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Health Q&A

Posted December 26, 2012 in Advice Column, Pleasant Hill

Q: Why do computer games pose dental risks?

A: A study of young gamers suggests that those who spend substantial time at the screen are more than twice as likely to develop tooth decay as youngsters with more active lifestyles. Though computer games have long been identified as contributing to childhood obesity, keeping youngsters from more active pursuits, this study of youngsters between the ages of 12 and 16, is the first to identify the dental danger.

The study, carried out by researchers at the University of Iowa, found that teenagers are more likely to snack on sugary foods while absorbed for hours in computer games. The study also found that youngsters whose parents set rules for screen time were at less risk.

Sugar reacts with the bacteria in plaque, which is the sticky coating we all have on our teeth. The bacteria in plaque produce acids that cause tooth decay. When we eat or drink something sugary, our teeth can be under siege for up to an hour. This is why it is better to keep intake of sugary foods to regular meal times, after which a person may be able to brush, or at least rinse, their teeth. Talk with your dentist about ways to protect your and your children’s teeth.

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

Q: What is lutein, and why is it important for my eyes?

A: Our bodies require energy to eat, sleep and exercise on a daily basis. Oxidation is a metabolic byproduct that our bodies release as they use energy. This results in “oxidative stress” on our systems. The stress, in turn, cause cell breakdown and degeneration throughout the body.

We can counter this degeneration by eating foods rich in antioxidants. Since it is difficult to glean certain antioxidants from a typical diet, sometimes it is necessary to take antioxidant supplements. Lutein is one such antioxidant naturally prolific in dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale. It also packs a punch in brightly-colored peppers and sweet corn. It is the main carotenoid antioxidant found in the retina, the photoreceptor layer of the eye.

High consumption of lutein has been shown to increase the concentration of pigment in the macula, promoting overall macular health. This is especially important in patients with macular degeneration. We recommend any patient in the early stages of macular degeneration to begin lutein supplementation, as studies have found lutein may slow down the degenerative progression. The recommended daily value is 10 milligrams, but once diagnosed with macular degeneration, the dosage doubles. If you are already taking lutein or have macular degeneration, make sure you are getting the correct amounts. Move over carrots — leafy greens like kale, spinach and broccoli are the new best foods for your eyes.

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

Q: How can I be healthier in the new year?

A: As we close 2012, many are making New Year’s resolutions for the upcoming year. Getting started is often the biggest obstacle. Try these tips to get you started and keep you going to be the best version of yourself.
• Become goal-oriented. Have a goal. Set goals. Write your goals down. Put them in a place where you can read them throughout the day. Everything is in motion; nothing stands still. You will move, either forward or backward. Choose to move forward toward your goals.
• Have a plan. Planning allows growth in all aspects of our life. Planning helps create a clear idea, a visualization, of how to reach your goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
• Action. Repetition breeds habits, and habits turn into character traits. Our value systems are the foundations upon which we build our future. Do something, and be consistent and persistent. Repetition is the key. With the increase in quantity, there comes a sudden and dramatic change in quality.
• Tune up your engine. It is impossible to function at your highest level when you are not in optimal health. Drink water. Drink half your body weight in ounces daily. Exercise. Move and stretch daily. Eat a high quantity of raw, organically grown fruits and vegetables in your diet. A well-balanced, whole foods purification/detoxification can help to eliminate toxins and improve immune and metabolic functions. Get adjusted regularly. Be conscious of posture and body movements to support spinal alignment.

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

Q: What is strep throat?

A: Strep throat is a bacterial infection very common in children. People of any age get it, but it’s more common in children ages 5 to 15. It’s considered contagious until the patient has been on antibiotics for 24 hours, so kids should stay home from school or daycare for that amount of time. You can prevent the spread of strep throat by not sharing cups or utensils, handwashing and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

Symptoms of strep throat include sore throat, fever, swollen neck glands, headache, stomachache and sometimes vomiting in small children. Some people will also develop a red rash on their trunk called a “scarletina” rash. It is important to note that nasal congestion/runny nose and coughing are not symptoms of strep (and more likely mean the illness is caused from a virus.)

If you are diagnosed with strep throat, you will be treated with antibiotics. Penicillin or amoxicillin are most commonly used. It is important to take these until they are finished. This ensures that your symptoms don’t return and also prevents antibiotic resistance. Strep throat will actually resolve itself within one to two weeks if left untreated, but the real reason to treat strep throat is to prevent complications such as rheumatic fever and kidney inflammation.

Most sore throats are not strep and are actually caused by viruses or due to irritation from drainage associated with allergies. An antibiotic won’t help these types of sore throats. But no matter what kind of sore throat you have, you can treat symptoms by taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen, fluids and using throat lozenges.

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

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