Monthly Archives: July 2011

Early Lifestyle Changes

Nutrition research shows that optimal health and health habits – or the lack thereof – originate early in life. Conditions such as osteoporosis, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity – all traditionally associated with adulthood – are “down aging,” appearing in early childhood and adolescence.

Research connecting lifestyle and diet to future chronic disease risk, and outlining ways that health professionals can intervene and facilitate health-promoting habits early in life are an absolute necessity if we are going to help the younger generations. Such action is critical if we are to avoid a potential medical meltdown of health care resources as chronic diseases take their toll earlier in life.

Within the context of setting the stage for risk of chronic disease, the conventional wisdom that pregnant women eat for two takes on additional meaning. For example:

–  Maternal calcium intake has been linked to lower blood pressure in children, potentially helping to prevent hypertension in the next generation.

–  Twin offspring of mothers supplemented with calcium had lower cardiovascular risk factors (triacylglycerol, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol) at age 9 years than other children.

– Calcium’s (and vitamin D’s) role in bone health and the development of osteoporosis later in life is well known. Optimizing bone deposition before age 18 is especially important in females.

– Maternal overweight and obesity not only contribute to complications during pregnancy, but also increase the risk of obesity in infants. Research on children born to overweight mothers showed that by age 4, weight, body mass index (BMI) and lean body mass were significantly greater and by age 6, weight and fat mass were greater than those born to lean mothers.

Over the past 30 years, the prevalence of obesity has more than doubled for preschool-aged children and adolescents aged 12-19, and it has more than tripled for children aged 6-11. This evolving childhood obesity epidemic is linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes. In the past referred to as “adult-onset,” type 2 diabetes now commonly occurs in the adolescent and teen years; cases in children as young as 4 have even occurred. One study found that for each adolescent diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, there were 10 others with impaired fasting glucose. Researchers expect pre-pubescent type 2 diabetes rates to soar as the population becomes increasingly overweight. African American, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian children who are obese and have a family history of type 2 diabetes are at especially high risk.

Blood pressure has increased steadily in children over the past decade, across all age and race/ethnic groups and in both genders. Clinical guidelines for ranges in blood pressure in children now include a “pre-hypertensive” range mirroring the revised categories for hypertension in adults. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet have had positive effects on blood pressure in adults – and research indicates a beneficial effect during childhood. Children who ate 4 or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables or 2 or more daily servings of dairy products during preschool years had smaller yearly.

The down-aging of chronic diseases and the identification of “pre-conditions” are relatively new phenomena. The impact on children, their family’s quality of life, and on our health care system is still to be felt. As health professionals we need to take a more proactive approach through early screening, intervention and referral when necessary to other disciplines to prevent these consequences.

What we have to promote is healthy food in appropriate portions coupled with appropriate levels of physical activity? We had hoped research would find a magic bullet but we aren’t even close to manipulating our basic genetic and metabolic mechanisms. The only way to achieve energy balance is through appropriate food choices and activity. We must make changes in our communities, worksites and schools to enable us to get in energy balance, but we cannot afford to wait for all the needed changes to take place.


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Sleep Easy

Most of us enjoy a lie-in, but research from the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) shows that doing just that can bring on back pain.

Extensive research carried out by the BCA has placed sleeping and mattresses as one of the top triggers of back pain, with over a quarter of sufferers blaming their beds. 27% of women and 24% of men said that their pain was brought on during a night’s ‘rest’.

Back pain can be debilitating, but even on a lesser scale it can prevent individuals carrying out day-to-day activities that most of us take for granted, and sleeping is top of the list.

Tim Hutchful, a chiropractor from the British Chiropractic Association says: “Sleep is essential to maintain our body’s natural rhythm, but too much can play havoc with our spines. When you are lying still your back stiffens and is more prone to injury when you get up. One of the common misconceptions is that if you are suffering from back pain the best cure is bed rest – that is not the case, bed rest can actually slow your recovery.”

Follow these top tips from the British Chiropractic Association to ensure you can sleep soundly and safely:

• Your bed shouldn’t be too hard or too soft. If you are lying on your side your spine should be parallel to the mattress and the mattress should not sag (bed too soft) or bow (bed too hard). Your pillow should be an extension of this i.e. your neck should be a continuation of the straight spine (not too high not too low).

• Hard mattresses are not always best – opt for firm but supportive. It is easier to make a hard mattress soft than a soft mattress hard, so if you your mattress is too hard – add an extra blanket or duvet to give yourself a softer surface to lie on.

• Try and adopt a sleeping position which creates less physical stress on the back (e.g. lying on your side is better than lying on your front with your neck twisted to one side!).

• Keep moving and avoid being in any one position for too long (no matter how comfy the position initially; the longer you stay in one position the more this will “load joints”). If your partner moves around a lot at nights try separate beds!! Your partner’s movement could aggravate YOUR back condition!

• Drink water and keep well hydrated (dehydration can make muscles ache).

• Remember to turn your mattress regularly this should be done at least every couple of months and will keep your bed in good condition.

• Do not leap out of bed first thing in the morning, take a minute to wake up and try some gentle stretches, such as drawing your knees to your chest or swaying your knees side to side (only do these things if they are comfortable).

• Wake up your body – Once up avoid bending or doing anything sudden or strenuous until you back wakes up!

• Take your own – if sleeping away from your own bed – take your pillow! Your neck is used to your own pillow and won’t have to adjust as much.

• When buying a bed, narrow your choice down to two or three and then spend plenty of time lying on these in your normal sleeping positions. Five or ten minutes should be the minimum for each bed -but feel free to spend half an hour, if that’s what you want to do.

• If you are a back pain sufferer, a bigger bed will be of benefit for you and for your partner. Zip and link beds are a good option if firmness preferences differ widely.

• Pay attention also to choosing the correct pillow, which must support the neck in alignment with the rest of the spine. Having too many pillows on your bed may thrust the head forward or sideways (depending on your sleeping position); too few may cause the head to tip backwards: both can create a crick in the neck.



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