Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Physical Exercise: Its Benefits and What You May Have Overlooked

About 250,000 deaths a year in the U.S. are attributable to lack of physical exercise, according to estimates from the American Heart Association. More alarming are reports from several studies that at 25 in men, and after puberty in women, the muscles begin to deteriorate.

With this steady deterioration in our muscles, how are we able to maintain our upright pasture, walk, pull, push and lift objects well into our seventies? For one, normal muscle deterioration happens very slowly over our lifetime. For another, normal activities at home and at work ensure that we are using our muscles to slow down the rate of deterioration.

However, alone, normal activities are not enough to strengthen the muscles and reduce body fat to desired levels; otherwise heart disease and stroke would not be among the leading causes of death in the U.S. We need to do regular physical exercise to remain healthy and strong into our seventies and eighties.

Yet over 50% of people in the U.S. don't like doing physical exercise: the activity we need the most to boost good cholesterol (HDL) levels, blood circulation, lower blood pressure, and lower blood fat including cholesterol and triglycerides, in order to reduce our risk of stroke and heart attack.

Not only does physical exercise strengthens the heart muscles to more freely pump blood to all parts of the body, it also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, low good cholesterol (HDL), high triglycerides and high blood sugar.

Several studies have shown that physical exercise also reduces the risk of colon and breast cancer. Other benefits include reduced risk of cancer to the lining of the uterus, lung and prostate.

Added to building muscle mass to displace fat, and keeping the body in a trimmed shape, physical exercise also regulates the body metabolism from slowing down when you are on a diet. This means you don't need to choose a starvation diet program to lose weight. With regular physical exercise, you can choose a normal sensible diet, and still lose weight safely.

Physical exercise allows you to take in deep breath to bring more oxygen into your lungs than normal breathing does. In this way, the lung muscles get a workout helping to clear the arteries that bring nutrients and oxygen to the lungs cells, to maintain proper functioning of the lungs to supply your body with adequate oxygen.

Regular physical exercise also slows down the loss of bone density as we age. This is especially important to the elderly who are more likely to suffer from hip fracture. But, the key to getting all the benefits of physical exercise without hurting yourself is to do regular  age-appropriate physical exercise, and that means consulting your doctor before starting any physical exercise program. 

Research has also shown that physical exercise increases the levels of the brain chemicals called norepinephrine and dopamine that can boost your mood, and help you retain memories of facts and events. It is no wonder why those who do regular physical exercise have a feeling of exhilaration and wellness, and a ready to take on the world attitude.

With the benefits of physical exercise before our eyes, why doesn't everybody get on with doing physical exercise daily; especially when the evidence shows we have nothing to lose. The reason many people don't is that for the past 50 years, we have trained our bodies to accept a lifestyle forced upon us by the requirements of making a living in a modern world.

Most of our jobs involves sitting for long hours behind desks talking on the phone, or staring at computer screens. Modern appliances and equipments have also ensured that we do less walking and less physical movements when doing our tasks at home and at work. The reduction in physical activities means using our muscles less, and the less the muscles are used, the higher the rate of deterioration.

In the end, difficult as it may seem, you will have to make the choice to start doing regular age-appropriate physical exercise, after talking with your doctor, to tone and strengthen your muscles including your heart and lung muscles, if you want to remain healthy and strong into your eighties and nineties.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How To Maintain Good Health With A Diet For Your Cells

Do you eat to feed your body or your cells? And is there a difference between the two worth thinking about anyway?

Some argue, as I do, that the body and cells are technically not the same thing. Although the body is made up of cells, there are trillions of cells in the body. With each internal organ and tissue having specialized cells performing unique functions, it is obvious that each group of cells will need a unique diet.

Consequently, making a difference between the body and cells will focus our resources on designing diets that met the specific needs of individual groups of cells to boost their performance levels. Additionally, since cells are the end users of the foods and drinks we consume, it is only fitting that we give them nutrients they can use.

And here your digestive system has an important role. It extract nutrients from foods and drinks, deposit them in the bloodstream, and together with oxygen from the lungs are carried to the trillions of cells to repair and rebuild tissues, and perform chemical and electrical processes through out the body.

So, when we talk about optimizing the performance of the body, we are not been specific enough, but when we talk about optimizing the cells of the heart, the cells of the kidneys, or the cells of the pancreas, we are able to design diets that cater to the specific needs of the cells that maintain the health of those internal organs.

For example, if you are concerned about preventing heart attack or stroke, you will want to include bananas in your diet. As a great source of potassium bananas provide about 396 milligrams of potassium in each fruit. Bananas lower the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke by helping to prevent plaque from sticking to the walls of the artery.

To reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, you will also want to include flavonoids in your daily diet. They are found in large quantities in apples, cranberries, grapes, green and black teas, broccoli, onions, endive and red wines.

Flavonoids are not only effective antioxidants that keep the bad cholesterol LDL from oxidizing and forming plaque in the artery, they also keep blood platelets from clumping together in the bloodstream and forming clots to prevent heart attack and stroke.

If you are concerned about a curable kidney disease like lupus, a condition where the immune system attacks healthy kidney cells; you will want to include flaxseed in your daily diet. The lignans and omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed reduce inflammation in the tiny and delicate arteries that supply blood to the kidneys, which prevents artery clogging and damage to the kidneys.

Foods and drinks rich in potassium like dried apricots, baked potatoes, fruits and vegetables and orange juice; magnesium rich foods like fish, long grain rice, avocados and broccoli, as well as high fiber foods have also been found to dissolve kidney stones.

If your concern is about diabetes, your diet will include avocados a good source of the monounsaturated fat oleic acid that lowers the bad cholesterol (LDL), lowers triglycerides, and increases the good cholesterol (HDL). Beans for complex carbohydrates that release sugar slowly into the blood, and soluble fiber that helps muscle and liver cells to produce more insulin receptor sites. Bulgur and buckwheat are also rich sources of complex carbohydrates.

If you are concerned about preventing cancer, you will want to include foods and drinks loaded with antioxidants in your daily diet. Antioxidants prevent unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals from attacking your healthy cells by offering electrons to free radicals to render them harmless to the body.

Without antioxidants, free radicals will oxidize the bad cholesterol (LDL) forming plaque that stick to the artery walls leading to hardening of the arteries, heart disease and stroke. Left to roam freely in the body, free radicals will also damage the DNA inside the cells resulting in the mutation of the cells and cancer.

Foods and drinks loaded with vitamin C like tropical and citrus fruits, broccoli and red bell peppers; vitamin E rich foods like sunflower seed, wheat germ and vegetable cooking oils; and beta-carotene rich fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, are good sources of antioxidants.

With fruits, vegetables and herbs buy organic whenever possible to avoid pesticide residues that might be found on inorganic produce. But where their prices are too high, or they are not available, inorganic produce are better than nothing. Just be sure to thoroughly wash both organic and inorganic produce before juicing or cooking them.

While it is important to go see your doctor if you have heart disease, stroke, kidney problem, diabetes or cancer, after you are medically cured, getting on a diet that included all the named fruits, vegetables and herbs will boost the health of the cells of your internal organs toward maintaining your overall good health.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Understanding Your Pain To Avoid Painkiller Addiction

Pain is the main reason most people in the U.S. go to see their doctors. The onset of pain indicates two conditions: something has gone wrong in the body that needs correcting, or something is harmful to the body that needs to be avoided or removed. 

From very early childhood we know that fire burns and hurts, so we avoid putting our fingers in fire. We know that hitting our knees against a piece of furniture hurts, so we are careful when walking in the livingroom or office to avoid running into furniture.

So far so good for the one type of pain. The other type that is not fully understood by many people is pain from a medical condition. This pain may be mild or intense, but necessary for your survival. It is an early warning of a harmful condition in the body, if left uncorrected could lead to severe danger to your life.

In ordinary language, pain is a sensation that hurts. It can be steady and constant, throbbing or pulsating, or a pitching or a stabbing sensation. Acute pain is intense resulting from injury, and lasts for a short time. It ends with the healing of the injury.

On the other hand, chronic pain lasts for a longer period of time and may be mild or intense. Pain from surgery, sickle-cell and cancer are chronic pains that are often relieved only by painkillers.  You may be wondering how people managed their pain centuries ago when the powerful painkillers we have today were not available.

Well, medieval university-trained doctors are believed to have used opiates to relieve their patients pain. However, the extent to which opiates were used has not been fully established. The most likely pain remedies available to medieval patients would have been ice for local pain, bloodletting, laxatives, purgatives, astrological seals and the monitoring of food, drink and sleep; aimed at restoring the humoral balance, or what is today called homeostasis.

This would have meant medieval patients endured extended periods of pain before getting relief, if it came at all. Merely thinking about this will make you and I cringe, knowing how tormenting and disruptive intense pain is to the mind, and normal functioning of the body.

More than any other human experience, pain can literally drive a person crazy to where he or she is willing to do anything for a relief. In this regard, resigned acceptance of pain is a false remedy, because when experiencing an intense acute or chronic pain, the ability to remain steadfast in accepting pain will fall apart.

Consequently, understanding what pain is, and taking effective action to relieve it is the option of choice for today's men and women.

Pain may be classified as nociceptive, which comprises somatic and visceral pains, while non-nociceptive comprises of neuropathic and sympathetic pains.

Pain felt on the skin, joints, bones, muscles and ligaments are somatic pains. Somatic pain receptors are sensitive to temperature, vibration, stretch in muscles, and inflammation caused by cuts and sprain that damage tissue. Somatic pain is intense, localized and painful to touch and movement.

Pain felt in internal organs including the lungs, heart, bowels, spleen, liver, kidneys, ovaries, bladder and the womb are visceral pains. Visceral pain receptors are sensitive to inflammation, stretch and ischemic muscle cramps caused by lack of oxygen to the affected area. Visceral pain is vague deep aches, difficult to localize, as in upper and lower back pain, pelvic and abdominal pain.

Nerve or neuropathic pain is non-nociceptive. It originates from within the nervous system with no specific pain receptors. Pinched nerve or trapped nerve are neuropathic pain which comes from nerves between the tissue and spinal cord, or peripheral nervous system; and nerves between the spinal cord and the brain, or central nervous system.

Neuropathic pain is caused by nerve degeneration as in a stroke, multiple-sclerosis and oxygen deprived tissue. A torn or slipped disc resulting in nerve inflammation, or nerve infection like shingles can cause neuropathic pain.

Inflamed or infected nerves becomes unstable. They send muddled signals to the brain which interprets them as pain signals, and produces sensations such as numbness, tingling, and hypersensitivity to touch, temperature and vibration.

The other type of non-nociceptor pain is sympathetic pain. A fracture or soft tissue injury will cause sympathetic pain. The damaged nerves in the affected area will become unstable, and send random and abnormal signals to the brain which will interpret them as pain. Sympathetic pain can become extremely intense that the patient may not use the injured arm or leg resulting in muscle wasting, joints stiffness or osteoporosis.

As you have already noticed, we will feel no pain if we did not have pain receptors. These are free nerve endings through out the body that warn us of excessive pressure or temperature in the environment. The terminal ends of these pain receptors consist of unmyelinated nerve fibers mostly found in the epidermis and epithelial covering of mucous membrane.

Unlike pain receptors in the skin and mucous membrane epithelial covering, stimulation of pain receptors in the organs, the joints, the skeletal muscles and connective tissue requires extreme pressure and chemical changes in the body.

When pain receptors are stimulated, they release neurotransmitters that send a message about the stimulus through the nerves to the spinal cord and the brain.

The substance that stimulates pain receptors are called second messengers. The main second messengers are bradykinin, prostaglandins, histamine, serotonin, leukotrienes, and potassium. Painkillers that inhibit the release of second messengers will prevent the stimulation of pain receptors, and consequently provide effective pain relief.

Since pain may vary from mild to intense, the medical establishment has guidelines to measure pain levels to assist doctors prescribe the right pain medications for their patients. These guidelines include pain identification, location, intensity and radiation; aggravating and relieve factors of the pain; effect of the pain on patient's function and others.

For patients who cannot verbalize the intensity and location of their pain, as in the case of an infant, or a patient with dementia, dyslexia or autism, the doctor will find clues of the pain from observing the degree of the patient's restlessness, grimacing, moaning, groaning, crying, resistance to care, reduced social interactions, not eating and not sleeping.

When the intensity and location of pain have been determined, the next step is to provide a relief. Doctors are careful when prescribing painkillers for their patients, as these are powerful drugs with serious side effects. A misuse of painkillers can increase a patient's pain level, and in extreme cases be hazardous to the patient's life.

Effective over the counter painkillers on the market include: combination of aspirin and acetaminophen for head and muscle ache; ibuprofen for fever and muscle ache; naproxen sodium for arthritis, rheumatism, musculo-skeletal aches; and ketoprofen for arthritis.

With prescription painkillers the strongest include fentanyl for gunshot and fragmentation wounds; morphine sulfate believed to be the second strongest pain medication; as well as hydromorphone, hydrocloride, or dihydromorphinone; and oxymorphone.

As I have said before these over the counter and prescription painkillers are powerful drugs with serious side effects. They should be handled with care, and taken only under the supervision of your doctor. Not only do they cause serious health hazards when misused, they can also be addictive.

Talking about painkiller addiction, 2 million Americans use prescription opioid painkillers every year, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA 2002). The problem with this is that medical practitioners have found that patients on prescription painkillers beginning at pain levels 2-3 after one year have seen their pain levels rise to 8-9.

In effect, the condition of patients on opioid painkillers gets worse the longer they remain on the medication. The explanation for this is opioid-induced hyperalgesia, a condition where the patient becomes increasingly sensitive to pain stimulus with increasing doses of painkillers. The natural reaction is to reduce the doses, but when this is done, the patient may suffer a withdrawal, with sensitivity to pain still remaining high.

At this point the patient is said to be addicted to opioid painkillers. Going forward, he or she will have two choices, either to seek pain relief from a more powerful painkiller, or search for an alternative to opioid painkillers.

An effective alternative to opioid painkillers may well be homemade juices from fruits, vegetables and herbs. Working with a dietitian, or a holistic physician, you could experiment with various combination of fruits, vegetables and herbs to find which one your pain responds to. It may take a while to find what works for you, but what do you care; homemade juices, especially from organic produce, taste delicious and wholesome.

If given a choice to relieve my pain, I will prefer to become addicted to homemade juices with no side effects than to opioid painkillers, and I think you would too, once you start juicing for good health.