Sunday, September 30, 2012

Keep a Sharp Mind as You Age

As we go through life, we all hope we can maintain good physical and mental health as long as possible. There is not much pleasure in living a long life if our final years are spent in pain and if we lose our ability to think and remember. As much as we may dread suffering physical pain and illness in old age, many of us fear even more the possibility that we might lose our mental capacities and end up completely helpless in a nursing home.
Often the first hint that our memory is starting to lose its sharpness happens around the fifth decade of life. As people enter their middle years, they start to notice more and more frequent lapses of memory, particularly their short-term memory. They may enter a room to do something, and forget what it is. They may be unable to recall the name of someone who used to live next door. And they may start to worry that their forgetfulness is more than just a harmless incident, they worry that it might be the first hint of something far more sinister--perhaps the onset of Alzheimer's Disease.
Alzheimer's is the name given to a very serious brain disease in which the brain cells are killed by microscopic plaques and tangled fibers. The parts of the brain needed to form and access recent memories are usually destroyed first. Brain cell destruction spreads to other parts of the brain, causing a loss of function, and eventually death follows.
At present there is no known cure for Alzheimer's disease. Scientists are racing to learn the cause, or causes of Alzheimer's, and to find a way to stop the destruction of the brain once it starts. As baby boomers age, millions of them will be at risk for acquiring Alzheimer's and other serious brain diseases.
Alzheimer's disease is not the only cause of loss of brain function in elderly persons. There are many other causes that can lead to a diminishment of mental capacity or to outright dementia in later years.
Fortunately, you can learn what the risk factors are which are associated with a higher likelihood of developing problems, and you can take steps to counteract them.
And the good news is: you don't need to make a choice between looking after your heart, or looking after your brain. In many cases, what's good for the heart will benefit the brain as well.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor in developing dementia. Not only does high blood pressure damage brain cells directly, but it also increases the risk of stroke, which will lead to the permanent destruction of brain cells. To prevent strokes, have your blood pressure checked regularly, and if your blood pressure is too high, work with your doctor to bring it down to a safe level.
Diabetics are at particularly high risk for developing dementia. If you are diabetic, it is very important to get your blood sugar levels under control.
If you want to protect your brain for the long term, avoid excess alcohol consumption. Long term consumption of more than two alcoholic drinks a day can directly damage brain cells, as well as deplete the body of important nutrients it requires to function, particularly Vitamin B1 (thiamin).
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people suffer brain injuries occur as a result of automobile accidents. Many of these traumas could be prevented or reduced by slowing down while driving, and by wearing a seat belt.
We know that some senior citizens are able to live into their eighties and nineties with their minds sharp and their bodies still spry. Will we be among the lucky ones? Is it just a matter of random luck? Is losing our mental powers as we age inevitable?
The good news is that statistically the odds are on your side. Most people are able to keep their thinking clear as they age unless they develop Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, or diabetes. As long as the brain itself remains healthy, older people can preserve their ability to learn, to think and remember, although it may take them longer to process their thoughts than it used to. And in some forms of mental skills, seniors are actually able to outperform much younger people!
By studying the health habits of senior citizens who have reached old age with their minds and bodies intact, scientists have discovered some of the factors that seem to be associated with better mental functioning in old age.
Based on these studies, scientists believe that some of the factors that influence whether or not you stay mentally healthy in your later years are actually under your control.
There is some evidence that people who have a diet high in antioxidants have lower rates of getting Alzheimer's. Fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly those that have strong, bright colors, tend to be high in protective antioxidants that help repair damage to the body's cells caused by harmful chemicals called free radicals.
People who consume greater levels of cold water fish such as salmon, tend to have lower rates of Alzheimer's disease. There are also vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements that seem to have a protective effect on the brain. Higher intakes of Folic acid are associated with a lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease.
People who continue learning, who keep on reading, writing, and acquiring new skills tend to be sharper in their mental skills as they age. Scientists think that perhaps learning new things helps brain cells make more connections.
If you want to follow in the footsteps of those who manage to reach their later years with both their bodies and their minds in good shape, make it a priority to eat well, exercise regularly, and get sufficient sleep.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Heel Spur and Plantar Fasciitis

Surviving with heel pain or plantar fasciitis.
Have you ever been unlucky enough to be struck down with the pain of a heel spur? I have and if you have too then you'll know just how debilitating it can be. But - as with all things medical - understanding the cause can go along way to providing relief and reassurance.
So... lets begin by asking "what is plantar fasciitis?"
Plantar means the sole of the foot, fascia means gristle and "-itis" means inflammation (as in tonsillitis, dermatitis, appendicitis, conjuctivitis etc etc. Plantar Fasciitis, then, simply means "inflammation of the gristle on the sole of the foot."
The heel pain of plantar fasciitis is felt at the front of the heel and the pain often spreads along the sole of the foot towards the big toe. The heel pain is agonising when walking - particularly first thing in the morning. Putting your foot to the ground on getting out of bed in the morning is usually something you learn to dread because the gristle of the foot (the fascia) tightens up overnight as a result of the inflammation. The tight area is stretched as you put your weight onto the foot - causing a searing pain along from the heel to the base of the big toe.
Sometimes the inflammation encourages calcium or new bone to grow along the line of the fascia on the sole of the foot. This creates a spurred effect when the heel is seen on x-ray. You can see a heel spur x-ray on my website by following the link at the bottom of this article.
Plantar fasciitis or heel spur pain eventually settles without treatment in about 80% of cases but it may take many months to do so.
Common triggers for heel pain or plantar fasciitis include: poor footwear and a long walk (wellington boots in winter, tight calf muscles or achilles tendon tissues and flat feet or other changes in the shape of the arch of the foot.
Plantar fasciitis heel pain can happen at any age but is commoner in the elderly and in those who are overweight.
Treatment options for plantar fasciitis heel pain include: physical therapy including stretches and massage (this works but it can take a while), injection of the tender area with steroid and local anaesthetic (effective but can be painful if done by an inexperienced doctor), anti-inflammatory medication (not usually very effective and may have side effects) and orthotic insoles or heel cushions ( effective but can be uncomfortable in your shoes).
I find it is often better to invest in a pair of good quality running shoes with a deep cushion sole. This solution is often very effective - but not entirely fashionable if you're more than 35yrs old!
If you are unlucky enough to suffer from this kind of heel pain then the best advice I can give is to STAY POSITIVE - the heel pain of plantar fasciitis will eventually go away even without treatment.
Dr Gordon Cameron MD is based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is a specialist in treating joint and muscle pain.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tips and Motivational Advice

LetâEUR(TM)s face itâEUR¦.
Losing weight and feeling great isnâEUR(TM)t easy.
BUT the journey is well worth it!
Many people commit to their health and well being via a New YearâEUR(TM)s resolution. Why not? The New Year is a great time to make a fresh start and commitment to your health.
How do you remain motivated however for an entire year?
The single most important piece of advice I can offer you is this:
DonâEUR(TM)t give up, and pick yourself back up when you stumble or fall.
Everyone slips here and there. Just because you had one cheat day doesnâEUR(TM)t mean your entire fitness and exercise program needs to be ruined.
On the contrary. Everyone slips now and again.
The key to sticking with a program is to make the slips MUCH less frequent than the days you are firmly committed to your program.
So have that piece of chocolate on occasion and donâEUR(TM)t beat yourself up for it.
Here are some additional great ideas for staying motivated throughout the year:
Tip 1
DonâEUR(TM)t make a habit of skipping breakfast.
You should never skip breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day, and revs your metabolism to burn calories each and every day.
When you skip breakfast, you are more likely to overeat and then feel guilty later in the day.
Tip 2
DonâEUR(TM)t weigh yourself every day. In fact, you should weigh yourself only once a week, and when you do you should do it at the same time wearing nothing.
Why? Your weight actually fluctuates a good 2-5 pounds from day to day.
Much of this is associated with fluid retention, thus has nothing to do with your actual fat gain or loss. Weighing yourself too often can be discouraging rather than encouraging.
Tip 3
Grab a partner in crime.
Find someone that can be your âEUR~partner in fitnessâEUR(TM). Call them when you are feeling unmotivated, and have them do the same.
You are more likely to stay motivated if you have someone to lean on when times get tough.
Tip 4
DonâEUR(TM)t skip a workout because you are tired.
Did you know that working out will actually help invigorate you? If you are truly exhausted, consider toning down your workout, but never give it up completely!
Tip 5
Reward yourself on occasion.
All work and no play is not the way to go when it comes to your overall health and well being.
Consider booking yourself for a massage or other pampering treat each month to keep you feeling great mentally and physically.
Last but not least, remember to take small steps.
DonâEUR(TM)t set outrageous goals. You wonâEUR(TM)t lose 10 pounds in one week, but you might lose up to 2.
Over inflated goals will only serve to defeat you in the long run. Set reasonable goals and you will find yourself much more motivated throughout the year!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Yes This is a Test

As an MS victim individual, I never dreamed that I would be disabled. Who would, unless they were in to nightmares? Who would ever expect to become a burden to others, dependent on friends and loved ones for things that we all take for granted? Sure, these things do happen, but they would never happen to me. Right?
I am certain that most of us MSers share this basic feeling, regardless of gender. What I believe matters most are what we do with our lives once the reality sets in. Maybe, it doesn't fully sink in for some time? It didn't for me. I was going to beat this thing, bounce back, overcome the dread disease, in the same way I had always successfully overcome obstacles, by shear determinations: resolve, action, faith and âWill~Power!â This is a test.
Well, it was most frustrating to discover that my old methods of passing the tests were largely ineffective in the battle to be normal again. I had the resolve, just not the endless reservoir of energy from which I could always draw.
I would take actions, affirmative actions! Some of them impulsive and not affirmed by my physicians and professionals who have had experience with âProblem~Patients,â like me. I would become a test for them. I would even become their problem. Yeah, as if they didnât already have enough tests of their own going on in their professional and personal lives?
OK, I would defeat this deceitful devil then with faith. If I havenât been as close to my Devine Maker, Iâll see is I can be reunited. Heb.11:1 says, âFaith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen.â Well, I havenât any problem with the hope aspect, at least. And
James 2:26: âFor just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.â I am already into the works by my taking actions. Right? If Iâm not getting the desired results, perhaps I will need to study further? Job 36:15: âHard times and trouble are God's way of getting our attention!âI am not really certain I like that...
Increasing my frustration was the fact that the strength, I could muster, was being increasingly consumed by mundane tasks involving movements. Simple things, like taking out the trash, were not so simple anymore. Everything, it seemed, was now a major task, an incredible object to be overcome.
At every turn, the same ugly question loomed, âShould I do it myself, or ask someone with legs that work to do it for me?â Tough test for an individual who has been independent. I suspect that this feeling of frustration has engulfed virtually every person with a debilitating disease or physical injury. Our response to this critical question is the subject of this article.
For slow learners, like myself, who resist what ~ we must come to realize ~ would have saved other people an incredible amount of frustration, this is an âOpen~bookâ test. Question: âShould we routinely ask others to help us?â Answer: âWe should ask for help.â
If our marriages and relationships survive, we learn to appreciate our partnerâs commitments to us ~ in ways well beyond what we might have ever imagined that person capable of. Maybe, we might wonder, if the situations were reversed, would I have been so committed? I hope so, but really ~ I wonder ~ would I have been?
When we fail to ask our partners or others for assistance, even when we want to believe we can do it ourselves, we put even more of a burden on the very ones we donât want to bother. Hey, they are bothered! I see it is a selfish act to cause people who care about us to worry that we might cause injury to ourselves or to others.
Perhaps, my limited energy could be better utilized by writing articles that will help others speed up their learning curves. Huh? Is this the best use of my âWill~Power?â