Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gardening, Housework May Help Boost Your Heart Health

Study of Swedish seniors found a reduced death risk of up to 30 percent 


Activities such as gardening, do-it-yourself projects and housework may be as good as formal exercise when it comes to reducing the risk for heart attack and stroke, Swedish researchers say.

For people 60 and older, just keeping busy with daily activities can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems by nearly 30 percent and even prolong life, they added.

Being on your feet and active cuts the time spent sitting around, pointed out lead researcher Elin Ekblom-Bak, of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences and the Karolinska Institute, in Stockholm.

"Sitting is mainly replacing time you spend in daily activity and vice versa," Ekblom-Bak said. A recent study found long periods of sitting actually increased the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death, she noted.

"The results of this study showed that activities of daily life are as important as regular intentional exercise for older adults for cardiovascular health and longevity," she said.

But that doesn't mean formal exercise isn't important. "We saw that those who exercised regularly and that also had a daily physically active life had the lowest risk of all," Ekblom-Bak explained.

The time people spend exercising, however, is only a small part of the day, which leaves a lot of time for daily activities or sitting, she added.

For the new study, researchers collected data on more than 3,800 men and women in Sweden who were born in 1937 and 1938. Participants were asked about their lifestyle, which included information on their diet, whether they smoked or drank alcohol, and how physically active they were.

The participants were also asked how often they took part in activities, such as gardening, do-it-yourself projects, car maintenance and blackberry picking over the past year. They were also asked about any exercise they did.

To see how heart-healthy they were, the researchers examined the participants and took blood samples to assess levels of fat and sugar. They also checked for high levels of blood-clotting factor, which is linked to a raised heart attack and stroke risk.

During more than 12 years of follow-up, 476 of the participants died from or experienced a first heart attack or stroke, and 383 died from other various causes.

People whose daily activities kept them moving reduced their risk of a heart attack or stroke by 27 percent and the risk of dying from any cause by 30 percent, compared to people who spent the least amount of time on their feet.

"Promoting daily life activities is as important as recommending regular exercise for older adults for cardiovascular health and longevity," Ekblom-Bak said.

"This is particularly important for older adults as they tend to spend a greater portion of their active day performing non-exercise physical activity, as they often find it difficult to achieve recommended exercise intensity levels," she said.


Traditional notions of retirement often don't support continued physical activity at this stage of life, a U.S. expert said.

"It is almost expected that as we age, we move less," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist and exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.

"Retirement, a patient told me, is for sitting around, resting and watching TV," she said. "Unfortunately, sedentary lifestyles now range across all ages with the same unhealthy results: increased risk for diseases such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and certain cancers."

The human body is designed to be moving a good portion of the day, Heller said. "The less one physically moves, the less they are able to move," she said.

Regular physical activities such as house cleaning, gardening, lawn care and climbing stairs help keep the body mobile and strong, Heller said.

"You can burn up to six times as much energy per minute when house cleaning as you do when you are sitting still. People of all ages need to be encouraged to get up off the couch and turn off the computer and TV and move," she said.

Heller said there are simple ways to add more physical activity into the day, such as the following:

·         Standing up when talking on the phone.

·         Marching in place when watching TV -- at least during the commercials.

·         Getting up from your desk every hour and doing jumping jacks, knee lifts or knee bends for three to five minutes.

·         Climbing a flight of stairs every few hours.

·         Vacuuming the house.

·         Mopping the floor.

Another expert described the physical fallout of being sedentary.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said sitting for too long may have adverse effects including burning fewer calories, and increasing insulin resistance and fats in the blood.

"Greater time spent in non-exercise physical activities can potentially counter these effects," Fonarow said. "These findings further emphasize the importance of decreasing sedentary time and encouraging everyday regular non-exercise physical activity to improve cardiovascular health."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Healthy Aging: What Can You Control?

When it comes to aging, Bebe Shaw didn't hit the genetic lottery. Her mother died from congestive heart failure , her father of a heart condition. The younger of her two brothers had a heart attack at age 52, and her younger sister is on the verge of congestive heart failure . Shaw, 69, has high cholesterol -- a serious risk factor for heart disease .

With such a checkered health history, she's not taking any chances. "I am an advocate of exercise and diet ," says Shaw, who works as a paralegal in Ocala, Fla. "I play tennis 3 days a week, go to spinning and Zumba classes at the Y twice a week, and try to ride my bike on a nearby trail every day." She also eats well, takes a statin drug to control her cholesterol, and visits her doctor regularly for checkups and screenings.

Aging: Nature or Nurture?

Looking at your relatives' medical histories is like peering into a crystal ball. You get a glimpse at your future but not the whole picture. You can't change the genes you inherited, but you can avoid habits that contributed to your family's health problems.

"Some people can have a family history of heart disease, but it's actually a history of smoking , overeating, and [an inactive] lifestyle. And if you adopt that lifestyle, you're going to run into the same problems your parents did," says James Pacala, MD. He is the associate head of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota.

Lifestyle was a big factor in Shaw's family: Her father was overweight, and her younger brother, a smoker.

Take preventive action now to help make sure you're healthy into your 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond. "You must remain active and engaged. By that, I mean physically and mentally active and socially engaged," says Pacala, who is also president of the American Geriatrics Society. He ticks off the necessities: aerobic and resistance exercises, a balanced diet that's low in saturated fat and high in fruits and vegetables, and brain games and social outings to keep you sharp.

You also want to try to avoid diseases. "Get your immunizations , your cancer screening tests, your cardiac and osteoporosis risk factors assessed before you have those problems," Pacala says.

Staying Forever Young

We've all seen 70- and 80-year-olds who look and act decades younger. How do they do it? Pacala shares a few secrets.

Refuse to take it slow. "There's a sort of societal expectation that you're supposed to slow down as you get old, and I think you should fight against that," Pacala says. "Don't let your grandkids get up and mow the lawn for you and get you a glass of water. Get up and do it yourself."

Take a daily walk. Even if your pace is gentle and the distance is short, the time spent on your feet will help keep your bones strong.

Read the newspaper with your morning bowl of oatmeal. Keeping your mind engaged could ward off the brain changes that lead to Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia , while the whole grains in your bowl help prevent heart disease.

Downsize your portions. Overeating leads to obesity and diabetes , which can shorten your lifespan. An overstuffed plate has also been linked to memory loss in people 70 and older.



Monday, October 7, 2013

Dental X-Rays, Teeth Cleanings = Safe During Pregnancy

Ob-Gyns Recommend Routine Oral Health Assessments at First Prenatal Visit

Teeth cleanings and dental X-rays are safe for pregnant women, according to new recommendations issued by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College). Ob-gyns are now being advised to perform routine oral health assessments at the first prenatal visit and encourage their patients to see a dentist during pregnancy.

“These new recommendations address the questions and concerns that many ob-gyns, dentists, and our patients have about whether it is safe to have dental work during pregnancy,” said Diana Cheng, MD, vice chair of The College’s Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women, which issued the guidelines. According to The College, oral health problems are associated with other diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory infections. “We want ob-gyns to routinely counsel all of their patients, including pregnant women, about the importance of oral health to their overall health,” said Dr. Cheng.

More than a third (35%) of all women report they haven’t been to the dentist within the past year. Approximately 40% of pregnant women in the US have some form of periodontal disease, including gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), cavities (tooth decay), and periodontitis (inflammation of ligaments and bones that support the teeth). The physical changes caused by pregnancy can result in changes in the gums and teeth. Periodontal disease during pregnancy is most prevalent among black women, smokers, and women on public assistance.

 “We can all reassure our patients that routine teeth cleanings, dental X-rays, and local anesthesia are safe during pregnancy,” said Dr. Cheng. “Pregnancy is not a reason to delay root canals or filling cavities if they are needed because putting off treatment may lead to further complications.” One potential benefit of improving a woman’s oral health: It may decrease the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria from mother to baby. This can help lessen the future risk of cavities in children.

Ob-gyns are encouraged to reinforce practical advice for their patients: Limit sugary foods and drinks, brush teeth twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste, floss once daily, and visit the dentist twice a year. Pregnant women with severe vomiting (hyperemesis) or gastric reflux can help avoid damage to their teeth from stomach acid by using an antacid or by rinsing with a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water after vomiting.


Friday, August 9, 2013


Ah stress...it is a common complaint, but stress and its effects on your mouth and oral health can be profound. Certainly, almost everyone you know will tell you that they are living with some sort of stress, or even multiple sources of it. Just think of the issues in our daily lives that can lead to stress. We have work pressures, financial issues, family related concerns, health problems, and so many other dilemmas that lead us to say we are "feeling stressed".

Interestingly enough, one of the first places where the effects of uninterrupted bouts of stress really show up is inside the mouth. From the unconscious grinding of the teeth to the chemical imbalances that lead to painful sores and even to gum disease, stress and its effects on your mouth and oral health can be enormous.

While the occurrence of "bruxism", or grinding of the teeth, may seem like a pretty standard reaction to stress or strain, its results can lead to very serious problems. For instance, whether you are someone who clenches their teeth during the day or who gnashes their teeth as they sleep, it results in a long list of symptoms. 

• Experience head, neck, and jaw pain from the clenching and pressure
• Cause micro-fractures, uneven wearing, and serious decay in the teeth and gums;
• Break teeth, wear teeth unevenly, and break fillings or crowns with the pressure
• Experience ear pain related to the clenching
• End up with TMJ, problems with the "temporomandibular joint"

Keep in mind that many people also see such conditions worsen as they grind their teeth because it interrupts their sleep and causes noticeable pain too.

One of the more severe issues connected with stress and teeth grinding is the appearance of gum disease. This can certainly be the result of long periods of pressure and the compromising in gum stability that this causes, but prolonged stress also floods the body with hormones and compounds that have an immediate impact on the teeth.

Several studies and surveys discovered that stress and its effects on your mouth and oral health included higher incidences of periodontal (gum) disease, and canker sores. What is so interesting is that many people were living with stress and feeling depressed from it. This is a common result because of the hormonal imbalances high levels of stress create. This depression brought on periods of poor oral hygiene and increased plaque production. Even over a short duration the studies demonstrated that higher rates of decay and the resulting gum disease were very common.

Perhaps one of the most upsetting of the results of stress on the oral health is canker sores. Painful, unpleasant, and seemingly uncontrollable, these can remain in the mouth for up to two weeks. There are many effective over the counter treatments, and they usually help to reduce the sores quickly.

Clearly, it is important to reduce stress levels to protect oral health. Some of the best techniques include exercise, meditation, massage for the head and neck, facial exercises that cause deep relaxation, and a healthy diet that protects the condition of the teeth as well as the body.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Prevent Listeria Infection This Summer

Unlike most bacteria, Listeria can grow in a cold refrigerator, experts warn

With the arrival of summer, many folks think they can keep their picnic food safe from bacteria by storing it in the refrigerator. But they would be wrong about one bacteria.
Unlike most of its brethren, Listeria bacteria can grow in cool temperatures. Refrigerating food contaminated with this bacteria could allow the germs to multiply and spread, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The bacteria can cause a serious illness known as listeriosis, which is particularly dangerous for children, older people, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems or chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes.
Foods in which Listeria has been found include deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood and store-prepared salads. The FDA advises those at greater risk for developing listeriosis to reheat these ready-to-eat foods until they are steaming hot. They should also avoid unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses.
Listeriosis has also been linked to contaminated cantaloupes. The FDA recommended washing all fruits and vegetables under running water immediately before eating, cutting or cooking them. Firm produce, in particular, should be scrubbed with a produce brush.
The FDA added that other ways to prevent Listeria infection include:
·         Set your refrigerator temperature to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to inhibit or slow the growth of Listeria. Use a refrigerator and freezer thermometer to ensure temperatures are sufficiently cold.
·         Wrap or cover food before placing it in the refrigerator. Be sure no containers or covers are leaking juices on other foods.
·         Do not allow cooked or ready-to-eat foods to sit in the refrigerator. Eat these foods right away so Listeria doesn't have the opportunity to grow. "If you have leftovers in your refrigerator, it's best to throw them out after three days, just to be sure," Donald Zink, senior science advisor at FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a news release. "It's better to be safe than sorry."
·         Clean up refrigerator spills immediately. The FDA notes leaks or spills from hot dog packages, raw meat or poultry are particularly worrisome. The agency advised cleaning these spills with paper towels to avoid spreading germs to a cloth towel.
·         Routinely disinfect the refrigerator. The FDA recommended cleaning the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator with warm water and soap. Surface cleaners can also be used monthly.
·         Sanitize kitchen surfaces where food is prepared with soap and water and surface cleaner. The FDA noted homemade sanitizer can be made by combining one teaspoon of unscented bleach with one quart of water. Unused bleach solution should be discarded since it becomes less effective over time.
·         Wash cutting boards after every use. Nonporous acrylic, plastic, or glass boards can be sanitized in the dishwasher.
·         Wash dish cloths, towels and cloth grocery bags in the hot cycle of the washing machine.
·         Before and after handling food, wash your hands with warm water and soap.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A guide to common dental problems

How to prevent or treat the (sometimes painful) troubles that can lurk in your mouth.

Problem: Tooth Decay
Also known as dental caries or cavities, tooth decay occurs when plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms when you eat sugars or starches, is allowed to linger on teeth for too long.

Who’s at risk: Anyone can get a cavity, but children and older people are the most prone. The incidence among children has been declining, thanks to community water fluoridation and the increased use of fluoride toothpastes, but “more than half of all children have caries by the second grade,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report Healthy People 2010. Older adults are prone to cavities at the root because protective gum tissue often pulls away.

What to do: Don't give plaque a chance: Brush with a fluoride toothpaste and floss every day. Children can also benefit from sealants (plastic coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of their back teeth) as soon as their adult molars come in. Older people should be particularly vigilant: Those who have a tendency toward dry mouth should receive regular fluoride treatments from a dentist and use a fluoride-containing mouth rinse.

Problem: Gum Disease
A bacterial infection caused by plaque that attacks the gums, bone, and ligaments that keep your teeth in place. The early stage is known as gingivitis, the advanced stage as periodontitis.

Who’s at risk: Everyone. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) estimates that half of all adults have some signs of gingivitis. Most at risk are people with poor oral hygiene; those with a systemic disease, such as diabetes, that lowers resistance to infection; and smokers. Women also have a tendency to develop gingivitis during pregnancy. Other risk factors are stress, which weakens the immune system, and genes. Some people can have gingivitis all their lives and never progress to periodontitis. It depends on a person's susceptibility to the disease.

What to do: See a dentist regularly, and tell him if your gums feel tender or bleed. Gingivitis can be reversed with regular brushing and flossing. To combat periodontitis, a dentist or periodontist may perform a deep cleaning around the teeth and below the gum lines and prescribe medication to combat the infection. If the disease has progressed to affect your gums and bone, your dentist might suggest surgery, such as a gum graft.
Problem: Tooth Infection
The pulp inside the tooth (which contains nerves) is damaged or becomes infected because of decay or injury. The root canal, which connects the top pulp chamber to the tip of the root, may become infected, too.

Who’s at risk: Anyone with a deep cavity or a cracked tooth, which can let in bacteria. An injured tooth can have a problem even if it's not visibly cracked or chipped.

What to do: If you feel pain in or around a tooth, see your dentist. He may refer you to an endodontist, who specializes in root-canal procedures. In one to three visits, the dentist will perform a root canal. He will remove the pulp, clean the pulp chamber and root canal, then fill the tooth.

Problem: Enamel Erosion
Exposure to acid, primarily from soda or citrus drinks, can wear down the surface of the teeth, making them rounded and discolored. Overbrushing can have a similar effect on enamel near the gum lines.

Who’s at risk: Anyone who sips lemonade, soda (even diet soda), or sports drinks all day. This is also an occupational hazard of wine professionals. A lot of times the only risk factor we can come up with is diet soda. Aggressive brushers may also be wearing away the enamel along with the plaque.

What to do:
If necessary, teeth can be restored with bonding materials. But to prevent further damage, you have to change your habits. If soft drinks are the culprit, for example, switch to water. Second best is to drink sodas (or sports drinks) with a full meal or sip them through a straw, then follow with a tooth brushing, sugarless gum, or a good swish of water in the mouth. If the problem is overbrushing, a soft-bristled brush or an electric toothbrush is a start. A dentist or a hygienist can demonstrate proper, gentle brushing technique.

Problem: Dry Mouth
Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth results from a decrease in the flow of saliva in the mouth. It is extremely uncomfortable and increases the chance of tooth decay, since saliva helps wash away harmful bacteria.

Who’s at risk: Those who take any of 400-plus medications, including diuretics and antidepressants. “Dry mouth becomes more prominent as women get older, in their 50s and 60s,” says Sally Cram, an American Dental Association consumer adviser and a periodontist in Washington, D.C. Hormonal and metabolic changes that come with age can also change your salivary flow. Another cause is Sjogren's syndrome, a rare disorder most common among women in their late 40s that causes a person's immune system to attack her salivary and tear glands.

What to do: Keep sugarless gum on hand; avoid caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol; and drink plenty of water. Artificial rinses or moisturizing mouth gels can help the salivary glands function. If you suspect that you have dry mouth, see your dentist or doctor. “Anyone needing additional fluids to speak or to swallow dry foods for three months or longer should be evaluated for Sjogren's,” says Jane Atkinson, D.D.S., deputy clinical director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). While there's no cure, she says, “as with lupus or
rheumatoid arthritis, you can manage it.”

Problem: Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
TMJ is a group of conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint, just below the ears and above the jaw. Sufferers may clench or grind their teeth subconsciously, often at night.

Who’s at risk:
About twice as many women as men are believed to have TMJ, most commonly during their childbearing years. People who are under a great deal of stress are also more prone to it, or a severe injury to the jaw may cause the condition. It's usually not chronic, though it can become so. TMJ can lead to worn-down and sensitive teeth, as well as other painful symptoms, such as a sore jaw, headaches, neck aches, and earaches.

What to do:
See your dentist if you feel pain when you chew, find that your jaw has limited movement, or have radiating pain in your face, neck, or shoulders. Treatment may be as simple as relaxation exercises, cold compresses,
ibuprofen, and avoiding foods that require serious chewing. To train yourself to stop clenching and grinding your teeth, the Mayo Clinic recommends “resting your tongue upward with your teeth apart and your lips closed.” To stop nighttime grinding, your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard.

Problem: Oral Cancers
An oral cancer may start with a small, pale, red, painless lump on some area of the mouth. A dentist can easily screen for the disease by examining and feeling around a patient's mouth, head, and neck.

Who’s at risk: Of the estimated 30,000 cases of oral cancer diagnosed each year in this country, about three-quarters are associated with tobacco use or tobacco in combination with heavy alcohol use. Most cases occur after age 40. Many people aren't screened, and detection usually occurs when the cancer is at an advanced stage. That's why the five-year survival rate is one of the lowest for all cancers.

What to do: Stop smoking, and make sure your dentist screens you every time you visit. Even people missing many or all of their teeth should see a dentist regularly to make sure their dentures fit, as chronic irritation can be a risk factor.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Time To Take Up Bike Riding

If losing weight doesn't convince you, the sheer fun of the wind in your hair surely will

No matter your fitness level, clothing size, age, or litany of aches and pains, you can enjoy the fun, adventure, and health benefits that two wheels can bring. Whether you haven't ridden a bike in years or want to start incorporating it more regularly into your cross-training routine, here's what you need to know to get started.

If you can walk, you can ride.

"Cycling puts very little impact on your joints, so it's kind to your body," says bike fit specialist Andrew Pruitt, EdD, director of Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Colorado. "Even if you have pain walking, you can still ride a bike, because it isn't weight bearing." In fact, most people find that they are able to cycle comfortably when they're well into their 70s and 80s.

Philadelphia attorney Rick McMenamin, 66, began cycling when a knee injury sidelined him from running. "I still wanted to exercise, and cycling was something I could do without putting stress on my knees," he says. "I started riding with my wife on mountain bikes." Six months later, Joe Wentzell, owner of Breakaway Bikes and a cycling coach, convinced him to buy a road bike and start training more seriously. "I was amazed at how much progress I made in 1 year. I've trained regularly with Breakaway team members and have even done a few time trials in my age-group," McMenamin says.

Cycling is an especially great way to up your activity when you're out of shape, because you can go farther right off the bat than you would walking or running. "If you can walk half a mile, you can ride a bike 5 miles," Dr. Pruitt says. "This boosts your confidence and makes you more likely to stick with the activity." Thanks to technology updates, bikes can take up the slack for any strength or stamina you might lack. "Bikes today have lots of gears for the steepest grades," says Lorri Lee Lown, head coach at Savvy Bike, Redwood City, CA. "You can even ask a bike shop to add special, very small climbing gears that will allow you to spin your way up any hill."

You can pedal off pounds.

Your legs and butt—the largest muscles in your body—are the power drivers for any bicycle, which makes cycling a great lower-body toner, as well as a major calorie burner. In fact, even moderate cycling—riding 12 to 14 mph—burns more than 500 calories in only 60 minutes, and many people (even novices) can easily bike for an hour or two. This makes cycling a great way to slim down, whether you have a little or a lot to lose.

Elizabeth Seifert, 47, a Web designer/IT specialist in Woodstock, GA, took up cycling just before turning 42, because she wanted to shed her last 10 pounds of baby weight and was bored with the gym. "Never once has riding felt like exercise," she says. Not only did she lose the weight, but she found a new love: "There's an indescribable sense of freedom you get while riding a bike. You feel like a kid again—I'm hooked."

Dinah Hannah, 49, a clinical laboratory scientist from Salt Lake City, started cycling when she was at her heaviest, carrying 240 pounds on her 5-foot-6 frame. "I knew I needed to lose weight. I tried running, but I developed arthritis in my feet and knees," says Hannah. "Then I heard about a commuter challenge where you had to get to work without driving for 1 week." Even though she didn't own a bike and lived 15 miles from her job, Hannah decided to go for it. She bought a mountain bike and—after scoping out a route with the lightest traffic—gave it a try. "I made it to work in just under 2 hours, and since there's no weight bearing in cycling, it didn't bother my joints," she says. "I thought, Wow, I can really do this!" Soon Hannah was addicted: "I loved riding so much that I started training for centuries—100-mile rides—and charity rides like the MS 150, which covers 150 miles in 2 days." Within 2 years, she lost 100 pounds, going from a size 20 to a size 6. "Last year, I did Race Across America on a four-woman team. We won first place for our age-group," she says.

You can do it safely.

Like skiing and other outdoor sports, cycling is as risky as you make it. You wouldn't hop off the lift and barrel down a triple diamond run out of the gate, and you shouldn't try riding down supersteep roads or in heavy traffic if you're new and unsure of your skills. "Start small and work up to more challenging routes as you become comfortable," says Lown.

Just as you did when your parents took off those training wheels decades ago, begin by practicing the basics (starting, stopping, shifting gears, and turning) where there's plenty of space and little traffic, like a parking lot or a park. Make sure you're comfortable and able to control your speed—especially on downhills—before taking your bike out for a true spin. When you feel comfortable, you can vary your routes. Talk with your local bike shop or club to find out the best spots to ride, or discover popular routes with the free app MapMyRide. Download it to your mobile phone and it will automatically find routes that other cyclists in your area have ridden. "Women my age say, 'I don't know how you do it. I'd be a nervous wreck,' " says Dede Muhler, 68, a tree pruning specialist from Oakland, CA, who rides an average of 5 to 7 hours a week. "But it's no more dangerous than 100 things you do every day—and there's nothing else like it."

You'll make new friends.

"Cycling is a great way to stay active as you get older, because it's not as isolated as running or other activities," says McMenamin. Looking to make some cycling friends? Consider joining a local club. "Cycling clubs are a wealth of information on how to ride and improve your skills. Plus, you'll be surrounded by other cyclists and make lots of friends to ride with," says Lown.

You see the world differently.

The real beauty of bicycling is all the amazing places it can take you. There's simply nothing in the world like rolling through fields of wildflowers, pedaling along the edge of the ocean, or soaking in the scenery of a mountaintop vista. "Cycling opens up worlds of territory to explore, providing a more intimate understanding of nature and the terrain," says Muhler.

Ruth Andrews, 60, a retired nurse from Simi Valley, CA, agrees: "I love that you're outside and can take in the sights and sounds—it's beautiful." Bicycling also opens the door to a variety of fun vacation possibilities. "I've biked along the Riviera in France and through the mountains of Girona, Spain," says McMenamin. "Challenging yourself on the climbs while taking in the beauty of these areas is quite an experience.”


 Choose your bike wisely.

You wouldn't dream of waltzing into a car dealer and plunking down your cash on the first car that caught your fancy. You research, test-drive, and find a dealer who treats you well. Do the same with your bike purchase. First rule: Go to a bike shop rather than a big-box store, says Lown. "Bike-shop employees are more knowledgeable about bike selection and proper fit," she says.

And while there's a dizzying array of bikes to choose from, you can whittle down your choices by considering where you'll ride, says Lown. If that's primarily pavement, go for a road bike or touring bike with comfortable, more upright geometry—as opposed to aerodynamic (very hunched forward) race geometry—which you can buy with flat handlebars (instead of curvy racer handlebars) and wider tires for comfort and stability. If you think you'll just ride to take care of errands, consider a cruiser or town bike, which sits you more upright and may have carrying capacity. Heading for trails and rough paths? A fat-tired off-road bike is in order.

Keep in mind, if the last bike you bought had a banana seat, you will likely have a case of sticker shock. Today's high-end bikes are crafted from feather-light, durable materials like carbon fiber and come equipped with finely tuned components (brakes, gears, and shifters) that provide a dreamy ride but boost prices upward of $1,000. Don't panic—you'll still get a great bike at the lower price points.

A proper fit fights soreness.

The number one thing that keeps many people from cycling is discomfort, especially in the nether regions, says Dr. Pruitt. This is where the right fit comes in. Your bike shop will adjust your position to distribute your weight properly on the saddle (the technical term for the seat) and handlebars and make sure your back isn't too stretched out and your knees track properly.

The shop's experts will also make sure that your saddle fits your sitz bones (the two lowest points on your pelvis that take your weight when you sit), which should support your weight on the rear of the seat. Whether you need a wide saddle or a skinny one has nothing to do with the size of your derriere but, rather, with the width of your sitz bones, says Dr. Pruitt, who helped develop what Specialized Bikes has playfully named the ass-o-meter, a gel-filled cushion that measures your sitz bones. (You sit on it and stand back up, and the imprints of your sitz bones are there for all to see.) If the saddle on your bike isn't immediately comfortable after a proper bike fit, continue to try others till you find one that is.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Seaweed toothpaste 'to stop tooth decay'

Adding enzymes from seaweed microbes to toothpaste and mouthwash could provide better protection against tooth decay, a team of UK scientists have said.

Researchers at Newcastle University had been studying Bacillus licheniformis to see if it could clean ships' hulls.

But the scientists now believe it could protect the areas between teeth where plaque can gather despite brushing.

Their lab tests suggest the microbe's enzyme cuts through plaque, stripping it of bacteria that cause tooth decay.

Dr Nick Jakubovics, of the university's school of dental sciences, said: "Plaque on your teeth is made up of bacteria which join together to colonize an area in a bid to push out any potential competitors.

"Traditional toothpastes work by scrubbing off the plaque containing the bacteria - but that's not always effective - which is why people who religiously clean their teeth can still develop cavities.

"We found this enzyme can remove some of these undesirable bacteria from plaque."

Plaque is made up of lots of different decaying bacteria.

When bacterial cells die, the DNA inside them leaks out and makes a biofilm that sticks to the teeth.

Instead of removing the plaque entirely, Dr Jakubovics believes the treatment could strip away the harmful bacteria, like Streptococcus mutans, that cause tooth decay.

"Ultimately we hope to harness this power into a paste, mouthwash or denture-cleaning solution."

He said more studies are needed to show the technique works and is safe before any products could be brought to market.

He is presenting the latest findings to a meeting of the Society for Applied Microbiology, the organization that is funding the research along with the Newcastle Healthcare Charity.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What You Can Do About Bad Breath

Worried about bad breath? You're not alone. Forty million Americans suffer from bad breath, or halitosis, according to the American Dental Hygienists' Association. Bad breath can get in the way of your social life. It can make you self-conscious and embarrassed. Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways to freshen your breath.

1. Brush and floss more frequently.

One of the prime causes of bad breath is plaque, the sticky build-up on teeth that harbors bacteria. Food left between teeth adds to the problem. All of us should brush at least twice a day and floss daily. If you're worried about your breath, brush and floss a little more often. But don't overdo it. Brushing too aggressively can erode enamel, making your teeth more vulnerable to decay.

2. Scrape your tongue.

The coating that normally forms on the tongue can harbor foul-smelling bacteria. To eliminate them, gently brush your tongue with your toothbrush. Some people find that toothbrushes are too big to comfortably reach the back of the tongue. In that case, try a tongue scraper. Tongue scrapers are an essential tool in a proper oral health care routine. They're designed specifically to apply even pressure across the surface of the tongue area, removing bacteria, food debris, and dead cells that brushing alone can’t remove.

3. Avoid foods that sour your breath.

Onions and garlic are the prime offenders. Unfortunately, brushing after you eat onions or garlic doesn't help. The volatile substances they contain make their way into your blood stream and travel to your lungs, where you breathe them out. The only way to avoid the problem is to avoid eating onions and garlic, especially before social or work occasions when you're concerned about your breath.

4. Kick the habit.

Bad breath is just one of many reasons not to smoke. Smoking damages gum tissue and stains teeth. It also increases your risk of oral cancer. Over-the-counter nicotine patches can help tame the urge to smoke. If you need a little help, make an appointment to talk to your doctor about prescription medications or smoking cessation programs that can help you give up tobacco for good.

5. Rinse your mouth out.

In addition to freshening your breath, anti-bacterial mouthwashes add extra protection by reducing plaque-causing bacteria. After eating, swishing your mouth with plain water also helps freshen your breath by eliminating food particles.

6. Skip after-dinner mints and chew gum instead.

Sugary candies promote the growth of bacteria in your mouth and add to bad breath problems. Instead, chew sugarless gum. Gum stimulates saliva, which is the mouth’s natural defense mechanism against plaque acids which cause tooth decay and bad breath.

7. Keep your gums healthy.

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common cause of bad breath. Bacteria accumulate in pockets at the base of teeth, creating bad odors. If you have gum disease, your dentist may recommend a periodontist, who specializes in treating gum disease.

8. Be alert to dry mouth.

Lack of saliva promotes tooth decay and can cause bad breath. If your mouth is dry, drink plenty of water during the day. Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy, which helps stimulate saliva. Use a humidifier at night if the air is dry. If your mouth is still unusually dry, talk to your dentist or doctor. Dry mouth is a side effect of certain medications.

9. See your doctor.

If your bad breath continues despite your best efforts, see your doctor. Bad breath can be a symptom of medical conditions such as a sinus infection, postnasal drip from allergies, lung infections, diabetes, or liver or kidney diseases.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

7 Ways to Protect Your Child's Oral Health

When the toddler came to her office, 4 of his 16 teeth were so decayed, they required dental crowns.
Although this case may sound shocking, it's not rare, says Beverly Largent, DMD, the Paducah, Ky., dentist who cared for the child. She tells parents it's crucial to care for baby teeth. "You need to brush from the first tooth," says Largent, past president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
In fact, tooth decay -- although largely preventable with good care -- is one of the most common chronic diseases of children ages 6 to 11 and teens ages 12 to 19. Tooth decay is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever in children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. By kindergarten age, more than 40% of kids have tooth decay.
Neglecting baby teeth is not the only misstep parents can make when it comes to their child's early oral health.
Here's your 7-step game plan.

Start Oral Care Early

Your child should see a dentist by the time he or she is a year old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
Getting preventive care early saves money in the long run, according to a report published by the CDC. The report found that costs for dental care were nearly 40% lower over a five-year period for children who got dental care by age one compared to those who didn't go to the dentist until later.

Teach the Brush & Floss Habit

Dental visits are just part of the plan, of course. Tooth brushing is also crucial from the start. "A lot of people think they don't have to brush baby teeth," Largent says. If your baby has even one tooth, it's time to start tooth brushing. "If there's just one tooth, you can use gauze."
Even before your baby has teeth, you can gently brush the gums, using water on a soft baby toothbrush, or clean them with a soft washcloth.
Once there are additional teeth, Largent tells parents to buy infant toothbrushes that are very soft. Brushing should be done twice daily using fluoridated toothpaste.
Flossing should begin when two teeth touch each other. Ask your dentist to show you the right flossing techniques and schedules, Largent says.
Also ask for your dentist's advice on when to start using mouthwash. "I advise parents to wait until the child can definitely spit the mouthwash out," says Mary Hayes, DDS, a pediatric dentist in Chicago and consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. "Mouthwash is a rinse and not a beverage."
So how long until Junior can be responsible for brushing his own teeth? "[Parents] have to clean the teeth until children are able to tie their shoes or write in cursive," says Largent.
During dental visits, ask your dentist if your child's teeth need fluoride protection or a dental sealant.
And remember, the most important time to brush and floss is just before bedtime. No food or drink, except water, should be permitted until the next morning. This allows clean teeth to re-mineralize during the night, from the minerals in the saliva and toothpaste.

Avoid "Baby Bottle Decay"

For years, pediatricians and dentists have been cautioning parents not to put an infant or older child down for a nap with a bottle of juice, formula, or milk.
Even so, says Largent, many parents don't realize this can wreak havoc with their child's oral health.
The sugary liquids in the bottle cling to baby's teeth, providing food for bacteria that live in the mouth. The bacteria produce acids that can trigger tooth decay. Left unchecked, dental disease can adversely affect a child's growth and learning, and can even affect speech.

If you must give your child a bottle to take to bed, make sure it contains only water, according to American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines.

Control the Sippy Cup Habit

Bottles taken to bed aren't the only beverage problem, says Hayes. The other? "Juice given during the day as a substitute for water and milk," Hayes says.
Often, that juice is in a sippy cup. It's meant as a transition cup when a child is being weaned from a bottle and learning to use a regular cup.
Parents mistakenly think juice is a healthy day-long choice for a beverage, say Hayes and Largent. But that's not the case.
Largent says she often sees children walking around all day drinking juices and other sugary beverages from a sippy cup, and that's hazardous to dental health. "Prolonged use of a sippy cup can cause decay on the back of the front teeth," if the beverages are sugary, she says.
Juice consumption has been linked to childhood obesity and the development of tooth decay, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In its current policy statement on preventive oral health, the organization advises parents to limit the intake of 100% fruit juice to no more than four ounces a day. Sugary drinks and foods should be limited to mealtimes.
"Pediatricians I know are telling parents to use juice as a treat," Hayes says.

Ditch the Binky by 2 or 3

Pacifiers used in the first year of life may actually help prevent sudden infant death syndrome, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. They suggest using a pacifier when placing the infant to sleep but not to reinsert once baby has drifted off. Long-term use can be hazardous to dental health. Sucking too strongly on a pacifier, for instance, can affect how the top and bottom teeth line up (the "bite") or can affect the shape of the mouth.
Largent tells parents of her young patients: "Pacifiers are for infants, not for toddlers walking around with them in their mouths." She discourages long-term use of even the "orthodontically correct" pacifiers.
Largent says she prefers that pacifiers be dropped by age 2. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests getting a professional evaluation if the pacifier habit continues beyond age 3.

Beware of Mouth-Unfriendly Medicines

Many medications that children take are flavored and sugary, says Hayes. If they stick on the teeth, the risk for tooth decay goes up.
Children on medications for chronic conditions such as asthma and heart problems often have a higher decay rate, she finds.
Antibiotics and some asthma medications can cause an overgrowth of candida (yeast), which can lead to a fungal infection called oral thrush. Suspect thrush if you see creamy, curd-like patches on the tongue or inside the mouth.
"If your child is on chronic medications, ask your child's dentist how often you should brush," Hayes says. You may be advised to help your child brush as often as four times a day.

Stand Firm on Oral Hygiene

Parents often tell Hayes that their children put up a fuss when it comes time to brush, floss, and rinse, so parents relent and don’t keep up with oral care at home as they should.
Hayes strongly advises these parents to let their children know they don't have a choice about taking care of their teeth and gums.
"It has to be done," Hayes says. But she understands that children can get cranky and difficult. She suggests these tips to coax reluctant brushers and flossers to get the job done -- or if they are too young, to allow their parents to help them do it.
·         Plan to help your children longer than you may think necessary. "Children don't have the fine motor skills to brush their own teeth until about age 6," says Hayes. Flossing skills don't get good until later, probably age 10.
·         Schedule the brushing and flossing and rinsing, if advised, at times when your child is not overly tired. You may get more cooperation from a child who isn't fatigued.
·         Get your child involved in a way that's age-appropriate. For instance, you might let a child who is age 5 or older pick his own toothpaste at the store, from options you approve. You could buy two or three different kinds of toothpaste and let the child choose which one to use each time. You may offer him a choice of toothbrushes, including kid-friendly ones that are brightly colored or decorated.
·         Figure out what motivates your child. A younger child may gladly brush for a sticker, for instance, or gold stars on a chart.