Sore back? Try yoga

I have written about yoga a number of times here. About a month ago I posted on a yoga study – yoga and back pain.

For the record, I dated a yoga teacher some years ago and practiced it religiously for the two years we were together and for several years afterward. So I am very familiar with its practice and results. I have certainly used the relaxation techniques available from yoga breathing virtually every day of my life.

I recently had some problems with my lower back. It was stiff and painful. It also felt like I was aggravating it riding the bike. So I went to the doctor. Upon examination, she told me that at my age, 77, I may have lost some of my flexibility, particularly in my spine. She recommended doing some yoga to see if it gave me relief.

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First, some back pain facts.

WebMD says, “Back pain includes lower back pain, middle back pain, upper back pain or low back pain with sciatica. Nerve and muscular problems, degenerative disc disease, and arthritis can result in back pain.”

More than three million cases per  year are reported in the U.S. alone. Continue reading

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My Guilty Pleasure – Updated

I wrote about this guilty pleasure over a  year ago and have since tweaked it and, in fact, don’t indulge in it anymore in its original form. Why repeat it? Because it is still delicious and I recommend trying it for yourself.  Also, I have included the tweak for you to try.

I haven’t written a Mr. Lazy Cook post in a long time, so I thought I might get around to one. For the most part Lazy Cook posts have been simple, delicious and highly nutritious meals. This one not so much.

I happened upon this sandwich one day almost by accident. You know how creative people always say that they saw the idea elsewhere and simply improvised on it? Well, that’s what I did.

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A little history here. A hundred years ago, it seems, I was working at Reuters in the Chicago Board of Trade building. It was high pressure on the news desk and we welcomed our breaks which were often too few and too short. One of our favorite mid-morning things was to send someone across the street to a little diner and order a couple of their wonderful fried egg sandwiches. What made them so wonderful? Well, some culinary genius in the diner decided that instead of a mundane bread or toast on the egg sandwich he would substitute cinnamon raisin bread. In addition, he topped off the sandwich with melted cheese and bacon. So, it was ended up being a grilled cheese, bacon and egg sandwich on cinnamon raisin toast. My mouth is watering just remembering it. By the way, I make no claim as to the nutritional value of this creation, only its flavor. In fact, I was bumping up against the 175 pound level in those days. Continue reading

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Tanning dependence linked to other addictive behaviors – Study

Around 20 years ago a friend of mine was getting married and, as I was standing up, I thought it would be cool to have a tan. At the time, I was heavily into Abba music so I had no problem lying in the tanning bed listening to Abba while I tanned. Long story short, I sport a tan for the wedding and 15 years later had an operation ( my first of three) for skin cancer. I wasn’t addicted. Actually, this was my only ‘booth’ experience. Apparently, other folks aren’t so cool about tanning booths.

Despite the known dangers of exposure to ultraviolet light, many people continue to sunbathe and use indoor tanning beds with some users exhibiting a dependence to tanning. A new study from the Yale School of Public Health finds that such dependence is also associated with other addictive behaviors.

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The study, recently published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, surveyed 499 people who had previously sunbathed or used a tanning bed, and revealed that those who exhibited tanning dependence, also referred to as tanning addiction, were six times as likely to also be dependent on alcohol and three times as likely to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). (my emphasis)
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Is it Okay to Exercise if you Suffer from Arthritis?

Because arthritis sufferers experience pain when they move, many conclude that not moving is healthier because it doesn’t hurt. Unfortunately, that is one instance where listening to your body is not the best course of action. I hope the following information will alter that conclusion.

First, some startling statistics on arthritis from Ashley Boynes.

Some 50 million Americans have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. That’s 22 per cent of the population, more than 1-in-5 adults!

Arthritis costs the US economy $128 BILLION per year.

Sad statistic – 31 per cent of US 18-64 year olds with arthritis either can’t work, or report work limitations.

Arthritis is the number one MOST COMMON disability.

Some 32 percent of veterans surveyed in 36 States had been diagnosed with arthritis, compared with 22 percent of non-veterans, representing a 50 per cent increased risk for arthritis for veterans.

More than 1,000,000 joints will be replaced this year alone.

To answer the question about suitability of exercising with arthritis, I recently attended a Northwestern Memorial Hospital Healthy Transitions presentation on Arthritis and Exercise.
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Home cooking a main ingredient in healthier diet, study shows

This should come as no surprise to anyone who ventures in to fast food eateries or even regular restaurants.

People who frequently cook meals at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less, according to new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research.

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“When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all — even if they are not trying to lose weight,” says Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, a CLF-Lerner Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and lead author of the study.

The findings also suggest that those who frequently cooked at home — six-to-seven nights a week — also consumed fewer calories on the occasions when they ate out.

Wolfson presented the research at the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans, La., on November 17. The study was published online in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

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Seniors, It’s not your ears, it’s your brain … Study

I turned 77 in January and while I generally enjoy what I consider to be robust good health, I nonetheless occupy an old and aging body. Sometimes I miss stuff people say, particularly when there is background noise.

“Could you repeat that?” The reason you may have to say something twice when talking to older family members may not be because of their hearing. Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) have determined that something is going on in the brains of typical older adults that causes them to struggle to follow speech amidst background noise, even when their hearing would be considered normal on a clinical assessment.

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In an interdisciplinary study published by the Journal of Neurophysiology, researchers Samira Anderson, Jonathan Z. Simon, and Alessandro Presacco found that adults aged 61–73 with normal hearing scored significantly worse on speech understanding in noisy environments than adults aged 18–30 with normal hearing. The researchers are all associated with the UMD’s Brain and Behavior Initiative. Continue reading

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Fitness fun

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Tony

 

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Green Tea for St. Patrick’s Day… and Every Day

If this looks familiar it’s because I ran it last year on St. Patty’s Day.

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“BETTER to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one.”
Ancient Chinese proverb.


If that really is an ancient Chinese proverb it must be referring to green tea. Don’t know about green tea? You are in for a treat.

About.com reports that in 1994 the Journal of the National Cancer Institute had a study showing that green tea drinking cut the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly 60%.

Nadine Taylor wrote an entire book on it – Green Tea: The natural secret to a healthy life.gif-st-patrick-192.gif

Green tea, beautiful benefits

HealthMad lists 10- benefits of green tea.

1 Used to treat Multiple sclerosis
2 Cancer treat/prevent
3 Stop Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s
4 Raises metabolism and increases fat oxidation
5 Reduces risk of heart diseases and attacks by cutting risk of thrombosis
6 Reduces risk of esophageal cancer
7 Inhibits growth of certain cancer cells, reduces level of cholesterol in blood, improves ratio of good over bad.
8 Used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular diseases
9 Used to treat impaired immune function
10 May help prevent tooth decay by killing bacteria that causes dental plaque

What makes green tea so special? About.com said it is the high quantity of catechin polyphenols. These are powerful antioxidants that not only inhibit cancer cells, but kill them outright without harming healthy tissue. It also lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels and inhibits the abnormal formation of blood clots which can cause heart attacks and stroke.

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Lastly, you might be asking why green tea and not black, or Earl Grey? About.com reported that while the teas all come from the leaves of the same plant, the green tea leaves are steamed which prevents a very valuable chemical compound (EGCG) from being oxidized. Other teas are made from fermented leaves which results in the EGCG being converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in fighting disease.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of a study at the University of Geneva in Switzerland that showed men who were given a combination of caffeine and green tea extract burned more calories than those given only caffeine or a placebo.

Speaking of caffeine, green tea contains only 30 to 60 mg of caffeine in 6-8 ounces vs 100 mg or more in coffee.gif-st-patrick-181

Slainte!

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Tony

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Study links intelligence and chess skill

For the record I got very involved in playing chess in my younger years. I loved the game’s many facets and spent hours poring over the board. Ultimately, I gave it up to play backgammon. I found the element of chance in backgammon to be more appealing. That random aspect coupled with the fact that a lot of people played backgammon for money won me over. That was never the case in chess.

Intelligence – and not just relentless practice – plays a significant role in determining chess skill, indicates a comprehensive new study led by Michigan State University researchers.

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The research provides some of the most conclusive evidence to date that cognitive ability is linked to skilled performance – a hotly debated issue in psychology for decades – and refutes theories that expertise is based solely on intensive training.

“Chess is probably the single most studied domain in research on expertise, yet the evidence for the relationship between chess skill and cognitive ability is mixed,” said MSU’s Alexander Burgoyne, lead author on the study. “We analyzed a half-century worth of research on intelligence and chess skill and found that cognitive ability contributes meaningfully to individual differences in chess skill.” Continue reading

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Heading a football causes instant changes to the brain

I am not a big fan of the game of soccer, or, as it is known everywhere but in the U.S., football, but there are lots of kids playing it  here and their parents should know about this.

Researchers from the University of Stirling have explored the true impact of heading a football, identifying small but significant changes in brain function immediately after routine heading practice.

The study from Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence published in EBioMedicine is the first to detect direct changes in the brain after players are exposed to everyday head impacts, as opposed to clinical brain injuries like a concussion.

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Football players headed a ball 20 times, fired from a machine designed to simulate the pace and power of a corner kick. Before and after the heading sessions, scientists tested players’ brain function and memory.

Increased inhibition in the brain was detected after just a single session of heading. Memory test performance was also reduced by between 41 and 67 percent, with effects normalizing within 24 hours.

Played by more than 250 million people worldwide, the ‘beautiful game’ often involves intentional and repeated bursts of heading a ball. In recent years the possible link between brain injury in sport and increased risk of dementia has focused attention on whether football heading might lead to long term consequences for brain health. Continue reading

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An ‘Epidemic’ of Fragranced Products is Affecting Our Health, New Research Suggests

I am reblogging this because I had no idea about the subject at all. We are organic machines and have certain physical requirements, like exercise, also certain vulnerabilities as evidenced in the post.


Tony

Our Better Health

The recent trend for “cleaner,” more natural, unprocessed foods for improved health and well-being has also led to a shift towards household and beauty products that are also more natural and without preservatives, and possibly for good reason.

According to recent research, consumers’ extra attention to what they are putting on their bodies and in their homes could be beneficial for health, with a new study finding that one in three Australians report health problems related to fragranced products.

Professor Anne Steinemann from the University of Melbourne School of Engineering led a survey of a random sample of 1,098 people taken from a large, web-based panel held by Survey Sampling International (SSI).

She found that when exposed to fragranced products, 33 per cent of Australians suffer a variety of adverse health effects, including breathing difficulties, headaches, dizziness, rashes, congestion, seizures, nausea, and a range of other physical problems.

In addition…

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Three brain chemicals affect how we handle uncertainty

New research has revealed how three important brain signaling chemicals affect the way that we handle uncertainty. It turns out that noradrenaline regulates our estimates of how unstable the environment is, acetylcholine helps us adapt to changing environments, and dopamine pushes us to act on our beliefs about uncertainty. The research, publishing 15 November in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, was led by Louise Marshall and Dr Sven Bestmann at the UCL (University College London) Institute of Neurology.

The study involved 128 healthy participants who took part in a reaction-time task designed to test how they handled uncertainty. Participants were all given either a placebo or a drug to block noradrenaline, acetylcholine or dopamine before starting the task. Participants responded to symbols that were presented one after the other by pressing a corresponding button. Continue reading

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Geeking out on Pi Day

As if the earlier infographic weren’t enough, I have found an interesting set of quotes from math loving scientists on Pi that may interest you. If not, no hard feelings… I hope.

Why do math lovers around the world call March 14 “Pi Day”? Because Pi, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, is 3.14. Pi is a Greek letter (π) that represents a constant in math: All circles have the same Pi, regardless of their size. Pi has been calculated out to as many as 1 trillion digits past the decimal, and it can continue forever without repetition or pattern.

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In honor of Pi Day, we, the National Institute of General Medical Scientists, asked several biomedical researchers in the field of computational biology to tell us why they love math and how they use it in their research.

Why do you love math?

The computational biologists we talked to offered similar answers. They love math because it lets them see the world in an ordered way. Tamar Schlick of New York University explained, “Math is essentially logic and order combined and applied to solve problems in interesting and creative ways.” Math’s constant rules allow computational biologists to understand and even predict natural phenomena, including biological processes such as cell behavior and biofilm formation. Andre Levchenko of Yale University added, “This predictive power is one of the coolest aspects of math, helping us understand what otherwise may seem paradoxical or impenetrable.”The researchers described exciting findings that math helped them make; here are a few snippets.

What type of math do you use?

The scientists’ toolbox of mathematical approaches extends far beyond the ones we may remember from high school or college. Computational biologists use different types of math and select one or many based on the problem they’re trying to solve. For example, to study the complex, time-dependent processes occurring in our bodies, scientists use a branch of math called nonlinear dynamics. Several of the researchers we interviewed said they’re still discovering mathematical approaches well-suited for biology. Reinhard Laubenbacher of the University of Connecticut Health Center said he’s proud his team “found ways to use areas of math that are not typically viewed as ‘applicable’ in the context of computational biology, such as abstract algebra and algebraic geometry.” Continue reading

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Happy Pi Day Post – Infographic

Hope it isn’t too late to join in the Pi Day fun with this infographic. Since this is a special day seems a shame not to cerebrate.

I hope you enjoy a Byte or two.

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If you insist on getting serious about it, check out Steven Strogatz’s Why Pi Matters in The New Yorker.

Tony

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Your brain learns during sleep – Study

I think sleep may be the most under-appreciated aspect of living a healthy life. Diet and exercise and well-known if not often followed, but sleep is often thought of as an intrusion in our busy lives. I know that back when I was in the working world, I certainly thought of it that way.

Scientific data suggests that all animals probably do sleep—including the most unexpected creatures, such as fish, birds, worms, and flies. Sara Aton, University of Michigan ssistant professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, can attest to dozing cats, mice, and even cuttlefish, all of which she’s studied as they snoozed. She marvels that biologists once thought bugs and birds and worms never slept.

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“I think there’s this pervasive misconception that your brain is just turning off when you go to sleep, because there’s no obvious output. Outside of a coma, you can’t think of a less interesting behavior to study than sleep, right?” Aton says. “Sleep is something that, as humans, we spend a third of our life doing. And yet biologists and the neuroscience community didn’t have a lot of interest in it.” (my emphasis)

But now that we know better, new questions arise: Do animals all rest for the same reasons?
After studying sleep for the past decade, Aton is convinced that it matters—a lot. “I’m much more protective of, for example, my son’s sleep than I would have been had I not been in this field,” she says.
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Hot cocoa and caffeine work positively for your brain- Study

As a big fan of coffee in general and the mocha drink in particular, this study struck a positive chord with me.

Deep down, we always knew it, but science is proving that cocoa and caffeine are indeed the best marriage ever. Clarkson University researcher Ali Boolani recently completed a study that explores the powers of these two dark delights.

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The assistant professor of physical therapy and physician assistant studies teamed up with colleagues at the University of Georgia to examine the “acute effects of brewed cocoa consumption on attention, motivation to perform cognitive work and feelings of anxiety, energy and fatigue.” Continue reading

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