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For May 23, 2019

  • Back Pain and Your Job
    Back Pain and Your Job

    This article is reprinted from, and is the property of the Back Association of Canada (BAC).

    Sit much? Well, how much? What causes most people's back pain? The person who finds a cut and dried answer to that one will win the Nobel Prize. Not that the question hasn't been studied. Over the years, many back pain researchers have directed their energies to the issue of cause.

    This does not mean, however, that you cannot be treated successfully. Quite the contrary! Over the past few years, health care professionals have realized that, when it comes to treating back pain, it's almost always enough to know the category - or categories - into which the problem falls. Narrowing the problem down further doesn't usually make a whole lot of difference since the conservative treatment for each category is more or less the same.

    A few decades ago, trauma (falls, for instance) was extremely popular as a cause while, in recent years, a lot of attention has been paid to sitting. During the years between, lifting has been at the top of the list. So has "cause unknown". For instance, Dr. C. Hirsch, an American researcher, found that it was impossible to pinpoint the cause for six out of ten of the back pain sufferers he studied.

    The problem is that back pain is complex. Just for openers, we are talking about a problem whose source - never mind whose cause - cannot, in many cases, be identified. (Is the pain coming from the 4th lumbar vertebra, or the 5th? The facet joint or the disc?). A second issue is that a person's state of mind plays an important role. An anxious person who has a back injury can end up with a serious, long-lasting problem, while someone else is back to normal in a couple of days. So it makes sense that linking cause and effect can be a nightmare.

    With that in mind, an interesting study was published by another American researcher, Dr. Alexander Magora. Rather than trying to link back pain with a specific cause - like a fall or a poor lifting technique - Dr. Magora studied the occupations of more than 3,300 people. He was interested to know how much of their work day people spent doing three particular kinds of tasks: tasks that required them to sit; tasks that required them to stand; and, tasks that required them to lift.

    In the case of sitting and standing, the workers were divided into three categories. Often meant that a person sat for more than 4 hours each working day; sometimes meant between two and four hours each day, on average; and rarely or never meant that a person sat for less than two hours a day. (In the case of lifting, the categories were a bit different since the weight of the object also had to be considered.)

    The results were very interesting, especially when it came to sitting. For example, hardly any of the back pain sufferers in Dr. Magora's study (3.5%) had jobs that required them to sit "sometimes". On the other hand, more than half of the back pain sufferers sat "rarely, or never" (54%). And a little less than half of them had jobs which required them to sit "often" (42%).

    "Both too much sitting, and too little sitting," Dr. Magora concluded, "seems to be related to low back pain ." To put it simply, people are far less likely to suffer from a bad back if their jobs require them to do a variety of tasks - some sitting, some standing, some lifting - during the course of the work day.

    It will require a commitment from management if a change in job routine is going to happen on a large scale. In the meantime, however, many of us could change our work habits, if we made it a priority in our own minds. For instance, if you have three hours of typing and two hours of filing, why not divide it up into 20 minute chunks? At the very least, it can't do your back any harm.

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  • Does Blood Type Affect Diet Choices?
    Does Blood Type Affect Diet Choices?

    December 16, 1999

    The Medical Tribune

    Q: Does a person's blood type indicate the type of diet he or she should follow?

    A: No. You may have heard of a diet based on the idea that blood type indicates whether your genetic ancestors were hunters, farmers or nomads. This in turn tells you whether you should eat meat, chicken, dairy foods, etc. Supposedly, eating appropriately for your blood type helps control weight while preventing cancer and other health problems. Although reports of such a diet may include vague references to someone's "research," no research supporting such claims has appeared in a scientific journal where it could be reviewed by experts.

    Any weight loss that results from such a diet is probably due to the menus prescribed by the diet. These menus often contain calorie levels that are quite low, and many foods are restricted. Most experts agree that long-term weight control is best achieved by unrestricted access to a variety of foods, with emphasis on portion control, nutritional balance and regular exercise.

    As for cancer prevention, a landmark report from the American Institute for Cancer Research concluded that a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans is the best approach.

    Copyright 1999 Medical PressCorps News Service. All rights reserved.

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  • Eating for weight loss vs. eating for weight gain.
    Eating for weight loss vs. eating for weight gain.

    A successful weight management program requires a long-term approach, one designed to modify the behaviors that can influence our ability to lose or gain weight.

    The most important factors in eating for weight loss include maintaining energy and nutrient balance. Severe caloric restrictions will slow down the metabolism, making weight loss harder to achieve. For women this means a minimum of 1200 and for men, 1500 nutrient dense calories a day. Diets under 1200 calories tend to be deficient in protein, water soluble vitamins, vitamin B-12, and Folate.

    To maintain energy the nutrient balance should be 40-50 percent carbohydrate, 20-30% protein and 20-30% fat. Carbohydrates remain the best choice for fueling muscles and promoting a healthy heart. A 20-30% fat diet can assure you are not denied the foods that nurture you but limits fat intake to levels that support weight loss.

    It's also important to maintain frequency of meals. Three meals a day is standard in our society but no law says you can't eat more often. It's particularly wise to avoid the all-too-common pattern of no breakfast, little or no lunch, and a huge dinner. Several mini-meals of 300-400 calories keep the body's metabolism elevated.

    A varied diet is also important for long term weight loss. Avoid eating large amounts of one type off food--even if it is a nutrient dense food--to the exclusion of others.

    Some people have the opposite energy problem. They weigh less than they should and have difficulty putting on weight. Some of the aids to gaining weight are the reverse of techniques suggested for losing weight.

    First, start with a nutritionally adequate diet and eat larger meals, more often increasing the energy density of the food. Then, consider a progressive strength training program to add body weight in the form of lean tissue (muscles) while you strengthen the body. If implementing these suggestions does not help you to achieve goal weight, you may need to accept the fact that your body is genetically regulated at a lower level of fatness and maintaining a greater amount of body weight may require more time, effort, and expense than are worthwhile.

    Regardless of whether you need or want to lose or gain weight exercise remains the basis for any long term lifestyle goals. A balanced exercise program is the key component of any successful weight loss program. weight loss without exercise can have a negative effect on body composition, especially if weight is regained or lost.

    So, exercise, eat a balanced and varied diet, low in fat, low in sugar and high in fiber. If you maintain that regimen the body will find it's own genetic set point.

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  • Osteoporosis
    Osteoporosis
    Although most people think of osteoporosis as a disease of older Americans, steps to prevent it should begin early and continue throughout your life. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, a diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D, along with limited alcohol consumption, is part of a healthy lifestyle that can prevent the onset of this disease.

    Calcium is perhaps the most important mineral in building strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. It must be consumed from the diet, because the body does not manufacture it. If you have a calcium deficient diet, your body scavenges for the mineral, stealing it from your bones. Many people understand how important calcium is for children, because their bones are still growing. But calcium is also important for adults; the National Institutes of Health advises adult men to get 1,000 mg. of calcium per day, and 1,500 mg. per day for pre-menopausal women.

    Foods high in calcium include milk and milk products (low-fat and skim milks actually have slightly more calcium than whole milk), cheeses, sardines, salmon, Chinese cabbage, broccoli (especially fresh), soybeans, collards, turnip greens and tofu.

    Calcium absorption and excretion can be affected by what you eat. High caffeine foods, such as coffee, tea and caffeinated sodas, may deplete the body�s stores of calcium, and thus may promote bone loss. Diets high in protein and sodium also increase calcium excretion.

    Along with helping to build strong bones, vitamin D also helps the body absorb calcium. You can get vitamin D in two ways: from exposure to direct sunlight, or through your diet. There are relatively few foods which naturally contain vitamin D. Some good sources are egg yolks, liver and saltwater fish. However, many foods (including milk) are fortified with vitamin D.

    from John Hopkins Health
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  • Blueberries: An anti-aging boost for the body?
    Blueberries: An anti-aging boost for the body?

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- A secret of youth may be as close as a nearby farm or the supermarket shelves: blueberries.

    Elderly rats fed the human equivalent of at least half a cup of blueberries a day improved in balance, coordination and short-term memory, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience said. A cup of blueberries is a normal serving.

    Like other fruits and vegetables, blueberries contain chemicals that act as antioxidants. Scientists believe antioxidants protect the body against "oxidative stress," one of several biological processes that cause aging.

    People "are told that once you're old, there's nothing you can do. That might not be true," said Barbara Shukitt-Hale, who co-authored the study at the Agriculture Department's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

    Improving balance and coordination

    Blueberries, strawberries and spinach all test high in their ability to subdue molecules called oxygen free radicals, which are created when cells convert oxygen into energy. In normal amounts, free radicals help rid the body of toxins, but they can also harm cell membranes and DNA, which results in cell deaths.

    The Tufts study said strawberry and spinach extract produced some improvement in memory, but only blueberry extract had a significant impact on balance and coordination.

    Other studies have suggested that antioxidants in fruits and vegetables could prevent cancer and heart disease. Previous research by the Tufts scientists indicated that antioxidants slowed down the aging process in rats that started taking the dietary supplement at 6 months of age. Their latest study was the first to show antioxidants can actually reverse age-related declines, they said.

    The blueberry advantage

    They don't know why blueberries were more effective than strawberries and spinach or exactly how the chemicals work in the laboratory animals.

    "Fruits and vegetables in general are very good for you. That's without question ... It's another thing to know why," said Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad, who directs the neuroscience and neuropsychology program at the National Institute of Aging.

    Clinical trials need to be done to see whether humans could benefit, she said. The institute, which helped finance the Tufts research, already is sponsoring studies to test the effect of vitamin E, another antioxidant, aspirin and B vitamins on the mental processes of older women.

    The rats used in the Tufts study were 19 months old, the equivalent of 65 to 70 years in humans.

    Mice and mazes

    They begin losing motor skills at 12 months. By 19 months, the time it takes a rat to walk a narrow rod before losing its balance drops from 13 seconds to 5 seconds. After eating daily doses of blueberry extract for eight weeks, the rats could stay on the rod for an average of 11 seconds.

    They also performed better in negotiating mazes, as did those fed strawberry and spinach extracts, which signals improved short-term memory. But the subjects on the strawberry and spinach diet were no better at staying on the rod than rats who got no fruit extract.

    The scientists believe the antioxidants improve cell membranes so that important nutrients and chemicals can flow through more easily.

    James Joseph, one of the Tufts scientists, starts his day by mixing a handful of berries in a protein drink. "Motor behavior is one of the first things to go as you age," he said.

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  • Easy Rider: Pain-Free Bike Riding
    Easy Rider: Pain-Free Bike Riding

    (Prevention Magazine, 9 August 1999) Breezing around on a bike can make you feel like a kid again. But a stiff back or sore joints can snap you back to reality within minutes -- or really hammer you the next day. To keep bike riding pain-free, follow these tips to prevent...

    An achy back: Adjust the seat and handlebars so that your back's not too stretched out. Your elbows should be slightly bent and your back at no less than a 50-degree angle to the road. Another tip: Alternate rounding and arching your back every 10 to 15 minutes. Muscles fatigue quickly and become sore when they have to maintain the same position for a long time.

    Knee pain: A seat that's too high or too low can stress your knees. To get the right height, adjust the seat so that there is a slight bend at the knee even when your foot is at its lowest point. More tips: Stick to low gears so you spin easily instead of straining in a higher gear, and keep your knees pointing straight ahead as you pedal.

    A sore bottom: A large, cushy seat may not be the answer. Too-soft foam may allow you to sink into the hard frame. A seat that's too wide can cause your legs to rub, resulting in chafing. Try seats specially designed for women; they offer extra padding where you need it most. Or, try a gel seat cover. Another tip: Invest in a good pair of bike shorts. They come with a built-in cushion that pads and protects your bottom. There are also new baggy styles available, as well as underwear versions to wear with regular shorts. (These are all designed to replace regular underpants.)

    A stiff neck: When your upper body is too extended, it can cause neck strain. Unless you're a hard-core rider, you can try switching to handlebars that allow you to sit more upright, such as mountain-bike style or the old-fashioned, antler-shaped type. If you really want the aerodynamics of a road bike, make sure you move your neck around frequently, so it's not in one position for too long.

    Tingling hands: Gripping the handlebars too tightly for too long can lead to pain, numbness, or tingling. Change hand positions often, and keep your elbows unlocked.

    Quick Tip: If you're riding for several hours, the best way to avoid all-over aches and pains is to take frequent breaks. When you stop, walk around and do some stretches.

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