Monday, July 13, 2009

Overworked Muscles? Soothe them with this quick tip!

Soreness that comes a day or two after you exercise is called delayed-onset muscle soreness, but you probably know it as plain old pain. The delayed ache is caused by tiny tears in the muscle that become inflamed. It’s a signal from your body to slow down and take a rest.

To quickly soothe those aching muscles run a warm bath and pop four antacid tablets into the water and soak your body for 20 minutes. When muscles are overextended, they swell, impeding blood flow and causing pain. Antacid tablets contain sodium bicarbonate, which gets blood circulating again. They also contain aspirin, which helps ease pain even when applied topically.

You can prevent sore muscles by warming up before you exercise and cooling down afterward, advises Jacob Schor, N.D., a naturopathic doctor in Denver and president of the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Doctors. Include at least a few minutes of movement with each of the major muscle groups—the calves, thighs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, and arms.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Healthiest Time to Do Everything, Pt 3

In the past few days, we have discussed the healthiest times to workout, best times to seek medical care, and the timing of prescriptions. Today, in part 3, we will look into the healthiest times to boost your energy and brain power.

Part 3 of 3 - Best times to Boost your energy and brain power

Head to bed at least 3 hours after dinner
It ensures more efficient digestion and, because eating too much food before sleeping can cause heartburn, deeper sleep, says Foresman. If you want a cocktail, have it with dinner to give your body plenty of time to metabolize the alcohol. Even if a drink makes you feel sleepy at first, just one nightcap can cause you to wake up more frequently during the night, finds a study from Wake Forest University. Imbibing too late in the evening upsets normal brain patterns, delaying REM (dream) sleep. Later, when REM rebounds, you'll be more likely to have startling, vivid, or violent dreams, which can also disturb sleep, says Joyce A. Walsleben, PhD, an associate professor at New York University's Sleep Disorders Center and coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Sleep.

Follow a sleep schedule
Several studies suggest that obeying your alarm clock can help relieve daytime fatigue. Sleep researchers are finding that people who get at least 7 hours of sleep a night are much less likely to be obese—and weight gain can act as an energy drain. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day also keeps your biological clock on schedule. This clock, a cluster of 20,000 neurons in your brain, regulates your body's temperature, hormones, blood pressure, and other important functions. Throw it off-kilter and you could face serious health problems: Studies on night-shift workers suggest that people with irregular sleep habits have an increased risk of digestive troubles, emotional and mental problems, heart disease, and cancer, says Foresman.

Take vacation in late February or early March
And head outdoors. By March, as many as 50% of people not living in the Sun Belt will already have had a few months of winter-induced mood dips, says Matthew Edlund, MD, director of the Center for Circadian Medicine in Sarasota, FL, and author of The Body Clock Advantage. March is also the month when the more extreme psychological slump known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, can become overwhelming for the estimated 10 million sufferers in this country.
By taking a break somewhere sunny, you can "reverse your emotional course," reports Edlund. Warmth isn't required to garner a mood boost: Hitting the ski slopes can be as uplifting as heading south. The key is to use the great outdoors—plan an active vacation that maximizes your exposure to daylight.

Take a nap at 2 PM
The dip in body temperature that helps ease you into sleep at night also occurs midday, which is why afternoons can be so unproductive. But if you can catch a catnap around 2 PM (the slump usually hits between 1 and 3 PM), it should boost your alertness for several hours. Ten minutes will do the trick—nod off for more than 20 and you may wake feeling groggy. If a nap is out of the question, eat plenty of protein at lunch, which will give you longer-lasting energy, says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a spokesperson for the National Dietetic Association. Mid-afternoon is also a good time for "strategic caffeine use," says Brian Foresman, DO, director of the Sleep Medicine and Circadian Biology Program at Indiana University School of Medicine. "If you don't exceed a cup or two per day, caffeine works phenomenally well at increasing your alertness." This should be your last cup of coffee for the day, though—any caffeine consumed within 7 hours of bedtime can disrupt your sleep.

Pay bills or do a crossword between 10 and 11 AM or 8 and 9 PM
“According to our circadian rhythms, that's when we're maximally alert," says Michael Thorpy, MD, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Try not to waste a minute—the brain boost lasts only for about an hour.

That concludes our Healthiest Times to Do Everything article. Hope you enjoyed them!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Healthiest Time to Do Everything, Pt 2

Today, we continue our Healthiest Times article with a few medical and prescription tips.

Part 2 of 3, Maximize Your Medical Care

Get the first appointment of the day
"Doctors won't yet be distracted by the backlog of patients and paperwork that tends to accumulate as the day goes on," says Mark Murray, MD, owner of a health care consulting firm in Sacramento. Can't get an early morning appointment? Try for right after the doctor's lunch hour. If your physician also performs surgery, make sure you're scheduled for a day when she's exclusively seeing patients. "Any time doctors are switching lanes, like coming back to the office from surgery, they're going to get slammed with a bottleneck of work that demands their immediate attention," he adds.

Test your cholesterol twice a year
To get a complete picture of your lipid levels, have them checked once in the summer and then again in December, recommends Ira Ockene, MD, a professor of preventive cardiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His research shows that cholesterol levels fluctuate between the seasons and generally tend to peak midwinter, especially in women. Though the average change from July to January is only 4 points, it can be enough to indicate that you need treatment. The average of your high and low scores is the number to act on.

Arrange your elective surgery for winter or spring
Avoid July, August, and September, when teaching hospitals are flooded with med students starting their residencies, the on-the-job-training part of their medical education. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the average length of stay at major teaching hospitals increases by 2% during those months; the average mortality rate increases by 4%. This accounts for an additional 1,500 to 2,750 deaths per year nationwide. "You're better off giving interns at least 3 months to learn the ropes of the hospital," says Murray.

Have head-to-toe skin exams in December
You're less likely to be tanned, so "the higher contrast between your skin and pigmented lesions will make it easier for physicians to spot anything suspicious," says Andrew Kaufman, MD, a dermatologic surgeon in Thousand Oaks, CA, who specializes in skin cancer. But don't wait to see a doctor if you notice something abnormal. "Most changes turn out to be insignificant," he adds, "but it's better to be safe."

Fill your prescription midmonth
Drugstores get busy at the beginning of the month, when welfare and Social Security checks hit people's mailboxes. You're not merely saving yourself from a longer line: Fatalities due to pharmacy-related medication errors rise by as much as 25% at the beginning of the month, found a study at the University of California, San Diego, and Tufts University School of Medicine.

Take birth control or heart pills before bed
If you take blood pressure medication before turning in, it will still be working by early morning, which is the time associated with a 30 to 50% increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic. And because the liver revs up cholesterol production overnight, you'll maximize the lipid-lowering ability of statins such as Lipitor, Zocor, Pravachol, Mevacor, and Crestor if you take them before hitting the sack. Popping your birth control pill at night makes sense because you'll sleep through any nausea, a common side effect.

Swallow your multi with a meal
Your body absorbs vitamins better when you take them with food, says Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University. This will minimize the potential for stomach upset, too, and make you more likely to remember your multi every day.

Stay tuned for part 3 of our Healthiest Times to do Everything, where we list tips for boosting energy and brain power!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Healthiest Time to Do Everything, Pt 1

It’s true: Timing is everything, especially when it comes to your health. Proper planning can mean the difference between getting sick and staying healthy. Consider that a flu shot offers the most protection if you get it in late October or early November, before flu season gets under way, or that a cold sore will heal 18 to 21% faster if you take a dose of antiviral medication as soon as you feel the first tingle. Before you make another health move, check the tips that follow and then consult your watch or calendar. You can't afford not to.

Part 1 of 3 - Get the Most From Your Workout

Do cardio in the early morning
Ultimately, the best time to exercise is when you'll actually do it, say experts at the American College of Sports Medicine. That's one reason for scheduling it early in the day. You have fewer distractions and, if something does interfere, you can still reschedule for the afternoon or evening. If you exercise outdoors, you'll be happy to know that air pollution is typically lowest in the morning. And research demonstrates that working out boosts brain activity afterward—a great way to begin your day.

"Just don't exercise on empty," advises Fabio Comana, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. "If you take a trip on a half tank of gas, how far will you get before you need to refuel?" Have a small (100- to 300-calorie) snack 30 minutes before going for a jog or bike ride.

Learn or practice a skill sport between 4 and 6 PM
Hand-eye coordination is highest then, says Edlund, so it's a good time for any form of exercise that requires a high degree of skill, like a tennis lesson or a dance class. Bonus: The activity you get now will help you sleep better later.

Start exercising in January or June
Because so many people sign up after the New Year, gyms can often afford to waive enrollment fees or give discounts in January, says Dave Reiseman, director of communications for Gold's Gym. Just schedule your visits for weekends, when clubs tend to be less busy. Another option: Jump-start your workout routine in June. Clubs sometimes offer specials then to goose flagging business during vacation season.

Begin a diet in June
"There's a seasonality to weight loss," says Edlund, "and the start of summer is the easiest time to drop pounds." Often, you'll naturally lose a pound or two when the weather warms up because of increased activity; capitalize on that initial loss by starting a full-fledged diet and exercise program. Plus, all the fresh fruits and veggies will make it easier to eat right without feeling deprived.

Tomorrow, we will discuss the best times to manage your medical care. Stay Tuned!