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For April 10, 2020

  • Children and the Need for Physical Activity
    Children and the Need for Physical Activity

    Children in the U.S. today are less fit than they were a generation ago and showing early signs of cardiovascular disease such as weight gain, higher serum cholesterol, and cigarette smoking.

    Inactive children, when compared with active children, weigh more, have higher blood pressure and lower levels of heart-protective high-density lipoproteins. Even though heart attack and stroke are rare in children, evidence suggests that the process leading to those conditions begins in childhood. The 1987 National Children and Youth Fitness Study indicates that at least half of youth don't engage in physical activity that promotes long-term health and that less than 36 percent of elementary and secondary schools offer daily PE classes and that most classes were unlikely to foster lifelong physical activity.

    A fitness testing program sponsored by the Chrysler Fund Amateur Athletic Union, which tracks fitness among 9.7 million youngsters between the ages of 6 and 17, shows that children are getting slower in endurance running and are getting weaker. Since 1980 there has been a 10 percent drop off on scores for distance runs and an 11 percent decline in youngsters who achieved at least a "satisfactory" score on the entire test.

    An estimated 2.1 million adolescents age 12 to 17 are smokers. Nine million American children under age five live with at least one smoker and are exposed to second-hand smoke for virtually the whole day. It is estimated that 3,000 American young people become smokers every day.

    Children spend an average of 17 hours a week watching TV in addition to the time they spend on video and computer games. Inactive children are more likely to become inactive adults. Healthful lifestyle training should begin in childhood to promote improved cardiovascular health in adult life. The following good health practices should be promoted among children:

    • regular physical activity
    • a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet after the age of two
    • smoking prevention
    • appropriate weight for height
    • regular pediatric medical checkups

    Copyright 1998 American Heart Association, Inc. All rights reserved.

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  • Breaking Through a Weight-Loss Plateau
    Breaking Through a Weight-Loss Plateau

    By Kathy Stevens

    The first step is to stop focusing on the bathroom scale. Often a change in the scale reflects the pounds of body fluid you lose and gain every day rather than how much fat you've lost or gained. Also, because muscle weighs more than fat, you can lose inches of fat without losing weight. So if you can't rely on the scale to tell you how you're doing week to week, what can you count on? Many experts recommend a measuring tape or a tight pair of jeans.

    But don't go to extremes. Don't keep trying on those jeans or measuring yourself every week. Instead, check your progress once every four weeks and chart the results. This will give you a better idea of how you're doing, and will help keep you from getting frustrated at not seeing dramatic weekly improvements.

    Get the Heartbeat Up

    Losing weight requires exercise or controlled caloric intake -- and optimally a combination of both. In order to lose one pound of fat, you must burn about 3,500 calories. For most people this process takes at least three to seven days; experts consider one to two pounds a week a reasonable target.

    In any weight-loss program, exercise is a crucial part of the formula. If you've stopped losing weight, it may be time to start exercising more or increase your workout intensity. Here are several ways you can alter your training routine to push you past the plateau:

    • Add variety. If you've been walking, try cycling or swimming.
    • Increase the intensity of your cardiovascular or aerobic exercise by adding short bursts of higher-intensity movement, such as sprinting. These intervals should last 30 to 60 seconds and be followed by less intense exercise for two or three times the length of the burst. Start by adding one or two of these intervals to your routine, then increase the number as you improve your conditioning.
    • Work out with a friend or a personal trainer. This may motivate you to pick up your pace.

    Watch Your Food Intake

    A strict exercise regimen is crucial in a weight-loss program, but the fat won't come off if you're hitting the potato chip aisle on a regular basis. Here are simple dietary changes you can make to help you lose the fat:

    • Increase your water intake. Drink a glass before you treat yourself to a second helping or an unnecessary snack. This helps you feel fuller.
    • Eat foods that are high in fiber; they, too, help fill you up (the body doesn't digest fiber).
    • Re-evaluate your eating habits. Make sure you're controlling portion sizes and making low-fat choices.
    • Keep Your Chin Up

      In the end, you should view hitting a plateau as a good thing. Why? It means your body has less fat to lose, which explains why the weight isn't coming off as readily. And remember: It's best to lose weight slowly and sensibly so you can make changes that you'll keep for life.

      (c) 1999 WebMD. All rights reserved. From:Ask the Experts

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  • Ten Reasons To Eat More Veggies And Fruits
    Ten Reasons To Eat More Veggies And Fruits

    January 6, 2000
    Medical Tribune

    The American Institute for Cancer Research, Washington, D.C., has compiled a list of "ten good reasons" to eat more vegetables and fruits. Topping the list is cancer prevention.

    A report by AICR researchers on diet's role in the prevention of cancer estimates that eating at least five servings of vegetables and fruits each day could prevent up to 20 percent of all cancers.

    Vegetables and fruits are rich in naturally occurring antioxidants - substances shown to provide protection against free-radicals (reactive substances that damage cells and initiate cancer) - and other phytochemicals that help to detoxify cancer-causing substances.

    Number 2 on AICR's top ten list is to keep trim. Many vegetables contain 50 calories or fewer for a whole cup, while only five potato chips or one small cookie has the same number of calories. If you satisfy your appetite with hearty servings of vegetables and fruits, hunger won't be a problem and you will eat smaller portions of higher-calorie meats and desserts.

    Prevent heart disease is number 3. Eating more vegetables and fruits - while cutting back on meat and dairy - can help you limit heart-damaging saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet. The antioxidants and certain other phytochemicals in these foods also help prevent fatty deposits from forming in blood vessels. Vegetables and fruits supply soluble fiber, which helps lower blood cholesterol. They also provide folate, a B vitamin that helps lower blood levels of homocysteine, high levels of which are a risk factor for heart disease.

    Benefit number 4 of veggies and fruits is they lower blood pressure levels. Many people think blood pressure can be controlled only through eating a low-salt diet and controlling weight. Yet several studies in which people followed a high vegetable and fruit diet achieved a significant drop in blood pressure. How? Researchers believe potassium and magnesium in these foods should be credited.

    Prevent stroke is number 5. Results of recent studies suggest that diets high in vegetables and fruits can decrease the risk of stroke by up to 25 percent. The boost in potassium they provide may be responsible, as well as the antioxidants and other phytochemicals they contain.

    Eye protection is number 6. Eating more vegetables and fruits may lower your risk for two of the most common causes of adult blindness: cataracts (which occur in almost half of all Americans over the age of 75) and macular degeneration. Scientists link this protection for the eyes with antioxidants like vitamin C and certain carotenoids.

    Next is to avoid diverticulosis. One-third of people over the age of 50 and two-thirds of those over the age of 80 are estimated to have this intestinal disorder. Diverticulosis occurs when pressure in the intestine creates small pouches in the intestine wall, which can become inflamed and painful. The best defense against developing these pouches (diverticulae) is eating a high-fiber diet. Fruits, and especially vegetables, are major sources of the type of fiber considered to be most helpful.

    Fruits and vegetables help avoid diabetes. Fruits and vegetables seem to raise blood sugar less than other foods that contain carbohydrates, and their fiber content slows the absorption of sugar into the blood. A gradual rise in blood sugar is more easily handled by the body than an abrupt rise.

    Fruits and vegetables can also satisfy your sweet tooth. When you turn to fruit for a sweet taste and quick energy, you get an added boost - nutrition that works for you - instead of just "empty calories" found in sweets like candy bars and soft drinks.

    Finally, "experience pure pleasure." Adding the vibrant colors of vegetables and fruits - the reds, oranges, purples, greens and yellows - can make any dish more visually appealing. Also, the diversity of textures and tastes of these foods will add interest and flavor to many meals. Experiment with new ways to prepare and season vegetables and fruits - and experience pure pleasure!

    Copyright 2000 Medical PressCorps News Service. All rights reserved.
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  • The Anti-Aging Battle
    The Anti-Aging Battle

    (WebMD) -- This is the first in a two-part series on staying young.

    Age spots were the last things Linda Walsh wanted to see developing on her feet and legs three years ago. Just 42 years old, her hair was also beginning to fall out, her joints were increasingly stiff and she was constantly fatigued.

    Today the Southern California resident's skin is blemish-free, and her hair is as lustrous and full as it has ever been. She's healthy and active, running her growing business. Walsh said that she owes the turnaround to antioxidant supplements and the specialized skincare products she religiously lathers all over her face and body.

    As more Americans such as Walsh join the ranks of the aging population, they're finding that staying forever young isn't always as simple as taking a few pills and smearing on special lotions. Geneticists say that's because the cause of aging goes much deeper, all the way into the core of the body's cells -- the genes -- the blueprint of human life, which dictates how people grow, develop and age.

    With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer reporting that Americans are now living an average of 30 years longer than they did in 1900, the thought of increasing human life expectancy may no longer be a fantasy.

    "There are lots and lots of genes that can make a difference in how we age and how long we live," said Dr. George Martin, adjunct professor of genetics at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

    For the last 10 years, Martin has been studying Werner's syndrome, a disease that causes people to develop symptoms of aging as early as age 20. Persons with the syndrome develop gray hair, osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes, symptoms that mirror the health of an aging person.

    In 1996, Martin and his colleagues in laboratories around the world isolated the cause: a gene they call recQ, mutated so that it no longer works to support the cell's gene-maintenance machinery. When the machine slows down, the person affected begins to display the signs of premature aging.

    Martin points out that because an alteration in a gene causes symptoms of aging, physicians might someday be able to target certain genes to slow the aging process.

    The antioxidant connection

    What's offering more clues, however, is the study of animals whose genes can be very similar to human genes. University of Colorado scientists have found several genes in roundworms, for example, that, when mutated, allow the worms to live twice as long.

    One of these genes controls how much antioxidant the body produces, said lead researcher Thomas Johnson, professor of behavioral genetics at the university's Boulder campus. When the gene is mutated, more antioxidant is produced to fight free radicals, byproducts of the body's energy-making process that cause aging by damaging tissues and cells. Roundworms that have more of the antioxidant live twice as long as worms that have the normal amount of antioxidant.

    However, while antioxidant supplements may have rid Walsh of age spots, the supplements, including vitamins A, E and C, don't necessarily increase the body's ability to fight free radicals, Johnson added, explaining that some studies are showing that the body produces less antioxidant if it's already supplied through the diet.

    On the genetic frontier

    Information Johnson is collecting from research could potentially help increase the human lifespan. Johnson recently set up a company, Denver-based GenoPlex, that will try to develop drugs to interfere with the aging process on the genetic level.

    "It's impossible to predict what can happen," he said. But "there's no formal reason why we couldn't manipulate genes ... in humans using drug approaches that would disrupt genes in the same way."

    Manipulating genes may be the way to go, agreed Helen Blau, professor and chairman of molecular pharmacology at Stanford University School of Medicine. She and her team of researchers have been developing genetically engineered muscle cells, which could stimulate the body to produce blood vessels. Reinvigorated blood vessels could prevent the development of heart disease and poor circulation, as well as delay the muscle atrophy and the difficulties in wound healing that afflict older people.

    So far, the genetically engineered cells have been successful at stimulating blood-vessel growth in mice, Blau said. With this success, she will begin clinical trials in the near future to see if the cells can cause blood vessels to grow in people.

    However, like most scientists, Blau insists the anti-aging therapies aren't going to happen today. Instead, she said that while scientists now know so much about the genetics of aging, actual genetic therapies are a thing of the future.

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  • Heart Monitors Improve Workout Results
    Heart Monitors Improve Workout Results
    By Camille Mojica Rey

    (WebMD) -- Indoor cycling instructor Lisa Lewis knows when a student is overdoing it. The exhaustion on his or her face says it all: The rest of the evening will include a big plate of pasta and an early bedtime. Such punishing workouts don't always improve a client's overall fitness, and can often be avoided with the use of a heart monitor.

    Lewis and her colleagues at Gorilla Sports in San Francisco were seeing the "big plate of pasta look" all too often, so they decided to hold a workshop for indoor cycling students, to teach them about heart rate training and the use of cardio monitors, the latest high-tech gizmo allowing everyone from the fitness novice to the weekend triathelete to get a better, more efficient aerobic workout.

    "I think it was really enlightening," says Lewis. "People realized that maybe they didn't need to work so hard." Instead of being worn out, many indoor cyclists reported feeling energized and refreshed after the class.

    Tailoring your workout

    Fitness experts say that to maximize the benefit of a cardiovascular workout, a person should raise his or her heart rate to between 50 and 70 percent of its maximum rate. The maximum number of beats per minute is estimated to be 220 minus the person's age. If you work below that level, your heart isn't getting the challenge it needs to get stronger. But if the heart is worked too hard, the body begins burning stored calories in a way that burns less fat and more muscle tissue.

    Heart rate training, then, involves keeping track of your heart rate while you exercise. Taking a pulse while huffing and puffing away is hard, but cardio monitors can change that.

    Lewis hopes one day to offer indoor cycling classes especially for people equipped with monitors. That may be possible if monitors continue dropping in price. The most popular models -- which range in price from about $60 to $260 -- include a strap you wear around the rib cage while exercising. The strap transmits a radio signal to a wristwatch-like device that displays your heart rate.

    As the price range suggests, cardio monitors can come with a lot of bells and whistles. The simplest model offers a continuous display of the number of beats per minute. Mid-range models calculate the time spent in the target heart rate zone, double as a stopwatch and remind their owners after three dormant days that it's time to get moving again. High-end models can be synchronized with a personal computer, calculate maximum heart rate and display the average heart rate for each lap.

    Professional fine-tuning

    Heart rate training is an old idea, says Mike Gostigian, an Olympic pentathlete and personal trainer in New York City. "It's the way elite athletes have always trained." Gostigian uses the monitors in his own training and with his clients. "With heart rate training, you're more in touch with what's going on in your body," he says. If cardiovascular fitness is your goal, then working without a heart rate monitor "is like driving a car without a speedometer."

    Gostigian feels people need cardio monitors to keep from overdoing it. To recovery properly from exercise, he says, 90 percent of your workout should be at between 50 and 70 percent of your maximum heart. "Over-training is a chronic problem," Gostigian says. "Your body has to take time to heal."

    But using the monitors properly takes discipline. One of Gostigian's clients, marathoner Anne Katzenbach, had a hard time at first. "It frustrated us," Katzenbach says. "It forced us to run slower than we wanted to run, to keep our heart rate down."

    But the patience paid off. After about five weeks, she was running faster but at the same heart rate. And, Katzenbach adds, "it made the training more interesting."

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  • Protect Your Shins from Shin Splints
    Protect Your Shins from Shin Splints

    Six Ways to Prevent Shin Splints

    (Prevention, September 1999) � You don't have to let a shin splint, a common injury in walkers and runners, slow you down. Rest, ice, and ibuprofen (or other pain relievers) are fine for easing the pain once it occurs, but this six-step plan can prevent it.

    1. Evaluate your workout. If you recently increased the speed or intensity of your walk or run, you may have overdone it. Ease off a bit, then progress gradually. Increase only one component (speed, frequency, or duration) of your routine at a time.

    2. Loosen up. Tight calf muscles can contribute to shin pain, says Jeff Young, MD, of Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. To stretch these muscles, stand on a step facing the staircase, with the back half of your right foot hanging over the edge and your knee straight. (Your left foot should be entirely on the step.) Slowly let your right heel drop until you feel your calf stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Stretch each leg three or four times. Then try the same stretch with your knee slightly bent.

    3. Strengthen your hips. Shin pain can be caused by overpronation, in which the foot rolls in too much as you walk or run. Strong hip muscles can help prevent this. Side-lying leg-lift exercises -- with a twist -- are great for strengthening these muscles, says Dr. Young. The twist is to do some with your toes pointing down and then some with your toes and knee pointing up. This works the hip muscles at different angles. Work up to three sets of 10 leg lifts with each leg, three or four times a week. When this becomes easy, you can add light ankle weights for greater strengthening.

    4. Target your shins. Stand near a wall or chair for balance and slowly raise your toes and the balls of your feet as far off the floor as possible. Hold for 3 seconds. Work up to three sets of 10 lifts, three or four times a week.

    5. Rub away pain. A deep-tissue massage can release tightness in this area. A certified massage therapist can perform this -- and also teach you how to give yourself one.

    6. Buy new sneaks. If you walk or run regularly and your sneakers are more than six months old, you probably need new ones. The lack of support and cushioning in old shoes can contribute to injuries like shin pain. To get the right shoe for your foot type, go to stores that specialize in walking or running shoes. Some may employ certified pedorthists, trained in fitting shoes.

    If pain persists for more than two weeks or if it frequently recurs, see your doctor.

    Quick Tip: Walking or running on a sloped road or slanted track can also cause shin pain; alternate your direction every other lap to compensate.

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