Fitness - What Is Fitness?

Aristotle helped define the standards of fitness 2,500 years ago when he taught that a thing that suits its purpose well is fit. Fortunately for us, the cardiovascular system, lungs, skeleton, muscles, endocrine system and all the other amazing components of the body function for our purpose: to live well.

Exercising aids fitness in numerous ways, each involving one or more of those systems.

Increased physical activity causes the heart to work harder than at rest. That increases blood flow, floods tissues with fresh oxygen and removes cellular waste products.

Exercise causes the lungs to draw in extra oxygen to bathe the tissues and help power the heart. Exhalation removes carbon dioxide, a waste product of certain biochemical reactions.

Regular, moderate exercise helps raise HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol (the 'good' type). It helps regulate blood sugar levels and converts stored fat into sugars that are used to provide energy. That process also prevents obesity.

The other benefits of a regular fitness program are more obvious and usually among the more direct goals of most people who make the effort: increased muscle mass, toned legs, buttocks, arms, stomach and healthier looking skin. Along the way, the individual receives the added value of greater strength, improved balance, higher endurance and (often) a better frame of mind.

Different types of routines will emphasize one area more than another. Aerobic routines help the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, weight lifting focuses on building muscle tone and mass, yoga and pilates helps balance, flexibility and muscular control. But each of these, and several more, help more than just the intended focus group. The body is an integrated system and improving one area almost always has beneficial consequences for others.

All those benefits, at least to a moderate degree, can be had for minimal daily effort. Moderate intensity activity for 30 minutes per day, at least five days per week, will go a long way toward optimizing fitness.

A brisk walk, taking the stairs up one or two flights, a short daily jog, jumping rope and many other simple activities can be carried out with no special equipment or training.

More intense activity, done properly, can raise that level even further. A vigorous tennis game, a few laps in the swimming pool, an hour on the treadmill or exercise bike, or any of a dozen others, can raise your fitness to a peak with only a moderate investment of time and money.

For the truly committed there are, of course, a thousand and one classes at the gym, and every conceivable kind of home fitness equipment to fit a variety of budgets. A daily routine using free weights, followed by a good jog around the park will keep all systems functioning well.

And, as Aristotle taught all those centuries ago, to function well is to live well.

Ocular Albinism

ocular albinism

The lack of pigment that defines albinism affects not only outward appearance, but ocular development, as well. Oculocutaneous albinism affects pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. Ocular albinism exclusively affects the development of the eye. In these patients, skin and hair pigmentation appears normal. People with both forms of albinism experience congenital visual problems associated with lack of pigment in the eye.

Albinism is a genetic condition. Because of this, and because of the complexity of the eye, treatment options for vision problems associated with albinism are limited. However, there are existing treatments that can improve patients’ vision, and recent research in gene therapy may give new hope to sufferers.

Vision Problems Associated with Albinism

According to Richard and Laura Windsor of the Low Vision Centers of Indiana (2004), the defining characteristic of ocular albinism is poor development in the center of the retina. This area, called the foveal pit, controls fine vision in a normal eye. Without the ability to focus properly, people with albinism may experience:
  • low visual acuity
  • nystagmus (eye shaking)
  • oscillopsia (disturbed vision in which fixed objects appear to move)
  • strabismus (crossed eyes or eyes that otherwise do not move together)
  • photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • unusual head or eye movements compensating for variations in vision

There is no surgery or treatment that can correct the developmental defect in the retina of the eye. However, there are some treatments for the specific symptoms associated with albinism. Additionally, vision aids and other treatments that work for the general population can improve the visual acuity of albinism sufferers, as well.

Treatments for Ocular Albinism

While ocular albinism can result in varying levels of visual disability, sufferers can generally adapt well. The disorder is not degenerative, so vision problems that develop later can usually be attributed to the types of vision disorders, such as myopia and hyperopia, that are common in the general population. Treatments for the general population can be used for ocular albinism sufferers, as well. These include:
  • eyeglasses and bifocals
  • prescription sunglasses
  • contact lenses
  • magnifiers
  • surgical laser reshaping (LASIK)
  • lens implant
  • lens replacement

None of these, however, correct any of the congenital defects of ocular albinism. Surgery on the muscles that control eye movements can be used to correct strabismus and improve binocular vision. A similar surgery may be used to minimize nystagmus.

Hand-held telescopes, and bioptic telescope eyeglasses can help with the distance vision issues common in ocular albinism. While some of these devices can be bulky and make the wearer self-conscious, the BITA system is comparatively unobtrusive telescopic eyewear. Another company makes auto-focusing telescoping eyewear.

Research into Albinism

Albinism is a rare disorder that, according to the National Association of Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) affects approximately one in 17,000 people. Because ocular albinism is rare, non-degenerative, and its sufferers usually adapt well, there is very little research being done into therapies specifically for this condition. However, researchers are working on mapping the specific faulty genes that cause albinism.

Additionally, gene therapy has already been used to improve the vision of patients with congenital blindness. In 2008, researchers at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia successfully used gene therapy to improve the vision of three blind patients. While those patients suffered from a different vision disorder, the successful use of gene therapy as a treatment for that retinal disorder indicates that it may one day be used for ocular albinism sufferers, as well.

While there is no treatment specifically for ocular albinism, vision aids, surgery and the adaptability of those affected can minimize the impact of the vision disorder on patients with albinism. The successful use of gene therapy in treating a similar ocular disorder gives hope that a cure is on the horizon for the visual problems associated with albinism.

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Lyme Disease – Know the Signs and Symptoms

lyme disease

Lyme disease is an illness caused by bacteria from the species called Borrelia. This bacterium can live in the stomachs of deer and mice. When a tick feeds from an infected animal, they can become carriers of this bacterium. These ticks can spread the disease to a person by biting the skin thus allowing the bacterium to enter the human body. The disease cannot be spread from person to person. ( “Clinical Infectious Diseases,” accessed October 6, 2016).

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Early symptoms of Lyme disease develop within days to weeks of the initial contact. The early symptoms include headaches, fever, weakness and fatigue. The area on the skin where the bacterium enter becomes inflamed with a red, circular, non-raised rash that eventually looks like a bull’s eye target. Not all patients develop this rash and the rash, swelling and redness can resolve on its own in about a month.

Other early symptoms may include muscle and joint stiffness and swollen glands or swollen lymph nodes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Lyme Disease”, most cases of the disease can be eliminated if treated early with antibiotics.

If the early symptoms are not treated, the disease can worsen and lead to more serious symptoms affecting other body systems. In a few weeks to months after the initial tick bite, the infection spreads throughout the body. The joints and the nervous system can become affected.

When the disease reaches the joints and nervous system, a person can experience numbness and tingling in muscles and pain and inflammation in the knees and other large joints. Other symptoms may include a stiff neck, light-headedness, confusion, nausea and vomiting and meningitis. Lyme disease can cause anxiety and extreme depression.

As symptoms progress, the patient can have blurred vision, drooping eyelids, sensitivity to light, dysfunctional movement and loss of muscle function. They can develop facial paralysis, also called Bell’s palsy, can experience hallucinations, can have speech impairment, can have decrease in consciousness and become unconscious.

The development of chronic arthritis, usually only in one or a few joints, is a common symptom of this disease. Other late symptoms of Lyme disease can be inflammation of the heart muscle causing palpitations and abnormal heart rhythm. If a patient is not treated effectively, Lyme disease can cause heart failure and death. ( “Lyme Disease,” accessed October 6, 2016).

Prevention of Lyme Disease
There are several defense measures that help prevent Lyme disease. One of these measures is to avoid any skin exposure while in areas where ticks live and thrive. These areas include wooded areas and areas with tall grass.

Another preventive measure is to spray exposed skin and clothing with insect repellent prior to engaging in outdoor activities. Other measures include wearing long-sleeves and long pants, and wearing boots while outdoors. Some ticks are very hard to see. Wearing light-colored clothes can help detect exposure.

Pets should be examined routinely for existence of ticks. If pets who acquire ticks play in or around an area where humans play in or around, these play areas should be treated with safe but effective products that eliminate ticks. Ticks should also be removed safely and effectively from pets.

Once back indoors, clothes should be removed immediately. Skin and clothes should be examined thoroughly. The hair and scalp should also be examined closely for ticks. It is also important to properly remove ticks.

If it is necessary to remove a tick from the skin, the area should be cleaned with soap and water immediately after removal. If a person feels like they are symptomatic of Lyme disease, it is important to get diagnosed early by a physician. Early treatment of Lyme disease is the most effective way to prevent it from becoming serious. ( “Lyme Disease Treatment and Prognosis,” accessed October 6, 2016).

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Methadone - Uses, Side Effects, and Withdrawal


Methadone is an opiate narcotic analgesic. Methadone has two main functions. It is prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain in patients when non-narcotic pain relievers do not achieve adequate results. It is also used to prevent withdrawal symptoms and dependence in patients who are addicted to opiate drugs, such as heroin or morphine.

Methadone for Pain Relief

When used to treat moderate to severe pain, methadone works by changing the way the nervous system and the brain respond to pain. Methadone is considered an opiate (narcotic) analgesic.

Methadone is used every four to 12 hours to relieve pain. The prescribing physician will decided on the correct dosage based on the needs of the individual patient. Dosages may be increased or decreased depending on the level of pain relief achieved.

Methadone should not be stopped without first discussing this with the prescribing doctor. Doctors generally decrease the dosage to avoid any withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone for Treatment of Narcotic Addiction, Withdrawal, and Dependence

Methadone has been used for over 30 years to safely and effectively treat narcotic withdrawal and dependence. Heroin or morphine type drugs release an excess of dopamine in the body and cause users to need heroine or the drug of choice to continuously occupy the opioid receptor in the brain. Methadone works by occupying the opioid receptor and is the stabilizer to allow addicts to change their behavior and stop heroin or other opioid drug use by eliminating withdrawal symptoms.

Methadone suppresses narcotic withdrawal for 24 to 36 hours. It reduces cravings associated with heroin or other opioid drugs and blocks the high and does not provide an euphoric rush. Patients on methadone do not experience extreme highs and lows associated with different heroin levels in the blood stream.

Methadone withdrawal is slower than heroin withdrawal. Addicts on methadone do not experience the harsh side effects of heroin. Many patients require continuous treatment for several years.

Methadone treatment programs are highly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Patients on a methadone treatment program for opioid addiction are required to report to methadone clinics and physician offices to obtain doses of methadone.

Side Effects of Methadone

Methadone can cause a number of side effects. Any of the following side effects, if severe, should be reported to the prescribing physician:
  • weakness
  • headache
  • nausea or vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • drowsiness
  • weight gain
  • vision problems
  • mood changes
  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • swelling of the hands, arms, feet or legs
  • sweating or flushing
  • stomach pain
  • constipation
  • difficulty urinating
  • dry mouth
  • missed menstrual periods
  • decreased sexual ability or desire

Patients need to contact their doctor immediately if they experience any seizures, itching, hives, or have a rash.

Warning Regarding Methadone Usage

Methadone may cause an irregular heartbeat or slowed breathing, both can be life-threatening. Patients should contact their physician immediately if they experience:
  • difficulty breathing
  • extreme drowsiness
  • shallow or slow breathing
  • fast, slow, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
  • severe dizziness
  • faintness
  • confusion

The risk of these side effects is greatest when methadone is first used. Doctors may start a patient on a low dose and gradually increase the dose as the body adjusts to the medication.

Never take more methadone than prescribed. If taking methadone for pain management, pain may return before it is time for the next dose of methadone. Do not take an extra dose. Methadone can build up in the body and cause a life threatening side effect. Talk to the doctor if the pain medication is not lasting long enough between doses.

Considerations Regarding Methadone Use

Methadone is an effective treatment for patients in severe pain. It can be used safely and has shown positive results in opioid addicted patients.

Methadone should be stored in a safe place and never be used by a person that was not prescribed the medication. Keep track of how many tablets or how much solution is left to help determine if any is missing.

Always keep appointments with doctors, clinics, and laboratories. Physicians will need to check on every patient's response to methadone. Methadone is not a refillable prescription. Patients will need to see the doctor each time a prescription is needed.

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How to Protect Others When Someone Has Flu

flu prevention tips

Someone in the house has been diagnosed with the flu. This places others in the household, especially close contacts (those within six feet of the sick person), at risk for developing an influenza infection as well. While providing basic care, home caregivers of a person with the flu can protect themselves and others from unnecessary exposure to the influenza virus, may benefit from anti-viral prophylactic treatment, and can use sanitary practices that may lessen the spread of flu germs.

Are People in the Household High Risk for Flu Complications?

People who are high risk for complications of the flu should contact their healthcare provider regarding whether or not to obtain anti-viral treatment if they are in close contact with someone diagnosed with the flu.

High risk groups for serious complications from the flu include, but are not limited to, those who are:
  • 65 years old and older
  • Pregnant or are within two weeks of an ended pregnancy
  • Diagnosed with a chronic illness such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease
  • Young children, especially younger than two but children up to age four may be higher risk than older children
  • Receiving treatments that decrease immunity, such as certain cancer treatments

If possible, people who are at high risk for complications from the flu should avoid exposure to people who have flu-like symptoms. If the primary caregiver in the home is in a high-risk category, ideally another caregiver should be designated to care for the person with flu symptoms. If another caregiver is not an option, try to limit exposure as much as possible.

Many people who are in high-risk categories are encouraged to get the flu shot, and people in their household may also be encouraged to get the influenza vaccine whether or not the high-risk person is eligible for the shot, but the vaccine will not help someone who has already developed flu-like symptoms. People who get the seasonal influenza shot and/or the H1N1 (swine) flu shot can still get the flu.

How to Help Prevent the Spread of Flu in the Home

Below are some ways to protect others in the household if someone has the flu, if possible:
Tips for seeking the advice of a healthcare professional include:
  • Others in the home may contact their healthcare provider or a flu hotline to see if they should obtain a prescription for anti-viral medications, whether or not they are in a high risk category for flu complications.
  • If others in the home begin to have flu-like symptoms, they should contact a healthcare provider or flu hotline.

Tips for limiting exposure to the flu virus include:
  • Avoid close contact with the sick person by having that person stay in a separate room with a separate bathroom, if possible.
  • Encourage visitors to call rather than to visit in person.
  • Have the ill person or others in the same room wear face masks.
  • Designate one person, preferably someone that is not high risk for complications, to care for the sick person.
  • Avoid having a sick person to care for those who are high risk for complications of the flu, such as infants or elderly members of the household.
  • Have all persons in the household cover their coughs or sneezes with their inner arm. People who are carrying small children who are coughing and/or sneezing may protect themselves by carrying the child with his chin on the caregiver’s shoulder.

Cleaning tips in the home when someone has the flu include:
  • Wash hands appropriately and frequently. For more information on handwashing, see the article entitled Washing Hands Saves Lives.
  • Consider using paper towels rather than cloth towels during the infectious phase.
  • Ensure that all disposable items, such as tissues, used by the infected person are put in the trash after use.
  • Keep surfaces and other items in the home as clean as possible by disinfecting them per manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Common eating utensils should be washed before another person uses them.
  • Dirty linens should be handled carefully and washed with laundry detergent and dried on a hot setting. Readers may wish to read How to Make a Bed With Someone in It.

Protecting Others When Someone Has the Flu at Home

When someone in a household is diagnosed with the flu, others are at risk for developing influenza as well. Other contacts within the home, especially those at risk for serious complications of the flu, can use these guidelines to help protect themselves and others from getting the flu as well. No preventive measures will guarantee that others will not get the flu, but these guidelines may help lessen the flu symptoms of close contacts if they do get the viral infection as well.

Although the source listed below is geared toward H1N1 or swine flu, many of the suggestions above can help if someone in the household has seasonal flu as well.

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How To Break Any Addiction


No matter the addiction -- drugs, gambling, shopping, smoking, alcohol or more -- people who want to kick their habit this year might find help in a new Harvard University publication.

Overcoming Addiction: Paths toward recovery” offers guidance for breaking unwanted addictive habits. The advice applies universally, because what all addictions have in common, the Harvard experts say, is the way the brain responds to pleasurable experiences.

Five Simple Steps to Breaking the Addiction

To break the additive behavior and patterns, researchers at Harvard University recommend the following steps to increase the chances of success:

  • Seek help and create a support network -- get input, advice and support from peers as well as professionals. Start with a doctor or a community mental health center for advice, a plan and -- if necessary -- medication to help with the break. Ask family, friends and co-workers for encouragement and backup.
  • Set a quit date -- some people find it helpful to choose a significant date, a birthday or anniversary, perhaps.
  • Make a change in environment -- removing reminders and temptations from the home and workplace can make the break easier. For example, ridding the home of alcohol, bottle openers and wine or drink glasses might help a person trying to stop drinking. Don’t let others bring reminders into the home. And, if necessary, break relations with people who enable the condition or additive behavior.
  • Learn new skills and activities -- find something to replace the addiction and help conquer urges. Many people find that exercise is a good substitute activity to help fight temptation.
  • Review past attempts at quitting -- note what worked, what did not, and what might have led to falling back into old habits. Then, make appropriate changes.

Additional Tips to Remember

Additional helpful hints any person should remember when they are trying to break free from a habit or addiction include:
  • Surrounding oneself with close, supportive friends and family. When trying to stop a an unhealthy behavior, friends and family can be great support, can offer encouragement and insight. They can also pick a person up when they are down.
  • Change the life routine. -- Addictions take up a lot of free time. Smoker often find themselves with an enormous amount of time of their hands and don’t know what to do with it. Many times, they will simply fill it with smoking! Pick up a new hobby like reading or pick up the phone and call a friend. Take a walk, exercise or play a game, anything not to think about all the healthy free time now available.

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When all else fails, everyone needs a pep talk. If that doesn’t work, try again and keep trying until the addiction is under control.
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Impact of Winter Colds on Production

winter cold

The United States Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Extreme Cold” guide offers several steps that adults and children can take to prevent themselves from getting sick during winter months. An early step toward avoiding catching a cold, swine flu or other general weather related sickness is to maintain an adequate body temperature.

Winter Warmth Staves Off Flu and Colds

Prior to winter, home owners should check their heating systems to make certain that they are functioning properly. General maintenance for some heating systems will require no more than changing the filter on a regular basis. Check to be sure that windows are properly insulated. Make sure that hot water heating system circulating pumps are adequately lubricated.

Radiators and vents should be free of debris so that warm air will easily circulate throughout the home. Many of these general maintenance steps can be performed over the course of one to two days. People who live in an apartment should ensure that their building maintenance crews check their unit heating system and install new filters as needed.

While indoors, keep the thermostat set at about 62 degrees Fahrenheit. People who get cold with temperatures set in the low 60 degree level might consider putting on a sweater while they are indoors until they retire to bed. Layering clothes and adding one to two additional blankets atop beds is another way to maintain a healthy body temperature during winter.

(An additional benefit to layering clothes and adding blankets to beds is lowered heating expenses. In fact, the United States Department of Energy notes in their “Energy Savers” tips that home owners can decrease their energy bills by about 10% if they turn their thermostat back 10% - 15% for eight hours each day).

Proper Nutrition Works Like Good Winter Medicine

Consume plenty of liquids and eat healthy meals. People who feel they might not be getting enough vitamins and minerals might consider taking a multivitamin in the morning with their breakfast. Drinking fruit juices or eating raw fruit feeds the body valuable Vitamin C. Together, raw fruit, healthy juices and multivitamins can help to keep the immune system strong throughout winter.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the consumption of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages can hasten the lowering of a person’s body temperature. For this reason, it is beneficial to limit the amount of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages one consumes during winter. Drinks and food like hot decaffeinated teas, hot cocoas and soups are good sources of taste, warmth and nutrition. They are also quick and easy to prepare and are generally inexpensive.

Layer Clothes While Outside in Cold Air

Before venturing outdoors, people will do well to make sure that they are properly clothed. Wear hats, gloves, scarves, socks and well insulated shoes to help maintain a good body temperature. Keep in mind that when the body begins to shiver, it is a sign that one’s body temperature is dropping. In these cases, it might be a good idea to head indoors.

Wear layered clothes and avoid overexertion. The more the body sweats while outdoors in cold weather, the harder the body and the heart have to work to maintain adequate body heat. This can put a strain on the heart and other bodily organs.

Throughout the day, adults and children should take the time to wash their hands. Keeping an antiseptic hand gel or wash nearby can make it easy to clean the hands regularly. Wash or clean hands thoroughly after each trip to the bathroom and after a thorough nose blowing.

At the first sign of sickness, get plenty of rest and begin to feed the body additional vitamins and liquids. Avoid the temptation to push oneself to the point of exhaustion. With proper care, including staying warm, avoiding over exertion and consuming adequate vitamins and minerals, children and adults can avoid suffering through a major cold, flu or other general weather related virus during winter months.

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