Stressipedia

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About The Joy Of Stress

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About “The Joy of Stress”:

The Joy of Stress was written originally over three decades ago, and has proven to have lasting and universal appeal.  The concept was started as an information piece for specific questions asked by my patients.  In the course of a busy practice of family medicine and emergency care, I was asked by my patients to simplify the complicated steps to deal with their particular problems.   I heard myself repeating  verbal lists  for management of obesity, high blood pressure, low back pain etc.  However, verbal “core dumps” are very poorly retained (or, worse yet, misremembered), and I would inevitably have to repeat them at intervals.  Initially, I thought I should write these down, and started handing out printed action-items for some of the more common conditions.  Strress was the most common basis for most medical visits, so that was the starting point.  To this was quickly added obesity, high  blood pressure, elevated levels of blood sugar or cholesterol, and pain management.  As I catalogued each new subject brought up by the next patient, the pamphlet idea soon grew to a book. 

The manuscript for the book was turned down by all publishers, as I was an unknown young doctor in the countryside north of Toronto.    I had never written professionally, and knew nothing of editing, illustrating, marketing, and printing.  However, I did know that stress is not always bad, and indeed is a needed ingredient to success.   Mortgaging everything to self-publish, it was indeed a great joy to see the book enter the Canadian Best-Sellers list, rising to number one for over three months. 

The American edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

was then picked up by a real publisher, and translations were done in dozens of countries.  Some of these are shown below.

Since then, I have travelled the world as a professional speaker, yet always remained in active practice.  My millennial patients suggested blogs, which now form the basis of www.stressipedia.com.  Along the way, I also rewrote the entire book;  “The Joy of Stress”, now available on Amazon in print or as an e-book. 

 

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Hip Pain? Hip Tips...

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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

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Sitting is the New Smoking

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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!

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Realistically Beginning A New Exercise Regimen

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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!

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Stress and Childhood Obesity

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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!

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Fight Childhood Obesity More Effectively With Exercise

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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.

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Alzheimer's Disease and Aluminum

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Aluminum was once thought to be an inert metal, but its safety in our bodies is now being questioned.

Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative neurological disease that causes premature aging of the brain. Memory loss, early senility, and premature death are hallmark symptoms. Although there may be many causes, including genetics and a number of environmental factors, aluminum ingestion has been implicated. While no causal relationship has yet been proved, there is circumstantial evidence linking this metal with Alzheimer's disease.

alzheimer's disease

Neurotoxic behavior of aluminum is known to occur upon entry into the circulatory system, where it can migrate to the brain and inhibit some of the crucial functions of the blood brain barrier (BBB). A loss of function in the BBB can produce significant damage to the neurons in the central nervous system, as the barrier protecting the brain from other toxins found in the blood will no longer be capable of such action. Though the metal is known to be neurotoxic, effects are usually restricted to patients incapable of removing excess ions from the blood, such as those experiencing renal failure. Patients experiencing aluminum toxicity can exhibit symptoms such as impaired learning and reduced motor coordination. Additionally, systemic aluminum levels are known to increase with age, and have been shown to correlate with Alzheimer’s Disease, implicating it as a neurotoxic causative compound of the disease.

Aluminum became a suspect when researchers found traces of this metal in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients. Many studies since then have either not been able to confirm this finding or have had questionable results. Aluminum does turn up in higher amounts than normal in some autopsy studies of Alzheimer's disease patients, but not in all, and the aluminum found in some studies may have come from substances used in the laboratory to study brain tissue. Moreover, various studies have found that groups of people exposed to high levels of aluminum do not have an increased risk. On the whole, scientists can say only that it is still uncertain whether exposure to aluminum plays a role in Alzheimer's disease.

Millions of cases have been diagnosed in Canada and the United States, as well as countless others wrongly attributed to simple aging. Alzheimer's disease has certainly attracted the attention of the public. Dr. Donald McLachlan, Professor of physiology and medicine at the University of Toronto notes that we should all be eating about two micrograms of aluminum a day, but we average at least four times this amount. Many people inadvertently consume forty times the recommended levels. Highly acidic foods such as rhubarb or tomatoes, when stewed in aluminum pots will absorb some of the element. A slice of homemade cornbread tops the list with nine times the recommended daily dose, as does a gram of Crest gel toothpaste in the tube. Fresh mint Crest gel, in the metal tube, contains almost twenty times less aluminum than Crest Sparkling gel, in the metal tube. Aquafresh in the metal tube, bests the list with only .27 micrograms per gram.

Foods high in aluminum are American processed cheese, cake and icing from a mix, foods containing additives, foods packaged in aluminum, some antacids, lipstick, cosmetics,  antiperspirants, buffered aspirin, and even prune juice. A call to your local public health office will tell you about your local drinking water. A liter of Metropolitan Toronto tap-water contains 75 micrograms in winter and this increases to between 200 and 300 in summer.

The evidence that what you eat matters to your brain is growing fast. Many studies have recently reported that many of the same factors that contribute to poor heart health also increase one’s risk of cognitive decline or developing Alzheimer's disease. It is very important to eat in moderation and maintain a healthy body weight, as people who are obese double their risk of developing dementia according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Research has found that people who eat foods high in fat and sugar, as well as larger amounts of red and processed meats have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than people who ate more lean meats (fish and poultry) and more fruits and vegetables. Yet another study has shown that vitamin B-12 and folic acid deficiencies coupled with increased levels of homocysteine, a compound found in the blood that has been linked to increased risk of certain cardiovascular conditions, resulted in lower scores on cognitive tests. Taken as a whole, these and other studies support the notion that eating a balanced diet and eating in moderation throughout your life is just as important to long-term cognitive health as it is to heart health.

Studies have found also shown that aluminum absorbs better through the skin than orally. When using antiperspirants, one only applies very little aluminum to the skin. However, daily use results in chronic exposure to aluminum.

Here's an action tip:

To help reduce your chances of developing aluminum toxicity, take steps to avoid antacids and antiperspirants, which may contain aluminum. Until more is known about the effects of aluminum ingestion on our health, the safest thing to do is avoid foods wrapped in it, and read all food labels carefully, If the tap water in your area is suspect, then drink bottled water.

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Colonoscopy for Cancer of the Colon: Hind-sight is 20-20

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Colon Cancer Prevention

 Aging is supposed to be a reward, not a punishment.  However, there are days when that may not seem to be much consolation.  Just like with a car, we can ignore maintenance at first, but after it becomes an old classic, it needs a lot more maintenance.

One human example is our search for preventable diseases.  Colon cancer is certainly one of the classic examples. 

Our society is at a high risk of the disease, for a number of reasons.  Our aging population, or changing diet with less fiber and more sugars and additives, and our increased levels of stress all mitigate increased risks of this (and other) diseases.  Because cancer of the colon is so easy to prevent, and yet so deadly if allowed to grow undiagosed, prevention trumps heroic surgery as our first option.  While prevention incorporates the usual good lifestyle choices of diet, exercise, and stress management, here are some critical elements of detection:

1.       Fecal Occult Blood test: this is a simple test kit, available from your doctor or lab, which will show trace amounts of blood in the stool.  This might be from bleeding from the gums or swallowed blood from a nosebleed, or it could come from the stomach or any part of the intestines down to the rectum.  While blood is visible as red or black discoloration in the stools, this test is sensitive enough to detect blood hidden from the human eye.  Because it is inexpensive and non-invasive, this can be done to any age group.  We often order it for patients with low iron levels, or with known bowel diseases like chron’s or ulcerative colitis.

 

2.       Colonoscopy:  This is the definitive test, routinely suggested for all adults after the age of 50.  Earlier screening is suggested for those who have any of the risk factors mentioned above, including those who have positive Fecal Occult Blood tests.

Treatment:

                1. Minor surgery:  Nip it in the bud: the point of a direct (as opposed to a “virtual” one) colonoscopy is that it will not only show any polyps, but allows the doctor to snip, zap, or otherwise eradicate them before they turn into cancers.  A classic “two-fer”, this means the diagnosis is made, and the treatment is given all during the same procedure.  For patches of suspicious cells, a biopsy can be taken which will detect diseases within a few days of lab processing. 

2.    Major surgery: If the above is too late, and the cancer has progressed into and through the wall of the colon, then full abdominal surgery is usually indicated.  Often this ends with a segment of bowel removed, and a colectomy or removal of bowel being done.  The patient is left with a colostomy bag, which is often permanent.  In some cases, the cancer may have already spread beyond the colon and into the lymph nodes, meaning that systemic chemotherapy or radiation may then be needed.

Please consider option 1, no matter how you might rather postpone or ignore it.  Those who are in denial are likely going to end up with Option 2, and for some of those, even surgery may be too late to save their lives.  Once cancer has been established,  a third of all patients will die from it.  If detected early, the survival rate should be 100%.

There are plenty of “bad luck” reasons for us to die; please don’t let “bad management” add to your risks!  Ask your doctor for a referral, and make sure you check out your colon when you are due. 

For more info on colonoscopy:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonoscopy

For more articles on colon issues, check these articles on www.stressipedia.com:

A-new-wrinkle-on-fatigue-Flat-Iron

Stress-and-Constipation-How-to-Move-Things-Along

Probiotics-new-use-for-an-old-bacteria

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What To Do About Being Stressed-Out and Overweight

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Obesity. Plumpness. Full figure. There are more euphemisms for this condition than any other medical problem. This is probably because it is not a medical problem at all. With the exception of a very few cases of true glandular dysfunction, such as with certain conditions of thyroid, liver, or adrenal disorder, being fat is an arithmetic problem.

An image of glass of red wine

When the numbers of calories in exceed the number of calories burned off, the body stores the difference. In other words, obesity is caused by eating too much, and/or exercising too little. On the very rare chance that your case may be caused by more than bad dietary arithmetic, a proper medical work-up can pick up most endocrine disorders, and, of course, the appropriate treatments can then be started.

In some cases, such as with thyroid replacement, or surgery on an overactive adrenal gland, the results can be dramatic. But for the vast majority of heavyweights, the problem is not related to luck, genetics, or metabolism. It usually all comes down to choice. That's right, choice. Most fat people choose to be fat, in spite of their protestations to the contrary. When their eyes are closed, they see themselves as fat people, when they talk about themselves, they refer to themselves as heavyweights, and when they buy clothes, they look in the "full figure" section. They may try a diet, out of guilt at being faced with an increasingly lean lifestyle portrayal in the media. But without choosing to see themselves as thin, the dieter feels ill at ease with their new weight, and soon bounces back up to even greater heights.

Often the obese kid themselves into believing that they really don't eat much, just because they see others eating more in public. But the food one sneaks without witnesses can do all the damage, even if one denies having eaten it. My old professor used to point out to her obese patients that "nobody ever came out of a prisoner of war camp fat". Indeed, in circumstances where the freedom of choice in one's diet is removed, such as with the post WWII rationing in England, obesity virtually disappeared from view (at least it made everyone suspicious of ration stamp forgeries if one showed up overweight). Indeed, during these periods, the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, back pains, sore knees and ankles, and a host of other obesity-related diseases all plummeted with the national weight. In the case of post-war British, the choice was made for them. But, for the rest of us, we still have that precious freedom. So, whether you consider yourself pleasingly plump, rotund, or "big boned", remember that you are ultimately the only one to blame, and the only one who can make the choice to correct the problem. It has always been thus. Ever since the days of Shakespeare, the choice facing every dieter as he or she sits down before another meal has always been the same: "tubby, or not tubby, that is the question".

Here's an action tip:
If you are overweight, by which I mean ten pounds over the weight at which you look your best in a bathing suit, remember to exercise your freedom of choice, as well as to exercise your muscles.

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Good News: Chocolate is Hotter than you Imagined

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As we watch obesity growing into our biggest health threat, we should note that the cure is not always tasteless.  One of the great myths that keep people eating bad foods is that good foods taste terrible.  Kitty litter mixed with bark chips, horrible tasting smoothies, and "rabbit foods" from the vegetable drawer.  Yeccch!  No wonder people persist with their paradigm of junk foods tasting "great", just as the advertisements (with thin models who obviously don't eat these products) promote.

Well here's some good news.  It turns out that chocolate can be very good for you.  In a recent study performed at the University of California, San Diego, Dr. B. A. Golomb reviewed over 1,000 patient records on the effects of statin medications, and published her findings in the Archives of Internal Medicine.  

It turns out that chocolate can be very good for you

The question asked was "how many times a week do you eat chocolate?".  Then they calculated the BMI (body mass index).  Much to their surprise, it turned out that regular chocolate intake was associated with a better BMI.  While this initially sounds counter-intuitive, it does make sense in light of what is now known about the antioxidant effects of dark chocolate.  The best is labelled as at least "70% cacao" on the label.  Milk chocolate is usually only about 50% cacao, leaving about half sugar.

Also note that a lot of candy has artificial colors, and other chemicals to preserve or enhance their appeal.  Real (dark) chocolate can be healthy if one avoids these additives.  Remember that even good things need moderation and portion control.  This study is not a license to omit the rest of a balanced diet just to hit the desert line.  And please remember the BMI is not the only index of health and obesity.  A better test is always done with a bathing suit, a full length mirror, and a bit of privacy.   Does that body look about right, or is there still some fat to lose?  You will see, you will know.   The raw numbers of weight can be very misleading.  Many elite athletes score much over the BMI "ideal" ratings, yet they are in amazingly good shape.

So as you consider fighting back against cholesterol (either in your blood levels, or on your body), remember that chocolate can do what no statins will: bring a smile to your face at dessert time!

 

 

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