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Health Q&A

Posted October 24, 2012 in Altoona, Advice Column, Pleasant Hill

Q: How can I find relief from back pain?

A: Back pain is often precipitated by weakening of the core muscles. These muscles, which include the abdominals as well as the muscles in the back, hips and pelvis, control the body while the arms and legs are moving and working. When one or more of the core muscles are weak, the group no longer works in harmony and our backs can feel the effects.

We often think that going to the gym or doing “ab” work at home is going to help. In fact, it may do just the opposite. Bad form or incorrect exercises can worsen back pain, making you more susceptible to other injuries; so learning the correct way to train the core muscles with proper technique is important. Physical therapy can help isolate the weak musculature and train the muscles to work in sequence to support and protect your body. Known as core stabilization, it keeps your spine and body stable, helping you stay balanced when you move. Core stability benefits everyone, and may be effective for various health conditions, including back pain. If you would like more information on how to build a strong core, please contact our clinic directly at 515-967-4580 and schedule a complimentary injury evaluation.

Information provided by Amy Jensen, DPT, Altoona Physical Therapy, 3160 Eighth St. S.W., Suite 1, Altoona, 515-967-4580.

Q: How can I build up my immune system naturally?

A: The symptoms of a cold or flu are our body’s natural response to eliminate the germ. By allowing our bodies to express symptoms naturally, we exercise and strengthen our immune system so it can fight off the other multitude of germs we are exposed to everyday. When we do not allow our bodies to fight off germs naturally, germs change their identity so they can survive. We actually cause the germs to strengthen and create “super and deadly strains.” The only way that we can win is to work on building up our own immune systems by being as healthy as we can be. Below are the essentials for building a healthy immune system naturally.

• Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
• Get adequate rest.
• Eat a wholesome diet rich in vitamins and minerals, especially foods containing vitamin D (such as cod liver oil). A wholesome, immunity-boosting diet contains a colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables with organic meats and fish. Avoid grains and sugar. Eat garlic regularly. It’s antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal. You should be eating it every day.
• Spend a few minutes a day in sunlight to help your body make and store vitamin D. Supplement with vitamin D.
• Wash your hands with soap (not anti-bacterial) and water.
• Exercise regularly when you are well.
• Manage your stress. It has been estimated that it contributes to up to 90 percent of illness and disease.
• Get adjusted regularly. Chiropractic adjustments boost the immune system and are a safe, natural option for healing and maintaining health.

Information provided by Dr. Kari Swain, Swain Chiropractic, 410 Center Place S.W., Altoona, 967-9300.

Q: What is high blood pressure?

A: High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when the pressure of the blood as it moves through the arteries is greater than it should be. This is why it’s so important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.

There are many risk factors for hypertension, including obesity/being overweight, family history of high blood pressure, smoking, excessive alcohol use, kidney problems and stress.  It can also be related to certain endocrine/hormonal diseases or could be associated with use of some medications (i.e. birth control, decongestants).

Blood pressure is actually two measurements. The first or “top” number, called the systolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart is squeezing out the blood. The last or “bottom” number, called the diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart is filling back up with blood between beats.

Normal blood pressure for an adult is 120/80 or lower. High blood pressure is categorized as 140/90 or higher. However, healthcare providers will sometimes treat blood pressures lower than this, too, in the “prehypertension” range, especially in patients that have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes.

As in many diseases, the first-line treatment is lifestyle modification.  If your blood pressure is high you need to stop smoking, lose weight (if you’re overweight), exercise regularly, limit alcohol intake and eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and veggies and minimal fat and sodium.Compliance is key with these medications. If your high blood pressure is left untreated or inadequately treated, you are putting yourself at risk for heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.

Information from, provided by Amy Lamberti, PA-C, Mercy East Family Practice, 5900 E. University Ave., Suite 200, 643-2400.

Q: Is it true that fish oil can help my dry eyes?

A: Over the past few years, our understanding of dry eye as an inflammatory disease has evolved.  Multiple studies on the use of fish oil as an anti-inflammatory have been published. These studies indicate that fish oil not only reduces inflammation but also can restore good cholesterol levels.

Omega-3 fatty acids naturally occur in marine sources like mackerel, sardines and salmon as well as in flaxseed oil. Omega-6 are fatty acids often found in soy, corn and canola oil. These acids can actually increase inflammation.

We recommend to our patients that they find a supplement that is solely Omega-3 fatty acid. This way, it is converted in the body to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexenoic acid (DHA). We also recommend for patients with dry eye that they try to use a fish oil that has at least 900 EPA and 600 DHA per serving.

All fish oils with Omega-3, EPA and DHA are not created equal. Most of the over-the-counter Omega-3 fatty acids come in the ethyl ester form. This form while less expensive, is often accompanied by an undesirable fish taste, manifested in the form of “fish burps.” It also has decreased absorption, which means that your body is unable to utilize all the benefits of the oils. In order to obtain the maximum potential of your Omega-3 supplement, we advocate using the pure triglyceride-based fish oil. Squeeze a capsule into a Styrofoam cup and see what happens in 15 minutes; if it starts to melt the Styrofoam, you’ll know it is the less-adequate ethyl ester form.

Information provided by Dr. Matthew Ward, O.D. from Eye Care of Iowa, 5075 E. University Ave, Pleasant Hill 265-5322

Q: Did George Washington really have wooden false teeth?

A: Our first president was plagued with dental difficulties, losing most of his teeth to periodontal (gum) disease while still in his 20s. Contrary to popular belief, though, Washington never had wooden dentures. They were made from gold, elephant ivory, hippopotamus tusk and human teeth. A set is on display at Mount Vernon, his Virginia home. Modern dentures are commonly made with acrylic and porcelain.

One of Washington’s dentists was a fellow named John Greenwood. In 1790, Greenwood adapted his mother’s foot-operated spinning wheel to create the first-known dental drilling machine. Washington lost his teeth long before 1913, the year the phrase “dental hygiene” was coined in Bridgeport, Conn., where Dr. Alfred Civilion Fones started a school of hygiene. The school remains in operation today as part of the University of Bridgeport.

The earliest known reference of a dentist, by the way, dates to 2600 B.C. An inscription on the tomb of an Egyptian scribe named Hesy-Re calls him “the greatest of those who deal with teeth.” The practice of dentistry has come a long way.

Information provided by Des Moines Dental Group, 708 First Ave S., 967-6611.

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