unsweetened coffee or tea, or flavor your own sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime, a spring of fresh mint, or a few raspberries. Eat more whole foods. If you eat more unprocessed foods — such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — you'll fill yourself up on meals that take a long time to digest. Plus, whole foods are full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber and tend to be lower in salt — which is better for your blood pressure, too. Find healthier snacks. Snack time is many people's downfall — but you don't have to skip it as long as you snack wisely. Try carrot sticks as a sweet, crunchy alternative to crackers or potato chips, or air-popped popcorn (provided you skip the butter and salt and season it with your favorite spices instead). For a satisfying blend of carbs and protein, try a dollop of sunflower seed butter on apple slices.

Published on 2015-04-14 13:27:58 GMT

Stretch to ease screen-time-related neck and shoulder pain A study from the Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Microsoft showed that holding a tablet too low in your lap can place the small, interlocking bones at the top of the spine (the cervical vertebrae) and the neck muscles into an unnatural posture. This can strain muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and spinal discs. How can you limit the damage? The first step is simply to become aware of your posture. If you spend a lot of time on a handheld phone or using a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet, pause occasionally to notice how your body is situated. Is your back curved? Shoulders hunched? Head bent downward? Chin jutting forward or head slumped toward one shoulder? Legs crossed, hiking one hip higher than the other? Good ergonomics, regular posture checks, and flexibility exercises designed with the deskbound in mind can help correct these problems. Ergonomics for computers, phones, and tablets If you use a laptop or desktop computer: Choose a chair with good lumbar support, or place a pillow against the small of your back. Position the top of your monitor just below eye level. That helps whether you use a desktop or a laptop, notes Dr. Jack Dennerlein, principal investigator of the tablet study and an adjunct professor of ergonomics and safety at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Sit up straight with your head level, not bent forward. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows close to your body. Keep hands, wrists, forearms, and thighs parallel to the floor. If you use a handheld phone: As with any phone, avoid propping it between your head and shoulder. Consider investing in a comfortable, hands-free headset. Depending on your needs, you can choose one equipped for Bluetooth or designed for use with cordless phones, landlines, or computers. If you use an e-reader or tablet: Buy a case that allows you to prop the device at a comfortable viewing angle, and rest it somewhere that doesn't require you to bend your neck much. Keep in mind that it's best to position the device with the top edge just below eye level. Some surfaces, such as a kitchen table, may be too low even with the case. Take a break every 15 minutes. "Just change your hands, shift your weight. Stand up or sit down," suggests Dr. Dennerlein. Good posture away from the screen also pays many dividends. When you're standing, it trims your silhouette and projects confidence. It lessens wear and tear on the spine and helps you breathe deeply, so your body gets the oxygen it needs. Properly aligning your body during stretches, or other exercises, can net you greater gains and fewer injuries.

Published on 2015-04-06 03:07:02 GMT

How stretching keeps your joints moving Your range of motion — how far you can move a joint in various directions — is determined by many things, starting with the inner workings of the joints involved. Also important is the amount of tension in the muscles surrounding the joint, which can be affected by scarring or your habitual posture (passive factors), or by involuntary muscle spasms or purposeful muscle contractions (active factors). Stretching exercises can help extend your range of motion. To understand how, it helps to know what joints, tendons, and ligaments do: Joints are the junctions that link bones together. The architecture of each joint — that is, whether its structure is a hinge, pivot, or ball-in-socket — determines how the bones can move. Tendons are flexible cords of strong tissue that connect muscles to bones. Ligaments are tough, fibrous bands of tissue that bind bone to bone, or bone to cartilage, at a joint. An example is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of five ligaments that together control the movements of the knee. Among other things, the ACL keeps the knee joint from rotating too far. When you stretch, you're working muscles and tendons rather than ligaments. Ligaments are not supposed to be elastic. An overly stretchy ligament wouldn't provide the stability and support needed for a safe range of movement.

Published on 2015-04-04 03:18:30 GMT

Editorial calls for more research on link between football and brain damage Patrick J. Skerrett, Executive Editor, Harvard Health more research on link between football and brain damage Is brain damage an inevitable consequence of American football, an avoidable risk of it, or neither? An editorial published yesterday in the medical journal BMJ poses those provocative questions. Chad Asplund, director of sports medicine at Georgia Regents University, and Thomas Best, professor and chair of sports medicine at Ohio State University, offer an overview of the unresolved connection between playing football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a type of gradually worsening brain damage caused by repeated mild brain injuries or concussions. This condition was first described in a football player in 2005, after University of Pittsburgh experts performed an autopsy on Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, whose life had taken a downward turn after his retirement from professional football. Since then, researchers have linked chronic traumatic encephalopathy to the wasting away of brain tissue, the buildup of brain proteins linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, depression, anger, and other behavioral and emotional problems. So far, all cases of autopsy-proven chronic traumatic encephalopathy have been in players who sustained repeated blows to the head. That’s a fact of life for almost all professional football players. But some of those with the condition had never been diagnosed with a concussion. According to Asplund and Best, this suggests that a series of head injuries that don’t cause concussions may lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy or be an important risk factor for it. So here’s the big question: does playing football cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or are some people who play football already at higher risk for developing it? Repeated head injuries may, indeed, directly cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy. At the same time, it’s possible that the players who sustain brain injuries are genetically prone to them or to other factors that increase the likelihood of developing dementia, emotional or behavioral issues, or premature death. It’s essential to answer the cause and effect question, in part because not knowing the answer has generated fear among players. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, one of the National Football League’s top rookies in 2014, recently announced his retirement from professional football because of his worries about the long-term effects of repetitive head injuries. In addition, some parents of even younger players, fearing the potential hazard from head injuries, are keeping their kids from playing football, soccer, and other sports. The Football Players Health Study at Harvard University aims to provide some solid answers. Its organizers hope it will do for football what the Framingham Heart Study has done for heart health and the Nurses’ Health Study has done for nutrition. The 10-year study, launched in 2013, aims to explore more than just head injuries. It includes a variety of medical conditions that affect football players’ quality of life and length of life. The study is funded by the National Football League Players Association. It has begun by recruiting former NFL players. Let’s hope that this study and other research on sport-related head injury and later brain damage can provide the guidance that players and parents need.

Published on 2015-04-01 01:36:05 GMT

The right stuff: These simple items can help you strengthen your core You needn't spend a cent on fancy equipment to get a good workout. A standing core workout and floor core workout rely on body weight alone. With the help of some simple equipment, you can diversify and ramp up your workouts. To start, consider buying only what you need for the specific workout you'd like to do. If you have a gym membership, use the facility's equipment. Here is a description of all of the equipment used in the six workouts designed by Harvard experts and found in our report Core Exercises. Chair. Choose a sturdy chair that won't tip over easily. A plain wooden dining chair without arms or heavy padding works well. Mat. Use a nonslip, well-padded mat. Yoga mats are readily available. A thick carpet or towels will do in a pinch. Yoga strap. This is a non-elastic cotton or nylon strap of six feet or longer that helps you position your body properly during certain stretches, or while doing the easier variation of a stretch. Choose a strap with a D-ring or buckle fastener on one end. This allows you to put a loop around a foot or leg and then grasp the other end of the strap. Medicine balls. Similar in size to a soccer ball or basketball, medicine balls come in different weights. Some have a handle on top. A 4-pound to 6-pound medicine ball is a good start for most people. Bosu. A Bosu Balance Trainer is essentially half a stability ball mounted on a heavy rubber platform that holds the ball firmly in place.

Published on 2015-03-30 13:14:38 GMT

Core workout can cause muscle soreness Many popular workouts that aim to strengthen your arms, legs, and abs give short shrift to many of the muscles that form your body's core (the group of muscles that form the sturdy central link connecting your upper and lower body). Strong core muscles are essential to improving performance in almost any sport — and are the secret to sidestepping debilitating back pain. If you haven't been working your core muscles regularly — or if you challenge yourself with a new set of exercises — expect to feel a little soreness as you get used to your new routine. Extremely sore muscles a day or two after a core workout means you probably overdid it and might need to dial down your workout a bit. Next time, try to finish just one full set of each exercise in the workout. You might also do fewer repetitions (reps) of the exercises you find especially hard. Once you can do reps without much soreness, build strength by adding one more rep of the harder exercises in each session until you're doing the full number of reps comfortably. Then try adding a second set. If your muscles feel really sore within 24 to 48 hours of adding a burst of core work, cut back on the number of reps. For example, say you are doing planks, the modern alternative to pushups. Instead of trying to do four front planks a day, start with one. Stick with that for a few days, then add a second plank. When you're comfortable at that level — that is, not feeling a lot of muscle soreness — add a third plank. And so on. If even one plank knocks you out, cut back on how long you hold it: instead of 30 seconds, try 10 seconds for several days, then try 15 or 20 seconds, and so on. Delayed-onset muscle soreness is a normal response to working your muscles. Usually, it peaks 24 to 48 hours after a workout before gradually easing, then disappearing entirely in another day or so. But if you experience sudden, sharp, or long-lasting pain, check with your doctor.

Published on 2015-03-27 13:44:53 GMT

Lower stress, lower your blood pressure You can't see your blood pressure or feel it, so you may wonder why this simple reading is so important. The answer is that when blood pressure is high, your heart is working overtime to pump blood through your body. This extra work can result in a weaker heart muscle and potential organ damage down the road. Your arteries also suffer when your blood pressure is high. The relentless pounding of the blood against the arterial walls causes them to become hard and narrow, potentially setting you up for stroke, kidney failure, and cardiovascular disease. A healthy lifestyle — not smoking, losing excess weight, eating nutritious foods, and exercising regularly — is the cornerstone for preventing and treating hypertension. Another important lifestyle change that can help lower blood pressure is managing stress. Too good to be true? No. Your blood pressure comes down when you practice the relaxation response — even when simply breathing deeply for several minutes to calm your body. Regular practice of the relaxation response could help you reap more lasting benefits. There are many ways to elicit the relaxation response. Techniques include breath focus; body scan; guided imagery; mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, and qi gong; and even repetitive prayer. The trick is to find a method you are comfortable with and to make your stress reduction practice part of your routine. For some people, medication — in addition to lifestyle changes — is necessary to get blood pressure to a healthy level. Even so, stress management can be a helpful addition. In fact, a randomized, controlled trial of older adults showed that an eight-week program of relaxation response plus other stress management techniques lessened the amount of medication some of the participants needed to control their blood pressure.

Published on 2015-03-22 02:40:52 GMT

What type of mattress is best for people with low back pain? Back pain is one of the top reasons that people begin to lose mobility in middle age. Pain can keep people from engaging in physical activity, making it more difficult for them to maintain a healthy weight and keep up their strength, stamina, and balance as they age. So treating and managing back pain that results from injuries or health problems is crucial for staying on the path of a healthy and active life. Considering that most people spend roughly a third of their lives lying in bed, choosing the right mattress is essential for managing low back pain. It can make the difference in whether you can sleep at night and function the next day. In the past, doctors often recommended very firm mattresses. But one study, based on a waiting-room survey of 268 people with low back pain, found that those who slept on orthopedic (very hard) mattresses had the poorest sleep quality. There was no difference in sleep quality between those who used medium-firm and firm mattresses. Soft mattresses, on the other hand, can also be problematic. While a soft mattress that conforms to your body's natural curves may help the joints align favorably, you might also sink in so deeply that your joints twist and become painful during the night. If you want to find out whether a firmer mattress would feel better than the one you're currently using, try putting a plywood board under your mattress to dampen the movement from the bedsprings, or try placing your mattress on the floor. Of course, you can also go to a mattress showroom and test a variety of models. But keep in mind that what feels comfortable for a few minutes in a store might not translate into a good night's sleep. A more reliable test is to observe how you feel after sleeping on different types of mattresses while away from home — for example, at a hotel or a friend or relative's house.

Published on 2015-03-15 14:27:39 GMT

Keep moving when knee or hip pain strikes Mobility relies on the body's two largest joints, the hips and knees. We ask a lot of both these joints: they must bear our full weight and coordinate movement over a lifetime of standing, walking, running, dancing, and sports. Not surprisingly, hip and knee pain are common complaints, and nearly everyone who lives into old age can expect some trouble with these joints. But taking care of your hips and knees and managing any pain that arises will help you avoid losing mobility as you age. Try these self-help measures when knee or hip pain strikes: RICE for acute pain or injuries. RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation, is excellent first aid for any type of joint injury. Rest. Don't completely limit your activity — that can make injuries worse. Instead, avoid the type of motion that directly led to the injury, and try activities that keep pressure off the joint (see the list below for some ideas). Ice. A homemade or store-bought ice pack applied to the injured area can reduce pain and swelling. Use it for 20 minutes at a time, with 20-minute pauses in between. Make sure a layer of cloth or other material is between the ice and your skin to protect you from frostbite. Compression. A neoprene support or elastic bandage can promote recovery and reduce swelling. Make sure the wrap isn't so tight that the skin becomes cool or blue. Elevation. Raising an injured leg on a pillow or stool can also reduce swelling by preventing blood from pooling at the injured site. Heat therapy for long-term pain and stiffness. Ice is the best therapy in the first day or two after an injury to reduce swelling; after that, applying heat can also help ease pain by relieving stiffness and promoting flexibility. You can use a store-bought heating pad or heat a damp towel in the microwave at 20-second increments until it reaches the desired temperature. Make sure the heat you're applying feels warm, not hot, to avoid burning the skin. It's important to keep joints moving, even when you're dealing with pain from arthritis or an overuse injury. These joint-friendly options can help keep you active: elliptical trainer stationary bike (recumbent or upright) tai chi swimming, water aerobics, or water walking rowing machine short walks throughout the day, instead of a long walk.

Published on 2015-03-12 18:27:36 GMT

7 ways to snack smarter Have you upgraded your snacks in the interest of more healthful eating? Perhaps you’ve traded in your afternoon candy bar for an energy bar or have become a fan of baked potato chips or fat-free ice cream. Maybe you’re willing to pay a little extra when the label says “organic” or “natural.” It’s a great idea to choose snacks wisely. But many foods that seem to be a great nutrition value aren’t. Bran muffins and cereal bars can be packed with unhealthy fats and added sugar. Fat-free foods often contain lots of added salt and sugar. Here are 7 tips for smarter snacking. Go for the grain. Whole-grain snacks — such as whole-grain low-salt pretzels or tortilla chips and high-fiber, whole-grain cereals — can give you some energy with staying power. Bring back breakfast. Many breakfast foods can be repurposed as a nutritious snack later in the day. How about a slice of whole-grain toast topped with low-sugar jam? Low-sugar granola also makes a quick snack. Try a “hi-low” combination. Combine a small amount of something with healthy fat, like peanut butter, with a larger amount of something very light, like apple slices or celery sticks. Go nuts. Unsalted nuts and seeds make great snacks. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, hazelnuts, filberts, and other nuts and seeds contain many beneficial nutrients and are more likely to leave you feeling full (unlike chips or pretzels). Nuts have lots of calories, though, so keep portion sizes small. The combo snack. Try to eat more than one macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) at each snacking session. For example, have a few nuts (protein and fat) and some grapes (carbohydrates). Try some whole-grain crackers (carbohydrates) with some low-fat cheese (protein and fat). These balanced snacks tend to keep you feeling satisfied. Snack mindfully. Don’t eat your snack while doing something else like surfing the Web, watching TV, or working at your desk. Instead, stop what you’re doing for a few minutes and eat your snack like you would a small meal. You can take it with you. Think ahead and carry a small bag of healthful snacks in your pocket or purse so you won’t turn in desperation to the cookies at the coffee counter or the candy bars in the office vending machine.

Published on 2015-03-09 13:22:19 GMT

Sauna use linked to longer life, fewer fatal heart problems After shoveling for days, breaking up ice dams, and now shivering in this week’s frigid temperatures, I wouldn’t mind sitting in a sauna for a bit. A new report in JAMA Internal Medicine makes this pastime even more appealing: regularly spending time in a sauna may help keep the heart healthy and extend life. Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland tracked 2,300 middle-aged men for an average of 20 years. They categorized the men into three groups according to how often they used a sauna each week. The men spent an average of 14 minutes per visit baking in 175° F heat. Over the course of the study, 49% of men who went to a sauna once a week died, compared with 38% of those who went two to three times a week and just 31% of those who went four to seven times a week. Frequent visits to a sauna were also associated with lower death rates from cardiovascular disease and stroke. The results don’t surprise Dr. Thomas H. Lee, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and founding editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. “The cardiovascular effects of sauna have been well documented in the past. It lowers blood pressure, and there is every reason to believe that its effects are good for blood vessels,” says Dr. Lee. Earlier studies have shown that regular sauna bathing may benefit people with risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It’s generally safe and likely beneficial for people with mild heart failure, but may not be so hot for those with unstable angina or a recent heart attack. The researchers were quick to state that because of the unique properties of Finnish saunas, their results aren’t applicable to steam baths and hot tubs. Finnish saunas are wood-lined rooms, usually heated by a stove topped with stones. The air inside the sauna is very hot and dry, although sauna bathers periodically add water to the stones to produce a vapor known as “loyly.” The sauna’s place in Finnish life Sauna use is deeply embedded in Finnish culture. A nation of 5.5 million people, Finland has as many saunas as television sets — around 3.3 million. Most of the saunas are in people’s homes, although they’re also standard amenities in offices and factories. Saunas are accessible to Finns of every walk of life, so it’s unlikely that the study participants who used saunas often were already at lower risk of dying early because they were better off socioeconomically. The researchers also emphasize that the very nature of the Finnish sauna is designed to reduce stress. The sauna has been a gathering place for family and friends for centuries. And sauna etiquette, which frowns upon swearing or discussing controversial topics while bathing, is instilled in Finns during childhood. In fact, Finns may spend even more time in the sauna than they do exercising. While most Finns visit a sauna at least once a week, only about half of Finnish men and a third of Finnish women between 18 and 65 meet the World Health Organization exercise guidelines, which recommend the equivalent of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week. The Finnish researchers suggest that saunas may provide some cardiovascular conditioning because the high temperatures can drive heart rates to levels often achieved by moderate-intensity physical exercise. So is sitting in a sauna the equivalent of exercising? “I don’t know that I would substitute a sauna for exercise. But exercising and then taking a sauna seems like a very healthy routine,” Dr. Lee says.

Published on 2015-03-04 14:53:49 GMT

Bed rest for back pain? A little bit will do you Bed rest, once a key part of treating back pain, has a limited role in healing sore backs. In very small doses, bed rest can give you a break when standing or sitting causes severe pain. Too much may make back pain worse. Here is how to do bed rest "right." To get the most from staying in bed, limit the time you are lying down to a few hours at a stretch, and for no longer than a day or two. You can rest on a bed or sofa, in any comfortable position. To ease the strain on your back, try putting pillows under your head and between your knees when lying on your side, under your knees when lying on your back, or under your hips when lying on your stomach. These positions reduce forces that sitting or standing impose on the back — especially on the discs, ligaments, and muscles. An extended period of bed rest isn't helpful for moderate back strain at any stage of therapy. While your back may feel a little better in the short term, too much time in bed can trigger other problems. Muscles lose conditioning and tone, you may develop digestive issues such as constipation, and there is some risk of developing blood clots in the veins of your pelvis and legs. And being on prolonged bed rest does nothing for your mental health and sense of well-being. Depression, as well as an increased sense of physical weakness and malaise, is common among people confined to bed. Is it okay to try to get active as quickly as possible? Well-designed clinical trials suggest that an early return to normal activities — with some rest as needed — is better than staying home from work for an extended period.

Published on 2015-02-28 21:06:58 GMT

Having a dog can help your heart — literally Dog lovers know how much warmth and comfort their canine companions add to their lives. But they might not know that a growing body of evidence suggests that having a dog may help improve heart health. In 2013, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a scientific statement based on its review of data about people and their pets (including many studies of dog owners). It concluded that pet ownership is probably associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. While the AHA did not confirm a clear cause and effect, it did say that pet ownership can be a reasonable part of an overall strategy to lower the risk of heart disease. Several studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners — probably because their pets have a calming effect on them and because dog owners tend to get more exercise. The power of touch also appears to be an important part of this "pet effect." Several studies show that blood pressure goes down when a person pets a dog. There is some evidence that owning a dog is associated with lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. A large study focusing on this question found that dog owners had lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than non-owners, and that these differences weren't explainable by diet, smoking, or body mass index (BMI). However, the reason for these differences is still not clear. Dogs' calming effect on humans also appears to help people handle stress. For example, some research suggests that people with dogs experience less cardiovascular reactivity during times of stress. That means that their heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal more quickly, dampening the effects of stress on the body. If you own a dog or are thinking about it, the potential benefits for your heart health are a nice plus. However, pets should not be adopted for the primary purpose of reducing heart disease risk. And definitely don't add a dog to your life if you're not ready or able to take care of one, including making sure it gets enough exercise.

Published on 2015-02-18 03:13:21 GMT

Can you find a good night's sleep at the drugstore? Almost everyone suffers from trouble sleeping at one time or another. Insomnia - the inability to sleep - isn't a single disorder itself, but rather a general symptom like fever or pain. People with insomnia may be plagued by trouble falling asleep, unwelcome awakenings during the night, and fitful sleep. They may experience daytime drowsiness, yet still be unable to nap, and are often anxious and irritable or forgetful and unable to concentrate. Nearly half of insomnia stems from underlying psychological or emotional issues. Stressful events, mild depression, or an anxiety disorder can keep people awake at night. When the underlying cause is properly treated, insomnia usually improves. If not, additional strategies to help promote sleep may be needed. Over-the-counter sleep aids Walk into any drugstore, and you'll find a bewildering variety of over-the-counter sleep products. And people are buying them. One small survey of people ages 60 and over found that more than a quarter had taken nonprescription sleeping aids in the preceding year - and that one in 12 did so daily. Standard nonprescription sleeping pills Despite the many brands, nearly all of them - whether a tablet, capsule, or gel cap - contains an antihistamine as their primary active ingredient. Most over-the-counter sleep aids - including Nytol, Sominex, and others - contains 25 to 50 milligrams (mg) of the antihistamine diphenhydramine. A few, such as Unisom SleepTabs, contain 25 mg of doxylamine, another antihistamine. Others - including Aspirin-Free Anacin PM and Extra Strength Tylenol PM - combine antihistamines with 500 mg of the pain reliever acetaminophen. Such antihistamines have a sedating effect and are generally safe. But they can cause nausea and, more rarely, fast or irregular heartbeat, blurred vision, or heightened sensitivity to sunlight. Complications are generally more common in children and people over age 60. Alcohol heightens the effect of these medications, and they can also interact with some drugs. If you take nonprescription sleeping pills, be sure to ask your physician about the possibility of interactions with other medications. Sleep experts generally advise against using these medications, not only because of side effects but also because these products are often ineffective in relieving sleep problems. Furthermore, there is no information about the safety of taking such medications over the long term.

Published on 2015-02-08 18:52:43 GMT

3 simple ways to get more restful sleep Even people without insomnia can have trouble getting a good night's rest. Many things can interfere with restorative sleep - crazy work schedules, anxiety, trouble putting down the smartphone, even what you eat and drink. The following three simple steps can help you sleep better. Cut down on caffeine Caffeine drinkers may find it harder to fall asleep than people who don't drink caffeine. Once they drift off, their sleep is shorter and lighter. For some, a single cup of coffee in the morning means a sleepless night. That may be because caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine, a neurotransmitter thought to promote sleep. Caffeine can also interrupt sleep by increasing the need to urinate during the night. People who suffer from insomnia should avoid caffeine as much as possible, since its effects can endure for many hours. Because caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches, irritability, and extreme fatigue, it may be easier to cut back gradually rather than go cold turkey. Those who can't or don't want to give up caffeine should avoid it after 2 p.m., or noon if they are especially caffeine-sensitive. Stop smoking or chewing tobacco Nicotine is a central nervous system stimulant that can cause insomnia. This potent drug makes it harder to fall asleep because it speeds your heart rate, raises blood pressure, and stimulates fast brain wave activity that indicates wakefulness. In people addicted to nicotine, a few hours without it is enough to induce withdrawal symptoms; the craving can even wake a smoker at night. People who kick the habit fall asleep more quickly and wake less often during the night. Sleep disturbance and daytime fatigue may occur during the initial withdrawal from nicotine, but even during this period, many former users report improvements in sleep. If you continue to use tobacco, avoid smoking or chewing it for at least one to two hours before bedtime. Limit alcohol intake Alcohol depresses the nervous system, so a nightcap may seem to help some people fall asleep. However, alcohol suppresses REM sleep, and the soporific effects disappear after a few hours. Drinkers have frequent awakenings and sometimes frightening dreams. Alcohol may be responsible for up to 10% of chronic insomnia cases. Also, alcohol can worsen snoring and other sleep breathing problems, sometimes to a dangerous extent. Even one drink can make a sleep-deprived person drowsy. In an automobile, the combination significantly increases a person's chance of having an accident. You can also improve the amount and quality of your sleep by getting regular physical activity and creating and sticking to a regular sleep schedule and routine.

Published on 2015-02-07 04:35:42 GMT

Balanced approach to fitness is key A walking program is good for you; so is resistance or weight training; balance exercises help improve your athletic abilities and keep you independent. The current U.S. physical activity guidelines emphasize all three aspects of fitness. Here are the recommendations: All adults — including people with various disabilities — should aim for a total of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or an equivalent mix of the two throughout the week. Twenty minutes of moderate activity is roughly equal to 10 minutes of vigorous activity. During moderate activities, you can talk, but not sing; during vigorous activities, you can manage only a few words aloud without pausing to breathe. Adding time — up to 300 minutes of moderate activity, or 150 minutes of vigorous activity, or a mix — increases the health benefits gained. Twice-weekly strengthening activities for all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) are recommended, too. Balance exercises are particularly important for older adults at risk of falling. Flexibility exercises may be helpful, too. This much activity is a pretty high goal, and can feel overwhelming. If you can't meet all of the guidelines, experts suggest doing as much as you can. Some activity is always better than none. Even short bits of activity, such as five minutes of walking several times a day, are a good first step toward meeting a bigger goal.

Published on 2015-02-02 04:51:28 GMT

Six tips for safe strength training Strength training isn't just for bodybuilders. Like aerobic exercise, it's important for everybody, and it should be a part of any comprehensive exercise program. Of course, if you've never trained with weights before, it can seem a little daunting. But as long as you ease into it gradually and take the proper precautions, strength training is safe for most people. Use the six tips below to help you get the most from your strength workouts. 1. Focus on form, not weight. Good form means aligning your body correctly and moving smoothly through an exercise. Poor form can prompt injuries and slow gains. "I often start people with very light weights because I want them to get their alignment and form right," says master trainer Josie Gardiner. Concentrate on performing slow, smooth lifts and equally controlled descents whenever you learn a new exercise. You can always add weight to challenge your muscles once you know how to move with good form. 2. Tempo, tempo. Control is very important. Tempo helps you stay in control rather than undercut gains through momentum. Sometimes switching speed — for example, taking three counts to lower a weight and one count to lift it, instead of lifting for two and lowering for two — is a useful technique for enhancing power. 3. Breathe. Blood pressure rises if you hold your breath while performing strength exercises. Exhale as you work against gravity by lifting, pushing, or pulling the weight; inhale as you release. 4. Keep challenging muscles. The "right" weight differs depending on the exercise. Choose a weight that tires the targeted muscles by the last two repetitions while still allowing you to maintain good form. If you can't do the last two reps, choose a lighter weight. When it feels too easy to complete all the reps, challenge your muscles again by adding weight (roughly 1 to 2 pounds for arms, 2 to 5 pounds for legs); adding a set to your workout (up to three sets per exercise); or working out additional days per week (as long as you rest each muscle group for 48 hours before exercising it again). 5. Practice regularly. Performing a complete upper- and lower-body strength workout two or three times a week is ideal. 6. Give muscles time off. Strenuous exercise, like strength training, causes tiny tears in muscle tissue. Muscles grow stronger as the tears knit up. Always allow at least 48 hours between sessions for muscles to recover. For example, if you're doing split strength workouts, you might do upper body on Monday, lower body on Tuesday, upper body on Wednesday, lower body on Thursday, etc.

Published on 2015-11-18 00:32:50 GMT

New Treadmills May Be Better at Duplicating Outdoor Running. Researchers have developed a new treadmill that automatically changes speed to match the pace of the runner. The machine uses sonar to tell where the runner is on the treadmill and then speeds up if the runner is moving towards the front of the running belt or slows down if the runner is moving toward the back of the running belt. Dr. Steven T. Devor, an associate professor of kinesiology at Ohio State University writes, "If you're running outside and you want to speed up or slow down, there is no button to push. It is the same with this new automated treadmill." Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, April 2015

Published on 2015-11-05 14:23:01 GMT

Concussions Affect School Performance Until Fully Recovered. Kids and teens who suffer from a concussion may experience difficulty with learning and school work until they are fully recovered. Investigators surveyed 239 students who had sustained a concussion and found that the 88% who had not fully recovered from their concussion had symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, or trouble concentrating that interfered in at least one way at school. Lead study author Dr. Gerard Gioia adds, "The most notable finding was the range and degree of problems and concerns that students with concussions and their parents reported with school. The brain is one's organ of learning. When it is injured, it should not be surprising that learning will be affected." Pediatrics, June 2015

Published on 2015-11-02 16:38:01 GMT

Prenatal Exercise Lowers Chances of C-sections & Higher Birth Weights. University of Alberta researchers have found that pregnant women who exercise can significantly reduce their risk of undergoing Caesarean sections or giving birth to large babies. The researchers came to their findings based on a review of 28 studies that looked at the influence of maternal exercise on baby outcomes. Lead researcher Dr. Margie Davenport explains, "We found that women who exercised had a 31 percent reduction in the risk of having a large baby without changing the risk of having a small baby or an earlier baby… Further, the risk of having a Caesarean section was reduced by 20 percent." Obstetrics & Gynecology, May 2015

Published on 2015-11-01 17:26:09 GMT

Child Antibiotic Use Associated with Juvenile Arthritis. Children who have been prescribed courses of antibiotics have been found to have twice the risk of developing juvenile arthritis than children who have not received antibiotics. This type of arthritis is typically an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in the joints leading to pain, stiffness, mobility problems, and in some cases, loss of vision. Lead author Dr. Daniel Horton explains that patients with juvenile arthritis are more susceptible to infections than others since their immune system is less able to defend the body against them. He believes that the study's findings could be explained by the hypothesis that an abnormal immune system makes children more vulnerable to serious infection even before they are diagnosed with arthritis. He adds, "Under this hypothesis, antibiotics would be a marker for abnormal immunity rather than a direct cause of arthritis." Pediatrics, July 2015

Published on 2015-10-29 14:07:01 GMT

More Exercise Leads to Greater Fat Loss Among Older Women. Postmenopausal women who participated in five hours of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise each week for one year lost significantly more body fat than their peers who engaged in only the recommended 2.5 hours per week over the course of twelve months. While women in both groups experienced improvements in BMI, those who exercised twice as much lost more belly fat and their waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio decreased significantly more than those who exercised less. The researchers add that while their study shows postmenopausal women can benefit from exercising more, they should also be aware of their physical limitations and build up their exercise routine slowly over time in an effort to reduce their risk for overuse injuries. JAMA Oncology, July 2015

Published on 2015-10-28 14:51:24 GMT

Cardiorespiratory Fitness Decreases Disease Risk Among Smokers. The authors of a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine report that greater cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome among smokers. Metabolic syndrome is the clustering of at least three of the following five risk factors: elevated fasting glucose, excess waist circumference, elevated blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, and abnormal cholesterol levels. This syndrome is known to increase an individual's risk for both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The study found that smokers with moderate-to-high fitness levels have a 27%-48% lower risk for metabolic syndrome when compared with mostly-sedentary smokers. Lead author Dr. Darla Kendzor writes, "While study findings emphasize that fitness plays a protective role against cardiovascular disease even among smokers, the research emphasizes the importance of quitting smoking to decrease the overall risk of morbidity or mortality." American Journal of Preventive Medicine, April 2015

Published on 2015-10-24 14:11:40 GMT

Ways to Lower Organized Sport Injury Risks. While playing organized sports is a great way for kids to get exercise and learn sportsmanship, taking precautions to reduce or avoid injury is important. The Children's National Medical Center advises parents to have children receive a physical exam before starting organized sport, have water on hand during practice and games, encourage kids to drink water frequently, promote stretching before and after games, ask coaches to be certified in CPR and first aid, and make sure that coaches are familiar with the signs of concussion and how to prevent injuries. Children's National Medical Center, May 2015

Published on 2015-10-21 03:07:01 GMT

When Bystanders Give CPR Quickly, Lives Are Saved. The American Heart Association reports that 70% of Americans either don't know or have forgotten how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). According to a new study, nearly 30,000 lives could be saved each year if more people are able to perform CPR immediately after witnessing an individual go into cardiac arrest. Dr. Graham Nichol, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington's Harborview Center for Prehospital Emergency Care in Seattle notes, "Cardiac arrest is a treatable condition… Bystanders can save a life by performing CPR or using an automated defibrillator before EMS providers arrive on scene." Journal of the American Medical Association, July 2015

Published on 2015-10-19 00:00:01 GMT

Exercise Improves Brain Function Among Older Adults. Seniors can improve their focus and attention by getting in better shape. In a new study, seniors were divided into three exercise groups: one group exercised 150 minutes per week, the second exercised 74 minutes per week, and the third exercised 22.5 minutes per week. While participants in all three groups benefited from regular exercise, those who exercised the most had the greatest improvements in their spatial abilities, their attention levels, and their ability to focus on the task at hand. PLOS ONE, July 2015

Published on 2015-10-18 14:36:11 GMT

Start Working Out If You Suffer from Fatty Liver Disease. It's estimated that roughly 20% of the American population suffers from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. This disease occurs when fat builds up in the liver, which can lead to inflammation and cirrhosis of the liver. Now, a new study concludes that resistance training can help fight this condition. In the study, participants performed several sets of different resistance exercises involving the arms, chest, and legs for a total of 40 minutes, three times a week. After three months, investigators noted a reduction of fat content in the livers of participants in addition to healthier cholesterol levels and a reduction of ferritin in the blood - a marker of liver damage. Researcher Dr. Oren Shibolet writes, "We strongly recommend patients with fatty liver to get involved in routine physical activity, be it resistance training or aerobics, maintain a healthy diet, and reduce weight." University of Haifa and Tel Aviv University, July 2015

Published on 2015-10-16 13:28:32 GMT

Drink Water Responsibly When Exercising to Avoid Health Risks. Experts say that keeping hydrated during exercise is important, but drinking too much water can be hazardous and in some case, can even result in death. Newly published guidelines recommend that drinking when thirsty is the healthiest way for athletes to keep hydrated, reducing the risk of exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH). Excess water intake can lead to EAH, whereby the kidneys are unable to excrete the excess water in the body completely. As a result, the sodium in the body becomes diluted, causing dangerous swelling in cells. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, July 2015

Published on 2015-10-15 13:14:58 GMT

Concussions Affect School Performance Until Fully Recovered. Kids and teens who suffer from a concussion may experience difficulty with learning and school work until they are fully recovered. Investigators surveyed 239 students who had sustained a concussion and found that the 88% who had not fully recovered from their concussion had symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, or trouble concentrating that interfered in at least one way at school. Lead study author Dr. Gerard Gioia adds, "The most notable finding was the range and degree of problems and concerns that students with concussions and their parents reported with school. The brain is one's organ of learning. When it is injured, it should not be surprising that learning will be affected." Pediatrics, June 2015

Published on 2015-10-08 15:29:01 GMT

Prenatal Exercise Lowers Chances of C-sections & Higher Birth Weights. University of Alberta researchers have found that pregnant women who exercise can significantly reduce their risk of undergoing Caesarean sections or giving birth to large babies. The researchers came to their findings based on a review of 28 studies that looked at the influence of maternal exercise on baby outcomes. Lead researcher Dr. Margie Davenport explains, "We found that women who exercised had a 31 percent reduction in the risk of having a large baby without changing the risk of having a small baby or an earlier baby… Further, the risk of having a Caesarean section was reduced by 20 percent." Obstetrics & Gynecology, May 2015

Published on 2015-10-07 17:15:09 GMT

Exercising with Chronic Fatigue. Exercise can help boost energy levels in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition often characterized by profound fatigue, sleep abnormalities, pain, and other symptoms that are made worse by exertion. The American Council on Exercise offers the following advice to those with chronic fatigue syndrome: talk to your healthcare provider about exercising, start slowly and gradually increase intensity, incorporate flexibility, combine cardiovascular and resistance training, stretch before and after exercising, and rest afterwards. American Council on Exercise, June 2015

Published on 2015-10-07 03:25:23 GMT

Exercise: Exercising with a Physiotherapist Helps with Depression. A new study that involved the addition of exercise to antidepressant therapy for depression indicates that physical fitness not only improves physical health but also mental wellbeing. The study divided individuals with clinical depression into three groups. Two groups participated in two different types of exercises with a physiotherapist two times per week for ten weeks while the third, the control group, did not exercise. Participants in the exercise groups reported that they had the strength to do more at home and engaged in more social contacts than those in the non-exercise group. Researcher and Ph.D. candidate Louise Danielsson writes, "In our follow-up interviews for the study, participants spoke about how they felt alive again and became more active. One woman expressed this to mean that the workout ‘kick starts my body and helps me get the strength to crawl out of this cocoon that I am in.’" University of Gothenburg, June 2015

Published on 2015-10-05 13:43:46 GMT

Exercise: Muscle Mass Fades After Two Weeks of Inactivity. It only takes two weeks of physical inactivity to result in a significant loss of muscle strength among those who are physically fit. Investigators found that young people can lose up to 30% of their muscle strength after just fourteen days of inactivity. Meanwhile, older adults who become sedentary over the same time period can lose about 25% of their muscle strength. University of Copenhagen, June 2015

Published on 2015-10-04 14:39:59 GMT

Exercise: Low Physical Activity & Too Much TV May Worsen Mental Function. If you spend too much time watching television and too little time exercising in your 20s and 30s, then you may be at greater risk for cognitive impairment during mid-life. Researchers followed 3,200 young adults for 25 years and found that high television viewing (more than four hours per day) and low physical activity (less than 300 Kcal per 50-minute session of exercise performed three times weekly) among participants was independently linked to significantly poorer cognitive function during middle age, while participants with both factors were nearly twice as likely to have worse cognitive function in mid-life. Study co-author Dr. Tim Hoang writes, "Our findings demonstrate that even early and mid-adulthood may be critical periods for promotion of physical activity for healthy cognitive aging." Alzheimer's Association, July 2015

Published on 2015-10-03 13:58:57 GMT

5 ways exercise improves your quality of life Exercise not only helps you live longer — it helps you live better. In addition to making your heart and muscles stronger and fending off a host of diseases, it can also improve your mental and emotional functioning and even bolster your productivity and close relationships. Read on for five ways in which exercise can improve your quality of life. 1. Wards off depression: While a few laps around the block can't solve serious emotional difficulties, researchers know there is a strong link between regular exercise and improved mood. Aerobic exercise prompts the release of mood-lifting hormones, which relieve stress and promote a sense of well-being. In addition, the rhythmic muscle contractions that take place in almost all types of exercise can increase levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which combats negative feelings. 2. Enhances sex life: Both libido and performance benefit from moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise. The Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study found that men who exercised 30 minutes a day were 41% less likely than sedentary men to experience erectile dysfunction. Exercise helps women, too: in one study, 20 minutes of cycling boosted women's sexual arousal by 169 percent. 3. Sharpens wits: Physical activity boosts blood flow to the brain, which may help maintain brain function. It also promotes good lung function, a characteristic of people whose memories and mental acuity remain strong as they age. While all types of physical activity help keep your mind sharp, many studies have shown that aerobic exercise, in particular, successfully improves cognitive function. 4. Improves sleep: Regular aerobic exercise provides three important sleep benefits: it helps you fall asleep faster, spend more time in deep sleep, and awaken less during the night. In fact, exercise is the only known way for healthy adults to boost the amount of deep sleep they get — and deep sleep is essential for your body to renew and repair itself. 5. Protects mobility and vitality: Regular exercise can slow the natural decline in physical performance that occurs as you age. By staying active, older adults can actually keep their cardiovascular fitness, metabolism, and muscle function in line with those of much younger people. And many studies have shown that people who were more active at midlife were able to preserve their mobility — and therefore, their independence — as they aged.

Published on 2015-10-02 13:49:18 GMT

Exercise: You Probably Still Need to Exercise, Even if You Have a Busy Job. According to a new study, having a busy job may not provide enough exercise to meet the current physical activity recommendations to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD). The small study followed 83 employees working in six occupation groups during a typical work week. Employees wore a pedometer to record steps and energy expenditure. The researchers found that only 6% of the participants reached the recommended amount of 10,000 steps per day during working hours, while 30% were described as "sedentary" (achieving less than 5,000 steps per day). EuroPrevent Congress, July 2015

Published on 2015-09-29 19:20:38 GMT

Having a dog can help your heart — literally Dog lovers know how much warmth and comfort their canine companions add to their lives. But they might not know that a growing body of evidence suggests that having a dog may help improve heart health. Pet ownership, especially having a dog, is probably associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. This does not mean that there is a clear cause and effect relationship between the two. But it does mean that pet ownership can be a reasonable part of an overall strategy to lower the risk of heart disease. Several studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners — probably because their pets have a calming effect on them and because dog owners tend to get more exercise. The power of touch also appears to be an important part of this "pet effect." Several studies show that blood pressure goes down when a person pets a dog. There is some evidence that owning a dog is associated with lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. A large study focusing on this question found that dog owners had lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than non-owners, and that these differences weren't explainable by diet, smoking, or body mass index (BMI). However, the reason for these differences is still not clear. Dogs' calming effect on humans also appears to help people handle stress. For example, some research suggests that people with dogs experience less cardiovascular reactivity during times of stress. That means that their heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal more quickly, dampening the effects of stress on the body. If you own a dog or are thinking about it, the potential benefits for your heart health are a nice plus. However, pets should not be adopted for the primary purpose of reducing heart disease risk. And definitely don't add a dog to your life if you're not ready or able to take care of one, including making sure it gets enough exercise. To learn more about the health benefits of owning a dog, buy Get Healthy, Get a Dog, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Published on 2015-09-27 15:40:39 GMT

Exercise: Exercise May Slow the Onset of Early Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms. New clinical trials suggest that seniors who are facing the onset of Alzheimer's disease may benefit from regular exercise. Three trials found that physical activity improved mood, memory, and the ability to think among participants. One study found that intense aerobic exercise improved blood flow to key parts of the brain, reducing the tau protein tangles which are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. Lead author Dr. Laura Baker adds, "These findings are important because they strongly suggest a potent lifestyle intervention such as aerobic exercise can impact Alzheimer's-related changes in the brain. No currently approved medication can rival these effects." Alzheimer's Association International Conference, July 2015

Published on 2015-09-21 18:46:42 GMT

Prescription Practices Play a Major Player in Antibiotic Overuse. Overuse of antibiotics has been cited as a major contributor to antibiotic resistance. A new study claims that healthcare providers are largely responsible for this issue, revealing that 10% of them prescribe antibiotics for at least 95% of patients who present with an acute respiratory infection, even though such infections are mostly caused by viruses, not bacteria. Study author Dr. Barbara Jones notes, "We'd like to use this research to start a conversation among providers and patients about antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory infections, and share the approaches of providers who are prescribing antibiotics less frequently with those who may be prescribing too often." Mayo Clinic, July 2015

Published on 2015-09-21 14:11:16 GMT

Exercise is an effective stress-buster If exercise were available as a pill, experts say, everyone would be taking it. One reason is that exercise is very good at defusing stress. If you exercise — especially right when the stress response is triggered — you burn off stress hormones just as nature intended, instead of letting them pile up. What's more, just about any form of motion on a regular basis helps relieve pent-up tension. Rhythmic, repetitive movements, such as walking, running, swimming, bicycling, and rowing — and specific types of exercise such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong — actually elicit the relaxation response, too. Regularly engaging in these kinds of activities can help you ward off everyday stress. To boost the stress-relief rewards, you'll need to shift your attention to become aware of yourself — what and how you're feeling — and your surroundings during exercise. This should leave you feeling calmer and more centered. During physical activity, try to become aware of how your breathing complements the activity. Breathe rhythmically and coordinate your breathing with your movements, focusing your attention mindfully on the sensations in your body. When disruptive thoughts intrude, gently turn your mind away from them and focus on moving and breathing. Keep it simple — you don't always need to sign up for a special exercise class. A mindful walk can do wonders. As you walk, expand your awareness to the sights and smells around you. Notice the freshly mown grass, flowers, fallen leaves, sun-dappled trees, or gray clouds. How does the outside air feel against your body? How does the surface beneath your feet feel and sound? What thoughts are moving through your head?

Published on 2015-09-11 03:28:04 GMT

Could a vitamin or mineral deficiency be behind your fatigue? The world moves at a hectic pace these days. If you feel like you're constantly running on empty, you're not alone. Many people say that they just don't have the energy they need to accomplish all they need to. Sometimes the cause of fatigue is obvious — for example, getting over the flu or falling short on sleep. Sometimes a vitamin deficiency is part of the problem. It might be worth asking your doctor to check a few vitamin levels, such as the three we've listed below. Iron. Anemia occurs when there aren't enough red blood cells to meet the body's need for oxygen, or when these cells don't carry enough of an important protein called hemoglobin. Fatigue is usually the first sign of anemia. A blood test to measure the number of red blood cells and amount of hemoglobin can tell if you have anemia. The first step in shoring up your body's iron supply is with iron-rich foods (such as red meat, eggs, rice, and beans) or, with your doctor's okay, over-the-counter supplements. Vitamin B12. Your body needs sufficient vitamin B12 in order to produce healthy red blood cells. So a deficiency in this vitamin can also cause anemia. The main sources of B12 are meat and dairy products, so many people get enough through diet alone. However, it becomes harder for the body to absorb B12 as you get older, and some illnesses (for example, inflammatory bowel disease) can also impair absorption. Many vegetarians and vegans become deficient in B12 because they don't eat meat or dairy. When B12 deficiency is diet-related, oral supplements and dietary changes to increase B12 intake usually do the trick. Other causes of B12 deficiency are usually treated with regular injections of vitamin B12. Vitamin D. A deficit of this vitamin can sap bone and muscle strength. This vitamin is unique in that your body can produce it when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but there also aren't many natural food sources of it. You can find it in some types of fish (such as tuna and salmon) and in fortified products such as milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereals. Supplements are another way to ensure you're getting enough vitamin D (note that the D3 form is easier to absorb than other forms of vitamin D).