IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  March 1, 2005

Snapshot of Your Health

With so much health advice in the news today, just thinking about what you should or should not be doing can be a dizzying prospect. Harvard doctors agree that health can be an overwhelming topic. But they say that if you have a handle on these four numbers, you can have a pretty good idea of where you stand and what to do about it.

1. Your body mass index (BMI). Many people are overweight and don't think they are. The health risks climb when you reach the overweight level. Here's what they mean:

Underweight is a BMI of less than 18.5, and normal weight is a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9.

Overweight is a BMI of 25 to 29.9, and obesity is a BMI of 30 or over. If your calculation shows more than 24.9, it's time to lose weight. To get a fast BMI rating, see nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bmicalc.htm. Just enter your height and weight.

2. Your blood pressure. Ideally, it should be 120/80 or below. Starting at 115/75, the risk for heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular disease doubles with each increment of 20/10.

People with systolic blood pressure (the first number) of 120 to 139 or a diastolic of 80 to 90 are "prehypertensive." Changes in diet and activity patterns can help prevent cardiovascular disease at this level.

3. Your fasting glucose. If you have two fasting plasma glucose measurements of 126 mg/dL or greater, you have diabetes.

4. Your LDL cholesterol level. Your bad cholesterol reading should be below 100, but 70 is better. Diet, exercise, and medications like statins, or all three, can lower your LDL, reducing your heart disease risk by about a third.

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New Cholesterol Therapy

People with multiple risk factors for heart disease include men older than 45 and women older than 55 who also smoke, have high blood pressure, and have high LDL cholesterol readings.

The latest recommendations for lowering LDL cholesterol indicate that these people should reduce their LDL readings to 100. High-risk patients who have already had a heart attack should have readings below 70 mg/dL.

Statin drugs are effective at reducing LDL levels, but only about half of high-risk patients can even reach the 100 level with maximal doses of statins.

Pills that combine a second cholesterol fighter with a statin can do the job. Advicor combines lovastatin with extended release niacin. Vytorin puts Zocor together with a drug that blocks intestinal absorption of cholesterol. Doctors at Johns Hopkins say if a statin isn't enough, they recommend a combo drug.

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Diagostic Tool for Appendicitis

Accurate diagnosis of appendicitis has been a problem. Many cases lack the usual symptoms of fever and pain in the abdomen. And up to 40 percent of appendectomies prove to be unnecessary when the appendix is found to be normal.

Now, the FDA has approved NeutroSpec, a technique that makes diagnosis easier. A radioactive tracer binds to an infection-fighting white blood cell and can be located using an imaging device called a gamma camera. The technique correctly diagnoses appendicitis within an hour.

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Better Treatment for fibroids

The Food and Drug Administration has granted approval for a non-invasive procedure to treat uterine fibroids.

The outpatient procedure by Insightec and General Electric takes about three hours. A magnetic resonance scanner maps the fibroid tissue as Insightec's ExAblate 2000 focuses beams of high-frequency, high-energy sound waves into the fibroid to destroy it.

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Exercise Fights Exhaustion

If you often feel fatigued, it could be time to head for the treadmill. Researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway asked some 6,000 women about their exercise habits and how often they felt tired.

When they followed up 15 months later, they found that study subjects who had exercised at least 20 minutes once a week were, on average, 30 percent less likely to feel fatigued.

A little exercise goes a long way toward building strength and beating exhaustion.

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How to Treat a Nosebleed

  • Sit down and tilt your head forward slightly so blood doesn't go to your throat.
  • Pinch your nose closed for 10 minutes. If you're still bleeding, do it again. Hold an ice pack against the bridge of your nose.
  • Once the bleeding has stopped, don't blow your nose, strain, or bend over to lift anything heavy for the next 12 hours.

    If bleeding continues for 20 minutes or more, go to the emergency room.

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  • Men: Read This Surprising Fact

    Men are highly aware of the fact that they may develop prostate cancer, especially in later life. But consider this:

    The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that men are more likely to develop bone problems than they are to get prostate cancer.

    Men and women at every age can prevent osteoporosis by drinking milk. Even small amounts throughout the day are beneficial. Adding a few tablespoons of milk to coffee or tea can help.

    A Harvard-Tufts study shows that men with high homocysteine (a blood factor that increases heart disease risk) are four times likelier to break a hip. But levels can be brought down by taking B vitamins. So drink some milk, get a blood test, and walk through retirement.

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    More Praise for Oatmeal

    A new study shows that antioxidants in oatmeal help keep plaque from forming in arteries. The Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center of Aging at Tufts University made the discovery.

    Soluble fiber in oats helps lower bad cholesterol, reduces heart disease risk, and helps to control blood sugar.

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    Get Water in a New Bottle

    When you refill an empty plastic water or juice bottle, you could be serving up some dangerous bacteria for yourself. It's easy for bottles to become contaminated. And since most bottles never fully dry out, every time you refill the bottle you recontaminate the new water inside.

    A study by Case Western Reserve University also shows that the more often you refill a plastic bottle, the more likely it is that toxic chemicals from within the plastic will leach out into the water.

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    Coated Aspirin Less Effective

    Many people take a daily aspirin to reduce their risk for heart disease. But some aren't getting the benefit. It could be because they are taking coated aspirin, which is absorbed at a lower rate, says Dublin's Royal College of Surgeons.

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    The Lowdown on Lifting

    If you are out of shape or new to weight lifting, scientists in the United Kingdom have good news for you. Their studies show that deconditioned lifters who perform a single set of reps build muscle and gain strength as effectively as those doing multiple sets.

    A new study by the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse shows that super slow lifting is less effective than lifting weights at the regular speed.

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    Save Your Hearing

    One in every 10 Americans has some degree of hearing loss. That includes teenagers, children, and adults.

    Though age is a factor, hearing loss isn't a definite condition of advancing years. By protecting your hearing, you could have excellent hearing through retirement years.

    Today, hearing loss is on the rise among people from their teens to their 40s. The main cause of hearing loss is also on the rise: loud noise.

    The world has become a noisier place. Much of the high volume is in the form of sound systems in movie theaters, cars, and home theaters. And power devices like leaf blowers and snow blowers can be harmful.

    There are many things you can do to preserve your hearing. Don't blast the music. Use earplugs when operating power equipment. Learn to recognize the signs of hearing loss, and have your hearing checked. Early treatment of infection or disease affecting your ears is a proven way to make the most of the hearing you have.

    Chronic exposure to loud noise damages the sensitive structure of hearing, the inner ear's hair cells and the nerve fibers they contact. While the damage cannot be cured or reversed, the progression of hearing loss can be prevented by protecting the ears from further high-noise exposure.

    Simple ear plugs made of foam polyurethane reduce sound by 7 to 10 decibels (dB). Use them when operating power equipment. Custom-fitted plugs reduce noise levels by 10 to 15 dB, which is often enough to reduce noise levels below the critical damaging threshold of 85 dB. Use them at loud stock car races.

    Properly insulated ear muffs reduce levels to 15 to 25 dB. They are important for people who are exposed to gunfire or continuing loud noise.

    If hearing protection is specified on your job, be sure to wear it.

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    Quotes

    A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.
    - Mark Twain

    Cheerfulness is the best promoter of health and is as friendly to the mind as to the body.
    - Joseph Addison

    Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very fast.
    - Thomas Jefferson

    Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.
    - Thomas Jefferson

    To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.
    - Copernicus

    Zen: Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your mouth is moving.


    Q: I have tried to stretch my legs that is front and side stretch but it is difficult to me to do it. If you have some mechanism to do it easly with out pain?

    A: Try stretching after a warm 15 minute soak in a tub.

    Q: What is the recommended time to workout on abs for success? Does it vary from person to person?

    A: Abs should be worked every day. However, the layer of fat on the abs will provide cover for your work. So that is a priority. Aerobic activity an hour every other day will take care of that. Also, watch the caloric intake.

    Q: I've just started running and weight tranning but am finding it hard to come up with a routine for running, weight tranning and rest periods hope you can help

    A: Keeping it simple will help to make it easier to follow. Run every other day for about an hour. Train on alternate days both upper and lower body. Rest on the weekends.

    Q: I have been taking Tae Kwon Do for a little more than a year. I have just tested for my red stripe belt and will soon be testing for black belt. My husband and I want to have another child. I have asked my TKD Master if I will be be able to continue TKD after getting pregnant (albeit sparring of course). His answer was rather disappointing. He said that if I did get pregnant I would not be able to take regular classes, just yoga type classes. We really want to have another child, but at the expense of not getting my black belt. Any advise? Is it possible to continue regular TKD classes during pregnancy? Thank you.

    A: Sorry, to say but your instructor is correct. If you inadvertently catch a blow or kick to the body, you may cause extreme damage to the unborn child. Even jogging can cause problems. The black belt can be acheived later. It's a not worth the risk. Continue to keep in shape.

    Q: I just have a question regarding range of motion of some of the upper extremities. I was wondering what the normal ROM for shoulder flexion, extension, medial rotation and lateral rotation and also what the normal ROM for knee lateral rotation is? Thanks!

    A: Here is a website that has some good ROM information. ROM Lab

    Q: I have celiac disease and thyroid disease. My weight currently is 124 I can't seem to loose the extra 7 lbs. I think if I follow a low glycemic diet it would not only help me loose the extra weight but also help me keep the celiac under control. Where can I find a general list of foods with glycemic count and possibly calorie count. I fell desperate to find the right road to feeling better. Thank you.

    A: Here is a good website for Glycemic Index http://www.glycemicindex.com

    Q: Whenever I workout, even if I warm up before hand, I get severe headaches. Is there any way to prevent this?

    A: Have you had your blood pressure checked by a doctor? If all checks out it could be a food allergy that becomes obvious when your metabolism is increased. Have it checked out.

    Q: I have recently started working out again and am doing a lot of treadmill and exercise bike program for weight loss. I am female, 46 years old, resting heart rate 82. The past week or so I have been keeping track of my training heart rate and have had it hit between 180's and up to 200. And at times have had it drop below 100 while training, then back up. Should I be concerned about this?

    A: If you are measuring it correctly, then that may be a problem. Your resting heart rate is a bit high also. Check with your doctor and request a stress test. It is done on a treadmill while you are "hooked up." Better to be safe while you are working on your health and fitness.

    Q: I am a normal 16-year-old female. I've gotten some cellulite, my hip have become wider, fat on my waist. Whqt can I do?

    A: You should start working in the gym, that will help tone up. Also, do about one hour of cardio every day. This could be stepper, treadmill, etc. Also watch the calories. Keep total caloric intake to about 1500 to 1800 a day. Do not go below that or you slow your metabolism down. It may take 2 to 3 weeks to start seeing the beginnings of results.