Fasting: Good for the Heart

To Your Health
January, 2020 (Vol. 14, Issue 01)

By Editorial Staff

Fasting is a buzzword these days because of its potential benefits when it comes not only to weight loss, but also overall health and longevity. Fasting also may be a literal lifesaver for patients who have a heart condition that requires cardiac catheterization – a procedure in which a long, thin tube is threaded from an artery or vein in the groin, neck or arm through blood vessels to the heart.

Catheterization may be done to diagnose a cardiovascular condition, but it also may be done to help treat one, such as in the case of coronary angioplasty or stenting. Regardless, a patient who requires cardiac catheterization generally doesn’t have an altogether healthy heart, which increases the risk of a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke.

heart - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Enter fasting, which research suggests lowers the risk of heart failure or cardiac-related death in patients who’ve undergone catheterization. Among patients tracked for nearly five years following the procedure, those who fasted on a regular basis were more likely to survive compared to patients who did not fast. Other factors that could have impacted survival rates, such as medications, lifestyle behaviors (including heart healthy vs. risky behaviors) and other health issues were taken into account.

Balancing the Brain

To Your Health
January, 2020 (Vol. 14, Issue 01)

By Editorial Staff

Balance and brain health are two important health variables that can suffer dramatically as we age. Fortunately, research suggests improving one can benefit the other, particularly in terms of their interaction.

Researchers have found that senior patients who perform balance exercises improve brain neuroplasticity – essentially the brain’s ability to restructure itself – and reduce cortical overactivation, both of which can benefit overall balance.

In their study, a summary of which appears in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, researchers divided older adults (average age, 65 years) into three groups: one that performed classic balance exercises, another that performed virtual reality balance exercises, and a control group. The study lasted 12 weeks, and neuroimaging studies were conducted at the beginning and end of the 12-week training period.

balancing - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

In reviewing their findings, the researchers concluded: “With age, postural control may become more consciously controlled (cortically). Systematic [balance training] of moderate intensity may reverse age-related cortical over-activations and appear to be a factor mediating neuroplasticity in older adults.” They also found that classical balance exercises significantly increased serum BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), important because “aging or neurodegenerative diseases are associated with a decrease in BDNF expression.” [Italics added]

Getting older? As your doctor for help developing a balance / posture program. Good for your body, good for your brain!

A Pain in the Neck

To Your Health
September, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 09)

By John Hanks, DC Far too often, people attribute neck pain to stress and take medication to mask the symptoms. Sound familiar? Fortunately, if you’re a chiropractic patient, you know there’s a better, safer way.

My neck feels OK right now. I can turn my head left and right and down and back. (Well, that bending back thing actually doesn’t feel very good right now.) So, maybe my neck does get a little annoying sometimes. But I have no idea when this periodic discomfort started.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. A report published earlier this year in the medical journal Spine revealed many people are often a little hazy on when their neck pain started. This monumental study, sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), started about seven years ago. WHO launched the Bone and Joint Decade and assigned a special task force the job of reviewing all the research about neck and associated disorders, and then evaluating the best treatment options. They reviewed 31,878 citations, 1,203 reviewed papers and four research projects – it makes me tired just thinking about it.

Neck Pain - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Sure enough, most people often don’t remember when their neck discomfort or pain really got started. Researchers concluded, “There is usually no single cause of neck pain.” Unless you have had an injury to your neck like “whiplash” from an auto accident, neck pain usually sneaks up on you. The study notes neck pain is quite common, and most people simply carry on with their activities of daily living. However, about 5 percent to 10 percent of people develop debilitating symptoms. Unfortunately, even among those folks who do not have disabling pain, the majority find their neck pain is stubborn and recurrent to some degree.

The task force also came up with a new classification of neck pain, which seems to be one of those things researchers like to do. They suggested four grades of neck problems, no matter whether it comes from injury, arthritis or any other cause. To paraphrase:

Grade I: Neck pain that doesn’t interfere with living.
Grade II: Neck pain that does significantly interfere with living.
Grade III:
Neck pain associated with a “pinched nerve,” causing radiating pain, weakness or numbness in the arm.
Grade IV: Neck pain associated with tumors, infections, fractures and other serious conditions.

As you might guess, most neck discomfort is Grade I and II. However, what was quite gratifying from the task force report was the acknowledgement of what doctors of chiropractic already know: “Cervical manipulation is a reasonable option for people with Grade I or II neck pain.”

On a near-daily basis, a patient with a significant neck disorder tells me their pain has decreased and they are more functional as a result of chiropractic care. Recently, a patient with chronic neck pain told me he had been sleeping in a recliner chair since he could not get comfortable enough in bed to sleep through the night. “Hands-on” manual treatment in my office finally improved his condition to the point he could once again join his wife (and their Rottweiler) in bed.

Chiropractors “adjust” the joints, muscles and connective tissues of the body in order to improve motion by reducing restrictions and nerve irritation. Concerning patients with Grade III neck problems including “pinching” or crowding of larger nerves, the Spine article suggests more research is needed to identify the best candidates for manual or manipulative treatment. Of course, chiropractors are the recognized experts in this type of care and are best trained to make that determination.

The renewed interest in neck disorders among clinical researchers has spurred some interesting studies. In the March/April issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT), Canadian scientists have shown that arthritis in the neck might affect balance. This could mean that in cases of poor balance or repeated falls among the elderly, treatment of the cervical spine might have value. This could represent a “top down” strategy, which is a bit different from the “bottom up” approach to balance training more commonly utilized in rehabilitation.

Neck Pain - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

In the February issue of JMPT, a complementary study by New Zealand and Canadian researchers suggested spinal manipulation of the neck can relax muscles in the arms and could be useful in relaxation of the whole body. This implies anything causing tightness in the neck joints also might cause muscle pain in the arms or elsewhere. Since manipulation and manual therapy are primary treatments for neck problems, a doctor of chiropractic should be among the first providers consulted for this type of pain.

So, how fast can a patient with neck pain expect to feel better with chiropractic care? By chance, in the same March issue of JMPT, British authors studied which neck symptoms might respond the quickest to hands-on treatment. Overall, considering all possible neck area complaints, about 70 percent of patients reported immediate favorable responses to manipulation. However, if patients complained about more specific things like headaches, shoulder or arm pain, reduced arm or neck movement, neck pain, or upper or middle back pain, the percentage of those who reported immediate improvement in pain rose to an incredible 95 percent!

The popular humorist Nora Ephron wrote a book titled I Feel Bad About My Neck, in which she describes her thoughts about being a woman getting older. This also has been called the “I Hate My Neck” book. Well, hating your neck won’t make it better, but chances are a trip to the chiropractor will.

John Hanks, DC, is a board-certified chiropractic orthopedist and is certified as a chiropractic sports physician. He currently serves as the senior chiropractic consultant in the Department of Complementary Medicine, Kaiser Permanente, Rocky Mountain Region.

Starting Them Off Wrong

To Your Health
January, 2020 (Vol. 14, Issue 01)

By Editorial Staff

Our children are consuming far too much sugar and they’re starting at an increasingly younger age. That’s a big problem because excess sugar, particularly if it doesn’t come from a natural, whole-food source such as fruit (although too much fruit sugar isn’t good for you, either) can contribute to the same health issues it causes in adults: weight gain, diabetes, cavities and more.

How bad is it? A recent study examined added sugar consumption among U.S. infants and toddlers (ages 6-23 months), using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Findings, which were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, revealed that during the study window (2011-2016), 84.4 percent of infants and toddlers consumed added sugars on any given day. Yogurt, baby food snacks / treats and sweet bakery products topped the list for infants, while fruit drinks, sugars / sweets and sweet bakery products led the way for toddlers.

baby birthday - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Overall, toddlers were more likely to consume added sugars than infants, although the likelihood was high in both groups (98.3 percent of toddlers vs. 60.6 percent of infants). Average daily consumption of added sugars.

If you haven’t noticed, sources of added sugar are everywhere. That reality raises two important points: 1) The more you can teach children of any age to avoid added sugar, the better; and 2) If you don’t, they’ll be more likely to suffer the health consequences of living in a sugar-filled world. For American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines on sugar consumption for infants and young children, including ways to satisfy their sweet tooth without added sugar, click here.