Exercise Your Right to Reduce Glaucoma Risk

Most of us take our ability to see for granted because, well, it’s a natural occurrence pretty much every waking moment of our lives. But not people whose vision is compromised or altogether lost, even on a temporary basis. Those people truly understand the wonder and power of sight, and how not having it can change one’s life.

With that said, you’re probably in the mindset to learn about how to ensure you maintain complete, unrestricted vision for a lifetime, right? One way is to reduce your risk of developing glaucoma, a disease that damages your optic nerve and can cause blindness. In fact, glaucoma is the No. 1 cause of blindness in people over the age of 60.

eyes - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Not a pretty picture, but fortunately, something as simple as staying physically fit can reduce your glaucoma risk by as much as 50 percent, according to new research published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Compared to sedentary (non-active) study participants, people who exercised had a lower risk of glaucoma; people who met U.S. physical activity guidelines (at least 150 minutes a week – 30 minutes a day, five days a week) reduced their risk even more.

Does your vision matter to you? We bet it does. Now think about these study findings and how easy it can be to reduce your risk of losing your vision due to glaucoma. Talk to your doctor for more information about the many health benefits of physical activity and how to develop a fitness program that’s right for you.

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Hands-Free Technology? Not as Safe as You Think

As reports of cellphone-related road fatalities make global headlines, automobile and mobile-phone manufacturers continue developing “safer” ways to communicate while driving. Unfortunately, recent research suggests any form of “distracted driving” puts the driver, its occupants and anyone else on the road (who may be doing the exact same thing) at risk. In fact, you don’t necessarily even need to be using your phone while driving to be distracted by it.

Researchers discovered issuing voice commands to your car / phone or texting in a seemingly harmless situation – while stopped at a red light – can still distract the driver for up to 30 seconds thereafter. The difficulty of the task / ease of use of the technology impacted the level of distraction; easier tasks resulted in approximately 15 seconds of distracted time, vs. 27 seconds for more difficult tasks.

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According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 3,000 people die every year from distracted driving-related accidents, while nearly half a million are injured – and those estimates rely on data from 2013! When you’re driving, focus on the road and your fellow driver. Except in an absolute emergency, the phone (and other technology) can wait. Or better yet, let your passenger(s) do the work for you, so you can focus on your most important job: getting everyone to their destination safe and sound.

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The Missing Pieces to the Chronic Pain Puzzle

PAIN is a significant problem in our society, and the way too many of us deal with it, either by taking medication to temporarily relieve the pain or ignoring the pain altogether, foolishly hoping it will go away, is an even bigger problem, contributing to long-term disability and reduced quality of life. Here are a few important pieces to the puzzle that can help you deal with pain now and prevent future episodes – chronic pain- from ruining your life.

How do you feel at this very moment? You can do a easy self-check just by moving your neck, shoulders, arms and legs around. Do you have any aches and pains anywhere? If your response is, “Don’t most people have pain somewhere in their body?” or “Doesn’t pain come with old age?” keep in mind that while that’s true, it doesn’t mean you have to accept it. And remember, pain isn’t just physical. The emotional stress it creates can be as hard on you as the pain itself. Let’s talk about ways you can find relief from your physical pain, which will undoubtedly lighten your emotional load at the same time.

Pain Defined

Chronic pain puzzle - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensation that can range from mild, localized discomfort to sheer agony. Pain has physical and emotional components. The physical part of pain results from nerves being stimulated. Pain may be confined to a specific area, as in an injury, or it can be spread throughout the body. Around the world, millions of people live with pain in some form or another, involving many different body parts, on a daily basis.

One of the most interesting things about pain is how each human being deals with it. Some learn to live with pain. Others can’t stand to feel even an ounce of it. The most common types of pain include arthritis, lower back, bone/joint pain, muscle pain and fibromyalgia (widespread pain, tenderness and fatigue in muscles,tendons and ligaments). Back pain is the most frequent cause of limited activities for people younger than 45 years old.

Acute vs. Chronic Pain

Acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take care of yourself. This type of pain comes on quickly and can be severe, but it lasts a relatively short period of time. In general, acute pain is in response to an event that happens to the body. It may be a result of surgery or an accident.

Chronic pain is different. Chronic pain tends to stay around or progress over longer periods of time. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months or even years. Oftentimes, chronic pain is resistant to traditional medical treatments. The emotional component of pain often comes into play in a chronic situation.

The Consequences of Pain

The loss of productivity and daily activity due to pain is substantial. Americans spend at least $50 billion per year on back pain, and that’s just for the more easily identified costs. Pain has a negative impact on an individual’s quality of life. It diminishes one’s ability to concentrate, do their job, exercise, socialize, perform daily tasks and sleep. Over time, this can lead to depression, isolation and loss of self-esteem. Researchers have found that depression is the most frequent psychological reaction to chronic pain.

If you hurt an area of your body and do not restore proper, healthy movement patterns, you will end up with problems later down the road. I can’t tell you how many patients I have seen who got in car accidents and hurt their neck and back, but waited to get treatment and used pain as the indicator for how they feel. Eventually, the pain went down or even away, but they were often left with problems in their bones and joints.

Common Causes and Sources of Chronic Pain

An initial injury like a trauma, fracture, sprain/strain, or serious infection may be the cause of the chronic pain. There could also be an ongoing cause like arthritis, cancer, an ear infection or injuries that never healed properly. Some people even suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage. Many chronic pain conditions affect older adults. Common chronic pain complaints include headache, low back pain, cancer pain, arthritis pain, neurogenic pain (pain resulting from damage to the peripheral nerves or to the central nervous system itself), and psychogenic pain (pain not due to past disease or injury or any visible sign of damage inside or outside the nervous system).

Quite simply, pain can come from anywhere in the body. The source can be the neck, shoulders, low back, hips and everywhere else. Many times, the location of the pain depends on how the injury happened. Perhaps someone injured their shoulder while throwing a ball. Maybe someone sprained their ankle while running. How about the person who falls down the stairs and hurts multiple parts of their body simultaneously?

Solving the Chronic Pain Puzzle

Girl do yoga - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Pain is a complex puzzle. For certain cases, it takes complex solutions to help solve that puzzle. In some cases, the individual’s pain is so debilitating that it requires the use of X-rays or other special imaging to visualize the problem that is occurring in the spine or extremities. It may be appropriate to use any of the following: Chiropractic, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, nutritional supplementation, massage/bodywork, yoga and psychological therapy. In some cases, it may even require over-the-counter or prescription medication (although the goal is to avoid relying on these because of the potential side effects). But there are definitely things you can do that can help you prevent and treat chronic pain. Let’s explore these strategies that, as you might have guessed, are all related to one another.

1. Posture: You have probably been told at different times of your life about the importance of good posture. “Sit up straight” or “don’t slouch” are probably familiar phrases to you. Proper posture is difficult to attain, so don’t stress yourself out about it. When you are sitting, put a rolled-up towel or sweatshirt in the small of your back. Sit all the way back to the rear of the chair so you feel the support in your back. When you stand, stand against the wall or a post so you can maintain erect posture. It is important to strengthen your core muscles, the muscles along the spine. Yoga, Pilates or a specific workout program with weights will help you achieve this. You may want to find a personal trainer to help you focus on specific exercises to help you achieve your goals.

2. Balance: As you develop strength, you begin to develop balance. Many of the positions utilized in yoga, Pilates and weight training work specifically on balance. Would you believe that your feet also have a lot to do with balance? The three arches you have in your feet must all be supported in order for the rest of your body to have good support as well. If one or more of the arches is flat, it can significantly affect the stress to your joints and your ability to exercise efficiently. Ask your chiropractor about analyzing your feet to see if you need arch supports.

3. Spinal Load and Stability: Understanding how to exercise or perform any type of sporting activity is crucial to your health. How many people do you know who lift weights incorrectly? On a daily basis, I see patients who have hurt themselves with physical activity. By being careful and doing your exercises properly, you can reduce the amount of spinal load (stress) and instability you create for your body. I cannot tell you how important it is to make sure your feet and all of the joints above them are healthy and moving properly. When your joints move well, you can perform activities optimally and with minimal stress on your body.

4. Alignment: Exercising makes your muscles stronger, which also helps maintain structural and bony alignment. Chiropractic care is hopefully a regular part of your life. Visits to your chiropractor at a frequency you both find appropriate will help you maintain your alignment.

Keep in mind that pain may be indicative of a serious underlying condition. Always talk to your doctor about any pain you are experiencing, particularly if it does not go away or worsens with time.

By Dr. Kevin Wong

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What’s in Your Child’s Lunchbox?

Another school year means another chance to send your child off to class with a lunchbox filled with nutritious, concentration-maximizing food. Unfortunately, that’s frequently a chance not taken, particularly with the proliferation of ready-to-go, packaged snacks and so-called “meals” that don’t pass the test in terms of balanced nutrition.

Let’s change that today with a snapshot of how you can fill your child’s lunchbox the right way this year. Here are three suggestions to get you started courtesy of Dr. Claudia Anrig, who wrote a longer article on the topic back in 2010. (For more great tips, read her entire 2010 article by clicking here.)

The Sandwich: This is a staple of many lunchboxes, but avoid store-bought white bread; also don’t be fooled by “enriched wheat” or “multigrain,” neither of which is whole wheat / whole grain and thus lacks fiber and many key nutrients. Also avoid processed meats; use sliced chicken / turkey (that you’ve prepared at home) and/or vegetables. Substitute almond butter for peanut butter, and use only fruit-juice-sweetened jelly / jam (if any). Dr. Anrig also suggests a healthy wrap as a sandwich option, ” which can be done by purchasing whole-grain tortillas and wrapping up healthier protein and vegetable sources.” And with hummus gaining popularity, it can be a healthier alternative to mayonnaise.

The Drink: Avoid milk, soda and even juice (the occasional 100 percent juice drink is OK every once in awhile). “The American Academy of Pediatrics says that juice consumption is contributing to cavities and gastrointestinal issues for children, while milk has proven to be a common food allergen. Your best option is to encourage your child to drink water. This can be done by providing water for them in their lunchbox using a stainless-steel thermos or by placing ice cubes in their thermos in the morning.”

children eating lunch - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

The Snacks: Chips, crackers, cookies and other processed, nutrient-limited foods are everywhere these days and appealing when you’re in a hurry, but you should limit their presence in your child’s lunchbox. “The side dishes for your children should be tasty cut vegetables, keeping in mind that greener is better. Fruit is also a great side dish, but while it is healthy, it is also a source of sugar and not as rich in vitamins and minerals as vegetables.” And celery or a few whole-grain crackers with hummus, apples with almond butter (if your child isn’t also eating it on their sandwich) and carrots with yogurt-based ranch dip are still better options in terms of nutritional content than many of the packaged snacks marketed to children (and parents).

Produce for Kids (www.produceforkids.com) is one of several organizations trying to improve children’s health via healthier eating habits. The organization has created the “Power Your Lunchbox Promise” to help parents and teachers help children eat more nutritious school lunches. For every promise made through the website, the organization donates $1 to Feeding America, which provides meals for needy families.

Produce for Kids also provides a variety of meal tips and lunchbox ideas – including recipes from a registered dietitian – on its website … all part of its mission to [educate] families on the benefits of healthy eating with fresh produce, [provide] simple meal solutions and [raise] money for children’s charities. To learn more, visit the Produce for Kids website and Facebook page. You can also talk to your doctor about the importance of healthy school lunches and how proper nutrition can enhance learning and reduce injury risk.

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How to Manage Knee Osteoarthritis: Focus on the Hip

Knee osteoarthritis may make you hesitant to participate in exercise, which is a big mistake. In fact, certain exercises may actually help reduce symptoms, according to a recent research review that focused on studies involving nearly 350 patients with knee OA.

Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the review study analyzed eight clinical trials that evaluated the effectiveness of adding hip strengthening exercising to traditional quadriceps exercises in reducing knee OA symptoms. Hip-focused resistance exercises involving elastic bands or weights proved most effective in improving walking function, which is frequently limited by knee osteoarthritis.

Study authors concluded:  “[C]ombined hip and quadriceps exercise is significantly more effective than quadriceps exercise alone for improving walking function” in patients with knee OA.

To learn more about osteoarthritis including risk factors and symptoms, click here. As medications and even surgery are potential treatment options for OA, it’s an important finding that conservative measures such as hip and quad exercises can improve walking ability, giving knee OA sufferers the opportunity to become more mobile and independent.

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Exploring the Science of Stretching

To stretch or not to stretch? Impact on performance and injury rates in runners.

In 1986, Rob DeCastella set a course record by running the Boston Marathon in 2:07:51, just 39 seconds off the world record. A few days be­fore the race, I saw Rob in my office; when I checked his hamstring flexibility, I was shocked to see he could barely raise each leg 30 degrees off the table (even tight runners can raise their legs 60 degrees). Having never seen hamstrings that tight, I asked Rob if he ever stretched. He responded: “When I run, that’s as far as my legs go forward, so that’s as far as I want them to go forward.”

At the time, it was just assumed that runners had to stretch to run fast and remain injury-free, but here was one of the world’s fastest runners who not only didn’t stretch regularly, but avoided stretching altogether!

According to conventional wisdom, I should have encouraged Rob to stretch, but I didn’t. Besides being one of the world’s fastest runners, Rob DeCastella knew a lot about exercise physiology and I trusted his judgment.

Years later, research appeared suggesting tight runners were metabolically more efficient than flexible runners. This is what DeCastella intuitively knew: Tight muscles can store and return energy in the form of elastic recoil, just like a rubber band can stretch and snap back with no effort. Because tight muscles provide free energy (i.e., the muscle fibers are not short­ening to produce force, so there is no metabolic expense), stiff muscles can significantly im­prove efficiency when running long distances.

Muscle Composition & Flexibility

stretching - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

To understand why muscles are able to store and return energy, just take a look at how muscles are made. To protect individual muscle fibers from developing too much tension, and to assist in the storage and return of energy, muscle fibers and fibrils are surrounded with perimysium and endomysium. These envelopes contain thousands of strong cross-links that traverse the entire muscle. These cross-links are essential for injury prevention be­cause they distribute tension generated on one side of the tendon evenly throughout the entire muscle.

If these cross-links were not present or were excessively flexible, the asymmetric tendon force would be transferred through the muscle fibers only on the side of the tendon being pulled. Because fewer muscle fibers would be tractioned, the involved fibers would be more prone to being injured because the pulling force would be distrib­uted over a smaller area.

The muscle itself would also be less able to store and return energy simply because fewer fibers would be stretched (the more fibers being pulled, the greater the return of energy). The tight cross-links present in the soft-tissue envelopes act as powerful reinforcements that distribute force over a broader area.

Given the improved efficiency associated with tightness, you would think that the world’s fastest runners would all be extremely stiff. This isn’t the case. Compared to the mid-to-late ’80s, today’s elite runners are significantly more flexible. The reason is that even though tight muscles can make you more efficient, they are easily strained and are more likely to produce delayed-onset muscle soreness after a hard workout.

Because the best runners often run a significant number of miles per week with grueling track workouts, increased delayed-onset muscle sore­ness would interfere with their ability to tolerate their rigorous training schedules and more than likely increase their potential for injury.

To prove that tight muscles are more prone to injury, researchers from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York classified subjects as either stiff or flex­ible before having them perform repeated hamstring curls to fatigue. Following the workout, the stiffer subjects complained of greater muscle pain and weakness. The enzyme marker for muscle damage (CK) was also significantly higher in the stiff group after working out.

The authors of the study state that because flexible people are less susceptible to exercise-induced muscle damage, they are able to exercise at a higher intensity for a greater duration on the days following heavy workouts. The catch-22 to muscle tightness is that while a certain degree of tightness increas­es the storage and return of energy, excessive tightness can increase the potential for injury, especially with hard workouts.

While excessively tight runners are injury prone, excessively loose runners are also prone to injury because their muscles have to work harder to stabilize joints that are moving through larger ranges of motion. Flexible muscles are also less able to store energy in their epimysium and perimysium, so their muscles have to work harder to generate the same force.

The end result is that overly flexible runners are just as likely to be injured as stiff run­ners. It turns out that if you make a graph of inju­ries associated with different degrees of flexibili­ty, it forms a U-shaped curve with the tightest and the loosest runners being injured.

Too Tight or Too Loose? Avoiding Flexibility-Related Injuries

Because runners in the middle of the graph are typically not prone to flexibility-related injuries, the goal of a rehab program should be to get your runners away from the extreme ends of the curve. A simple test your doctor can do to quickly evaluate flexibility is to bend your thumb back toward the wrist and measure the distance. Checking range of motion in the thumb is one of the easiest ways to evaluate overall flexibility because thumb flexibility is a marker for whole-body flexibility (just as grip strength is a marker for whole-body strength). If the thumb is overly flexible, your doctor may consider adding resistance training and incorporating agility drills to improve strength and coordination.

In contrast, if you happen to fall on the tight side of the flexibility spectrum, they may consider incorporating specific stretches into your daily routine. Keep in mind that improving flexibility is not that simple. Some great research has shown that when done for just a few weeks, stretching does not alter the ability of a muscle to absorb force because the improved stretch tolerance results from changes in the nervous system that allow the muscle to temporarily lengthen, with no corresponding changes in muscle stiffness and/or work absorption.

Stretching and Injury Rates

The inability of short-term stretches to improve muscle flexibility explains why there are so many studies showing that stretching does not change injury rates. Because of compliance issues and time constraints, almost every study on stretching and injuries has evaluated stretches over a short duration (probably because so few people would stick with a long-term stretching regimen).

That being the case, it’s not sur­prising that while some great research shows tight muscles are more likely to be injured,1 relatively few studies have ever shown that stretching alters your potential for injury.

In order to produce real length gains, some experts suggest it is necessary to stretch regularly for four to six months. In theory, when a mus­cle is repeatedly stretched for several months, cellular changes take place within the muscle, allowing for a permanent increase in flexibility. Animal studies have shown that the increased flexibility associated with repeated stretching results from a lengthening of the connective tissue envelope surrounding the muscle fibers (especially the perimysium) and/or an increased number of sarcomeres being added to the ends of the muscle fibers.

Although I typically suggest that stiff runners should stretch and flexible runners should strengthen, recent research suggests runners may intuitively know whether or not they should stretch. In the largest randomized control study of stretching to date, Daniel Pereles and colleagues randomly assigned 2,729 recreational runners to either a stretching or a non-stretch­ing pre-run routine. Not surprisingly, there was no significant difference in injury rates between the runners who stretched versus the runners who didn’t stretch.

However, if a runner who routinely stretched was assigned to the non-stretch protocol, they were nearly twice as likely to sustain a running injury. This research confirms that regardless of their overall flexibility, the individual runner should always be the final judge of deciding whether or not a pre-exercise stretching routine is right for them. Talk to your doctor for more information.

By Thomas Michaud, DC

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Plug Into the Power of Green

While most people appreciate green vegetables as being healthy foods, their true power from a health perspective is generally not understood. A great example of this lack of understanding is apparent if I tell a patient to eat green vegetables in place of whole grains. Their typical response is, “If I do this, where will I get my fiber from?” In fact, there is no comparison between the fiber amounts and overall nutritional density of green vegetables versus whole grains. Perhaps the recent “whole-grain campaign” has turned people’s attention from the value of green vegetables and the nutritional power you can harness by eating them every day. Let’s take a look at a few quick comparisons between whole grains and green vegetables, focusing on two important nutrients: fiber and potassium (and bearing in mind that whole grains are also an important part of a healthy diet).

Plug into the power of green - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

On a calorie by-calorie-basis, green vegetables contain substantially more fiber than whole grains. For example, 2 pieces of whole-wheat bread contain approximately 140 calories, only 4 grams of fiber, and 140 milligrams (mg) of potassium. In contrast, 2 cups of broccoli contain only 87 calories, but more than 9 grams of fiber and about 1,000 mg of potassium. And 5 cups of romaine lettuce (about the size of a large salad) provide only 80 calories, but 5 grams of fiber and 580 mg of potassium.

To understand the role green vegetables can play in your nutritional health, particularly when combined with other healthy foods such as fruit, consider that by eating 2 apples, 2 oranges, 2 cups of broccoli, and 5 cups of romaine lettuce on a daily basis, you would get approximately 450 calories, 28 grams of fiber, and more than 2,400 mg of potassium. The average American consumes only 15 grams of fiber per day; the typical recommendation is to get 25-30 grams per day (even that amount is likely too low).

Salad with outlet - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Many diseases are associated with low fiber and low potassium intake. Diets low in fiber may underlie or exacerbate constipation, appendicitis, hemorrhoids, deep-vein thrombosis (a blood clot that forms in a vein deep within the body), varicose veins, diverticulitis (inflammation of an abnormal pouch in the intestinal wall), hiatal hernia, and gastroesophageal reflux. Fiber is thought to help prevent colon cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

The general public rarely hears about importance of potassium in promoting health, so people rarely consider the need to eat potassium-rich foods – which coincidentally, are vegetables and fruits. (Animal protein and potatoes also provide substantial amounts of potassium, and by the way, whole and refined grains are generally among the worst dietary source of potassium. Research indicates that human beings need to take in about 7,000-11,000 mg of potassium per day, and this should come from diet, not supplements. However, the average American comes up well short of this number, consuming only about 2,500 mg per day or less. Numerous diseases are thought to be associated with such a low level of consumption,including high blood pressure, strokes, kidney stones, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal tract cancers, asthma, and insomnia.

Salad green with outlet - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Of course, besides containing high levels of fiber and potassium, green vegetables also contain an abundance of substances called phytochemicals, which are known to offer numerous disease-fighting benefits. The most well-known phytochemicals are bioflavonoids and carotenoids. In recent years, a substantial amount of research has been devoted to phytochemicals; the general conclusion from this research is that we need to ensure adequate intake of fruits and vegetables so we can reap the benefits of phytochemicals.

The important take-home message here is that whether you’re trying to lose weight or just stay in shape, green vegetables are filling, extremely nutritious and very low in calories. So plug into the power of green vegetables as part of a healthy diet.

Nutritional Powerhouses 

Pound for pound, calorie for calorie, green vegetables pack a nutritional wallop – just look at the nutritional profile for relatively small portions of these six popular green foods, courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration. (Note: DV = recommended daily value based on 2,000 calorie daily diet)VegetableCaloriesFiberPotassiumVitamin A
(% DV)Vitamin C
(% DV)Calcium
(% DV)Iron
(% DV)Asparagus (5 spears)202 g230 mg10%15%2%2%Broccoli (1 medium stalk)453 g460 mg6%220%6%6%Bell pepper (1 medium)252 g220 mg4%190%2%4%Leaf lettuce (1.5 cups shredded)151 g170 mg130%6%2%4%Celery (2 medium stalks)152 g260 mg10%15%4%2%Cucumber (1/3 medium)101 g140 mg4%10%2%2%

By Dr. David Seaman
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Physical Inactivity Leads to Chronic Pain

Here’s one more reason to exercise: Physical inactivity contributes to chronic musculo-skeletal pain, which affects the muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones. People with chronic conditions such as back pain, arthritis, or neck pain suffer daily through pain, fatigue, and even depression, and more people are falling victim every day. In fact, some experts have characterized the increasing prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions as an epidemic.

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

According to a 2008 study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, a connection exists between physical inactivity and chronic musculoskeletal complaints (MSCs). Study participants responded to questions regarding their physical activity 11 years prior to experiencing any MSCs. The researchers concluded, “In this large-scale population-based study, physical exercise was associated with lower prevalence of chronic MSCs, in particular chronic widespread MSCs [>15 days during the last month]. Furthermore, consistent medium activity level [120-179 min./week] was associated with [a] more than 50% lower prevalence of chronic widespread MSCs.” (If you’d like to review the abstract of the BMC study, visit: www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2474/9/159.)

There you go – the latest in an ever-growing list of reasons to make exercise a part of your weekly routine. And remember, a consistent, balanced fitness program of cardio, muscle strengthening and stretching will do more than help in the prevention of chronic pain; it could also help prevent other serious conditions such as heart disease and hypertension.

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Don’t Let Back Pain Knock You Down

Have you missed work due to back pain? You’re not alone, according to the American Chiropractic Association; back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed days of work. However, several studies suggest vitamin D can help combat the pain.

One such study, published in the journal Pain Treatment Topics, found people with chronic musculoskeletal back pain had insufficient levels of vitamin D. However, when patients increased their intake of vitamin D, their pain decreased, and in some cases disappeared.

Experts involved in this study say vitamin D may be beneficial for pain because of its role in calcium absorption. Insufficient vitamin D / calcium absorption may cause bones to soften, leading to a condition known as ostomalacia (not to be confused with osteoporosis). As the Mayo Clinic explains, “Osteomalacia results from a defect in the bone-building process, while osteoporosis develops due to a weakening of previously constructed bone.” However, it’s important to note that insufficiencies in vitamin D / calcium can contribute to both conditions.

back pain - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Talk with your doctor for a recommendation on how much vitamin D you need to sustain healthy levels. Here are some suggestions on ways to increase vitamin D – supplements, healthy sun exposure (always wear sunblock) and vitamin D-rich foods. WebMD suggests these foods can help provide vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
  • Foods fortified with vitamin D, such as some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals
  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolks

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It’s Never Too Late to Exercise

Think you’re destined to die before your time because you’ve been sedentary (physically inactive) your entire life? Not so fast. While consistent exercise is associated with a host of health and wellness benefits including significant reductions in disease risk, new research suggests even middle-aged and older adults who haven’t been active their entire lives can benefit dramatically from a little more movement.

Researchers evaluated the exercise habits of more than 315,000 adults ages 50-71 by reviewing surveys each study participant had completed from adolescence, then tracked them for almost 15 years to see who passed away over that time period. Compared to participants who stayed essentially inactive throughout their lives (including the study period), participants who were not active previously, but became active from ages 40-61, were 35 percent less likely to die of all causes during the study period.

Interestingly, people who had been active from the start (youth through middle age) were only slightly less likely to die during the study period: 36 percent less likely compared to the permanently inactive group. In other words, the health benefits of physical activity (at least in terms of longevity) were essentially the same regardless of whether one exercised his/her entire life or became active starting in middle age or older.

possible - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

With respect to two of the major causes of death, cardiovascular disease and cancer, the risk reductions were also remarkably similar: 42 percent lower risk of death from heart disease and 14 percent lower risk of death from cancer for always exercisers (compared to people who stayed sedentary their entire lives), vs. 43 percent and 16 percent lower risks, respectively, for late exercise adopters. Study findings were published in JAMA Network Open.

The moral to this story: You’re never too old to start exercising – and reaping the longevity benefits. Talk to your doctor for more information on why exercise matters, and ask for help designing a consistent physical activity program suitable to your health and fitness needs.

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