Category Archives: Men’s Health


Watching football on TV can be unhealthy if there’s too much stress, food and booze, says UAB nurse


Lots of Alabamians love to watch football – especially college football – and suffer through the ups and downs of their favorite squads.
In fact, fans in Birmingham watched more football on ESPN last season than ever before.

But a nurse at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) says that the excitement of football can be unhealthy.

“The body doesn’t distinguish between ‘bad’ stress from life or work and ‘good’ stress caused by game-day excitement,” said Jody Gilchrist, a nurse practitioner at the UAB Heart and Vascular Clinic at The Kirklin Clinic at Acton Road, in a UAB news release on Friday. “It impacts your health either way.”

Hard-fought games and tough defeats create heightened sensory inputs that trigger the release of adrenaline, which can reduce blood flow to the heart and other muscles and increase heart rate and blood pressure, according to the news release.

A lot of people also eat too much while watching football, according to Gilchrist. “Some people are stress eaters, and others tend to eat more when watching TV,” she said.

Many armchair quarterbacks may drink too much, as well, which can be a particular danger for heart patients, because alcohol can alter the way heart medications and other drugs work in the body, according to Gilchrist.

And regardless of drug interactions, doctors recommend that people limit their alcohol intake to two drinks per day, for both dietary and behavioral reasons.

“Binge drinking is bad because alcohol contains empty calories,” Gilchrist said. “Since alcohol decreases your inhibitions, you are more likely to overeat or eat things that you might normally avoid.”

Gilchrest suggests substituting light beers for regular beers or mixing a half glass of wine with seltzer to make it go further.

Here are nine other tips to help make football games a healthier experience:

• Minimize stress by watching the game with people you like and enjoy.

• Do out a few push-ups or sit-ups during the commercials.

• Chew gum or squeeze a stress ball to reduce anxiety.

• Take a walk at halftime.

• Manage your net dietary intake by planning ahead and making healthier choices at other times in anticipation of splurging during the game.

• If tailgating at the stadium, try to conserve calories earlier in the day.

• If tailgating at home, consider using vegetables in place of chips for dips, and substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream or cream cheese dips.

• Because sodium causes fluid retention — something especially bad for heart patients — avoid foods that have more than 1 mg of sodium per calorie. Natural foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables generally contain much less, so opt for them whenever possible.

• Avoid sodas, which are extremely high in sodium.




Convenient spray sunscreens may come with allergy risks

sunscreenLet’s go back to the basics.  In the old days we had more ozone protecting us from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun, wrinkles and of course skin cancers.  Now more than ever it’s important to have a proactive sun protection plan in place. My colleague Dr. Henry Lim has often said, “the best sunscreen is one you will use again and again, so be sure to choose one that offers broad-spectrum protection, has an SPF of 30 or higher and is generally water-resistant.”

Individuals who wish to protect their skin often make choices based upon the type of preparation such as oils, pastes, creams, lotions and gels. More recently there has been a trend toward a variety of sunscreen spray products.  In fact, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the inherent risks and health concern of using a “spray” product.  As an allergist, I am also concerned with “inhaling” a spray sunscreen, or any aerosol, if you already have allergies and/or asthma, as the airways and respiratory passages are likely more sensitive.  Any irritant or aerosol particle inhaled can trigger respiratory symptoms such as cough and/or asthma.

Consumer Reports has even gone further and recommended, “While the FDA completes its analysis, spray sunscreen products should generally not be used by or on children.” They also suggest that if no other product is available, to avoid spraying on or around the face or mouth when using them.  The question is whether spraying the sunscreen on your hands and then applying it on your skin will reduce the “misting” or inhalation of the chemicals.  Additionally, the FDA has also become aware of incidents in which spray sunscreen products resulted in burns when they are used near a flame source.

Bottom line: Sunscreens are an extremely valuable and useful product that can certainly reduce exposure of harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Thanks to their UVA-blocking effects, they may also help prevent wrinkles. Remember, another big mistake is to not use enough— the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using at least one ounce of sunscreen to cover all sun-exposed areas.

Remember, one in five of us will be diagnosed with skin cancer, so be prepared this summer and use your sunscreen, especially on high UV index days.



Experts say risk of over-hydration is rare but deadly

BubblerFootball coaches always stress the importance of staying hydrated to players during those hot summer practices.

But can you become over-hydrated?

The death of a high school football player in metro Atlanta has attracted attention to athletes’ efforts to stay hydrated high temperatures.

According to his doctor, Zyrees Oliver died after drinking too much fluid during football practice.

“We get out in full pads. It gets scorching hot,” said David Mitchell, a Minor High School Football player.

Mitchell knows the importance of staying hydrated during practice. “Right after we exercise, we drink water. After we run, we drink water,” said Mitchell. “Constantly drinking water.”

What players might not pay attention is how much fluid they’re drinking.

Too much water, doctors say, can lead to swelling around the brain from over-hydration.

That’s what the doctor for Zyrees Oliver says happened after he drank two gallons of water and two gallons of sports drink during football practice.

“You’re basically flooding out,” said Dr. Cherie Miner.

Dr. Miner is with Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center. She says a large amount of water during a short period of time depletes sodium levels in your body, which causes all the water to shift throughout the body.

“You can’t pee it out fast enough,” said Dr. Miner. “It goes into your cells in your body. When it goes into the cells of your brain, the brain expands causing your brain to herniated. Therefore cause brain death. It’s acute onset. All of a sudden they’ll start to feel nauseas , get confused, may show swelling of hand, feet and arms.”

Dr. Miner says over-hydration is very rare. She says college players use salt replacement products to regulate their bodies during practice. Dr. Miner advises high school football players to drink frequent, small amounts of water to prevent over-hydration.

And she says what’s unknown is whether or not the player in Georgia had some other medical condition, which could have also had something to do with his death.



‘Fist bump’ may beat handshake for cleanliness

HandshakeBritish researchers report that an alternative to the traditional handshake might spread far fewer germs around.

In their experiments, the scientists found that clasping hands transferred about 10 times more germs from one person to the other than what is known as a fist bump. They suggest the more casual exchange might suffice as a cultural substitute for the firm gripping of hands.

The findings are published in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

“Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious diseases between individuals,” corresponding author David Whitworth, a researcher with the Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom, said in a journal news release.

“It is unlikely that a no-contact greeting could supplant the handshake,” Whitworth acknowledged. “However, for the sake of improving public health we encourage further adoption of the fist bump as a simple, free and more hygienic alternative to the handshake.”

One expert in the United States agreed.

“From a medical and social viewpoint, fist bumping is the way to go in exchanging social pleasantries while decreasing the transmission of bacteria and viruses — everything from common colds to MRSA can be transmitted by handshakes,” said Dr. Sampson Davis, an emergency room physician at The Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, N.J.

“We touch door knobs and hand rails multiple times throughout the day,” he said. “We sneeze and cough into our hands and then we shake hands which serves as a transport of transmission of these germs. The fist bump is a quick interaction and decreases germ transmission.”

However, another expert was not convinced by the new findings.

“Hand-to-hand contact is a known way of spreading germs,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “The issue is that unwashed hands carry germs, and the recipient touches their face and introduces germs into the body. Hand bumping may not be better insurance against spreading infection,” he added.

To test what type of greeting might spread the most germs from one hand to another, one researcher would dip a gloved hand into a container brimming with a fairly harmless strain of E. coli bacteria. That researcher would then shake, fist bump or high-five the gloved, but clean, hand of another researcher. The glove that had been germ-free to start with was then tested for levels of E. coli bacteria.

The handshake turned out to be the dirtiest exchange of all, spreading twice as many germs as a high-five and about 10 times as many germs as a fist bump, the investigators found.

Using paint in a second round of tests, the researchers found that more of each person’s hand touched the other person’s hand in a handshake, and that they tended to last longer. They theorized that those two facts might explain why handshakes are the least sanitary exchange.

This latest finding broadens the recent call from the Journal of the American Medical Association to ban handshakes in hospitals, according to the news release.

Health care providers can spread harmful germs to patients through hand contact, and lead to health care-associated infections, which are one of the leading causes of preventable harm and death in the United States, the news release said.

One in 25 hospitalized patients develops such an infection, and 75,000 patients with these infections die during their hospitalization each year, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



Alzheimer’s rate falling in the U.S.

BrainscanThe number of new cases of dementia has been declining in recent decades in the United States, Germany and other developed countries, a trio of new studies shows.

In one U.S. study, researchers found that compared with the late 1970s, the rate of dementia diagnosis was 44 percent lower in recent years. The sharpest decline was seen among people in their 60s.

A second study, which reviewed research from England, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States, found a similar pattern. The third study, meanwhile, found signs of progress in the space of only a few years: In 2004, older German adults were about one-quarter more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than in 2007.

“This is some good news,” said Dean Hartley, director of science initiatives for the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association. The three studies are being presented Tuesday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“We hope this data is saying, ‘There are things we can do to change this,’ ” Hartley added, referring to the huge human and financial toll of dementia worldwide.

In the United States alone, about 5.2 million people have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. And the cost of caring for all of them is expected to total $214 billion this year.

Why is the rate of new dementia cases apparently dipping? Better cardiovascular health could be one reason, said Claudia Satizabal, a researcher at Boston University School of Medicine, who led the U.S. study.

Her team found that over the years, people’s average blood pressure and cholesterol levels improved, and their rates of smoking, heart disease and stroke declined.

Hartley said that is a plausible explanation. A number of studies have linked better cardiovascular health to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s — possibly because a healthy heart and blood vessels are more efficient at delivering oxygen and energy to brain cells.

“What’s good for the heart is also good for the brain,” Hartley said.

Another potential factor: In general, people are better educated now than they were decades ago, and many studies have linked higher education levels to a lower Alzheimer’s risk, or later onset of the disease.

It’s possible, according to Hartley, that education is just a marker of some other protective factor. But he also pointed to the “cognitive reserve” theory.

According to that theory, people who are more educated may be able to function normally, even when the brain begins to take on Alzheimer’s-linked changes — those abnormal protein deposits known as “plaques” and “tangles.”

Basically, their brains may be better equipped to compensate for that damage, by recruiting alternative brain-cell networks, for example. And, Hartley said, it’s thought that the same could be true of older people who stay mentally active — by reading, taking classes, playing games or socializing.

Satizabal said her study has some limitations, including the fact that the participants were mainly white Massachusetts residents. “We don’t know if the results would be the same in African Americans, or Asian or Hispanic Americans,” she said.

And while there were positive trends in conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the reverse was true when it came to obesity and diabetes — which grew more common over time.

The decline in dementia is “great news,” Satizabal said, but it might have been even better were it not for the rising rates of obesity and diabetes.

“It’s important to manage cardiovascular risk factors while you’re young,” Satizabal said. “Don’t wait until you’re older.”

And as for the link between education and dementia, she agreed with Hartley that mentally stimulating activities may be key. “You don’t have to have a Ph.D. to be mentally active throughout your life,” Satizabal said.

What’s really needed are clinical trials that test the idea that lifestyle choices and better cardiovascular health can stave off dementia, Hartley noted. And those trials are already under way, he said. A study in Finland is looking at whether diet changes, physical and mental exercise, and social activities can forestall dementia in older adults who have an increased risk.

More information

The Alzheimer’s Association has more on cutting dementia risk.




10 easy tips for eating healthy while on the road or on vacation this summer

waterSticking to a diet or eating healthy can be tough when you step out of your normal routine and go on vacation.

But it’s possible to eat mostly healthy food even while you’re on the road or at the beach this summer.

Laura Newton, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), offers these 10 suggestions:

Plan ahead: “Choose foods to take in the car, eat before arriving at the airport and consider the options available upon arrival at the destination,” Newton said in a UAB news release this week.

Keep it on ice: Put a cooler in the car and pack it with such healthy treats as fruit, yogurt, water, cut-up vegetables and sandwiches on whole-grain bread.

Eat this, not that: Make the best food choices you can when you’re on the road. At convenience stores, go for yogurt, fresh fruit, fruit cups or nuts (which are good in moderation.) At burger joints, the most simply prepared items are the healthiest choices, according to Newton. She suggests a plain hamburger with lettuce and tomatoes or a grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes. You can also hold the mayo and dressing and choose kid-size portions.

Don’t eat out all the time: If possible, rent a hotel room or vacation home with a refrigerator and stock it with good food. “It can be easier to eat healthful meals when cooking yourself,” Newton said.

Moderation, moderation: Try not to miss meals, because this can cause you to overeat at the next meal. “Pack a cooler for the beach and take water, fruit, maybe some nuts and string cheese,” Newton said. “This type of mini-meal is easily portable and can help tide people over until they can have a regular meal.”

Go ahead, be good to yourself: Don’t feel you have to completely give up favorite vacation foods. “You should definitely indulge, but in moderation, maybe one small treat a day or one splurge day during the week,” Newton said. “Ask for a small portion of the regional favorite or order from the appetizer menu.”

Start restaurant meals with salad or veggies: “This will help fill you up so you don’t eat more of a higher-calorie item,” Newton said. “Ask for extra vegetables or substitute another vegetable in place of a starch.”

Search the web: Look online for restaurants in the area you’re visiting. Review the menus in advance and decide what to eat before you go.

Drink lots of water: People often mistake dehydration for hunger, according to Newton.

Stay active! “This doesn’t need to be strenuous exercise, such as running or lifting weights, but do go sightseeing on foot or take a hike, swim in the pool or at the beach,” Newton said.

By:  Jesse Chambers



10 Tips for Fall Fitness

How many New Year’s Eves have you spent sipping champagne and vowing to get more fit in the coming year? And how many times have you failed to follow through?

“December 31 over a drink is too late to set goals and make promises,” says Justin Price, owner of The Biomechanics, a personal training and wellness coaching facility in San Diego, Calif.

Fall, on the other hand, is a great time to start a fitness program because “‘you’re going to create good habits for the holiday season and the upcoming winter months,” says Price.

Chris Freytag, a fitness instructor and fitness expert with Prevention magazine, agrees.

“With the change of seasons comes a renewed time to rethink and restart,” she says. “‘What’s so special about January?”

Besides, says Freytag, a mother of three, moms with school-aged kids “think of September as the new year.”

Here are 10 ways to start making the most of the season. And who knows? This year, you might be in great shape before that New Year’s Eve party rolls around.

1. Take advantage of the weather. Fall can be a treat for the senses: the crisp air, apple picking, pumpkin carving, a gorgeous canopy of fall foliage, and the crunch of leaves underfoot. These months are a great time to exercise outdoors and enjoy cooler temperatures.

“Walking, hiking and cycling are all awesome in the fall,” says Todd Durkin, MS, fitness coach and owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, Calif.

Discover park trails and take in some new scenery, whether you’re walking, biking, or in-line skating, he suggests.

In places where snow falls early, try cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Or, if you live near the beach, get out and play volleyball, throw the Frisbee around, or play a vigorous game of fetch with your dog.

“It’s a great time to do beach activities because it’s so much less crowded,” says Price.

If you’re near a lake, try kayaking or canoeing, for an excellent whole-body workout and a great change of pace.

And remember, it doesn’t have to seem like exercise to be a great workout.

“Raking leaves or doing some fall outdoor yard work is a great way to get the heart pumping, and it’s great calorie-burning,” says Freytag.

2. Think outside the box. Always wanted to learn to tap dance? Attempt to box? Master the jump rope? Ask any schoolchild: Fall is a great time to learn something new.

Many classes at gyms and elsewhere get started in the fall, so look around and see if something intrigues you.

And with the kids in school, parents have more time to check out those classes, Freytag says.

Fall is the perfect time to gain new physical skills, Price says, because you burn fewer calories when you begin a new activity (thanks to the learning curve). If you learn something new now, by next summer, you’ll have mastered the skill — and you’ll burn more calories doing it, just in time for swimsuit season.

3. Be an active TV watcher. Many people get geared up for fall premieres of their favorite television shows, says Freytag. “If you’re going to sit down and watch hours of TV, get moving,” she suggests. “Make a date with exercise and TV.”

While you watch, you can walk or run in place, do standing lunges, do tricep dips off the couch, or lift weights. During commercials, do push-ups or sit-ups. In a one-hour show, you probably have close to 20 minutes worth of commercial interruption.

4. Integrate exercise into your life. You already know the obvious suggestions: park farther away from your destination; take stairs instead of elevators; take a walk during your lunch break. Here are a few that are less obvious:

– If you’re spending the afternoon taking kids to soccer practice, instead of reading a book or visiting with another parent, “why not walk around the outside of the field while they practice?”, suggests Price. “Or (if you feel comfortable) warm up and cool down with the kids.”

– Or try “walking meetings,” like those Price and his colleagues at Biomechanics often hold. ‘”We go for a walk, we brainstorm, and we figure out who’s going to take what responsibilities,” says Price. “‘Things get achieved much more quickly,” he says, and everyone feels better for doing it.

– You can even get moving while you get motivated — for fitness or other life goals. ‘”Get some inspirational music or find a motivational talk and download it to your iPod,” suggests Durkin. Walk while you listen for 30 minutes.

5. Rejuvenate yourself. Fall is the time to rejuvenate body, mind and spirit, says Durkin. Get a massage after your run. Learn to meditate. Take an art class. Treat yourself not just with exercise but other activities that promote wellness, he says, so you can feel good physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

6. Remember the 30-day rule. “‘It takes about four weeks for the body to adapt to lifestyle changes,” says Price. That’s why people who give up on their fitness programs tend to do so within the first 30 days.

So, when the alarm goes off in the morning and it’s darker and colder, don’t roll over and hit the snooze button.

“Try to stick with a program for a month,” Price says. “After a month, behavior patterns will have adapted and it will be much easier to stick with it after that.”

7. Strive for the 3 Cs. Freytag calls commitment, convenience, and consistency “the three Cs”, and says having all three will lead to a successful fitness program.

First, exercise takes commitment. When a client complains to Freytag about a lack of time, she responds: “Tell me something I haven’t heard before. We’re all busy; that’s just part of our lives.

“You have to start planning exercise, just like you do everything else,” like meetings, dinners, and getting kids to lessons and practice, she says. “Put in on the calendar, because later always turns into never.”

Convenience means choosing a gym that’s close by, or an activity you can do at home, or a time when you’re not likely to be interrupted.

Finally, there’s consistency. “I’d rather see a brand-new client work out for 10 minutes a day rather than one hour every month,” Freytag says

8. Deal with darkness. The best way to enjoy fall is to exercise outdoors. But it is getting darker earlier, and staying dark later in the morning, so be smart and safe.

“Just because it’s 6 p.m. (or a.m.) and dark doesn’t mean you can’t work out,” says Durkin. If walking or running outdoors, he says, “wear a reflective vest and carry a flashlight.”

When cycling, affix a light to your helmet or bike.

If possible, use trails or a local school track to avoid vehicle traffic. Try to work out at the same time every day, so drivers get used to seeing you.

9. Dress in layers. When exercising outside, layer your clothing. Before your body warms up, you may feel chilled, but once the blood gets pumping, you’ll feel overdressed.

These days, there’s no lack of great weather gear. Freytag and Price recommend clothing with wicking, often called “DriFit.”‘ This fabric wicks moisture away from your skin so you’re not exercising with wet fabric hanging on you.

Freytag suggests three layers: “The inner layer should be a moisture-wicking fabric, so it wicks away sweat and you’re not chilled. The second layer should be a warmth layer, and the third layer should be a protective layer (like a windbreaker or rain slicker, depending on the weather).”

“And don’t forget the sunglasses,” she warns. UV protection is important year round. Fall sun can be blinding at certain times of the day.

10. Find your motivation. “People are motivated by different things,” says Durkin. It’s important to first discover what your individual goals are, whether it’s losing weight, strengthening and toning, or preparing for a race or event, says Durkin.

But goals aren’t enough to get you there; you have to be motivated by the day-to-day workouts, he says. So choose something you’ll enjoy doing and will be likely to keep up, whether it’s walking or hiking with a friend, working with a trainer, or taking part in a “boot camp” class.

Creating a challenge for yourself will motivate you, as will encouragement and accountability, he adds. “You want to know when you’re doing a good job, and when you’re not,” says Durkin.

Remember too, that anything worth having takes work.

“Tell me something you can do three times a week for 10 minutes and be great at? It doesn’t exist,” he says. “If it was easy to be great, everybody would be great.”


WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Stressed at work? Look out for your heart

People who have highly demanding jobs and little freedom to make decisions are 23 percent more likely to have a heart attack compared with their less stressed out colleagues, according to research published on Friday.

But lighting up a cigarette or remaining chained to your desk rather than getting out to do some exercise is far more damaging for your heart health, researchers said.

A study of nearly 200,000 people from seven European countries found around 3.4 percent of heart attacks can be attributed to job strain – a significant proportion, but far less than the 36 percent attributable to smoking and 12 percent put down to lack of exercise.

For the study, which was published online in The Lancet medical journal, researchers analyzed job strain in employees who had no previous coronary heart disease (CHD).

Participants completed questionnaires about their job demands, workload, the level of time-pressure demands and their freedom to make decisions.

“Our findings indicate that job strain is associated with a small, but consistent, increased risk of experiencing a first CHD event such as a heart attack,” said Mika Kivimaki from University College London, who led the research.

Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the findings confirmed that being under stress at work and being unable to change the situation could increase the risk of developing heart disease.

But he noted they also showed the negative effects of workplace strain are much smaller than the damage caused by smoking or lack of exercise.

“Though stresses at work may be unavoidable, how you deal with these pressures is important, and lighting up a cigarette is bad news for your heart,” he said in an emailed comment.

“Eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and quitting smoking will more than offset any risk associated with your job.”

SOURCE: The Lancet, online September 14, 2012.