Archive for the ‘Mens Health’ Category

Take a Break From Stress: Why We Need Vacations

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Vacations can rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit. They can relieve stress and give your body a rest. They also give you the time to slow down, stop, and smell the roses. And everyone needs to do that.

Stress at work
Stress at work can affect your physical health. According to the American Psychological Association, three fourths of those responding to a poll reported physical symptoms from workplace stress. And half of those polled said they don’t take their allotted vacation time because they are too busy. But this type of stress can lead to long-term health problems, just as smoking, alcohol abuse, or overeating can.

Stress can lead to numerous health problems, including:

•Upset stomach and more-severe gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD and colitis
•Frequent colds
•Heart problems
•High blood pressure
•Trouble concentrating
•Suicidal thoughts
•Auto immune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
•Some forms of cancer
Slowing down the pace
The best way to get away from that stress is to take time away from work. You may want to take a day off here and there, or you may want to block out a whole week or two of vacation time. If you have kids, this could be the time to take them on that trip you’ve been saving for. But if finances rule out an expensive trip, there are still lots of fun ways to spend time with the family. Visit a water or amusement park, have a backyard barbecue, or go swimming in the nearest pool. In winter, try a day of sledding or ice skating.

If you’re single and you’ve saved enough for that cruise or island getaway you’ve been dreaming of, why not do it now? If you’re not traveling, maybe you and a friend can treat yourselves to dinner at your favorite restaurant, go to a show, or take a day trip to a nearby resort.

Tips to help you relax
To be sure your time off gives you what you need, set rules for yourself – and don’t break them. Here are some ways to get the most out of your time off:

•Staying home? Promise yourself you’ll avoid unnecessary housework while you’re off. If you’re tripping over the laundry and can’t find anything to wear, throw a load in the washer. But if there’s dust on the coffee table, let it lie there for a week.
•Turn off your cell phone. Unless your job requires you to check in, let the voicemail take your calls and wait to check your e-mail. Enjoy the peaceful sound of your phone not ringing.
•Get lots of activity. Want to take a vacation from your regular exercise routine? Go ahead! Replace it with a more enjoyable activity. Walk through the zoo with your kids or go for a swim. In the wintertime, plan a ski trip.
•Avoid stress. If you’re staying home, send the kids to a sleep over. Then spend your day and evening doing whatever makes you happy – and enjoy the peace and quiet.
•Try something new. Have you always wanted to learn to play tennis, go rock climbing, or spend a day being pampered at a spa? Give yourself a mental pick-me-up by doing something special you’ve never made time for.
Taking care of yourself
When you take that nap on the beach, do it without guilt. Just remember to stay in the shade. Keep yourself healthy, Eat right, use sunscreen, buckle up, and drink plenty of fluids. Getting enough sleep is also important. You don’t want to waste any vacation days by getting sick.

Will Protein Help You Shed Pounds?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

The Caveman Diet says to eat more protein to maintain your weight and better your health. So do Atkins, South Beach and countless other regimes. Then there’s Dr. Dean Ornish, who wants us to lose weight and regain our health by eating less protein. Who’s right?

First, let’s start with what everyone agrees on: Protein is the major structural component of all the cells in the body. It builds muscles, bones and skin and helps to maintain them. Protein is an essential nutritional component. We get proteins in our diet from meat, dairy products, nuts and certain grains and beans. We need to eat protein every day because our bodies don’t store it the way they store fats or carbohydrates. So far, so good. From here on, things get a bit less black and white.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per day for every kilogram of their body weight, or about 64 grams for a 160 pound adult. But the IOM goes on to set “acceptable” protein amounts for adults of anywhere from 10 percent to 35 percent of their calories per day. That means that at 4 calories per gram of protein, a healthy adult on an 1,800-calorie-a-day diet may safely consume anywhere from 45 grams (10 percent of calories) to 218 grams (35 percent of calories) of protein per day. The IOM concludes that there is no clear evidence that protein intake on the high end of that range will increase renal stones, osteoporosis, cancer or cardiovascular disease.

One nutritionist, Dr. Donald Layman, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, supports high protein consumption and emphasizes that “lifelong health is related to protein.” He believes that adults need more protein as they get older because their bodies become less efficient at using protein to rejuvenate and repair themselves. For people with diabetes, however, the American Diabetes Association recommends limiting protein intake to about 10 percent of their calories.

Then there’s the question of weight loss. One of Layman’s studies, published in the Journal of Nutrition, compared the weight loss efforts of two groups, both following diet plans that were equal in calories. One group followed a diet moderately high in protein (30 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat). The other group followed a diet based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food guide pyramid (15 percent protein, 55 percent carbohydrates, 15 percent fat). After 12 months, the people on the higher-protein diet had lost 38 percent more body fat than those following the lower-protein diet.

Increasing protein in your diet may have health benefits beyond weight loss. In another study, people with high blood pressure showed lower blood pressure readings after they replaced some of the carbs in their diet with protein.

If you’re considering increasing the protein in your diet, here are some healthy guidelines for doing it:

•Choose from a variety of protein-rich foods, including seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds.

•Replace high-fat protein sources (certain cheeses, for example) with choices that are lower in fat and calories (a hummus made with chickpeas and sesame paste).

•Steer clear of salty processed meats (deli meats, hot dogs, bacon) and eat red meat, such as pork, beef, and lamb, sparingly.

Please consult your doctor or a nutritionist to create a healthy eating plan for your needs.

Chew On This

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Gum is giving scientists plenty to chew on. In a recent study, psychologists at St. Lawrence University found that students who chewed gum five minutes before taking a test did better on it than students who did not.

The small study included 159 students. Half were randomly given gum to chew and the other half were given nothing. The students then completed a variety of difficult cognitive tests and puzzles. The results showed that the subjects with gum significantly outperformed those without it. However, their advantage over the non-chewers lasted only for the first 20 minutes of test taking. So chew wisely, because it appears the effects of gum are short-lived.

The St. Lawrence study adds to a dozen others scientists have carried out over the last ten years testing the relationship between chewing gum and cognitive function. None of the studies have resulted in strong enough evidence to confirm that chewing gum enhances brain function, but many have shown a connection.

In 2002 a study in Japan used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) technology to observe the brain while a subject was with and without gum. The results showed increased activity in parts of the brain due to higher blood oxygenation from the chomping. A different study performed this year at Coventry University in England showed that subjects who chewed mint gum felt less sleepy and looked less tired, which may indicate that gum can help people be alert.

If you think of chewing gum as just a bad habit, you may want to chomp on a stick of it — and think again.

Living With One Kidney

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Kidneys are like pint-sized processing plants. About as big as your fist, these organs remove waste, filter blood, control red blood cell production and help regulate blood pressure. They return about 200 quarts of fluid to the bloodstream each day.

Humans are usually born with two kidneys. About one in 750 people are born with a single kidney. This is more common in males.

Other people may have just one kidney because the other was removed due to injury or illness. Or, some people donate one of their kidneys to help someone with kidney failure.

In all these situations, one kidney can usually do the job of two with proper medical care.

How is life different with one kidney?
A single normal kidney grows faster, and is heavier and larger than when there are two. It may function at a level about 40 percent more than a single, paired kidney.

Most people with a single normal kidney have normal life spans and no problems. Any decrease in kidney function is usually mild.

One study followed kidney donors over the course of 20 to 37 years. Most had normal function and most problems were the same for people of the same age with two kidneys.

People having just one kidney due to any cause may need more check-ups than those with two normal kidneys.

The aftermath of donating a kidney
Live-donor kidney transplants are preferred for several reasons:

•Potential donors can be tested for best matches.
•Transplants can be done at times best for donor and recipient.
•Kidney function usually begins right away and is easier to monitor.
•Kidneys transplanted from people who have died may not function right away. People who receive these kidneys may need to stay on dialysis until function starts.
Long-term risks to kidney donors are small. After kidney removal, donors may be sore for a few weeks. Soreness may be less if surgery is done through a small cut (laparoscopy).

Special considerations
Having a single kidney may put you at higher risk if you are injured or become sick. Also, because a single kidney is larger, it’s at greater risk for damage during contact sports. If you have just one kidney, you may need to stop certain activities or use special protective equipment.

You may also need regular blood pressure checks and tests for protein in the urine and serum creatinine levels. The latter is checked by a simple blood test and can help show if the kidney is filtering well.

If one kidney was removed because of illness or injury, it is important to prevent damage to or illness in the remaining kidney. In many cases, though, the failure of one kidney does not mean a healthy kidney will fail.

Are You at Risk for Kidney Disease?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

About 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. suffers from chronic kidney disease. This condition is often a silent enemy. By the time it causes symptoms, it may be too late to prevent kidney failure and avoid dialysis or transplant. Having kidney disease also increases the risk of heart disease.

However, there are ways for you to slow kidney disease. That’s why it’s important to find out if you’re at risk. Simple tests can diagnose the disease early, so you can take steps to protect your health.

Am I at risk for kidney disease?
You should be tested for kidney disease if you have:

•Diabetes. Diabetes is by far the biggest cause of kidney failure, accounting for almost half of all cases.
•High blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure is the second major cause of kidney failure. It accounts for about a third of all kidney disease.
•Kidney disease in your family. Kidney disease runs in families. If your mother, father, brother, or sister has kidney disease, there’s a chance you might have it, too.
It’s especially important to be tested if you’re also:

•African American, Native American, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander. The rate of kidney disease in these groups is much higher than in whites.
•Over age 60. The risk for kidney disease increases with age.
The more risk factors you have, the greater the chance that you could have kidney disease.

How can I find out if I have kidney disease?
Your doctor can look for kidney disease by doing three simple tests:

•A blood test to look for a waste product called creatinine. Healthy kidneys filter it out of the blood and dispose of it in the urine. Doctors use the amount of creatinine in the blood to estimate the degree of kidney damage.
•A urine test to look for protein. Too much protein in the urine can be a sign of kidney damage.
•Blood pressure check. High blood pressure can cause kidney disease. It can also be a sign that kidney damage has already occurred.
How can I reduce my risk of kidney disease?
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes of kidney disease, so it’s vital to control these conditions.

•Keep your blood sugar within a normal range if you have diabetes.
•Make sure you have your urine checked for small amounts of protein called microalbumin. Have this done at least once a year if you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Testing for microalbumin starts 5 years after a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes and is also done annually thereafter.
•Get a blood test to check for creatinine each year if you have diabetes.
•Keep your blood pressure under control. You may need to take medicines to get it to your goal level.
Healthy habits can help you prevent or control diabetes and high blood pressure, which in turn helps protect your kidneys:

•Eat a healthy diet that’s high in fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains and low in sodium, like the DASH diet.
•Get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Always check with your doctor before increasing your activity level.
•Stay at a healthy weight, or lose weight if you need to.
•Don’t smoke. If you do, get help from your doctor to quit.