Archive for February, 2012

Teenage Concussions: When In Doubt, Sit it Out

Teenage boys who play football suffer more concussions than any other high school athletes, but girls who play soccer and basketball, and boys who wrestle, play ice hockey or lacrosse also are at risk of head injury.

Nearly half (47%) of concussions among high school athletes happen on the football field, according to a new study published in the January issue of American Journal of Sports Medicine.

This data comes from a large, national sample of US high schools who reported injury data for 20 sports during the 2008-2010 academic years.

“Although interest in sports-related concussions is usually focused on full-contact sports like football and ice hockey, concussions occur across a wide variety of high school sports,” conclude the authors from the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, led by researcher Natalie McIlvain.

Most of the head injuries happened when players collided with each other, but even some children in non-contact sports, such as softball, gymnastics, cheerleading and swimming, suffered blows to the head.

Girls having a 70% higher concussion rate than boys in “gender-comparable” sports.

It’s not clear why, but it may have to do with lesser neck strength among girls, said Christy Collins, a senior research associate at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“The real danger is returning to play too soon,” Collins says.

To prevent concussions, young athletes should learn to play by the rules of the game and be in good physical shape when they start playing, writes Jane Gillett, MD, in Brainline

“Someone who is unable to keep up with the pace of the game is more likely to get hurt,” writes Gillett.

“And practicing the skills of the game in a non-competitive manner through drills and structured workouts help athletes hone the necessary skills like being aware of where others are in play, where the ball is, and ways to improve balance, mobility, and hand/eye coordination.

Another important component is to teach your young athlete sportsmanship.

That means not to take things said or done as a personal attack and not to respond to an aggressive act by becoming more aggressive themselves.

Being a role model in ‘turning the other cheek’ will help demonstrate this behavior.”

The coach should also be aware of the signs and symptoms of a concussion — being dazed, confused, stunned, or even experiencing a brief loss of consciousness, according to Gillett.

Other symptoms include headache, dizziness, and transitory memory loss of the event or of events earlier that day.

“The coach should then keep the player out of the game and future games until the effects of the concussion are truly gone … and only with an official doctor’s note of approval,” writes Gillett.

“For players, coaches, and parents, the philosophy to remember is: when in doubt, sit it out.”

Meditation for the Modern World with The Simple Truth

The brain is an organ built to last, and change, even well into later life.

Scientists call the ability of the brain to change or remodel itself neuroplasticity.

This brain remodeling helps you meet the ever-changing physical, cognitive, emotional, and environmental demands that you are exposed to over the course of your life.

One way to change your brain for the better is through meditation.

Jeff Cannon teaches contemporary meditation and mindfulness to help business and community leaders meet the realities of the modern world.

In his book, The Simple Truth, Cannon shows readers how they can find their own Simple Truth, that is, act in accordance with who you are and follow your own path wherever it leads.

Here are a few of his concepts on the path to the Simple Truth:

1. Changing your life with the little choices

Lives change not from decisions you make from time to time, but by the little choices you make every day without even thinking.

The concept of Living with CaRE is a way to stop, think, and make good choices that can steer your life in the right direction.

CaRE is more than an acronym.

It is a pause button to interrupt the auto-responses we all make in our lives – sometimes to our regret.

The next time you make a decision to do something, stop for a moment and think to yourself:

What is Causing me to make this decision?

What are the different ways that I can Respond to this situation?

How will my response Effect my future?

Most important, how can I act so that my Response is the right one for me to steer my life in the right direction?

By being mindful of the small choices we can have control over the life we want to live.

2. 8-2-8 Breathing Meditation

A great way to start a meditation practice is to set aside 10 minutes at the start of your day and simply to focus on your breath.

An 8-2-8 Breathing Meditation is a great way to do this.

During your meditation close your eyes, inhale through your nose, and feel your stomach expand for a slow count of 8 seconds.

Retain the air for a count of 2, and then exhale slowly through your nose for another count of 8.

Simply repeat this until you feel a sense of calm and focus to start your day.

3. Mini-Meditations throughout your day

All too often people hesitate to benefit from meditation because they think it will take too long.

With so many great things attributed to meditation, it’s a shame.

The key for success here is not to think of sitting for hours on end, but instead, to use mini -meditations throughout your day can help you retain focus and calm.

When you start to feel agitated or stressed, set aside 1 to 2 minutes to return to the calm you had.

Whether it is a meeting at your job, kids, or relationship stressors incorporating mini-meditations will keep you sane no matter what goes on around you.

I like Cannon’s concepts of taking CaRE and mini-meditations.

I know I feel more relaxed since I started doing almost daily Tai Chi more than two years ago.

I like to think that’s my body, and my brain, thanking me for the change.

What’s Healthier: Natural or Synthetic Vitamins?

Many of today’s vitamin and mineral supplements are made synthetically through chemical processes, rather than derived directly from plants or other materials.

Some manufacturers do make supplements directly from natural sources, and claim that these vitamins are superior in quality to their synthetic cousins.

Are natural vitamins better than synthetic ones?

The distinction between synthetic and natural vitamins can be confusing, according to the Dietary Supplement Quality Initiative (DSQI), which is designed to promote access to affordable, high-quality dietary supplements.

The question comes down to molecular structure.

This article on natural vs. synthetic vitamins states “when the synthetic molecule is identical to the form derived from natural sources, both forms will be indistinguishable from each other in all aspects — including their function and effects in the human body.

In addition, the same natural vitamin derived from different natural sources or raw materials will be the same (provided that no other substances unique to that particular source are included).”

For example, the vitamin C isolated from oranges for the synthetic form is identical to vitamin C derived from other plant sources.

However, vitamin E found in synthetic forms only delivers half the effective dose of naturally derived vitamin E.

The guest blog below is by Allison Dean, a writer dedicated to bringing out the truth behind synthetic vitamins.

Allison also writes about medical malpractice cases.

Read her argument carefully and make your own decision on which vitamins are best.

Which type of vitamin, natural or synthetic, would you now choose?

What’s in Your Vitamins?

Most of us take steps to ensure our health.

We try to eat the right foods and jump on that treadmill when we can; perhaps one of the easiest things many of us think we can do for our health is take multivitamins and other vitamins to supplement our diet.

However, we may not be doing ourselves a favor when we go to the grocery store and pick up our One-A-Day multivitamins.

Recently, people have begun to question whether we really benefit from the vitamins marketed and advertised to us; after all, the majority are synthetic.

It turns out that synthetic vitamins are not the answer to healthy living for two reason: First, your body cannot absorb them the same way as natural vitamins.

Second, studies have shown that synthetic vitamins may actually hurt you if consumed over long periods of time.

Your Body Doesn’t Fully Absorb Synthetic Vitamins

Synthetic vitamins are made in a laboratory from chemical materials.

Although created to supplement the natural vitamins we don’t get from our daily diets, they pale miserably in comparison to supplements born from plants or other natural materials.

As a matter of fact, our bodies can’t even absorb the full amount; synthetic supplements lack co-factors, which are non-protein chemical compounds derived from vitamins that aid your body in the absorption of vitamins.

Because synthetic vitamins lack necessary co-factors, very few vitamins are actually absorbed by the body when synthetic supplements are consumed; and the body simply disposes of the synthetic substances incapable of being absorbed.

According to Heidi Dulay, Ed.D., N.C., a professor at John F. Kennedy University, in “Are You Wasting Your Money on Synthetic Vitamins?”, only 10% of synthetic vitamins are actually absorbed by our bodies.

Synthetic Vitamins My Harm Your Body, Not Help It

In her article, Professor Dulay also restates data found in three synthetic vitamin studies:

#1. Study using synthetic beta carotene and Vitamin E halted.

Some 29,000 male smokers were given synthetic beta carotene and synthetic Vitamin E.

The study was stopped when rates of lung cancer, heart attacks and death increased.

– New England Journal of Medicine, 1994

#2. Birth defects increased for women on synthetic supplements.

Some 22,000 pregnant women were given synthetic Vitamin A.

The study was halted because birth defects increased 400%.

– New England Journal of Medicine, 1995

#3. Men get thickened arteries on synthetic supplements.

Men who took 500 mg of synthetic Vitamin C daily over 18 months showed signs of thickening of the arteries.

– Reuters Health, March, 2000”

So, what this means is that synthetic vitamins, instead of making you healthier, may make sick over time as you consume them.

How to Ensure Your Supplements Will Help You, Not Hurt You

These ingredients are ones you should avoid when deciding on supplements, according to Professor Dulay; if they contain them, then they are synthetic and you should not risk your health or waste your money:

• Artificial colors.

• Preservatives, such as:

o Polysorbate 80;

o Sodium benzoate;

o Sulphur dioxide;

o Sodium nitrite.

• Ingredients that bind or dissolve other ingredients, such as:

o Glucose;

o Sucrose;

o Starch; and/or

o Microcrystalline cellulose.

• Chemical ingredient names that don’t include their plant source.

In looking at the DSQI article again, it agrees that the list of ingredients and their amounts is the most important aspect of comparative analysis:

“If that list is approximately equivalent, then price should be your guide, unless you are given some clear and objective information about why the natural one is better.”

9 Myths about Women’s Heart Disease

Some 6.5 million American women suffer from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death among women of all ages.

Since February is American Heart Month I thought I’d post this list from Leslie Cho, MD, Cleveland Clinic Cardiologist and Director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Center, of 9 common myths about women and heart disease:

9 Myths about Women’s Heart Disease

o Myth #1: Vitamins C and D help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Neither supplement has been proven effective when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease.

o Myth #2: Fish oils help reduce cholesterol.

Fish oil only lowers triglyceride levels at high doses, which can increase HDL, known as “good” cholesterol.

o Myth #3: Women have higher cholesterol than men.

Prior to menopause, women tend to have lower cholesterol than men and a similar cholesterol level following menopause.

o Myth #4: Statins do not help women.

Statins are effective in the treatment and prevention of coronary heart disease in both men and women.

o Myth #5: Hormone replacement therapy helps with heart disease.

Postmenopausal women should not take estrogen to try to prevent heart disease.

Hormonal replacement therapy actually increases the likelihood of heart attack and death from heart disease in older women and those more than 10 years from menopause.

However, it poses little to no risk when used for short periods (6 months) by women.

o Myth #6: You don’t need to exercise if you are thin.

If you don’t exercise regularly, you increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease, regardless of your physique.

o Myth #7: You need to start getting check-ups at the age of 50.

The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recommend that all people have their cholesterol checked at age 20 and have routine cholesterol tests every five years following their first check-up.

For those with heart disease risk factors, the ACC and AHA recommend annual cholesterol checks.

Also, all people 35 and older should have their blood pressure checked.

Individuals with a family history of hypertension should have their blood pressure check before age 35.

Blood pressure can easily be checked for free.

o Myth #8: Herbal supplements help.

There is no evidence that multivitamins and antioxidants prevent heart disease.

o Myth #9: Younger women do not need to worry about heart disease.

While heart problems usually occur later in life, risk begins to accumulate early.

By age 40, more than half of women have at least one risk factor.

5 Things to Know About Tai Chi Training

As I start my third year of Tai Chi training, I’m constantly reminded how little I really know about Tai Chi.

I’m told by my Tai Chi teacher that I’m getting better, and some days I feel it.

But I get frustrated when I can’t do the form the same way each time.

“There are a few things that I wish I had known when I started my Tai Chi training. I would have learned faster and easier,” writes Eric Borreson, who teaches Tai Chi and qigong at the prestigious Heartland Spa, a top 10 destination spa, located in Gilman, IL.

In this recent article, he presents to beginners 5 things to keep in mind:

1. Relinquish your attachment to perfection.

All beginners want to move perfectly and match the teacher’s movements.

Get over it as quickly as you can.

Your teacher has years of practice to learn how to move correctly.

Just keep practicing with the goal of making progress.

You don’t have to be perfect.

2. The movements are important, but what counts is the principles.

I used to think that the movements of the forms was what made Tai Chi what it is.

I was on a journey to learn more and more Tai Chi forms.

I was so wrong!

Pay attention when your teacher talks about the principles of Tai Chi.

That’s what counts.

3. There’s more than one way to do Tai Chi.

Many people are certain that their style, or school, or method is the best.

If you are meeting your goals, what you are doing is the good for you.

If you want to practice Tai Chi as a martial art, that’s great.

If you want to practice Tai Chi for health, that’s great, too.

4. It takes time to see results.

Whatever your goals are, you won’t reach them right away.

Tai Chi takes time to learn.

It will seem like nothing is happening for a long time.

Keep a record of your training, practice, and how you feel so you can go back and see if you are making progress.

Expect that you will start to see results after about 10 to 12 weeks of lessons and practice.

5. Practice, practice, practice.

Tai Chi is an experiential process.

You need to move through the plateaus as your muscles learn the movements and as you learn the principles.

Every once in a while, you will have an “aha!” moment as you finally understand something your teacher has been telling you.

Top Five Reasons NOT to Do Tai Chi and Qigong

In New York Times columnist Jane Brody’s article on the downside of Tai Chi, she suggested “the proper question to ask yourself may not be why you should practice tai chi, but why not.”

Taking the opposite, albeit tongue-in-cheek approach, a recent blog by Boston Tai Chi instructor Randy Moy posted on Swimming Dragon Tai Chi listed the top 5 reasons not to do Tai Chi and qigong.

“After many years of conversations with two types of people–those who crave personal growth, and those who don’t, I have come to believe that for many people, there are some darn good reasons not to do Tai Chi, beyond the obvious ones, like being in a body cast,” writes Moy.

“If you fall into one of these categories, then you shouldn’t ever let some chipper, well-meaning Tai Chi teacher like myself convince you that Tai Chi is the right choice for you.”

Here are his Top 5 reasons not to do Tai Chi and qigong, and bits of his tart answers.

Check out the full article for the full effect.

1. You enjoy feeling older than you are.

Researchers have found that people who do just three 60-minute sessions of qigong or tai chi per week, feel younger and more energetic when they were younger.

2. You embrace those heavy metal toxins building up in your body as a badass homage to your Motley Crue concert days. Rock on!

The way to really cleanse your body, besides being careful of what you eat, drink, and slather on your body, is to support your lymphatic system to do its work.

In order to do this, it’s helpful to breathe deeply using qigong’s various breathing exercises.

Many of these exercises are specifically designed to aid in the detoxification of your body.

3. You are invincible to running related injuries.

The practice of tai chi and qigong can restore meniscus in your knees so it can take the harsh impact of the pavement when running.

4. You hate Tai Chi and qigong.

The attitude of some studios, coupled with weird postures and tendency to quench your thirst you have from reciting healing sounds for 20 minutes with all the twig tea you can drink, can create an off-putting, too-strange atmosphere for regular people just looking for a lot of workout and maybe a little Zen.

However, whether you love martial arts, meditative exercises, improving health… there is a style, and an instructor for you.

5. You think the hospital is a specialized Club Med, and don’t mind staying there more often. The food stinks, but the staff is attentive!

Health insurance statistics show that people who practice meditative arts like Tai Chi and qigong are about 87% less likely to be hospitalized for heart disease, 55% less likely for benign and malignant tumors, and 30% less for infectious diseases.

As for me, I’ll continue taking Tai Chi classes three times a week at my local Y, as well as do a little home practice thrown in between.

Integrative Medicine Specialists Treat Chronic Health Issues Across the U.S.

Integrative medicine is now an established part of healthcare in the United States.

More people are turning to integrative therapies to help them with health problems, particularly those with chronic health issues because of the multidimensional team approach of integrative medicine.

“With chronic health issues costing the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion a year, it’s essential to find the most effective ways to treat and prevent the most prevalent conditions,” said Donald Abrams, MD, professor of clinical medicine at the University of California San Francisco.

Dr. Abrams is co-author of the report “Integrative Medicine in America: How Integrative Medicine Is Being Practiced in Clinical Centers Across the United States,” just released by The Bravewell Collaborative.

A new survey of 29 integrative medicine centers around the U.S. that form The Bravewell Collaborative found that 75% reported success using integrative practices to treat chronic pain.

More than half reported positive results for gastrointestinal conditions, depression and anxiety, cancer and chronic stress.

The interventions prescribed most frequently by practitioners in the study, usually in combination, were: food/nutrition, supplements, yoga, meditation, traditional Chinese medicine/acupuncture, massage and pharmaceuticals.

Integrative medicine puts the patient at the center of care and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect health.

Practitioners of integrative medicine employ a personalized strategy that considers the patient’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances.

Then they use the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimal health.

These therapies are often used in conjunction with other medical approaches, such as chemotherapy and/or surgery to come up with an approach that is best suited for the patient, says William Stewart, MD, co-founder of The Braverwell Collaborative, and Medical Director of California Pacific Medical Center’s Institute for Health and Healing.

“This report illustrates the great potential of integrative medicine to help prevent illness and foster lifelong health,” explained Christy Mack, President of The Bravewell Collaborative.

“These approaches not only treat the whole person but also empower individuals to be active participants in their health care.”

How Vitamin D Levels Relate to Fertility and Prostate Cancer

If you want to conceive a child, just take a holiday in the sun since sunlight boosts fertility in both men and women by increasing their levels of vitamin D.

That’s how the media interpreted the results of a recent systematic review of the connection between vitamin D and fertility.

The new findings, say the pundits, mean that some infertile couples may be undergoing unnecessary and costly fertility treatments when spending time in the sun could be their answer.

There are some hints that vitamin D, the so-called “sunshine vitamin,” can help balance sex hormones in women and improve sperm counts in men.

Other studies show some evidence supporting a role of vitamin D in prostate cancer.

However, the evidence for the role of vitamin D in both fertility and prostate cancer is mixed, at best.

For more on my interpretation of the data, check out the piece I wrote for the American Fertility Association.

How to Keep Up With New Year’s Resolution to Exercise

Why is it so hard to keep up with New Year’s resolutions to get more exercise?

One reason may be that your motivation to exercise fluctuates from week to week, and these fluctuations are linked to your behavior.

Researchers at Penn State examined college students’ intentions to be physically active as well as their actual activity levels.

They recruited 33 college students and assessed the students’ weekly intentions to be physically active and their activity levels over a 10-week period.

They found that “our motivation to be physically active changes on a weekly basis because we have so many demands on our time,” said David Conroy, professor of kinesiology, at Penn State.

“Maybe one week we’re sick or we have a work deadline — or, in the case of students, an upcoming exam.

But these lapses in motivation really seem to be destructive.

Our results suggest that people with consistently strong intentions to exercise have the best chance of actually following through on their intentions, while people with the greatest fluctuations in their motivation have the hardest time using that motivation to regulate their behavior.”

The researchers reported their results in the current issue of the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.

Regarding New Year’s resolutions, Conroy advised that you focus less on making broad commitments to becoming more active and instead come up with a plan for how you are going to sustain your motivation from one week to the next.

“It is important to pay attention to how we can sustain a high level of motivation and not just let that motivation degrade in response to all the external demands we face,” said Conroy.

Wellness Revolution Now Taught at School

When the administrators of the Milton Hershey School recently reviewed the school’s BMI data they realized they had a problem.

The school administration knew they could make a difference in the students’ lives by making health and fitness a priority this school year by highlighting physical activity and nutrition.

Most students at the private school in Derry Township, PA, live at the school, which is funded by the Milton Hershey School Trust.

The new approach, called the “Wellness Revolution”, includes the school’s 5-hour rule.

Students must account for 5 hours of physical activity beyond normal school hours between Monday and Sunday, according to an article in local daily newspaper, The Patriot-News.

There’s no mandated activity; no sit-up requirement or 10,000 steps to count.

Instead, the school’s staff put together a list of activities — from ice hockey, to bicycle riding to weight lifting and swimming — and let the students follow their own desires, writes reporter Nick Malawskey.

As expected, there was some grumbling at first.

But the students have gotten into the groove.

Some of their physical activities include Zumba, turbo kickboxing, and yoga.

Menus at the school have changed as well.

Chicken nuggets, ramen noodles, and spaghetti are out.

Vegetables and buffalo chicken salad are in.

The students said they’re more conscious about what goes into their food — keeping an eye out for high fructose corn syrup and saturated fat content — than they were before, reports Malawskey.

It will take a few years to compile data to see how well the Wellness Revolution is working.

But some students have already lost more than 30 pounds and say they feel better.

If they learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, the real gain will be in the prevention of obesity and other chronic diseases when they go off on their own into the real world.