Stressipedia

The Source for Health and Stress News You Can Use

Hip Pain? Hip Tips...

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

One of the common complaints I see in my office is that of hip pains, which come in two varieties:  

ACUTE hip pains:   We see these cases a lot as injuries to the groin muscles on the inside aspect of the hip.  These are usually pretty obvious in their origin, for example when a hockey player collides with legs straddling the ice, or when a football player is tackled with one leg extended out to the side.  (Hip fractures are the subject for a separate blog).  These cases often respond quickly, as long as there is no serious tear in the muscle/tendon structure as it inserts from the inner thigh.  Other cases involve the outside of the hip joint, seen with cases of bursitis or capsulitis from extended exercises like rowing, biking, or running.  Treatments include rest, physical therapies like ultrasonic vibrations, electro-stimulation, and medical acupuncture are often all that is required. An anti-inflammatory medication can also help settle things down.  If this is not working, then further investigation with images can prove helpful, and more aggressive treatments like cortisone shots could be considered.  Gentle movements are encouraged, along with a graduated program of stretching and toning of the inner thigh muscles to rehab the area. Assuming the root cause was a one-time injury, recovery is usually excellent.  If continued trauma occurs, then the problems become more chronic.    

CHRONIC hip pains: These occur if the root cause is repetitive, such as the constant pounding felt by rodeo riders, snowmobilers, or moto-cross cylclists. This can lead to the destruction of the cartilage and the build-up of extra bony growth causing osteo-arthritis.   l More commonly, the root cause is just the repetitive effects of gravity as seen in the daily movements of an obese patient.  Especially with the morbidly obese ( 100 pounds or 45 kilograms over their ideal weight) this means the simple acts of standing up, walking, and stair climbing all cause daily damage to the hip joint.  Other conditions such as systemic forms of arthritis can certainly also affect the hip joint itself, leading to “bone-on-bone” instead of smooth surfaces where the hip joint is supposed to move.  Again, we look for any correctable root causes.  This would entail routine blood-work and images, to assess underlying diseases.  It would also involve corrective action for the obese patient, with proper diet and exercise regimens.  In severe cases, that are beyond any such help, replacement of the hip joint may be needed. 

In the meantime, here are some hip tips:

  • Watch your posture: Sitting is hip-hostile.  Try to stand up a few times per hour if you can.  We have already written about the benefits of sitting on a pilates ball for back pains, 
  • it also helps hip pains by introducing some movements into an otherwise frozen posture.  If you can, try to rig your work station for standing up all the time. 
  • Select non-impact exercises, like the bike or elliptical machines in the gym.  Also try yoga and pilates to help with toning and flexibility.
  • Watch your weight.  One of the rules of medicine is that pain is fattening.  If you are in pain, you can’t move much to burn off your daily calories.  This becomes a viscous circle, where any excess calories are simply added to one’s fat stores, adding to the pains of simple movements.  To compound this, junk foods such as white sugar, white flour, etc are all known to cause more inflammation, further adding to the damage to the hips and other joints.
  • See your doctor to seek out underlying diagnoses, from systemic diseases to simple things like one leg being significantly longer than the other.  Depending on the underlying causes, you may also benefit from massage, physical therapy, or chiropractic treatments. Follow their exercise tips to stretch and tone the surrounding hip structures.

For more info,  

http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/hip-pain/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050684

http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/PDFs/Rehab_Hip_3.pdf

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Knee pains: How to prevent and recover

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Knee pains are becoming very common.  Most of the orthopedic surgeons in professional football and hockey are specialists in the knee, leaving others to look after the rest of the bones in question.  In looking after sports injuries in my clinic, I can attest to the high rate of knee injuries among part-time athletes as well. 

Some logical questions follow:

1. Why is the knee so vulnerable to sports injuries?  The main reason is its range of movement is only in one plane.  Other joints can swivel, but the knee is just like a single hinge that straightens or flexes the leg, and is integral in our ability to walk, run, and jump.  However the knee has virtually no protection to a side impact.  Nor does the knee do well with twisting or rotational forces.  With the popularity of contact sports, especially ones with  helmets and hard pads, we are seeing more collisions resulting in serious knee injuries.  

2. Even in non-contact sports, such as running, we are seeing more gradual erosion of the knee structures.  While running is one thing the human body was well designed to do, the knee is not a great shock-absorber when one runs on pavement.  

3. Paradoxically, the inactivity of the modern work place also contributes to the rise of knee injuries.  With movement, the synovial membrane around the knee produces fluid, which not only lubricates the joint, but provides trace quantities of oxygen and food to the cartilege cells.  But today, we don't move our knees at work, we fold them under us like a deck chair.  At the end of day, it gets ugly, watching people trying to force their stiff legs into the standing position.

 

If you have injured your knee, here are some important action items:

1. Apply ice to ease swelling and pain, for about 10 minutes every half hour.  Make sure you have a layer of cloth between your skin and the ice, to protect from freezer-burn

2. See your doctor if you are not improving.  Images of Xray, Ultrasound, and MRI can help identify pathology.

3. When bending the knee, there is never any need to go beyond 90 degrees, unless you are just stretching. 

 For example, when you are doing a squat in the gym, just bend as far as if you were about to sit in a chair, then back up.  

Never bend the knees so far you can sit on your haunches if you are loading the joint with weights, or even your body weight.  If bending to pick something off the ground, bend just one knee to touch the ground, so both knees are at 90 degrees.  Its much easier to stand up, and much less likely to hurt the knee.

 

4. Watch your leg posture at the desk.  If your knees are hyper-flexed all day under your chair, they you will have a host of issues from dry knees, including stiffness of the surrounding muscles.  Try to set a timer to remind you to bend and flex the knee every fifteen minutes, even if you have to cradle it in your hands to get it started.  

5. Consider a soft knee brace when standing or doing activities.  

Not great for sitting with bended knee, as they tend to cut off the return blood flow if they crinkle behind the knee.  But when the knee is more straight, it can provide support, and may help reduce some of the swelling.  At the very least it will remind you which one is the sore knee, so you won't accidentally land on the wrong foot when running down the stairs for a train!

6. For rehabilitation, seek exercises that don't hurt, and that don't create impact.  Eliptical machines, bikes, swimming, skating etc are all good suggestions, along with controlled weight lifting and stretching exercises.  Make sure you seek professional guidance to make sure your ergonomics are good.  

 

.

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Workplace Ergonomics: A Pain in the Neck!

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Work injuries used to be from highly mobile tasks of hunting and gathering, for which the body was actually well designed. So the injuries tended to be from pure accident, rather than from enforced ergonomics. This changed with the industrial age, when we started to see work injuries to the hands from machines, or to the low back from lifting. But now that we have entered the digital age, our workplace has once again radically changed. Robots and machines do the assembly and lifting, while we sit.

We don't get injuries from "hunting and gathering" in the field, we get them from "hunting and pecking" at a keyboard. 

To see what hours of unremitting bad posture does to the neck, take a look at this image:

In order to see the flickering images on the screen, the head is projected drastically forward, leaving the neck almost parallel to the horizon. While this is fine for a few moments, it becomes an unremitting strain for the neck muscles after a few hours. Much the same as trying to hold two buckets of water at arms length for hours. Human muscles are built for movement, and need to be supplied with fuel and oxygen between beats. Permanent contraction becomes painful, as the muscles are literally starved of oxygen and fuel, much like we can visualize in our hands if we are having a "white knuckle" anxiety attack. We have small mucles that span the gap between each vertebra, and larger muscles along the entire spine and in layers protecting the neck. If these muscles do not relax between movements, then bad things happen.

First the muscles start to scream with pain, developing knots, and restricting simple movements. 

Secondly, over time, the disc spaces between the vertebrae become compressed, and the joint surfaces between the vertebra start to dry out. This explains most of the disc disease and osteoarthritis that we see causing neck pains as we age.
However, neck pains are rare among people who move during their work. We see inspiring examples of octagenarians with perfect posture who spend their lives as ski instructors, yogis, or dancers, or in people who seek out athletic endeavours when they are able to get away from their desk jobs.

But the age of the keyboard does not need to bring new pains to our neck, or to our lives. It simply means we need to develop a strategy to the new workplace. Take a look at the two images below:


In this one, we can see trouble already starting. The laptop is either at the right level for your hands (ie on your lap), or it is at the right level for your neck (ie on a tall table). In the former case, it is terrible for your neck, and in the latter case it is terrible for your hands (see our post on carpal tunnel). The same could be said of even smaller devices like the tablet or the phone. Never a problem for a short task, but this is a prescription for trouble when it extends for hours, days, and years without remission.  

By contrast, take a look at this person's posture. In particular, the neck is now in its normal position, as part of the spine, not a right-angle side road. The weight of the head can now be carried by the structure of the vertebrae, instead of relying on the constant pull of the mucles. Oxygen and food supplies can now be restored to the neck muscles, and knots and pains go a way (or, better yet, never get started!). 

 

 

 

If your work posture is giving you a literal pain in the neck, try these tips:

  1. Use a head-set or speaker feature on your phone.
  2. Have someone take a picture of you at your desk, near the end of day. How's your posture? If it is like the bad example above, then its time to do an ergonomic assessment. Many employers will have professionals who can do this, sometimes requiring a doctor's note. Or, you could follow some of the above advice to help prevent your own neck pains. In my own case, I have found a stand-up screen/keyboard works well when I am in front of my patients.
  3. Set a timer. Every fifteen minutes MOVE YOUR NECK! You can still keep your eyes on the screen if you must, but pull back your shoulder blades, roll your shoulder tips, and swivel your neck in all directions. Use something to pop up on your screen, or try a kitchen timer. Frankly, even a cuckoo clock would work (the original ones all chimed at the quarter hour, not just on the hour). The movement will restore circulation to tense muscles, and it will bring fluid back into the joint spaces. Pain and stiffness don't last long, as long as you move!
  4. When you walk, look ahead of you. Swing your arms normally, and hold your head as if you were balancing books on it. Don't hunch your neck over your cell phone or tablet while you are walking or on public transit. As a reminder, back into a wall and have a friend measure the distance between the back of your skull and the wall; your head should almost touch the wall behind you, and not be leaning towards the wall in front of you! For a video about this, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FV3ZflQjmxk
  5. If you have a stiff neck, see your doctor for assessment. Sometimes images are needed, like ultrasounds or X-rays. If the problem is musclular, massage can work wonders. If the problem is caused by a rigid alignment of the vertebrae, then chiropractic or physical therapy can be of great value. I have also found great results from doing medical acupuncture, with needles placed into strategic trigger points with almost instant relief. Also, consider a change of pillow, depending on whether you sleep on your back or side; some do well with the "reverse curve" pillow, others prefer a horse-shoe shaped pillow filled with air or bean husks. Be prepared to try a few variations to see what works best for you.
  6. Consider yoga or pilates, or other athletic endeavours that break away from the desk posture. Also consider the foam roll, (as seen in our blog on back posture); my patients find this an excellent daily antidote to desk posture. Lying flat on the floor with a rolled towel across the line of your neck can also restore the normal curve of your neck, and ease the muscles that create the stiff and rigid conditions of modern neck pain

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Static Tension: The Non-Sports injury

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Sports injuries are usually not subtle.  Tension in the underlying tissues results from acute acceleration or deceleration movements.  For example, we see this with a check into the boards,

 a tackle from the side,

 or a crash over the handlebars.

 

 

  Some sports injuries are a lot less dramatic, yet still involve movement.  We see this in stress fractures, plantar fasciitis and shin splints in runners,

 

 

 or in the gradual disc degeneration in spines of  motorcycle racers.

 

But one of the much more frequent injuries I see in my office today is the NON-sports injury, caused by the complete LACK of movement.  Otherwise known as STATIC TENSION, the condition can best be illustrated by trying to freeze like a statue, with  two hand-weights held out to the horizon.

Even if the weights are small, this position can cause acute pains if the muscles don't move for extended times.  

Yet today, we freeze our muscles for long hours at our desks.  Even with no weights in our hands, we tense our muscles, ready to pounce on the next stroke on a keyboard. 

 This static tension produces similar results to sports injuries, such as sore shoulder tips, necks, upper and lower back muscles, stiff knees, and leg cramps.

At a cellular level, here’s how it works.   Each cell in our body needs circulation, to provide incoming food and oxygen, and to carry off the waste products of metabolism.  Our muscles get this circulation only BETWEEN beats of contraction/relaxation.  Normally, this works fine, as the human body was designed for hunting and gathering, moving all our waking hours. 

However, the modern work place has replaced movement with stasis.  With legs folded tight under our chairs, our necks craned forward, our shoulder-tips raised, and our knuckles white, we freeze our muscles in the name of progress.  Trouble is, when the work day is over and we try to stand up, it gets pretty ugly. 

Our legs betray us, our heads can hardly swivel to look for oncoming traffic, and we continue to wear our shoulders as ear-rings.  The muscles have been effectively starved of circulation for hours, and respond with expected results.  

So when you are at a work station, remember to be kind to your muscle cells.  Ease up that static tension, and move at least a few times an hour, to allow precious food and oxygen to fuel your cells again.  It could be a simple shoulder-roll, a pulling together of the shoulder blades, or standing up to twist your torso to the left and right a couple of times.  It could be as easy as straightening one leg at a time under the table during a meeting, or as subtle as rising up on your heels when you are standing in conversation or at a work station.  When you do get away from work itself, make a point of climbing stairs, walking quickly, or pursuing any active movement, from dance to tennis, or from yoga to gym work.

In any event, stop letting your work station give you the non-sports injuries of static tension.  Your muscles will definitely serve you a lot better.

 

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Sitting is the New Smoking

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Times have certainly changed.  Smokers were “cool” in the early days of movies, and they were even hailed by doctors in media ads. 

Smoking became so popular that anyone who didn’t light up at work was considered “anti-social”. 

 Today, the few remaining smokers are kicked out of the building.  

So smoking is in decline.  It seems the old generation of smokers have killed themselves off faster than new recruits can be found

But just as we have turned back one self-inflicted threat to public health, we see another take its place.  SITTING is now the new smoking.

 In my practice of urban millenials, almost all earn their living by sitting all day long.  Those that commute will sit even more in their cars or trains.  Then, by the time they have eaten, they are too mentally exhausted to do much other than sit in front of their screens.  (That explains part of our fascination with professional sports: it is a lot easier to sit and watch somebody else exercise than it is to do it ourselves!).

Our bodies were carefully evolved for movement, but the new workplace denies all but a few finger strokes on a keyboard or screen.  As a consequence, we are seeing a host of self-inflicted medical complications, from obesity to neck and back pains, and from insomnia to attention deficit disorders. 

Our ancestors never had to think about exercise; they got plenty working the land, rowing the fishing boats, chopping the firewood, walking miles every day.  But today, we need a strategy for movement.  This needs some time management, and some creativity to pull it off. 

One can join a fitness club, buy a bike, or take up a sport like tennis, soccer or ultimate frisbee. For those who find these options impractical, be creative.   Remember that exercise doesn’t need to be formalized as a solid hour, it could also come in random short bursts.  Any kind of movement is better than finding a new place to sit as your day goes along.  Here are a few examples my patients have found useful:

  • Add a few extra minutes to your commuting schedule to allow for some movement.  Get off at the wrong stop on your bus, train, or subway, and walk the rest of the way.  Park your car a long walk from where you work, and walk or jog the rest of the way in. If you are in a huge parking lot, try to find a spot in the most remote corner. 
  • If you work or live in a tall building, get off at the wrong floor, and take a few flights of stairs up and down.  If you see an escalator, make a point of not taking it, but try the adjacent stairs instead. 
  • When you get a break for lunch, take it in a different building, so you need to incorporate some walking.  If you want to catch up on lunch conversation with friends, invite them to walk and talk once the food is eaten. 

If you absolutely have to sit, consider sitting on a Pilates ball, instead of a chair. 

 

With a chair, you can stay at your place without moving a single muscle.  Indeed, you could even fall asleep at your desk.  Can’t do that on a Pilates ball, or you’ll roll right out of the cubicle.  Like riding a horse, sitting on a ball requires great core strength, good posture, and the constant adjustment of muscles from your toes to your neck.  If the actual ball looks too silly to use at your work, consider rigging your work station for standing.


If all else fails, use the front few inches of your chair seat as a “pseudo-ball”, keeping well away from the back rest and arm supports. 

So if you have joined the ranks of the sedentary, don’t despair.  Sitters don’t need to be Quitters!

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Adhesives Instead of Stitches Reduces Scarring With Less Pain

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

If you have a facial cut in the future, you may not need to see a doctor for sewing.  Instead, you may see the nurse for gluing. 

During my years as an emergency room doctor, I saw a lot of facial lacerations, especially in children.  In fact, during the winter months, in the days before face shields were attached to helmets, it seemed that I did nothing but sew up kids hockey teams.  If I sewed up three six year olds in yellow uniforms, and then three in red uniforms, it was a safe bet that the game had ended in a tie.  Well, now, children's lacerations may not end in a tie at all, but rather in a gluing.  Dr. David Watson, a specialist in accident and emergency medicine in Mayday Hospital London, reported his findings in the British Medical Journal (Oct.21, 1989).  He studied fifty children under the age of forteen years, who had superficial lacerations.  These were treated with cyano-acrylate tissue glue, known as Histoacryl, and then they were followed up with photographs and repeat visits.  The glue was essentially painless to apply, although some noted a sting less than a second in duration.  The results showed fantastic healing, with none of the cross-hatching or pigmented dots that can accompany sutures.  Besides faster heasling and less pain, another major benefit iis the time saved for all concerned.  Instead of waiting for the doctor, kids with minor cuts can be glued by the nurse.  Instead of returning to have the sutures removed, they just carry on. 

Natural Goo

The search for adhesives that can perform better than sutures and surgical staples has recently been taking researchers into some unexpected places. There are a number of organisms that produce natural adhesives that could make stitches a thing of the past. Take slugs, for instance.

Andrew Smith, a professor from New York's Ithaca College, worked with undergraduate students to capture slugs and "milk" them to collect a defensive goo that the animals use to protect themselves in the wild. Upon analyzing the secretions, Smith and his helpers found that it was formed out of a combination of metal ions and a network of polymers that was neither completely solid nor completely fluid. 
"Gel like this would make an ideal medical adhesive," Smith said. "It would stick to wet surfaces, and no matter how much the tissue flexed and bent, the gel would flex and bend with it. There would be no leakage or scarring."

Smith isn't the only scientist looking for a new glue in nature: German researchers are investigating the Asparagus beetle that uses a biological adhesive to attach its eggs onto asparagus spears, while a University of Utah professor is looking at the natural glue produced by caddisflies.

Medical glues are not new. They have been used for decades in Canada, Europe, Israel and the Far East. But doctors in the US paid little attention to them until the last year or so because the older glues had many limitations.

For one thing, they were too weak for all but small, shallow wounds. In addition, some caused toxic reactions on the skin. Perhaps the biggest strike against them was a finding published a decade ago that one adhesive induced cancer in laboratory rats.

More recent research has not borne out the cancer link, and newer medical glues are stronger and, when used properly, not toxic, said Dr. James Quinn, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor who was the lead author of the new study. His success in using medical glues in Canada as an emergency room doctor touched off his interest in doing research on them.

His new study included 130 adults with 136 lacerations on the face, torso, arms and legs that were treated in the emergency room of Ottawa General Hospital in Canada. Half the wounds were closed with a medical glue, the other half with stitches. Deep wounds that normally require two layers of stitches were given stitches beneath the skin and then randomly assigned to be closed with either glue or stitches on the surface.

Certain wounds were excluded from the study because of the high risk of infection and other complications, including animal bites and scratches and puncture wounds.

The study found that the wounds in each group healed equally well when evaluated within the first few days or weeks and again after three months. But the glue had two big advantages over stitches. First of all, it closed the wounds in a quarter of the time: about 3.6 minutes compared with 12.4 minutes. And patients reported significantly less pain.

Further studies are still going on, but it seems that children with facial cuts will be spared the needles, and instead be treated painlessly with glue.  I wish they had it when I was a kid.

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Realistically Beginning A New Exercise Regimen

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Are you embarking on a new exercise program to redress the flab put on over years of sedentary living? Well, there are a few things you should be aware of right at the start.

The human body was built for motion, and until the computer age changed the workplace during the last generation, we had plenty of motion just staying alive. To find food, ancient hunters had to walk or run for miles. To kill it, they had to exert great muscular strength and reflexes in battle. An image that depicting people running on a treadmill To carry it home, they had to be weight lifters. Even in the Industrial age, men at work needed brute strength on the assembly line, and women, lacking refrigerators and cars, put in thousands of calories of exercise walking to stores, tending the vegetable gardens, and, for the minority, joining the men on the assembly lines.

Well, now we all have the easy life, at least as far as exercise goes. With no more exercise than pushing a few buttons or keys at work, and with an average of 5 hours of television to watch each evening after work, it is no wonder that we have collectively turned to flab.

To correct this, many have embraced the quick fix exercise remedy. Jogging along with Jane, or bouncing along with Biff on the TV fitness shows, the average person can be setting him or herself up for injuries big-time. First of all, there is no way that these people get their terrific bodies doing just twenty minutes a day. These professionals work out almost as many hours a day as you work at your desk. So the first step to reintroducing motion to your body is to have a realistic goal, such as to have fun and to gradually improve your exercise tolerance. The sports medicine clinics are filled with weekend athletes wearing slings and tensor bandages to treat injuries caused when their mental enthusiasm exceeded their physical shape.

If you have been under-exercised for years, don't try to make up for it in minutes.

  • Make sure you invest in the right equipment: Wearing appropriate clothing is a crucial part of exercise injury prevention. An exerciser should choose an outfit that allows him to remain comfortable during his workout, but does not pose any safety risks. For instance, a cyclist should not choose to wear loose-fitting pants, as they can become caught in a bicycle’s pedals, causing a fall. If exercising outdoors, it is also important to select clothing that suits the weather. In cold weather, layers can help an exerciser stay warm, while a lightweight long-sleeved top can be useful for preventing sunburn on warm days.
  • Seek professional instruction: An overwhelming 250 certification programs exist throughout the United States, yet all have different requirements, ranging in depth from "heavy" to "feather" weight. While some programs require a college degree in a health-related field, along with the passing of written and practical exams to qualify for certification, others can be completed with little preparation by taking a simple test in an afternoon. And just because a personal trainer is "certified" does not necessarily mean that he or she is qualified to work with people in all different areas of fitness. at a minimum a good trainer should have a certification by a reputable organization, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the American Council on Exercise.
    • Ask a health professional you trust to refer you to a good trainer. Health professionals who recommend exercise may have a network of personal trainers that they routinely refer people to.
    • Arrange to meet with the trainer before making your final decision. Be sure to ask about his/her background and any relevant training.
    • Ask to speak to some current and former clients. They can give you a good picture of the trainer's style.
    • Make sure you are comfortable talking openly and honestly with the trainer about your needs and goals. Do not choose someone who intimidates you or someone with whom you feel uncomfortable.
  • Check your pulse regularly during the exercise. Review Stressipedia's written and video instruction on how to check your pulse here (Read Your Speed)

And remember, one of the best exercises of all is to turn off the TV for a while, and go out for a walk!

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Stress and Childhood Obesity

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

If you have a child between the ages of 7-13 that experiences rapid weight gain, the reason may well be stress.

I have always maintained that obesity is never a problem; it is only the result of a problem. Until that underlying problem is addressed, whether it is boredom, poor self image, or too much stress, all the diets in the world are not going to work in the long term.

An image depicting a child fighting childhood obesity with exercise

Now a new multi-center European study, headed by Drs. Melbin and Vuille and reported in the Scandinavian Pediatric Journal, has come to the same conclusion. They examined close to a thousand children, and followed them from birth to age 15 years. All children who gained more than fifteen percent in relative weight were analyzed according to age groups. Their psychosocial stress was evaluated according to scholastic health records and school nurses' information, and rated 0 (for no stress), 1, or 2. Between the ages of 7 to 13, the students with the highest stress scores turned out to be the ones most likely to be obese.

In addition, the high levels of stress were manifested in other ways. For example, among the seventy overweight children in the study, they were almost five times as likely to drop out of school beyond the nine year mandatory period. When the stress levels were low, almost half of these overweight children lost weight between the ages of 13 and 15, but when stress was high, only 15 % achieved normal body weights in later adolescence. So the authors concluded that rapid weight gain during the school years may be an indicator of psychosocial problems and the ramifications are obvious. Just signing such a child up for an expensive diet program, or subscribing to radical liquid diets will only work for a very short period of time, if at all. If the stresses are not addressed and dealt with, the obesity will soon return.

The American Heart Association has taken a position on this subject based on scientific evidence:  physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. Inactivity also increases the risk of stroke and such other major cardiovascular risk factors as obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL ("good") cholesterol and diabetes.

The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

Here's an action tip:

If you have a child that has suddenly gained a lot of weight, make sure you don’t just shut down the food lines, but open up the lines of communication. Resolve these stresses by working together and, where appropriate, involve professional help. You will do a lot more to cure the obesity if you listen to the child.

How do I promote physical activity in my child?

  • Reduce the time your child watches TV, talks on the phone, plays computer games or any other activity that does not require vigorous physical activity.
  • Make sure that any physical activity is enjoyable and rewarding - it will help reinforce the idea that exercise is fun and something to be looked forward to, not avoided.
  • Be a role model! If you are active and encourage your child to also be active there's a good chance they'll make exercise a habit!

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Work Stress and Heart Disease

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Are you under a lot of stress at work? Well, if you are not handling it well, it could be making you more at risk for heart disease.

An image of someone stressed-out at work

First, let’s set the record straight. We are all under some stress, and most people at work are under a lot of it. But just because you have a stressful job, such as an air traffic controller, police officer, or computer worker, does not mean your health need suffer. Many such people thrive on their pressures, and indeed wither into death or senility within a few short years of idle retirement. But if you are not handling these job stresses well, then indeed there is cause for concern.

A recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at over two hundred men, aged 30 to 60 years. About one in five suffered job stress, such as impending mergers, trouble with a bad boss, and economic factors. These highly stressed individuals were three times as likely to have high blood pressure as their peers. Even more alarmingly, all men aged thirty to forty with high stress jobs had a clinically significant thickening of the heart's left ventricle. This means that there is something happening inside your body when you have chronic job stress, and rather than responding by passively adopting bad habits, it is critical for you to take control.

People with highly stressful jobs but little real control over decision making are running a 23% increased risk of a heart attack, according to authoritative research.

Many people in today's world, where the pace of life is fast and money is tight, may consider themselves stressed at work, but the definition used by authors of the study in the Lancet medical journal is precise. They considered job strain to involve high demands on the individual and little freedom to make his or her own decisions about how and when to do the work.

This sort of stress is to be found among all sorts of people, holding down all sorts of jobs on both high and low salaries, said one of the authors of the study, Professor Andrew Steptoe of the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London.

"It is the coupling [of high demand and low control] that is problematic," he said. "It is more common in low income jobs where people are doing the same thing again and again, such as assembly line work, but it is across the whole social spectrum.

When one has high job stress, the tendency is to pay less attention to good nutrition, learning skills of relaxation and exercise, and more inclination to talk shop all through one's spare time hours. It may very well be that it is these choices, and not the job itself, that account for most of the associated heart disease. If you are in a stressful job, you owe it to yourself to fight back with ‘active participation’. Eat good foods, exercise regularly, develop skills of relaxation, and focus on other interests in your spare time to get your mind off work.

Given that 1 in 3 Americans suffers from heart problems, managing work-related stress is key. Here are some recommendations from the American Heart Association:

  • Practice positive self-talk: Instead of telling yourself, “everything is going wrong,” think, “I can handle things if I take one step at a time.”
  • Identify emergency stress stoppers that work for you: For example, count to 10 before you speak or go for a walk.
  • Find pleasure in simple activities: Try to do at least one thing a day that you enjoy, like listening to music or meeting friends for lunch.
  • Take time to relax daily: Calm tension in your mind and body through yoga or meditation.

 

Most of all, ask yourself if you really like the job in the first place, or are just in a rut. If you no longer enjoy your work, be flexible enough to consider planning for a change, for the sake of your heart. The most stressful job in the world is after all the one for which you are not suited.


Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Fight Childhood Obesity More Effectively With Exercise

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Are you an overweight teenager, or do you have one in your family? Well, new research indicates that childhood obesity may be hurting a lot more than just their physical appearance.

An image of a high school volleyball matchObesity in teenagers is rare in most parts of the world, but it is remarkably common in the United States and Canada. Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese.  Obesity is among the easiest medical conditions to recognize but one of the most difficult to treat.  Overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults unless they adopt and maintain healthier patterns of eating and exercise.

What is obesity? 

Generally, a child is not considered obese until weighing in 10 percent or higher than what is recommended for their height and body type.  The ages between 5 and 6, as well as adolescence, are the most common ages for obesity begin.  Studies have shown that a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 has an 80 percent chance of becoming an obese adult. While few extra pounds does not suggest obesity, it may indicate a tendency to gain weight easily and a need for changes in diet and/or exercise.

Certainly one reason for it is our absence of exercise. North American teens lead the world in hours of television watched after school, and it’s not much better when they are not watching TV.

What causes obesity? 

Obesity occurs when a person eats more calories than the body burns up, but the underlying causes of obesity are complex and include genetic, biological, behavioral and cultural factors.  Although certain medical disorders can cause obesity, less than 1 percent of all obesity is caused by physical problems.  Chances are 50/50 that a child will be obese if one parent is obese. These odds rise to about 80% when both parents are obese.    

Obesity in childhood and adolescence can be related to:

Our teenagers get virtually no exercise on their way to school, or once they get there. In many jurisdictions the paltry amount of time devoted to physical education is only an option, meaning that it appeals to those who are active anyway, but can be dodged by the slothful. Well, not only are our teenagers falling woefully behind the rest of the world in academic matters, they are as a group, also in dreadful shape. Because adult heart disease actually begins in childhood, it eventually puts their very lives in jeopardy. The obvious answer is to diet, but now it has been shown that overweight teens should also focus more on exercise.

Professor Victor Katch, of the University of Michigan, conducted a study involving thirty six adolescents whose body fat was more than five per cent above normal for their ages. For a period of twenty weeks, half were given a heart healthy diet, and the other half was given the diet plus an exercise routine of fifty minutes three times a week. In the teens that exercised as well as dieted, their blood levels of cholesterol and other blood fats dropped more than twice as much as those who only dieted, and their overall risk improvement for heart disease was three times as good.

Here's an action tip:

 If you have an overweight teenager in your family, or if you are one, please consult your doctor for a full physical exam and cholesterol tests, and an appropriate diet. But, just as importantly, try to incorporate activity into your routine, even if you turn off the TV or video games for an hour each afternoon, and go for a walk.

As a parent, other ways in which you can help your teenager steer clear of obesity are:

  • help them start a weight-management program
  • change eating habits (eat slowly, develop a routine)
  • plan meals and make better food selections (eat less fatty foods, avoid junk and fast foods)
  • control portions (consume fewer calories)
  • know what your child eats at school
  • eat meals as a family instead of while watching television or at the computer
  • do not use food as a reward
  • limit snacking
  • attend a support group (for instance, Overeaters Anonymous)

Your career may depend on your mental exercises during high school, but your adult health depends on how well you exercise your body.

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Subscribe to get Stressipedia updates by email