Getting to the core of strength
Your core is the area of your trunk that includes
muscles in your abdomen, back, hips and pelvis. The trunk houses your
muscular center of gravity and balance, and it supports your spine.
When you have good core stability, these muscles work
in harmony. They make it easier to do most physical activities, from
swinging a golf club to bending down to tie your shoes.
A weak core makes you more apt to have poor posture
and low back pain.
You can develop core strength with floor exercises,
including any that use the trunk of your body without additional
support. Think squats, push-ups and abdominal crunches, say doctors at
the Mayo Clinic, but there are other floor exercises, including:
The bridge. Lie on your back with knees bent
and back relaxed. Tighten your abdominal muscles and raise your hips off
the floor until they are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold for
three deep breaths then do it again.
Segmental rotation. Lie on your back as above.
Tighten your abdominal muscles. Keep your shoulders on the floor and let
your knees fall slowly to the left until you feel a stretch but not
pain. Hold for three deep breaths. Return to the start position and
repeat the exercise to the right.
Quadruped. Start on your hands and knees with
your hands directly below your shoulders. Align your head and neck with
your back. Tighten abdominal muscles, raise your right arm off the floor
and reach ahead. Hold for three deep breaths. Lower your arm and repeat
with the left. Next, extend your right leg, hold and repeat with your
Teens get screened for depression
Recommendations by the Preventive Services Task Force
have prompted most doctors to do routine depression screenings on
teenagers. Depression in teens has been linked to suicide, substance
abuse and other problems.
Don't be surprised if a doctor asks your kids ages 12
to 18 to fill out a questionnaire or a computer form. The screening
discovers continuing sadness, irritability and loss of pleasure in life.
The information is private and parents don't see it.
The screening should be scored immediately by the
doctor. If any red flags turn up, as they do 10 percent of the time, the
doctor speaks with the teen to find out more and to assess any immediate
danger. The doctor then discusses the test with parents. Teens are
usually relieved to have someone else tell parents how they feel.
For those deemed to be at risk, conversations with a
clinical social worker or psychologist are very helpful, along with a
follow-up with their family doctor.
Two types of sleep apnea
The most common type of this complaint is obstructive
sleep apnea, usually experienced by people who snore. Because their
breathing passages are temporarily blocked, they don't breathe for
several seconds or more.
The less common type is central sleep apnea. It
occurs when the brain fails to transmit signals to the muscles that
control breathing, say doctors at the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorder
Center. One cause, for example, could be a combination of low blood
pressure and low thyroid activity.
What you can do about your snoring
Snoring can be a temporary problem brought on by a
cold, allergy or sinus infection.
More often, it's an every-night occurrence caused by
a vibration of the relaxed muscles and tissues in the throat. Symptoms
are worse if you are overweight, or still have your tonsils.
Doctors at the Snoring and Apnea Center of
California, Los Angeles, say snorers should sleep on their sides, not on
their backs. It helps to cut back on relaxants like alcohol and some
medications before bed.
Nasal strips are popular, but they are recommended
only for people whose snoring is due to sinus blockage. Some
over-the-counter sprays help, but only if you don't drink anything
afterward. Mouth guards that are custom made by a dentist are expensive
but help by moving the jaw forward. They allow more room in the throat.
Two-thirds of snorers develop obstructive sleep
apnea. Between snores, breathing passages get blocked and let no air in
for 10 seconds or more. This can cause high blood pressure, fatigue and
decreased productivity. It could also cause a heart attack or death.
Dramatic improvements are seen with the use of
nighttime breathing masks, which gently force air past the obstruction.
The "pillar procedure" is a new, minimally invasive
and permanent fix. Three tiny fixed rods are inserted into the soft
palate. This stops the soft palate from vibrating, the cause of snoring.
It takes about 15 minutes and is painless, but the $1,500 to $3,000 cost
is usually not covered by insurance.