Hip Flexors for Your Healthy Lower Back: There are two big muscles that you’ve never heard about until you develop excruciating, throbbing, and wicked low back pain. They let you know about their existence immediately. They’re called the hip flexors. They’re two big muscle groups located deep behind the lower abdomen. The top of the muscles are attached to the lumbar spine and the bottom of the muscles are attached all the way to the femur below the hip.
They’re huge muscles. Their sole purpose is to support your back and keep you upright. As we evolved from four-legged crawling creatures to two-legged human beings, the hip flexors became the muscles of choice to keep us upright. The problem is that we sit all day in front of a desk doing computer work or watching TV or whatever, and the hip flexors become tight and contracted. So when we bend over to pick something up or twist in the wrong way, we develop sudden onset pain in the lower back shooting down the leg and sometimes all the way to the big toe. We can’t get up and can’t sit down, but surprisingly we can walk standing straight and tall. It’s not the spine or the lumbar vertebra – they’re solid. It’s those pesky hip flexors. They were tight and suddenly became tight to the extreme by going into uncontrolled spasm. And, they don’t let up. They cause all types of collateral damage – firing peripheral muscle groups, and worse, pulling and inflaming nearby spinal nerves causing the local back pain and the referred lower leg pain. Stretching, deep muscle therapy, and physical therapy can help by gradually relieving the muscle spasm. You must be patient as there are many muscles and nerves involved so it will take several days. And it will recur again because sitting all day will result in the tight hip flexors that go into spasmodic contraction at the smallest hint of stress. Prevention is the ultimate answer. Keep the back straight. Keep those hip flexors loose and strong. This is done by taking standing and walking breaks and a ceiling stretch at least once an hour or preferable every half hour. There are several hip flexor body core exercises that you can do, and it can be part of your routine daily work out. Manage those hip flexors properly, and you will banish low back pain from your life. Visit www.eplerhealth.com for ongoing news about exercise and managing your health.
NUTRITION MANAGEMENT: 5 STEPS TO PORTION CONTROL
How many times have you marveled or envied someone who has a healthy weight and seems to eat whatever they want?
Oh, they’re just lucky, you think. Or they have the right genes or a fast metabolism.
My suspicion? It’s not luck, they work at it. They pay attention. No one can really eat whatever and whenever they want. It’s not healthy. People need to eat the highest quality, healthy food in the right amount and at the right time.
A big part of paying attention is in the amount of food they eat, and this translates into calories consumed. In You’re the Boss: Manage Your Disease, Dr. Epler writes that “increasing portion sizes have resulted in increased calorie intake. The number of calories in many prepared foods have doubled or quadrupled during the past 20 years. A typical muffin used to have 100 calories, and now the gigantic and inviting tasty muffin can have 400 calories or more. It’s an old concept, but paying attention to calories is still useful for maintaining a healthy weight.”
It’s important not to confuse the words portions and servings. A portion is the amount of food you put on your plate. A serving? That’s the specific amount of food defined by common measurements (like cups or tablespoons). But if you regularly take large portions, you may be getting more than you bargain for: the serving size climbs (sometimes to unknown and unexpected levels), resulting in too many calories and too much fat. The end result is unwanted weight gain.
Simply put, portion control is limiting what you eat; being aware of how much food you are actually consuming. With a little practice, it’s easy to do. So we came up with 5 Steps to Portion Control.
- Measure accurately. Keep your measuring cups, tablespoon and teaspoons handy – and use them.
- Learn what sizes mean. Associate common objects with serving sizes: a deck of cards is approximately a 3-ounce serving of cooked meat, fish or poultry; a half-cup is the size of an ice cream scoop; one cup is the size of a tennis ball; a 1-ounce piece of cheese is the size of a domino; one vegetable serving is about the size of a baseball.
- When eating out, take out. Restaurants are notorious for serving large amounts of food that go way over the recommended serving sizes. To prevent temptation to eat it all, ask for a container when your food comes, then scoop half of it into the container and take it home. Not only will you be eating a more reasonable portion size, you won’t have to cook the following night! Or if you like, order one entre for two of you, share it with your spouse or friend. Many restaurants will bring the entre on two plates already split in half for you, and these days, it’s usually plenty of food.
- Watch your plate (size). It’s easy to fill up a plate and eat mindlessly. Instead of filling up a standard 12-inch dinner plate, swap it for a smaller, 8-or-9-inch plate. Or, if you don’t have a smaller plate available, divide your large plate in half, filling up one half with vegetables; then divide the other half in half again and use one-half for your protein source and the other half for your starchy foods or carbohydrates.
- Don’t eat out of the bag. Rather than sitting with that bag of popcorn (it’s low-fat, you think, so it’s safe, right?), measure out a serving and put it in a pretty bowl, then dig in and enjoy. You won’t eat until the bag is empty; chances are you’ll slow down and savor what’s in the bowl and be satisfied to leave the bag in the pantry for tomorrow’s treat.
You might also want to read:
Take Control of Your Sodium (Salt) Intake http://epler.com/blog/diet
Exercise Your Way to Health http://epler.com/blog/exercise
Things to Look For in a Prescription Medication Label
According to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report, about 1.5 million preventable medication errors are made each year.
Prescription drugs are a double-edge sword. They can treat and manage diseases, making it possible to lead a better life. But if you take them incorrectly, forget to take them, or take them with other drugs that could diminish or exaggerate their effect, there could be serious and dangerous consequences. More than 500,000 Americans misinterpret instructions on a prescription drug label every year, leading to millions of needless hospital admissions and emergency room visits.
Details of what is on the label, other than the patient’s name and dosage instructions, vary by state. You may be sent home with pages upon pages of instructions and warnings about the drug you are taking. This is helpful information if you read it, but the print may too small or the language too technical to interpret, so most people rely solely on the information printed on the label.
That’s why it’s helpful to have easy-to-read and easy-to-understand labels. Some pharmacies have tried to help consumers. For example, triangular containers that stand on their caps leave a wide area on the front and back for information in large typeface, including multiple warnings and instructions. There may also be a color-coded system that makes it easier for family members to distinguish one person’s medication from another’s.
How can you protect yourself against errors? Here are some Things to Look For in a Prescription Medication Label, from some authorities that set standards for prescription medications – the U.S. Pharmacopeia and the Institute for Safe Medicine Practices. You may be able to find a pharmacy that adheres to some of their suggestions.
- Drug information is typed in easy-to-read 12-point type, about the size of which you see here. Your name, drug name, and drug instructions should be included in the largest type.
- Warnings typed directly onto patient labels in large typeface. The colorful warning stickers that sometimes appear on the sides of the bottle are read by fewer than 10 percent of people, according to research.
- Both the generic and brand name of the drug need to be listed. This will help you know if you have been prescribed the same drug from two different doctors; one who prescribed the brand name and one who prescribed the generic version.
- Images or physical descriptions of the pills in the container. It’s easy to spot a mistake if you see a picture of a round white pill, but inside the bottle you see an oval-shaped blue one.
- No extra zeroes. This means that 5 mg of a medication should not be written as “5.0.” This could lead to a patient mistakenly remembering the dosage as 50 mg instead of 5 mg.
Reading and understanding your medication labels can help you successfully manage your health.
3 Tips to Boost Your Energy
Fatigue can really get you down, not only physically, but emotionally, too. Not only does a lack of energy sap your body of any forward motion, it can impair your performance by making you feel depressed and unmotivated.
Fatigue can have many different causes, among them chronic infections, anemia, kidney disease, congestive heart failure, hormonal disorders and cancer; overexertion, certain medications, and stress or lack of sleep. Some are serious, underlying problems that require medical attention, while others can be due to physical changes that go along with aging, or a result of a habit or routine.
But take heart: once you face the problem and get treatment your energy level will rebound. So, We came up with 3 tips to boost your energy:
- Get off the couch. Exhaustion may be a good excuse – or a good reason – for heading straight for the couch. But according to studies, light exercise – as little as 10 minutes a day – can replenish energy levels and help beat the “blahs” more than taking it easy can. Rather than making you more fatigued, a leisurely stroll is oftentimes enough to boost energy levels.
- Examine your sleep habits. By some estimates, people sleep 20% less now than they did a century ago. Mental stresses, insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea all can contribute to restless nights, leaving you feeling worn out the next day. Evaluating your habits (do you snore or have breathing pauses during sleep?), ensuring you get enough sleep (most adults require between 7 and 8 hours per night) and examining your personal habits (do you drink too much caffeine? Use a computer right before bedtime?) will help you come up with a useful strategy toward increased energy.
- De-Stress. A busy, stressful day can create enough tension in your body to use up a lot of energy. And rare (and lucky!) is the person who doesn’t have multiple days of endless demands put upon their minds and bodies. Deep breathing, yoga, meditation, listening to music or doing something you love can help you relax and break the pattern.
5 Ways to Prevent a Cold
When the leaves start to change their colors and fall from the trees it’s a signal things are moving toward winter. Time to trade in your sandals for shoes; time to bring out the hats and scarves (at least for those of us not lucky enough to live in the more temperate climates of the south). And it’s also the time to make sure you are well stocked with tissues; we tend to get more colds in the colder winter months than in the warmer ones. Why? One likely explanation: we are indoors more often in poorly-ventilated areas during the winter, and this atmosphere is much friendlier to airborne viruses, playing a willing host to their transmission. And respiratory viruses (including the ones that cause the flu) are highly contagious, surviving – and being transmitted – for long periods of time via furniture, doorknobs, and innocent handshakes.
But the jury is out, and no one seems to be able to prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – that this is the case. Some scientists place the blame on psychological stress. They say that wintertime blues, caused by decreased sunlight and freezing cold temperatures, can cause depression, which in turn lowers the immune system’s response, making it more difficult to fight off the cold germ. Others contend that while a summer cold is often as “sinusitis,” a winter cold is seen as more “serious,” and defined as such.
The bad news is that there are no known cures for colds. But the good news is that there are ways toward preventing one. Short of becoming a hermit, refusing to greet people with a handshake, or living outdoors no matter how cold it may get, here’s a simple list of 5 Ways to Prevent a Cold:
- Lather Up. Good hand washing goes a long way to preventing the spread of germs. Whether it be alcohol-based gels, antibacterial soaps or just plain soap and water, being vigilant with your hand washing – especially during cold and flu season – could mean the difference between being laid up with a cold and remaining germ-free. Remember, your hands can pick up germs not just from other people, but from things like phone receivers and keyboards, where germs can survive for hours or sometimes longer.
- Don’t touch your face. The eyes, nose or mouth make perfect receptacles for cold and flu viruses
- Don’t use your hands to cover sneezes and coughs. Instead, grab a tissue or cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow. Germs and viruses can cling to your bare hands, resulting in you innocently passing along your germs to other people.
- Eat healthfully. To keep your immune system balanced and running at its best, include high-quality protein like fish, lean meats and beans; brightly colored fruits and vegetables and plenty of omega-3 rich foods like fatty fish (such as salmon, herring or tuna), walnuts and flaxseed.
- Don’t skimp on sleep. Research has found that people who get less than seven hours of sleep were about three times more likely to get a cold than people who slept hours or more hours per night. And the quality of your sleep matters, too: tossing and turning increases your risk of catching a cold more than it does for a sound sleeper.
You can manage your health. Use these five steps to prevent colds.