Chest Scans May Incidentally Help Spot Heart Disease Risk

Chest CT scans taken for routine diagnostic purposes -- even those not related to cardiovascular disease concerns -- can be used by radiologists to screen for signs of heart disease risk, new research suggests.

"Radiologists can predict cardiovascular disease fairly well using incidental findings of calcifications of the aortic wall on CT, along with minimal patient information, such as age, gender and the reason for the CT," study lead author Dr. Martijn Gondrie, of the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, said in a news release from the Radiological Society of North America.

"Ultimately, this easily executed extra risk stratification has the potential to reduce future heart attacks or other cardiovascular events," Gondrie added.

The study findings were released online Sept. 28 in advance of publication in the November print issue of Radiology.

Gondrie and colleagues pointed out that chest CT scans have increased in quality and frequency of use over the past decade, resulting in a greater pool of incidental findings that clinicians can theoretically use to assess risk for all sorts of additional health complications.

Such incidental findings can be a bonus because they do not expose the patient to additional radiation or additional scanning costs, the study authors explained.

Laughing for the health of it

Contrary to popular belief, one does not need a sense of humor to laugh.

That is the concept behind laughter yoga.

Sari Huhtala, a certified laughter yoga instructor in the Greater Sudbury area, explained laughter yoga is a combination of breathing techniques, meditation, and unconditional laughter.

“It’s really not about jokes,” she said. “It’s about encouraging people to laugh without any external stimulus. That means your ability to laugh without relying on something funny happening or something basically out of your control.”

According to, the concept of laughter yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter — one gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.

Huhtala said it’s a simple concept that everybody has within themselves.

“I start out introducing the concept that you can create laughter just like that, because it’s very foreign to people. I have them take a deep breath in and exhale with laughter, and they realize ‘Wow, that was easy.’”

Huhtala learned the practice five years ago, under its creator, Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from India. “He introduced laughter yoga in the mid-1990s, recognizing that laughter has a whole slew of health benefits for individuals,” Huhtala explained.

Physiological benefits include increased levels of serotonin levels — “that feel good hormone” — and the release of natural endorphins, “which is almost like a natural pain killer,” she said. It also relaxes the body, and massages a person’s internal organs. “If you have asthma or anything, a bout of laughter is a wonderful way to loosen things up,” Huhtala added.

Cardiovascular wise, a one-minute bout of laughter is equivalent to being on a rowing machine for 10 minutes, and it also lowers blood pressure and stress levels.

Increase in whooping cough cases

Many seventh-grade students throughout the Arkansas River Valley recently received a newly-required vaccine for a respiratory disease that isn’t new — whooping cough.
Most Russellville parents weren’t concerned about the vaccine, said Jenny Barber, the Russellville School District’s wellness supervisor. Barber said only a few parents called with questions, adding the vaccine helps students from missing valuable classroom instructions.
In March, the state Board of Health updated the list of required vaccinations for students entering the seventh grade.
The TDaP booster shot helps prevent Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough.
Pertussis is defined as a respiratory tract disease that is caused by bacteria found in an infected person’s nose and throat. It’s also known as the 100-day cough because the high-pitched “whooping” cough can persist for 100 days.
Carroll County experienced an outbreak of Pertussis in July, according to a department of health press release. In California, 10 babies died from whooping cough with more than 5,200 people contracting the disease, according to Associated Press reports.
In Arkansas, Pertussis isn’t as widespread, said Dr. James Phillps, branch chief of infectious diseases for the state Board of Health.
Pope County experienced one case of whooping cough in 2007, three in 2008 and 12 in 2009. Johnson County had three cases of whooping cough in 2009 with none in 2007 and 2008. Yell County had three cases in 2008 and four cases in 2009. Yell County didn’t experience any cases in 2007. So far, no cases have been reported in 2010. All 2010 data is provisional.
Statewide, 137 people have contracted Pertussis in 2010, which is down compared to 369 in 2009.

Shaping Up: Tune the body and the lifestyle

People's opinions vary greatly on virtually each subject, and it's no different when it comes to fitness and health: some personal trainers hold the "no pain, no gain" attitude, others take a different approach. I've been speaking to certified personal trainers to understand their philosophies on health and fitness. These stories are not intended as endorsements, they are just an exercise (no pun intended!) to clarify the variety of thoughts and approaches of those trained to help us get into better shape.

Phyllis Frost has been in the fitness business for more than 30 years. She was hooked, she says, from the minute she attended her first aerobics class in the 1980s.

"I stepped into that class and just loved it," she said. "I went back every day, week after week, and they told me I should teach it," she said with a laugh. "So I started to."

Fast forward, and she's busy teaching her Fit Body By Phyl -six weeks to your best body program -and boot camp program at different West Island locations, with personal training sessions in between.

Her philosophy: "Wellness: body, mind and spirit." Frost said she believes that when "your body is in tune, you feel fine inside, and you're truly comfortable with who you are." She is passionate and committed to helping people get better health. "If I won the lottery, I'd do it for free, I swear."

She said she doesn't believe in dieting. "You have to eat food in every food group, but you have to learn correct portions." That's why you should always measure things like pasta or rice, so you know what the proper portion size is, she said. "You pile them on without knowing and next thing you know you've eaten double or even triple the correct portion size."

Most people, she said, particularly women, don't get enough protein in their diet, which she said is essential to muscle growth and maintenance. "The more lean body mass a person has, the more capability the body has to burn fat even when inactive."

And she's cautious about any diet that eliminates food groups. "They may work primarily, but maintaining the results are statistically unsuccessful."

Instead of deprivation, Frost suggested people live consciously. "It's unconscious behaviours that get you into trouble."

Put the fork down after every bite, she said: "It takes time, but you're far more aware of how you're feeling and better able to gauge your hunger."

Frost also said that when eating, it's always best to consume the protein and vegetables first, carbs last. "We always have room for the carbs, but its protein that fills us up longer."

When it comes to exercise, Frost said most people feel they have to spend hours a day in the gym in order to have a fit body but she doesn't subscribe to that. "High intensity interval training is the method to go if you're aiming for fat loss."

The goal is to get the heart rate up. She suggested 30 minutes a day, six days a week. "On the seventh day, you rest."

Frost is mainly enamoured with all-encompassing exercises combining elements of muscle-building, flexibility and cardio. "That's getting the best bang for your buck."

If weight loss is your goal, Frost said, your eating has to support the workout. "There's no sense in getting in a good workout and then flopping on the couch and eating crap. You've just defeated all the hard job you've done."

And change up your exercise, she advised. Too often, people stop working out because they get bored of their programs. "That's why it's so important to find something you love to do, have fun with it and you'll want to maintain."

4 quick fitness fixes

If you are training as hard as you can and eating as well as you can but still aren't seeing the results you want, the answers to your frustration might be a few small fixes. Often these fixes are like the 500-pound gorilla in the room that no one sees. If you just adopt one, your training progress will receive a giant leap forward.

Take a break

I often take off a week to 10 days between particularly intense training cycles. I always come back active, refocused and feeling great. Taking a short time off also has a benefit of letting your body "de-train" a bit, or "de-condition." This means that you should reply better to your training program when you come back to it because to an extent, your body will treat it as new. So rest up, and get more from your workouts.

Step it up

Whether you want to admit it or not, you probably aren't working as hard as you think you are. Ramp up your effort, and you'll see results again. Take less rest between sets, add an extra set, run a hill program, whatever, just find a way to create your workouts a little tougher so you don't just "phone it in" like a lot of people do.

Think out of the box

The enemy of progress is complacency. Change your activities every once in a while. If you love step class, try kickboxing. If you love Body Pump, try indoor cycling. If you train with freeweights, try some bodyweight calisthenics. If you are a bodybuilder, try traditional powerlifting. Do something entirely different than what you're used to. Don't box yourself in to doing the same thing all the time. Get out of that box!

Sneak some work in

Three to five mornings a week, get up and do a quick bodyweight circuit, which includes push-ups, squats and some abdominal rotation. Do two to three sets of as many reps as possible. The three additional workouts in the week will add up, helping you burn some calories fist thing in the morning. Plus, you will have a great "organic" base of strength that will greatly benefit your strength training.

Adopt one of these fixes, and you'll get good results. If you adopt them all, you'll be a rock star (in your own world of course). Simple fixes are often the best. Start today and your body will respond faster than it has in a long time.

10th California Baby Dies of Whooping Cough

California health officials say a tenth baby has died of whooping cough in the state's worst epidemic in 55 years.
The 6-week-old baby died last week after being treated at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego.
More than 5,270 cases of the highly-contagious illness have been reported in California this year. The previous record was set in 1955 when there were 4,949 cases reported.
All of the babies who have died were too young to be fully immunized against the disease, according to health officials.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious, cyclical illness that peaks in number of infections every five years.
The last peak occurred in 2005 when California reported 3,182 cases, with 574 hospitalizations and seven deaths.
The prevalence of the disease, also known as pertussis, peaks in the summer months, according to Al Lundeen, a spokesman for the state Department of Health, but reporting lags make it difficult to determine if the peak has passed.
Jonathan Fielding, the county's health director, urges parents and caretakers to get vaccinations to avoid any more deaths.
Most kids get five doses of the vaccine DTaP before kindergarten to prevent whooping cough, but those vaccines don't immunize them for life.
Health officials say most kids are once again susceptible to the disease by middle school.
A booster dose of the vaccine is recommended for people between the ages of 11 and 18, as well as for people who have contact with infants.
A typical case starts with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks, followed by weeks or months of rapid coughing fits that sometimes end with a whooping sound.

Fasting 101: Its Health and Spiritual Benefits

Strict fast – In its strictest sense, fasting using this method means the abstention from taking anything into the body outside of pure water, which is sipped in small quantities throughout the day. Fasts of this type rarely exceed seven days unless under direct supervision by a medical practitioner or holistic healer with direct experience in the field.

Dry fast – This is the most intense of fasts, and should only be undertaken after making your intentions clear to your family physician and obtaining his or her approval. Dry fasting does not typically exceed three days duration, but longer periods are not unheard of.

Food specific fast – During a food specific fast, certain types of foods are avoided. Most common are abstention from meat and dairy products, or eating only fruit and vegetables in their raw state. Fasts of this nature are usually maintained for prolonged periods exceeding two weeks and as long as six weeks.

Common fast – The most popular of fasts in Western culture, the common fast usually involves consuming only water, diluted fruit juices, herbal teas, and/or other liquid detoxifiers. As is the case with the majority of fasts, milk products are avoided while fasting using this method. The typical duration for a common fast is anywhere from one day to two weeks.

One of the advantages of this method of fasting lays in the detoxifying and cleaning affects of both the herbal teas and the diluted juices, which remove waste products and harmful toxins from the body. Fruit juice must be consumed sparingly and never at full strength, as this will only excite the digestive system and cause stomach burn. Diluting juice at a ratio of two parts water to one part juice (i.e. 2/3 cup water, 1/3 cup of juice) is a good place to start. If you are experiencing stomach burn or pain/cramps, increase the ratio to four or even five parts water to one part juice.

Physical Benefits

The physical rewards of fasting include both subtle and overt benefits. On a grosser level, weight reduction, restored skin elasticity, increased energy and vitality, a deeper and more rejuvenating sleep cycle, and a reduction or total cessation of disease symptoms or sickness. At a more minute level, millions upon millions of cells are revived and rejuvenated, the organs are given the opportunity to expel accumulated waste, the blood is cleaned and better oxygenated, and the joints and tendons of the body relax and become more flexible.

Mental Benefits

Fasting encourages us to reclaim our personal power and reassert control over our own minds. As creatures of habit, the ‘habitual momentum’ of self destructive behaviours can be difficult in itself to defeat. Fasting brings our present lifestyle and modes of behaviour to an abrupt halt, allowing space in which we have the opportunity to assess ourselves and reflect on how we are going to live our lives from here forward. Through fasting, we can literally step outside the box of our physical and mental existence and view things from a point of non-doing and stillness.

Spiritual Benefits

No matter what the driving force behind your reasons to fast, the deepest and most profound effects of fasting are not immediately visible to the outside world. Through physical and mental restraint, we harness the mind and body and rein them both to a stop. I liken the state of the Ego Mind in the early few days of fasting to a child who feels punished and refuses to communicate. There is enough of a shock at the denial of food that the Ego becomes quiet, as if realizing for the first time that the Silent Observer or True Self is the one in charge.

In this silence that fasting creates naturally and effortlessly, our true selves begins to speak. At first it is only a whisper, and you may not even be aware of it. Over time; especially during a fast of three days or more in length, this voice becomes clearer and more easily heard. Old emotional scars and negative experiences often surface in a new light of understanding and are resolved and expelled from the mind and body. I would argue that the natural emotional cleansing that accompanies a fast is just as powerful if not more so in its ability to heal our physical state as the physical benefits alone. Disease (dis-ease) originates in our mental and emotional body, and is then manifested outwardly in our physical form. In cleansing ourselves of this dis-ease, the physical body is free to heal the damage it may have caused.

Usual Suspects

There are a number of physical side effects during the initial stages of fasting that some may find confusing, difficult, and even a little fearful in their manifestations. The majority of these effects are totally natural and are not directly related to fasting itself, but rather to the amount of accumulated toxins within our bodies. As previously mentioned fasting is best done after consulting a physician or experienced holistic healer. If any side effect from your fasting worries you, please contact your doctor or another professional. Common physical side effects include:

Nausea or vomiting – If you are a heavy smoker or a heavy drinker, you are going to experience nausea and perhaps even vomiting during the first few days of your fast. This is a perfectly normal reaction and will often be accompanied with headaches and nervousness. Do not break the fast during this period, as it is transitory and you will soon feel much better. If vomiting continues repeatedly throughout the first two days, please check with your doctor.

Shakes, cold sweats – As your body goes through the initial stages of dispelling accumulated waste and toxins from the body, it is not uncommon to experience shakes or cold sweats; even both. Again, this is a natural part of the process and can be alleviated by consuming hot tea, or sipping on diluted fruit juice and very warm water.

Bad breath, heavy tongue – You may experience bad breath, ‘cottonmouth tongue,’ or gummy teeth as well. These are transitory effects as well and are again a product of toxins being released from the body. These are especially common side effects in those suffering from chronic conditions.

The Good News

The good news is that fasting provides an experience that simple words do not convey. The whole body, mind, and spirit feel lighter, more focused, and more aware. Energy levels which may drop significantly during the first few days quickly rebound to new heights. As stress and tension drains from your body, your Yoga is instantly improved by allowing you to move more freely without obstruction.

Less Refined, More Whole Grains Linked To Lower Body Fat

US researchers found that people who every day eat several servings of whole grains and limit intake of refined grains have less visceral adipose tissue or VAT, a type of body fat believed to trigger cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

You can read about the study by lead author Dr Nicola M McKeown and colleagues in the November issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which was made available online at the end of September.

McKeown is a scientist with the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Researcher Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts.

She and her co-researchers examined diet questionnaires completed by over 2,800 men and women aged from 32 to 83 who participanted in the Framingham Heart Offspring and Third Generation study cohorts as part of the Framingham Heart Study of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

They also had the results of multidetector-computed tomography (MDCT) scans on the participants, from which they could work out volumes of VAT and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT).

SAT is situated just below the skin, while VAT surrounds the organs in the abdomen.

The researchers found VAT was about 10 per cent lower in the men and women who reported eating three or more servings of whole grains every day while limiting their daily intake of refined grains to less than one serving:

"For example," said McKeown, who is also an assistant professor at the Friedman School, "a slice of 100% whole wheat bread or a half cup of oatmeal constituted one serving of whole grains and a slice of white bread or a half cup of white rice represented a serving of refined grains."

Co-author Dr Paul Jacques, director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the USDA HNRCA and a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts, said that previous studies had already suggested that VAT was linked to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors like high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels and insulin resistance, that can develop into cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes.

He said they were not surprised when they compared the relationship between VAT and SAT and whole and refined grain and found a "more striking association with visceral fat".

"The association persisted after we accounted for other lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol intake, fruit and vegetable intake, percentage of calories from fat and physical activity," he explained.

Dental surgery may be linked to heart problems

"This is the initial sign of increased risk for heart attack or stroke after a dental procedure," co-author Dr. Francesco D'Aiuto, a dentist also researcher at University College London Eastman Dental Institute, told Reuters Health. "This is not to say that this will occur with every dental procedure, but we are saying we need to look more into it."

It's hard to know exactly what's going on, because the researchers didn't have access to information about the drugs patients were taking around the time of their operation. If they cut down on certain medications, for example, that alone could have upped their chances of suffering a heart attack or a stroke.

Still, because these conditions affect more than one million people in the U.S., the increased risk could be significant.

According to the study, heart attack and stroke occurred more often in the first four weeks after the operation than any other time during or after the recovery stage.

The researchers tapped into Medicaid data provided by GlaxoSmithKline -- which makes drugs to treat heart disease and stroke -- on a group of U.S. Medicaid patients receiving dental work, with simple procedures like removing a tooth.

D'Aiuto explained that heart attack and stroke are linked to bacterial infections and inflammation after other invasive treatments, likely because inflammation can damage the walls of arteries and contribute to the formation of plaques that clog arteries.

The authors, writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, said that this led them to surprise about the role of dental surgery as well.

They couldn't find a lot of suitable patients to check, however. The Medicaid claims database includes information for close to 10 million people, but there were only 1,150 people who had an invasive dental procedure and a heart attack or stroke in the 4-year period they focused on.

In that population, 40 cases of heart attack or stroke occurred in the first four weeks after dental work -- one and a partly times the baseline rate.

Dr. Howard Weitz, a cardiologist at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and co-author of an editorial about the study, told Reuters Health that the study was not designed to verify if dental surgery causes heart problems, only to see if they are associated with each other.

He also said previous research shows that errors in recording information in a database like the Medicaid one are fairly general.

Even when it's right, Medicaid information does not include the use of aspirin and other over-the-counter medications that help to prevent heart disease.

Yoga: a useful tool for fighting cancer

In current years, I have found yoga to be a source of health, inspiration and peace. I began practicing, not to get in better shape, but because my doctor told me meditation might be helpful to my health. Even though I am unable to sit still for longer than a few minutes at a time, the practice of yoga is part physical and part meditative. As a result, it provided me with the perfect grouping of healing and stress relief.

I was therefore not surprised to learn that current studies have found cancer survivors who participated in a regular program of yoga recovered more easily, both physically and emotionally than those who did not.

The American Yoga Association (AYA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing yoga education, explain that yoga practices are based upon exercise, breathing and meditation which help the body heal from physical and emotional stressors.

"Regular every day practice of all three parts of this structure of Yoga produce a clear, bright mind and a strong, capable body," the American Yoga Association stated.

In honor of breast cancer awareness week, I researched a number of studies focusing particularly on breast cancer survivors and yoga. Participants practiced restorative yoga poses on a weekly basis.

Restorative poses are gentle stretches that use blankets and pillows to prop the practitioner comfortably for a few minutes or extra. Other studies combined restorative yoga poses with gentle hatha yoga poses.

Women who participated in the yoga program routinely felt improvement in sleep, fatigue and emotional well being. Those who did not participate in yoga felt no significant improvement.

Local yoga instructor Audrey Brigliadoro would agree that yoga is extremely beneficial for anyone – especially those recovering from cancer.

However, she also stresses that low key classes are important – becoming overheated may not be beneficial, especially if you are still battling cancer, she warned.

"Yoga recharges the healing process," Brigliadoro said. "It removes stress and it just gives people a chance to go in and do inner body healing."

Brigliadoro also believes that Ujjayi breathing, a popular yogic exercise, creates vibration in the body which can help build bone density lost during chemotherapy. Gongs or singing bowls, traditionally struck at the end of a class, can also help build bone density, she said.

There are many programs and classes available for cancer patients and survivors who are interested in improving energy levels, sleep and quality of life. For example, the University of Rochester runs a program called YOCAS, "Yoga for Cancer Survivors."

For those who would rather practice at home, "Library Journal" reviewed two videos: "Gentle Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors," And "Yoga and the Gentle Art of Healing." The review states that both videos are geared specifically to breast cancer survivors.

Yoga May Combat Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Yoga that includes gentle stretches and meditation may help alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia, a small study finds.

Twenty-five women diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome, were enrolled in a two-hour yoga class that met once a week for eight weeks. Another group of 28 women diagnosed with the condition were put on a waiting list and told to continue their normal routine for dealing with fibromyalgia.

After eight weeks, the yoga group reported improvements in both physical and psychological aspects of fibromyalgia, including decreased pain, fatigue, tenderness, anxiety and better sleep and mood.

"The women were somewhat apprehensive when we started, but once they got into the rhythm of it they found it to be very helpful," said lead study author James Carson, a clinical psychologist and pain specialist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. "They came back after the first week reporting less pain, better sleep and feeling encouraged for the first time in years. That type of change continued to build over the course of the program."

At the end of the study, about 4.5 percent in the yoga group reported being "very much better," 9.1 percent said they were "much better," 77 percent were "a little better" while 4.5 percent reported no change. In comparison, no one in the the control group reported that they were "very much better" or "much better," 19.2 percent reported being "a little better," and 38.5 percent reported "no change."

Average pain scores dropped from a 5 to a 4 on a 10-point scale, although there was no improvement in the overall "tender point" score.

The study was limited by its small sample, absence of follow-up and over-reliance on self-reported data, the researchers noted.

The study, published online Oct. 14, is in the November print issue of the journal Pain.

No cure exists for fibromyalgia, which is characterized by multiple tender points, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and memory and concentration problems. Some 11 to 15 million Americans have the debilitating condition, about 80 to 90 percent of them women, according to background information in the article.

Fibromyalgia can be very difficult to treat, with many patients reporting little relief from medications, said Dr. Bruce Solitar, a clinical associate professor of medicine in the division or rheumatology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Yoga is probably worth trying, Solitar said. But he noted that patients in the study were in a yoga class specially tailored to their needs and said the class at a local yoga studio might be too intense.

The yoga sessions evaluated in the study included 40 minutes of gentle stretching and poses, 25 minutes of meditation, 10 minutes of breathing techniques, a 20-minute lesson on applying yoga principals to daily life and coping with fibromyalgia and 25 minutes of group discussion. Participants were also encouraged to practice at home with a DVD on most days.

Though it's unknown how much of the positive effect shown in the study is the "placebo" effect of doing something that feels empowering vs. something special about the yoga and meditation itself, that may be beside the point if people feel better, Solitar said.

Walking Can Protect Your Brain

A study of 300 volunteers over a 13 year period has found that those who walk most often could actually be defending themselves against a host of memory problems, including dementia and Alzheimer‘s.

Walking may actually protect the brain from shrinking and preserve memory in elderly people, said neurologists who were involved in the research.

The US study performed neurological tests on dementia-free people in Pittsburgh who agreed to log their walks and receive brain monitoring in 1995. The participants received more testing nine years later, and then again in 2008.

The follow-up tests showed that those who walked the most cut their risk of developing memory problems by half.

The neurologists suggest that the optimum distance for a good “neurological exercise” is about 9 miles per week. They reported in the journal Neurology that going the extra mile after that showed no discernible bonus.

The first round of scans showed that nine-mile walkers had larger brains than those who walked less.

After four years, about 40 percent of the participants -- 116 people -- had developed some dementia or cognitive impairment. The effects were 50 percent greater on those who only walked short distances or not at all.

Leader of the study, Dr Kirk Erickson, of the University of Pittsburgh, said: “Our results should encourage well-designed trials of physical exercise in older adults as a promising approach for preventing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.”

Brain size normally shrinks in late adulthood, and can lead to memory problems. “But if regular exercise in midlife could improve brain health, thinking and memory in later life, it would be one more reason to make regular exercise in people of all ages a public health imperative,” said Erickson.

Landmark clinical trial for stem cell therapy

The world's first clinical trial for stem cell therapy began on Monday. The trial is still in its very early stages - only 10 people who have suffered recent spinal cord injuries will be enrolled - but it's still a landmark event.

The world will be watching the results of those trials at as many as seven centers around the country.

In at least one sense, the trial is already a victory. The political controversy around stem cells resulted in funding delays for scientific research, and many scientists were afraid that other countries would beat the United States to the trial stage.

Instead, a local company - Geron Corp. of Menlo Park - is running the trial, with American patients and within American borders. It's an encouraging sign, and it means there's a good chance that the industry will continue to grow here. It's also a rebuke to those who would happily block science - including the federal judge who ruled in September that federal funding for stem cell research was illegal.

The trial is also a positive breakthrough in that it shows that the promise of stem cells is indeed within our reach. We don't know yet whether the trial will be successful, but at least we know that all of the money that's been invested so far into basic research will soon have positive manifestations.

That includes the $3 billion that California voters invested in the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Though that institute isn't responsible for this trial - a spokesperson told us that the research was begun before California voters passed Prop. 71 - it's a funder of the trial team's research. We look forward to more trials, and more discoveries, very soon.

Hormone replacement increases kidney stone risk

"It doesn't mean that women should stop taking hormone therapy based on this fact, but it does need to be taken into account when deciding to take the hormones or not," Dr. Naim M. Maalouf of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, one of the study's authors, told Reuters Health.

From 5 to 7 percent of postmenopausal women in the U.S. suffer from kidney stones, Maalouf and his colleagues note in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Kidney stones aren't just extremely painful when they are passed out of the bladder; "people who have kidney stones over time tend to have more kidney damage," Maalouf said.

Studies to date of the relationship between hormone therapy and kidney stones have had mixed results. To investigate, Maalouf and his colleagues reviewed data from the Women's Health Initiative, the largest-ever randomized controlled trial of hormone therapy for postmenopausal women.

Their analysis included 10,700 postmenopausal women who had undergone hysterectomy and were randomly assigned to take estrogen or placebo, and another 16,600 who hadn't had hysterectomies and were put on either estrogen and progestin or placebo. Women in the first group were followed for nearly six years, while the women in the second group were followed for seven years.

Women on estrogen or the estrogen-progestin combination were 21 percent more likely to develop kidney stones during the follow-up period, the researchers found. When the researchers limited their analysis to women who didn't quit taking their medication during the study period, kidney stone risk was 39 percent greater with the hormones.

Given a woman's baseline risk for developing kidney stones of 7 percent, the study's results mean that a postmenopausal woman's risk rises when taking hormone therapy to between 8.5 percent and 10 percent.

The process by which kidney stones form is "complex," the researchers note, and has both environmental and genetic roots; there are also several points in this process that could be affected by estrogen, they add.

White women are at greater risk of developing kidney stones than women from other ethnicities, Maalouf noted, while obesity has also been associated with an increased tendency to form kidney stones. Drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent kidney stones, while eating too much salt or too much protein can make them more likely to develop, he added.

Can fitness devices help one achieve his health goal?

IF YOU’RE thinking of buying fitness
devices which promise to burn calories and give a toned body, read first the following information.

Slender bottom toner

The claim: The machine can tone and strengthen one’s muscles even without exercising. Just attach the electrodes to your triceps, biceps, buttocks and thighs and the electrodes will help your muscles to contract without moving the body and lifting weights.

The truth: A study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) compares the use of Slender Bottom Toner for 30 minutes, five times per week for six weeks versus three sets of 10 quadruped hip extensions with each leg for six minutes per day, five days a week in six weeks. Study shows that using the machine was as effective as doing the quadruped extension exercise, though there were no significant changes in the subjects’ weight and hip circumference.

The verdict: Will you spend P10,000 for a machine that will strengthen your buttocks or do a six-minute hip extension exercise five days a week anytime, anywhere? This type of machine is used for rehabilitation, to delay atrophy of patients suffering from neuromuscular condition. The result of the study shows one can achieve more with exercise given the same amount of time that one uses a muscle stimulator machine. If you do a 15-minute body weight resistance exercise plus 15 minutes of cardio exercise, you will improve not only your muscular strength and endurance, but burn more calories as well.

Vibration plate machines

The claim: The latest vibration machines can give you an hour of workout just by using it 15 minutes a day. The machine’s oscillating vibrations will work your muscles since it causes a rapid muscle contraction of 30-50 times per second.

The truth: A 2009 study presented at the European Congress on Obesity shows that the use of a vibration plate machine can help overweight and obese people trim significant amounts of abdominal
fat when combined with a calorie-restricted diet.

The study compared four groups for six months. One of the groups did dieting
only. The exercise group did three 60-minute exercises per week, consisting of cycling, running, swimming and strengthening exercises, plus diet.

The vibration and diet groups did an average of 11.9 minutes (30 seconds for each of the 10 exercises) on the vibrating plate machine while doing lunges, calf raises and push-ups in the first three months and progressed to 14.2 (60 seconds for each of the 22 exercises) minutes during the last three months. Results show that the machine can be an alternative for strength training workout but not for an aerobic exercise.

The verdict: This machine, called the “lazy person’s workout,” can cost you almost P75,000. Will you spend that much to say goodbye to a traditional weight training workout? Studies show that it can shorten your 45-60 minute strength training workout to 15 minutes.

There’s no harm in trying new fitness technology, as long as you don’t abandon your complete fitness routine consisting of aerobic exercises like jogging or cycling and flexibility exercise. Any type of physical activity will help you achieve your fitness goals provided you’re consistent with a healthy eating and active lifestyle. Real and lasting results will never be achieved by shortcuts.

Yoga Exercise For Computer Users: Frees Lower Back Pain

Twenty percent of all those who go through surgical treatment for lower back ache may get no relief. The rest of the 80 % will have problems ranging from mild to severe. Almost all will have trouble with spinal flexion.

Yoga does not provide cures. It promises that when you faithfully train these asanas every day, gone will be the discomfort and you’ll build up a powerful and flexible backbone, restructuring posture and entire body image. When you have back problems you ought to stay conscious through the day time of the method that you stand, sit and lay down. Here are some rules:

Always sleep on a firm (not necessarily hard) mattress, using a flat pillow under your head and a heavier one below your knees. This will help the spine to reposition and modify itself.

Do not wear high heel pumps as this encourages lumbar lordosis and throws the spine out of equilibrium.

Don’t go in for break-dancing, intense aerobics, jogging, running or anything where you have to bounce or jiggle. Protected activity is the vital thing here.

With regard to low back pain, sitting down is the most painful. Sit on a firm seat, not squashy cushions, and sit on your buttock bones. Don’t loll back again on the tailbone or lower spine. Wedge a rolled towel or small cushion behind your back to make you stay upright. Sit as often as you possibly can in The actual Diamond Posture (Figure 1) so as to benefit the sciatic nerve and also to cure a convex or possibly a lateral curve of the backbone.

If the pain is acute and you can neither sit nor stand in comfort, rest in bed, take whatever anti-inflammatory or analgesic medicines your physician prescribes, and wait until the pain is more gentle before starting on these postures.

All these asanas have healing and curative qualities. They’ll act as a form of mild traction force, lightly extending the spinal muscles in safe extension postures. Durability will be slowly built up in the paraspinal muscle tissue and buttocks, belly organs will become well toned and strengthened, and stress points all along the spinal column will be stimulated. Practice each asana so much that mild ache is felt.

Using Diet and Exercise to Control Body Fat

The food we eat provides the building blocks required for cellular construction as well as all metabolic and chemical reactions which our body performs to function in good health. In the same fashion, our diet and level of physical activity directly influence our hormones that determine if fat is stored or burned as fuel. Medical researchers now understand that where fat is stored in the body can determine risk of disease and how we can alter our diet to promote natural weight loss.

Fat Placement is a Risk Factor

Until recently, medical science has viewed our white fat cells as nothing more than an inert storage facility for extra calories. Research has debunked that theory by demonstrating that our fat is a viable organ within our body which is metabolically active, secreting and reacting to chemical messengers which influence our health and weight loss abilities.

The results of a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that the risk of metabolic disorder is heightened when fat is stored in the abdomen and significantly lowered when fat grows on the thighs or lower parts of the body.

Interestingly the study authors found that abdominal fat grows by increasing the size of existing fat cells whereas fat cells multiply in number on the thighs and lower body. Abdominal fat is more dangerous to your health because the cells are stretched beyond their normal capacity, leading to metabolic dysfunction.

Using Food Balance to Control Fat Placement
Fortunately we can control where fat is placed on the body in several ways. The food we eat has a significant impact on fat storage and metabolism as we can choose both the quantity of food eaten as well as the nutritional composition of our diet. A diet high in refined carbohydrates which quickly break down into glucose and raise blood sugar causes excessive triglycerides in the blood. These blood fats must be cleared quickly after each meal and are converted to fat for storage on the belly.

Gentle yoga classes exercise body and spirit

Now that two Holy Family Church parishioners have found their calling, it sometimes leads them to unusual teaching positions — like tree pose. Anne Marie Evered and Sandy DeMoy alternate leading gentle yoga sessions two times a week in the home of parishioner Mariloris Oliverio. These classes are open to anyone who wants to stretch his or her health regimen.

“It’s God’s body, and if you don’t take care of your body, you can’t serve,” said DeMoy, sister of Holy Family’s pastor, Father Bob Barricks.

Performed using chairs and other props, the exercises are good for the physical well-being of everyone, but in particular folks recuperating from illness or injury, said the teachers.

Agnes Petrusich has been coming to the classes for 11 years, ever since DeMoy initiated the sessions to help her mother who was recovering from a broken pelvis. What started with DeMoy and her mother in an upstairs room of the Holy Family rectory has evolved into twice weekly classes that often fill the finished basement of Oliverio’s home.

The balance and strength Petrusich has gained from the classes helped her through her own health emergencies: a broken pelvis, and several months ago, a stroke.

Choose the best weight loss program for you, urge health experts

Health experts promote the right weight loss program for people who want to lose pounds.

Recent studies revealed that not all weight loss programs could be helpful to everyone. The individual must know the details of the program he wants to do. He must also know which would work best for him. It is not a guarantee that if a program worked for a friend, it will work for other person too.

Good body figure is indeed a dream for many people now. Staying in shape is one of the factors that can help people gain extra confidence and boost self-esteem. Even the technology today is very much concerned about removing the unwanted fats in the body.

Nevertheless, it is important that losing weight should not be centered in body shape alone but also in fitness and physical health. The proper way to achieve weight loss is having proper diet and exercise. Taking the short way by using pills and the power of technology is sometimes effective but this will not give the same fitness that proper diet and exercise can offer.

In addition, the use of shortcut methods will only be redundant in process, remember that weight losers need to consider weight loss maintenance. Losing weight does not need to be expensive as long as the person has the determination and dedication to achieve his goal.