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Month: December 2014

Obesity Facts and Figures

Obesity is fast becoming the number one health problem in the world, contributing to an increased risk of other diseases and putting a strain on national health budgets. Following are some interesting facts and figures related to obesity:big-belly-200-300

  • About 17% of medical costs in the US are due to obesity and its related diseases, totaling an estimated $168 billion per year.
  • Obesity adds about $2,800 to a person’s medical bills annually.
  • An estimated 300,000 premature deaths in the US each year are caused by obesity.
  • One third of US adults are obese, indicating a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
  • If an 18-year-old remains obese throughout their adulthood, it will cost them $550,000.
  • 80% of cases of Type 2 diabetes are related to obesity. The rate of diabetes has doubled in eight states since 1995.
  • 70% of heart disease is obesity-related.
  • Low-income women are more likely to become obese than high-income women. Over 33% of people earning less than $15,000 annually are obese, as opposed to a 24.6% rate of obesity in those earning $50,000 or more.
  • The highest rates of obesity are found among non-Hispanic African Americans (44.1%), followed by Mexican-Americans (39.3%), Hispanics (37.9%) and non-Hispanic whites (32.6%). Asians have the lowest rate of obesity at 16.7%.
  • In the last 30 years childhood obesity has tripled, from 6.5% in children aged 6 to 11 years to 19.6% today. The obesity rate in teenagers aged 12 to 19 years has increased from 5% to 18.1%.
  • Of children who are overweight at age 10-15, 80% will be obese as adults.
  • As a percentage of the population, the US has the highest number of obese people (33.9%), followed by Mexico (24%), the UK (23%), Slovakia (22.4) and Greece (22%).
  • College graduates have an obesity rate of 20.8%, which is lower than the 29.5% rate of those who have only graduated high school.
  • Obesity begins to decline after age 60. The population of those over age 69 has an obesity rate of 20.5%.
  • The rate of obesity is increasing in the US. In 2007 only one state had an overall obesity rate of over 30%. In 2011, 12 states had a greater than 30% obesity rate.
  • 40% of obese Americans aged 50 to 84 have osteoarthritis of the knee, caused by the wear and tear to the joints from excess weight stress. One extra pound of weight is equivalent to four pounds of stress on the knee.

Good health is a combination of many factors including your nutrition, preventative care, appropriate corrective care and the small choices you make every day in the course of living. If you have questions about this article, your general or spinal health, please ask. We are here to help!

Why Kids Don’t Feel Cold the Same Way Adults Do

As millions of moms and dads will attest, kids frequently balk at being bundled up in coats, hats, and gloves when they go outdoors in the winter. The children claim they’re just not cold, but parents usually error on the side of caution by bundling them up and making sure they don’t get too wet or stay out too long.

mother with son in winter timeThe truth is that kids are at the same risk of heat loss and hypothermia as adults are, and maybe more. But it’s also true that children often really don’t feel cold, even when their parents do. Why is this?

Part of the issue involves a fundamental difference between how effective the human body is at actually regulating its own temperature and how sensitive it is to the temperature outside. We are born with the ability to generate, maintain, or get rid of heat as outside weather and circumstances dictate. In general, our bodies are quite adept at creating heat in the winter (by shivering or becoming more active) and eliminating excess heat in the summer (by sweating). But some bodies are more efficient at these processes than others—people of the same height and weight can differ dramatically in their ability to maintain a healthy body temperature. In much the same way, different people can exhibit very different levels of sensitivity when outside conditions are jeopardizing their ability to conserve or dissipate heat.

When dealing with young kids who are playing outside in freezing temperatures, one of the things to remember when they claim that they don’t feel cold is that they probably really don’t feel cold. They are naturally so active that their bodies are generating enough heat to keep them feeling warm, even if they aren’t. This can be a dangerous illusion, however, because young children’s bodies are less able to regulate their internal temperature than those of adults, and thus more prone to hypothermia as a result of their bodies’ smaller surface area, smaller amounts of subcutaneous fat, and a not-yet-fully-developed ability to shiver. So they may be telling the truth when they claim not to feel cold, but they’re probably more at risk than adults.

Another factor to keep in mind when your kids balk at being bundled up is that they don’t like being bundled up for the same reason that some babies don’t like being swaddled and wrapped in tight blankets or clothing. The “bundling” decreases their ability to move around and process sensory stimulation, and subconsciously makes them feel constricted and uncomfortable. Also, as kids grow older and become more socialized, they may not feel that wearing a coat and hat and gloves is “cool,” so they may resist being forced to wear clothing that makes them stand out and not “fit in” with how other kids are dressing.

Still, as a general rule, it’s better to make sure that your kids are dressed warmly in extreme cold to prevent issues of hypothermia and frostbite. Wearing that coat, hat, and gloves will not protect them from catching colds and the flu—that’s an “old parents’ tale” because these diseases are spread by microorganisms—but it will protect them against the physical dangers posed by extreme cold.

But here is another interesting side of the story. Scandinavian parents (from Sweden and Norway, where winter temperatures are often extreme) maintain centuries-old traditions of allowing their newborns and young infants to nap outside while sleeping in their strollers. It’s not unusual to walk past a child care center and see rows of strollers lined up outside, the babies in them wrapped in blankets and sleeping soundly. The parents—doing what their parents and grandparents before them did—feel that exposure to fresh air at any temperature is better than being cooped up inside. And the cold/flu/disease statistics in Scandinavia support this belief because the Scandinavian “outside nappers” have fewer colds than American infants do. But it’s also important to realize that these naps are always supervised by adults, the babies are wrapped warmly, and the adults bring them back inside the moment outside temperatures dip below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, when the kids get bigger, their parents dress them just as warmly when they go out to play as American parents do and probably endure just as many protestations of “But Mom… I’m not cold.” as we do.

So the general consensus in the global healthcare community seems to be that you should ignore these protests from your kids when they don’t want to wear appropriate clothing in the cold, and make sure they do it anyway. The dangers of developing frostbite and hypothermia far outweigh the dangers of not appearing “cool” in front of their playmates.

Top 5 Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises for Winter Fitness

Everyone knows that exercise is essential to maintaining your health. However, not everyone is able to perform the kinds of high-impact exercises that are hard on the joints. Whether your particular concern relates to aging, injury, or some type of chronic musculoskeletal problem, there are several low-impact aerobic exercises that can help keep you fit throughout the winter.

snowboarder-grabbing-air-200-300Walking—This simple activity costs absolutely nothing, requires no additional equipment and can be done in most any weather conditions. If walking seems too boring, then try different routes. Mix it up! If you have hills nearby, include them for greater aerobic challenge. Make certain you have good footwear before taking on anything other than flat terrain. If walking isn’t giving you enough of a challenge, add ankle weights or carry barbells. If you don’t have nearby hills, then take to the stairs. Your local high school or college likely has a stadium with steps that can increase your workout intensity.

Swimming—If you have access to an indoor pool, count your blessings. Swimming is not only one of the lowest impact exercises there is, but it may also be the best full-body workouts around. Swimming involves even less impact than walking, and merely staying afloat (without pool floats) requires far more energy than just standing still. Do laps. Time yourself. There are numerous swimming strokes available, plus aerobic activities and games that you can play in the water. Whether you bring friends or go it alone, swimming can give you just as much aerobic “bang for your buck” time-wise as any other activity, and maybe more.

Cycling—Whether you take to the cycle in your gym or take your bicycle out for a spin, this activity produces virtually zero impact and delivers lots of aerobic benefit. Going nowhere in the gym may seem tedious and even boring to some, so take to the bike lanes or walkways with your bicycle. Once you’ve built up your strength, climbing hills can give your legs a good burn. Inside, no helmet is required. Outside, always protect your head when cycling.

Dancing—This might well be the most fun, low-impact aerobic exercise you can do (at least in public). Of course, many dance routines require a partner, but that’s what makes it all so much fun. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the simple waltz. Try the foxtrot for a little variety. Or try salsa, tango and other more strenuous styles to test your timing, finesse and stamina. A good dance routine can get your heart pumping. Performed well, it can even be downright sexy. And if you don’t like being on the dance floor alone with a partner, there’s always line dancing. It’s a great opportunity to work on your timing and coordination while getting a low-impact workout!

In-Line Skating (Rollerblading)—Protective gear is essential for your safety, as is choosing the best path. Most sidewalks have bumps and imperfections that can prove challenging… or disastrous. An empty parking lot might offer a better alternative for beginners. Some parks also have paths that are perfect for this kind of low-impact activity. Taking to the blades can burn more calories than many other exercises. Until you get your balance perfected, you might want to squat down to keep your center of gravity lower to the ground. Take shorter strides when starting out. Don’t go too fast until you’ve perfected your ability to maneuver, slow down and (yes) stop!

Cold-Weather Risks to Your Health: What You Should Know

Last winter was a particularly tough one across much of North America, given the combination of the freakish “Polar Vortex” winds and snowstorms possibly brought about as a result of climate change. Hundreds of people died, either in transportation-related accidents or from exposure to the cold temperatures. But did you know that your health is at greater risk any time the weather gets cold, not just when near-blizzard conditions strike?

woman-building-snowman-200-300The most obvious health risks from low temperature are hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when you allow your body temperature to drop below 95°F (35°C) and can be very dangerous—it can result in disorientation and can actually stop your heart. About 700 Americans per year die from hypothermia. Frostbite—when your nose, ears, cheeks, fingers or toes are exposed to extreme cold—is not usually fatal, but can result in gangrene and the loss of the frostbitten limbs. To protect against both, “layer up” with warm clothing, keep dry, and don’t stay outside too long.

There are other cold weather health risks that are even more common:

  • Colds and flu. Although they can occur in warm weather too, your risk of contracting these viral diseases goes way up during the winter months. To prevent them, wash your hands often, avoid work or family environments where others have colds or the flu, and if you get sick yourself, stay home. Don’t “tough it out” and go to work and spread the virus.
  • Sore throats. These symptoms are more prevalent in cold weather, and there is some evidence that they are triggered by sharp changes in temperature, such as going in and out from warm, heated homes and offices to cold weather outside. If you feel that scratchy sensation in your throat, treat it immediately by gargling with salt water.
  • Asthma. If you already suffer from symptoms of asthma, cold weather may trigger more attacks than usual, including wheezing and shortness of breath. So try to stay indoors on cold, windy days and keep your rescue inhalers handy.
  • Norovirus. Otherwise known as the “winter vomiting bug.” It’s not fatal, but if you catch it you may wish you were dead. This is an infectious disease that is transmitted via contact, so avoid public places if you’re susceptible to it.
  • Arthritis and joint pain. Yes, your mother and grandmother were correct that you can “feel the effects of cold weather in your bones.” Maintaining your daily exercise regimen can help to prevent outbreaks of joint pain when the weather gets cold.
  • Cold hands and feet. No, it’s not just your imagination. Cold weather affects your circulation, and your fingers and toes can literally “turn blue” in cold weather. To limit this, try to avoid caffeine, smoking, and drinking alcohol, all of which restrict circulation.
  • Depression. Although technically not a transmittable disease per se, about 5% of Americans (75% of them women) experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which causes them to become clinically depressed, socially withdrawn, fatigued and sleepy, to crave carbohydrates, and gain weight. An additional 15% of the public has a milder form of the condition. Spending more time in sunlight or using full-spectrum light bulbs in your house and office can help to stave off depression.
  • Dry skin. It’s even more important to stay hydrated and keep your skin moisturized during the winter months than it is during the hot summer months. A tip to be aware of is that “moisturizers” and skin lotions aren’t really absorbed through your skin. What they do is act as a sealant to keep moisture from evaporating, so the best time to apply them is right after a bath or shower.
  • Heart attacks and stroke. We’ve saved this one for last, because it’s the most important winter health risk that you should be aware of. Your blood vessels constrict in cold weather, which can raise your blood pressure and trigger stress reactions that place additional burdens on your heart and circulatory system. Numerous studies have shown that the incidence of heart attacks and stroke go up dramatically during cold weather, and that the greatest periods of risk may be when the temperature changes rapidly during the day. One recent study showed that each 5-degree fluctuation in temperature increased stroke hospitalizations by 6%, and that each additional fluctuation increased the risk by an additional 2%. So don’t over-exercise when the temperatures get cold, or are fluctuating wildly. Take it easy while shoveling snow (one of the biggest winter weather sources of heart attacks) and while performing winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing.

Additional Resources

Winter fitness: Safety tips for exercising outdoors. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20045626

Everyday Preventive Actions That Can Help Fight Germs, Like Flu. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/everyday_preventive.pdf

Are You SAD This Winter? Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder. http://psychcentral.com/lib/are-you-sad-this-winter-coping-with-seasonal-affective-disorder/00010241

Why Better Nutrition Alone Won’t Stop the Obesity Epidemic

It’s no secret that many Americans’ eating habits have taken a turn for the worse over the past 20 years in terms of the quantity, quality and combination of foods we eat. A number of diet-related trends have converged to help create a perfect storm of expanding waistlines:?????????????????

  • Beginning in the mid-1970s, government nutritional guidance (backed by the limited scientific data that was available at the time) triggered a nationwide shift away from foods with saturated fat (such as milk, eggs and meat). However, it also inadvertently ushered in the age of “fat-free” marketing that gradually drove Americans toward a diet high in complex carbohydrates.
  • The rise of convenience-oriented packaged foods made home cooking seem unnecessary. As a result, a generation (or maybe two) grew up without planning meals, shopping for ingredients or preparing food. While it’s easy to focus on the loss of these basic skills, something else was lost, too—control over the contents of the food itself. In adopting diets built on ready-made meals, American ouseholds left decisions about fat, sugar and salt as well as chemical additives to the chefs in corporate kitchens.
  • A new culture of snacking evolved that made eating a sort of parallel pastime—something that was done almost without thinking alongside other day-to-day activities. Plus, grab-and-go packaged food meant that the dining room was now anywhere you happened to be.
  • Supersize portions, value meals and double desserts slowly changed Americans’ ideas about how much food should be eaten at a single sitting. For much of the population, the new normal included many more calories than would have been common in the 1970s or 1980s.

But for all the evidence that the American diet has played a prominent role in the current obesity epidemic, there is also evidence that another factor may be even more important.

On average, Americans are LESS PHYSICALLY ACTIVE THAN AT ANY OTHER TIME in our history. Sweeping changes in the kinds of work we do and the way we do it, along with changes in how we get from place to place and how we spend our leisure time have meant that much of the population just doesn’t move around very much. We increasingly lead very sedentary lives.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine drives home this point. According to researchers at Stanford University who analyzed 20 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a very sharp drop in leisure-time physical activity may be responsible for the general upward trend in obesity rates.

Dr. Uri Ladabaum, Associate Professor of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and lead investigator, noted that total daily calorie, fat, carbohydrate and protein consumption hasn’t actually changed much over the past 20 years but that the general level of physical activity has. “At the population level, we found a significant association between the level of leisure-time physical activity, but not daily caloric intake, and the increases in both BMI and waist circumference.”

The fall-off in physical activity over the past two decades is truly striking:

  • During the 1988-1994 period, the number of female American adults reporting no physical activity was 19.1%. During the 2009-2010 period, it was 51.7%.
  • The percentage of American men reporting no physical activity grew from 11.4% in the 1988-1994 period to 43.5% in the 2009-2010 period.

Over the same time frame, the incidence of obesity across the country has grown. While the average BMI has increased across the board, the most dramatic change has been among woman between the ages of 18 and 39.

An earlier study reported in the December 2013 Mayo Clinic Proceedings painted a similarly grim picture. Based on two years’ worth of data collected from sensors attached to 2,600 people, investigators concluded:

  • Men and women of normal weight exercised vigorously (think jogging or a brisk uphill hike) for less than two minutes a day. They engaged in moderate exercise (yoga or golf, for instance) about 2.5 to 4 hours per week.
  • By contrast, the average obese American man gets only 3.6 hours of vigorous exercise per YEAR, and the average obese American woman gets only ONE hour of vigorous exercise in the same period of time.

What’s happening here?

According to Edward C. Archer, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “We’ve engineered physical activity out of our daily lives and that’s causing the health disparities that we have in this country.”

There is a very clear relationship between physical activity and your health—including your musculoskeletal health. But it’s also true that there’s a link between your musculoskeletal health and your ability to lead an active lifestyle. If you’re suffering from back, neck or joint pain, it can be very difficult to exercise. This in turn raises your risk of weight gain as well as your risk of other health problems.

We can help relieve musculoskeletal pain and restore your mobility. Just call or visit our office today!

Additional Resources

Lack of exercise, not diet, linked to rise in obesity, Stanford research shows. http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2014/07/lack-of-exercise–not-diet–linked-to-rise-in-obesity–stanford-.html

U.S. mothers, 1965 to 2010: More TV, less housework leading to a more obese population. http://www.sph.sc.edu/news/mothers_inactive.html

‘Get Up!’ or lose hours of your life every day, scientist says. http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-get-up-20140731-story.html