Monday, September 24, 2012

Simple Tests for Health Issues

Good short article on the Yahoo Health Net regarding a couple Simple Tests that you can do which may lead to a conversation between you and your Doctor for further testing.

Have you ever wondered why your doctor asks you to do odd things like touch your nose during an office visit, then scribbles notes in your chart? It's because there are many physical tests that can tell whether your body is functioning as it should. While we tend to leave it to doctors and medical tests to figure out if something's wrong, we can actually use many of these checks ourselves to determine whether all systems are go.

Here, five odd medical tests you can do at home.

What it tests for: Cardiovascular, lung, or other diseases

How to do it: Hold up (or down) both index fingers and turn them so the nails are facing each other. Press the nails together and you should be able to see a tiny, narrow, diamond-shaped space between your nails where the nails come flat together but the nail beds don't touch each other.

What it means: If your nails are rounded over and can't press flat together, it's a sign of "clubbing," a thickening of the fingertips that occurs when not enough oxygen is circulating in the bloodstream. Clubbing can be a sign of cardiovascular disease, such as coronary artery disease or heart failure, or of lung disease, like COPD, lung infection, or lung cancer. In some cases, inflammatory bowel disease and cirrhosis of the liver also cause clubbing.

What to do if you fail: Look closely at your fingers for other signs of clubbing. Measure the thickness of your fingertips all the way around; if they're clubbing, you'll notice that they're noticeably thicker above the top knuckle than below it. Clubbing is important to bring to your doctor's attention to monitor your heart and lung health.

What it tests for: Degenerative diseases (or intoxication)

How to do it: Stand with your feet exactly together, arms by your sides. Now close your eyes and stay that way for a full minute.

How do you feel: perfectly balanced, or as if you're swaying or falling forward? It's best to do this test with someone watching you to detect swaying. A variation of this test is to do it standing heel to toe on a straight line.

What it means: This test measures proprioception or positioning, considered the "sixth sense" that tells us where our bodies are in space. Proprioception requires accurate sensory input from our joints and muscles and healthy functioning of the dorsal columns of the spinal cord, which allow us to perceive the position of our limbs both in relation to other parts of our bodies and to the environment. When you can't balance with your eyes closed, it's considered a sign of sensory ataxia, or loss of motor coordination, which can be a sign of diabetic neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, inner ear problems, lumbar spinal stenosis, or another degenerative disease. Romberg's test is also sometimes used as a test of intoxication or drug use.

What to do if you fail: It is possible to fail this test when nothing is wrong with you, but -- because it can also indicate a serious condition -- it's worth discussing with your doctor. If you're also experiencing other symptoms, such as numbness, tingling in your arms or legs, or balance problems, ask your doctor for a referral to a neurologist.

What it tests for: Osteoarthritis, and other things. . . .

How to do it: Hold your hands flat and look closely at the lengths of your fingers in relation to each other. Is your index finger shorter than your ring finger?

What it means: A recent study at the University of Nottingham in England found that if a woman's index finger is shorter than her ring finger, she's more than twice as likely as others to develop osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. There's no scientific explanation yet for the connection between finger size and arthritis risk. Several other studies have found another use for finger measurement: It can be used to guess at penis size. According to studies done in South Korea, if a man's ring finger is significantly longer than his index finger, he's likely to be well endowed, while a short ring finger indicates average to below-average size. Previous studies have shown that a long index finger is an indication of lower testosterone exposure in the womb.

Boy,..I'm sure glad my wife didn't know about this before we got married.

What to do if you fail: Women: In this case, there's no immediate action to take. Just be on the alert for signs of osteoarthritis such as knee, hip, shoulder, or back pain. If you do develop pain and suspect osteoarthritis, you might mention the finger length research to your doctor. Guys: If you notice her looking at your ring finger, distract her by buying her a drink.

What it tests for: Neurodegenerative disease

How to do it: Hold your arm out, finger extended. Close your eyes and try to touch your nose with your finger. Then do it again with the other hand. You should be able to do this smoothly and accurately. Next, lie down and run the heel of one foot up and down the shin of the opposite extended leg.

What it means: These are two components of basic neurological testing, which evaluates coordination and fine motor movement indicative of the health of the cerebellum, the part of the brain that governs motor movement, coordination, balance, and muscle tone. Failure to do the nose and heel tests accurately can be one sign of a neurodegenerative disease such as multiple sclerosis or a brain tumor or lesion.

What to do if you fail: Try these tests several times before you conclude something's wrong, as many factors -- such as having had a glass of wine -- can affect it. If you regularly fail to get your finger anywhere near your nose, alert your doctor.

What it tests for: Rheumatoid arthritis

How to do it: Hold your hands in the position for traditional prayer, with the fingers and palms flat and touching. See if your pinky finger stands straight, as it's supposed to.

What it means: If you aren't able to place your hands flat against each other, it suggests that either your wrists don't bend flexibly or your fingers and knuckles aren't straight. This is a possible indicator of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which makes joints swell and stiffen and fingers become gnarled or bent. The inability to extend the little finger is another indicator of RA, because the little finger tends to be the first thing to lose function.

What to do if you fail: If you suspect you're developing rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease, schedule a visit with your doctor. Before you go, survey your family to determine if there's a family history of RA, which often has a genetic basis.

One additional test you can do is to stick out your tongue and move it up and down, and side to side. Inability to do so may be an indicator of cardiovascular disease. Warning - don't do this in public, especially if you are an older man, otherwise you may be arrested as a pervert.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

8 Diet Tips

From an article titled 8 Diet Tips from Olympic Nutritionists, from FITNESS Magazine, by Lindsey Emery

If you want to perform like a pro athlete (and who doesn't, really?), news flash: It's not all about the training. You are what you eat, too. "The intensity of women's training has increased, and with that, the need to refuel correctly is more vital than ever before," says sports nutritionist Dawn Scott, a fitness coach for the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team. So we asked the experts to serve up some of their favorite nutrition advice to help you get stronger, faster, and fitter than ever before, no matter what you're trying to master.

#1: Don't Skip Breakfast
"One of the biggest mistakes athletes make is heading out for a run in the morning without eating anything first," says Dan Benardot, PhD, RD, director of the Laboratory for Elite Athlete Performance at Georgia State University in Atlanta, who works with Olympic distance runners (10,000m and up) and oversees the nutrition program for U.S. Figure Skating. Your blood sugar is already low when you wake up, so you should have something carb-laden to eat, like half a bagel or some toast, as soon as you get out of bed. That way, 30 to 45 minutes will have passed before you actually head out the door. If you're not used to eating in the morning, start small, says Benardot. Drink a glass of apple juice before your workouts until your stomach adjusts, and then add in a piece of toast. Mixing in protein (cream cheese, peanut butter, yogurt, etc.) is fine, but it slows down your gastric emptying rate, so you'll need more time between when you eat and when you hit the road.

#2: Stay Hydrated 24/7
Drinking water while you work out is great, but if you start your race on empty, you're never going to finish as strong as you want. Athletes should be consuming .5 to 1 ounce of H2O per pound of body weight every day, says Amanda Carlson-Phillips, vice president of nutrition and research for Athletes' Performance in Phoenix, Arizona, who regularly consults with Olympic contenders and pros. You also shouldn't wait until race day to see how your body responds to whatever beverage they're handing out along the course, says Benardot. Sip on the same beverage during your training runs to stay hydrated and save yourself from any future tummy troubles.

#3: Boost Your Immunity
One of the best things you can do to better your performance is to stay healthy, which means that you need a good amount of antioxidants and superfoods in your diet. Beth Duryea, head soigneur for the Specialized-lululemon women's cycling team, says she encourages all of the riders, including Olympic contenders Evelyn Stevens and Amber Neben, to incorporate whole-grain carbs, lean proteins, and colorful fruits and veggies into their snacks and meals every day. The more color on your plate, the better, she says. Duryea also recommends taking a daily multivitamin, such as First Endurance Multi-V ($49.99,, which is designed specifically for endurance athletes. Carlson-Phillips also suggests stocking up on Greek yogurt, which is high in probiotics, as another stay-healthy tool. Sprinkle some walnuts and fruit or flax seeds on top for a bonus antioxidant boost.

#4: Lift Some Iron
According to experts, it's quite common for female athletes (yup, even the pros) to be deficient in iron, which could slow you down and increase your risk of injury in any sport. So be sure to include plenty of iron-packed products, such as oatmeal, fortified cereals, red meat, and spinach, into your meals, says Scott.

#5: Don't Diet
"The biggest nutrition mistake I see female athletes make is reducing and/or limiting their caloric intake in an attempt to be lean," says Scott. "This causes reduced stores of carbohydrates in your body, which are essential for training and performing, and can then lead to muscle breakdown, as your body eventually starts to use protein as an alternative fuel source."

#6: Crank Up the Carbs
If you wait until the day before your race to carbo-load, you're too late, says Carlson-Phillips. "You need to focus on your nutrition every day, and then the night before is a good time to simply top off your fuel stores," she says. Plus, notes Benardot, when you consume too many carbs at once, your body can't use it all, so it stores any excess as fat, which will do you no good come race day. To ensure you're not eating too much the night before, simply replace one protein or veggie portion of your plate with another serving of carbs. For race morning (if your event lasts more than an hour), have a high-carb, low-protein breakfast, like a bowl of cereal with a little milk or half a bagel, a couple of hours before the start, says sports dietitian Alicia Kendig, athlete performance lab coordinator at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Note: Now is not the time to try anything new!) Continue to drink fluids, like water and electrolyte drinks, until about 15 minutes before go-time.

#7: Finish Strong
Refuel during your race to finish as fast (or faster) than you started. Depending on your event, you should be taking in about 30 to 60g of carbs per hour to replenish your glycogen stores and continuously consume fluids. "I see a lot of triathletes overdo it on calories and underestimate the value of hydration," says Kendig. "But if you're not hydrating along with those calories, then it will lead to an upset stomach."

#8: Recover Right
Immediately after you finish a high-intensity and/or endurance activity (within 30 minutes), you should consume something made with a mix of protein and carbs, like a glass of chocolate milk or a whey protein shake. "This will help reduce muscle soreness and aid in your muscle recovery," says Benardot. Duryea says that the members of team Specialized-lululemon have a solid, post-race recovery routine to kick start the restoration of their muscle glycogen stores and prep for their next session: Within five minutes of finishing, they will have had water or an electrolyte drink. Within 15 to 20 minutes of finishing, they've consumed a recovery drink that contains 20g of a high-quality protein blend and at least 60g carbs. And within one hour of finishing, they've consumed a whole-grain sandwich with lean meat or egg, cheese, and salad filling. "Even when you're not racing, you should be making choices that will help your body recover faster," says Carlson-Phillips. Avoid processed carbs, which increase inflammation, and opt for anti-inflammatory foods, like cherries, walnuts, and kale, instead.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Derick's Question on PSA Levels

Derick wrote: "Dear MyAchingKnees, thanks for all the information on joints and supplements. I think I found you searching for 'degenerative diseases'. I may have used PSA since I was looking for articles on high PSA level and calculations (?) what people have been eating or taking for this. Derick".

Derrick, this is what one of the on-line medical journals say about Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA).  PSA is present in small quantities in the serum of men with healthy prostates, but is often elevated in the presence of prostate cancer or other prostate disorders.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the PSA test for annual screening of prostate cancer in men of age 50 and older. PSA levels between 4 and 10 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter) are a warning sign and further testing is advised .

It also sounds like you are asking what products people (men) take for prostate health.  Here is my story:
In 1993 I was involved in a car crash resulting in, among other things, a back injury. Since that day I have had urinary tract symptoms replicating a much older man with prostate issues....frequent urge to urinate, getting up in the middle of the night to urinate, and a weak stream of urine, etc.

In 2002 I took a medical exam for an insurance policy. Blood work showed that my PSA level was 3.5
In the next couple of years I again had blood work done and on subsequent lab reports my PSA levels were 3.8 and 3.9

In 2005 I started taking a pharmaceutical grade multi-mineral and anti-oxidant supplement. In 2006 and 2009 or 2010 my blood work showed my PSA level at 0.7 and 0.6 respectively. What I believe made the difference, the lowering of my PSA, is that the optimum level of quality nutrients I was providing my body. I took no other supplement but a high quality Glucosamine, and a Omega 3 Fatty Acid supplement as well.  But while my PSA levels went low, my prostate symptoms were not resolved. 

It was not until just a couple years ago that I started taking a prosate specific product. This product contains ingredients that most prostate supplements have,.... Saw Palmetto Extract - 320 mg; Lycopene - 5 mg: Soy Isolflavones - 25 mg, but is produced in a FDA certified lab with USP specifications for potency, uniformity, and disintegration. Since I started taking this prostate product my symptoms have gone away. I have no other reason than to believe it was this product that helped that.

Derick,..don't know what info you are looking for, but surely if you have a high PSA level, please go back to the doctor and get a more fuller exam.  I would advise you to be careful if you are prescribed any medication for problems relating to prostate issues.  Some of those are thought to have significant side effects.  Take charge of your health and be a informed consumer. 

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Nutrients For Faster Weight Loss

From the article Six Nutrients For Faster Weight Loss, by Alisa Bowman and The Editors Of Women's Health

Vitamin D For years scientists have searched for a magical ingredient that would help people shed fat. In 2008, Dr. Shalamar Sibley of the University of Minnesota put 38 obese people on an 11-week diet where they consumed 750 calories less than their estimated daily need. Study participants whose blood levels of D were higher at the study's start lost more weight than participants whose blood levels of D were lower. They actually lost a lot more--70 percent more, to be exact. Based on the results of this study, by fueling your body with the D-rich nutrients it needs to stay out of a fat-storage state and in a fat-burning state, you can speed weight loss by 70 percent! Thousands of studies on vitamin D have been completed over a span of 40 years, and it's become clear that vitamin D is pretty incredible and effective. Still, it's not the only player on this fat-melting team. Turn up your metabolism and melt body fat adding vitamin D and these five fat-melters from The Vitamin D Diet.  

MyAchingKnees comment: While I believe that we need to take much more Vitamin D that the RDA recommends,...I am currently taking between 3,900 and 5,900 mgs each day, it is hardly definitive that Vitamin D works to burn fat. It is widely thought, and believed by me anyway, that Vitamin D is an essential ingredient for bone health and especially proper immune system function. The question needs to be asked, "what other nutrient deficiencies did the obese people with Vitamin D deficiencies also have?"  

Calcium is a mineral that works in tandem with D to help you shed fat. Calcium is stored in fat cells, and researchers think that the more calcium a fat cell has, the more fat that cell will release to be burned. Calcium also promotes weight loss by binding to fat in your GI tract, preventing some of it from getting absorbed into your bloodstream.  

In addition to keeping hunger in check, regular doses of protein help to keep body composition--the amount of fat relative to muscle--in better proportion. Along with calcium and D, protein helps you to preserve muscle mass as you drop pounds. A recent study out of the University of Illinois found that women who consumed protein twice daily lost 3.9 percent more weight than women who consumed less of it on a diet. They not only lost more weight, they also got stronger as they did so, with their thigh muscles alone ending up with 5.8 percent more protein at the end of the diet than before.  

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s enable weight loss by switching on enzymes that trigger fat-burning in cells. They also help to boost mood, which may help reduce emotional eating. And omega 3s might improve leptin signaling in the brain, causing the brain to turn up fat burning and turn down appetite. You almost can't consume D without consuming omega-3 fatty acids, and that's a good thing. Fatty fish like salmon (which are also high in D) are one of the richest sources of this fat. Other foods, such as some nuts and seeds, contain a type of fat that can be converted into omega-3s after ingestion.  

MyAchingKnees comment: I think that all the benefits of Omega 3's are relatively unknown to people. If people have experienced what I have experienced with a quality Omega 3 supplement, they would be breaking down the doors to take it.  

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs)
MUFAs are a type of fat found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, peanut butter, and chocolate, and they have just one chemical bond (which is why they are called "mono" unsaturated). One Danish study of 26 men and women found that a diet that included 20 percent of its calories from MUFAs improved 24-hour calorie burning by 0.1 percent and fat burning by 0.04 percent after 6 months. Other research shows that MUFAs zero in on belly fat. Specific foods that are high in MUFAs--especially peanuts, tree nuts, and olive oil--have been shown to keep blood sugar steady and reduce appetite, too.  

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
CLAs are potent fat burners that are found, along with D and calcium, in dairy products. They are fatty acids that are created when bacteria ferments the food in the first part of the stomach of cows, sheep, and other ruminant animals. The CLA that is created through fermentation then makes its way into the meat and milk of these animals. When we consume these foods, the CLA helps blood glucose enter body cells, so CLA can be burned for energy and not stored as fat. CLA also helps to promote fat burning, especially in muscles, where the bulk of our calorie burning takes place.  

The whole fat-melting picture Now before you start superdosing yourself with all of these fat melters and waiting for the fat to magically melt away, let's be clear: D and other fat melters facilitate weight loss, but they are not magic pills. If you just took a bunch of supplements, you might see some effect--for instance, by swapping some fat for muscle. But to see serious weight loss, you'll need to combine these fat melters with portion control.

MyAchingKnees comment: While I like all the efforts to bring sound nutritional research to people, the danger of articles listing single ingredients as some people will buy and consume these single ingredients while missing others.  I believe that we need a wide range of nutrients in scientifically determined ratios so they can work syngergistically with each other to provide our body's immune system with the complete package.    

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