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In Living….

The Free Press WV

►  Simple ways to alleviate back pain

Few health problems are as prevalent as back pain. The American Chiropractic Association says that 50 percent of working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. Bone and Joint Health Canada states that as much as 80 percent of people experience back pain at least once in their lifetime.

Back pain can be so significant that it results in a loss of function that impedes daily activities. In fact, according to the 2015 Global Burden of Disease report, back pain is the single leading cause of disability in most countries.

Back pain can be a complex issue. According to data complied by, only one in 10 people learns the primary cause of their pain. That’s because many things, including muscle sprains or joint irritation, can contribute to back pain. Other factors that may contribute to back pain include arthritis, stress, obesity, or diseases of the internal organs. Each of these issues can make it challenging to uncover the culprit behind back pain.

Ruling out degenerative diseases can be a first step in treating back pain. Doctors also may ask their patients about their level of physical activity. Doctors may want to know if patients suffering back pain engage in activities involving repetitive movements to determine if their back pain can be traced to these activities.

Some common factors contribute to back pain, and addressing these issues may bring about relief.

• Strengthen core muscles. Poor muscle tone, especially in the back and abdominal muscles, may result in back pain. Engaging in activities that strengthen the core can help strengthen the area, offering more support to the back. A doctor, physical therapist or fitness instructor may guide you in exercises, such as planks or abdominal crunches, that can strengthen the core.

• Get up and move. A sedentary lifestyle can be a major contributor to back pain. Nearly half of Americans who experience back pain are desk workers who spend the majority of their time sitting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Qi Spine, a clinic that gathered data from 1,300 people who said they deal with spine-related pain, found that half the participants with sedentary jobs had lower back pain. Standing, moving around and taking breaks from the desk can help alleviate pain.

• Lose weight. The spine is vulnerable to effects of obesity. Extra weight in the abdomen may pull the pelvis forward and strain the lower back, states the American Obesity Association. Losing weight can reduce that strain on the lower back, thereby reducing pain.

Back pain is a frequent complaint and compels many people to visit their doctors. Exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and strengthening core muscles can go a long way toward keeping the back healthy and pain-free.

►  Why it’s normal to cheat on health tests

It happens every time I go to the doctor. After the interminable wait, they move me to the staging area, then take my blood pressure and measure my pulse. I assume it’s a challenge, so I try to reduce my pulse to that of an iguana and make my blood pressure as low as possible.

The goal: A pulse rate of less than 60 beats per minute. A blood pressure below 120 over 80 (a standard which I know only from watching medical shows on TV as a child).

It’s a competition.

There is no reason for this competition. I doubt I can affect medical tests. If I could, there’s no benefit. Yet I do it every time, because I want to “win” and avoid the repercussions of a bad health test.

Even if a “bad” test is accurate and helps my doctor treat me.

I will do everything I can to win the test.

Pathetic? It isn’t anything new. I also suspect I’m not alone in trying to game the system.

It started in elementary school, when they would bring in the meanest man in the world to conduct hearing tests for us on a special school bus, loaded with equipment.

He would require us to raise our hands when we heard a noise. Right hand when we heard it in our right ear, left hand when we heard it in our left ear.

The meanest man in the world terrified me, but I really, really wanted to do well on the test. It didn’t matter if I needed help with my hearing, I wanted to shine on the test . . . so I would watch others to make sure I didn’t miss a sound. Occasionally, I raised a hand to silence, because . . . I wanted to do well on the test.

That makes sense, in a way. I was a kid. I didn’t want to have one-on-one interaction with the meanest man in the world (which probably wouldn’t happen, but I didn’t know for sure).

I’m not a kid now. But I still cheat on health tests.

So do many of us, regardless of the illogical nature of it.

Want another example? Watch anyone who goes to the optometrist – or the DMV – for an eye exam. The good doctor will put up that chart of letters and ask us to read it.

“A, X, J, P, T.“

“OK, the next line down.“

“P, F, T, J . . .  Q?“

“OK, one more down.“

“(We can’t read it, but we try anyway, hoping to guess right) A . . . J? . . . P? . . . F? . . .“

The test is to see how our vision works. We think that maybe we can guess right and avoid the news that our vision has deteriorated. We want to beat the test.

Frankly, if you told me there was a version of the eye chart on the internet (which may be true), I would consider memorizing it to make my eyesight seem better to my doctor. It’s nonsensical, but true.

I guess there’s something charming, yet foolish in trying to beat health tests. It’s the same thing that makes us floss our teeth ferociously before we visit the dentist.

When someone says they’ve cheated death, perhaps we all inwardly admire them. Because we spend so much time trying to cheat health tests, which might be connected to cheating death.

Now let me see if I can find an eye chart on the internet. I’ve got an appointment in a few months . . .

In Living….

The Free Press WV

►  You Had One Job, Stuffed Cow, and Now You’re a Hero

Well played, stuffed cow. Authorities in Chelsea, Mass., say the big toy may have saved his toddler buddy from serious harm or worse. As the Boston Globe reports, 2-year-old Luis Eduardo Gomez was bouncing on his bed Wednesday afternoon when he bounced clear out of his second-story bedroom window. Luckily, he was still clutching the animal, which measures about 2 feet long, and it took the brunt of the impact.

“He fell about 16 feet onto concrete,“ says deputy fire chief John Quatieri. “He could easily have broken bones or been very seriously injured.“ Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes tweeted a photo of the cow, per Fox News. Luis was shaken up and has some minor cuts and bruises but is otherwise fine. The family moved to the US five months ago from Guatemala, and the boy’s uncle says Luis carries the cow with him everywhere.

►  10 U.S. Cities With the Most Smokers

In the past 50 years, the US smoking rate has fallen from 40% to about 18%. That suggests the habit and the health problems associated with it are easing, yet more than a quarter of residents still smoke in some US cities. The US metropolitan areas (none of them major ones) with the highest smoking rates, per 24/7 Wall St.:

  1. Fort Smith, Ark.-Okla.: 28.3%
  2. Lafayette, La.: 28.3%
  3. Erie, Pa.: 28.2%
  4. Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, Tenn.-Va.: 28%
  5. Fayetteville, NC: 27.8%
  6. Spartanburg, SC: 27.6%
  7. Canton-Massillon, Ohio: 27.5%
  8. Huntington-Ashland, W. Va.-Ky.-Ohio: 27.2%
  9. Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC: 25.4%
  10. Winston-Salem, NC: 25%

Click for the FULL LIST.

►  Study Finds Good Reason to Keep Having Sex Over 50, Well, another good reason

“People don’t like to think that older people have sex—but we need to challenge this conception at a societal level and look at what impact sexual activity can have on those aged 50 and over,“ Dr. Hayley Wright says in a press release. Wright and her fellow researchers published a study in the Journals of Gerontology that found older adults who reported having more-frequent sex also scored better on tests measuring verbal fluency and the ability to accurately see objects and spaces between them. The study looked at 73 people between the ages of 50 and 83. The Independent reports 37 subjects had sex weekly over the past year, 26 had sex monthly, and 10 hadn’t had any sex.

The subjects having sex weekly scored an average of two percentage points higher on the tests than those having sex monthly and four percentage points higher than those having no sex. The biggest improvement was in verbal fluency, in this instance measured by having subjects name as many words staring with the letter F and animals as possible within a time limit. Wright says it’s unclear whether the link between sex and improved brain function is due to “social or physical elements,“ and more research is needed. For older people for whom sex isn’t an option for whatever reason, the Toronto Sun reports exercise, managing blood pressure, and some brain games have been shown to help maintain brain function.

In Living….

The Free Press WV

►  Blogger Dies in Accident Involving Whipped Cream Device

A popular fitness and lifestyle blogger is dead after a whipped cream dispenser exploded. French blogger Rebecca Burger, 32, was on Sunday struck in the chest by a piece of the device, which injects gas into a metal container to create a high-pressure environment, reports the BBC. As HuffPost puts it, “Faults on the connectors can cause the [gas] capsules to break and expel at high speed.“ In Burger’s case, she suffered cardiac arrest and died, per the Telegraph. Her death was announced by her family on Burger’s Instagram account, which has 163,000 followers. Her family warned people not to use the cream dispensers, claiming “tens of thousands of the faulty devices” have been sold.

France’s government office for consumers issued a warning about the dispensers in 2014, citing an explosion hazard, after numerous injuries were reported. One consumer group cites defective gas capsules as being the problem, per the BBC, which reports injuries ranging from busted teeth to tinnitus have been associated with the devices. One of the injured said in 2013, “I had six broken ribs, and my sternum was broken. At the hospital, I was told that if the shock and blast had been facing the heart, I would be dead now.“ Burger’s death is under investigation, reports Le Parisien.

In Living….

The Free Press WV

►  One New Stat Shows Extent of Opioid Problem

The severity of America’s opioid epidemic was captured in a dire government report published Tuesday. According to the report, released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the rate of opioid-related emergency room visits nearly doubled between 2005 and 2014, increasing a whopping 99%. The report also found the rate of opioid-related inpatient hospital stays increased 64% during that time. All told, American hospitals reported 1.27 million opioid-related visits in 2014, about 3,500 per day. The report also states that women have closed the gender gap when it comes to opioid-related hospital visits. In 2005 the rate of male inpatient stays was considerably higher than the rate for women, but by 2014 the rate was the same, though men are still more likely to be treated in hospital emergency departments for opioid-related issues.

Though the opioid epidemic is a countrywide problem, the AHRQ report finds that the problem is considerably worse in certain states. Maryland ranked at the top of the list of states for emergency visits in 2014, while Massachusetts saw the most inpatient stays. The Washington Post reports that Maryland is already suffering high rates of heroin and prescription-opioid overdoses. The number of opioid-related deaths in the state has nearly quadrupled since 2010 and the governor declared a state of emergency earlier this year. That increase can be blamed partially on the spread of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. One expert tells the Huffington Post the AHRQ data comes as “no surprise,“ noting that overdose deaths are “just the tip of the iceberg” in the US.

►  Your Baby Warms Your Heart. Breastfeeding Might Protect It

It’s well established that breastfeeding confers a wide range of health benefits to both mother and baby. For instance, a mother’s risk of obesity, breast and ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis go down if she nursed, reports the Independent. But now researchers report in the Journal of the American Heart Association that breastfeeding positively impacts heart health years down the road, too. Analyzing data from nearly 300,000 women ages 30 to 79 in China, 99% of whom had given birth and 97% of whom had breastfed, they found that after 8 years of study, breastfeeding mothers had a 9% lower risk of heart disease and an 8% lower risk of stroke when compared to their non-breastfeeding counterparts. Those figures grew the longer a women nursed her child.

The researchers calculated that each additional six months of breastfeeding reduces a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease by 4 percentage points, with mothers who breastfeed their babies for two or more years enjoying a nearly 20% reduced risk compared to mothers who never did. In a press release, study co-author Sanna Peters speculates that because a woman’s metabolism changes dramatically after giving birth to store fat for milk, breastfeeding could help run through that stored fat “faster and more completely.“ CDC stats show only about 31% of US babies are still being breast-fed at one year.

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