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.

Acid Reflux: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Heartburn

Gastrointestinal reflux refers to the chronic digestive condition commonly called acid reflux. The lower esophageal sphincter functions as a valve. This muscle located in the esophagus remains closed most of the time. It opens to allow food and fluids to pass to the stomach. In the presence of acid reflux, the lower esophageal sphincter does not close completely or may open spontaneously for varying lengths of time. Food and acid from the stomach flows back into the esophagus. Acid blockers, which include H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors, are a group of medications used to treat acid reflux.

acid reflux

Causes of Acid Reflux

Medical experts acknowledge a malfunctioning lower esophageal sphincter as the mechanism for acid reflux but the exact cause for this problem remains unclear. According to the Medical News Today website, certain conditions, foods and habits contribute to the incidence of acid reflux.

Women can experience acid reflux during pregnancy and especially during the third trimester. As the baby grows, increased pressure is applied to the stomach resulting in the reflux of food and acids into the esophagus. In an article published in the January 2006 issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, Douglas Corley reports the documented link between obesity and acid reflux. A review of 20 studies on this subject confirmed an association between increased body weight and the incidence of acid reflux.

Eating large meals and certain foods, such as fatty or fried foods, spicy foods and foods containing tomatoes, worsen the symptoms of acid reflux.

Smoking increases the production of stomach acids, weakens the esophageal sphincter and slows the process of digestion. The delay in the digestion process causes the pressure in the stomach to remain high for a longer time. Increased stomach pressure results in acid reflux.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux

A burning sensation spreading from the stomach up to the throat is the most common symptom of acid reflux. This sensation of heartburn occurs following a heavy meal, when bending over or lifting a heavy object or lying down. Most people with frequent acid reflux experience heartburn at night. Another commonly experienced symptom is the sensation that food is trapped in the chest. Less commonly experienced symptoms are a chronic sore throat and persistent hiccups.

Treatment of Acid Reflux

The aim of treatment for acid reflux focuses on acid suppression. Prescribed medications reduce the amount of acid produced and correct the function of the lower esophageal sphincter are referred to as acid blockers. This group of drugs includes H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors.

The H2 blockers block the histamine receptors which are located on the acid producing cells found in the stomach. Initial treatment employs over- the -counter H2 blockers. If the symptoms of acid reflux are not relieve with over-the-counter strength H2 blockers, a physician will order the stronger prescription strength form of these drugs.

Proton pump inhibitors are used if symptoms are not relieved with H2 blocker treatment. The proton pump inhibitors work by blocking the proton pump or acid producing enzyme found in the stomach lining.

By inhibiting the final step in the production of stomach acid, proton pump inhibitors effectively reduce acid levels.
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Is There A Strong Link Between Anxiety, Insomnia & Depression?

Insomnia has long been recognized as a symptom of depression and anxiety disorders, but we’re learning that the relationship is a lot more complex. While negative thoughts, stress, worry, or irrational fears can keep you up at night and make it hard to fall asleep, good sleep is also essential for your mental health. This means that it isn’t a one-way street and insomnia or poor quality sleep can also contribute to or exacerbate anxiety and depressive disorders. In many ways the link between insomnia, anxiety, and depression is like the classic case of the ‘chicken or the egg’, where it’s hard to really pinpoint either as being the primary cause or the outcome. Understanding their relationship, however, can help in the development of effective prevention and treatment strategies.

How Insomnia Increases the Risk of Anxiety & Depression

Just one night of poor sleep can take a toll on your mood, leaving you feeling fatigued and down the following day. The effects are even worse when you don’t get adequate sleep on a regular basis, so it should come as no surprise that insomnia significantly increases the risk of depression. Studies suggest that individuals who suffer from insomnia may be up to ten times more likely to eventually suffer from depression, as compared to people who sleep well. Even in cases where insomnia doesn’t itself give rise to anxiety or depressive disorders, it can have a cascading effect, delaying recovery from mental illness. For example, research shows that patients are less responsive to treatments for anxiety and depression when they continue to suffer from insomnia.
Although we don’t fully understand how insomnia makes us more vulnerable to depression, we’re gaining new insights from research. It appears that insomnia and sleep deprivation can adversely affect our ability to process and deal with negative emotions. A study that appeared in the journal Biological Psychology shows that individuals suffering from sleep deprivation have a stronger emotional response to negative images, as opposed to those with positive or neutral emotional content. In those with healthy sleep patterns, no such difference in response was observed. Other research also supports these findings, with brain scans revealing higher activity in emotion processing areas of the brain with negative stimuli. What this means is that when you are sleep deprived, you will find it harder to control your emotions, especially when dealing with unpleasant tasks and situations.
Poor quality sleep also has an impact on mood and energy levels, making it hard to stay motivated, focused, and to perform at optimal levels during the day. This reduction in quality of life can make you feel even worse about yourself, increasing the risk of depression and anxiety or worsening the conditions if they are already present.

How Anxiety & Depression Increase the Risk of Insomnia

Insomnia is regarded as one of the key problems that can develop as a result of mental illness, affecting up to 80% of people with depression and around 70% of those with generalized anxiety disorder. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that all cases of prevalence indicate insomnia to be an outcome, patients who suffer from anxiety disorders and depression commonly report difficulty falling and staying asleep. Patients typically suffer from higher than normal levels of psychological distress, making it harder to relax and this reduces one’s ability to fall asleep. It is not uncommon for anxiety to give rise to insomnia, as anxiety disorders involve a heightened state of arousal. Depression on the other hand may not always cause insomnia, but even if an individual gets enough sleep, this is often of a poor quality.
Studies have found that individuals suffering from generalized anxiety disorders tend to have increased sleep latency, which refers to the time it takes for one to fall into the state of sleep. They also have more wakefulness after the onset of sleep, with the combined effect of a reduction in the total amount of sleep time. Early morning awakenings are also a lot more common and may be observed as a symptom in individuals who suffer from either anxiety or depressive disorders.
When it comes to the link between insomnia and anxiety or depression, the relationship is best described as bidirectional, as it’s usually hard to establish which problem appeared first. What’s clear is that having one problem can worsen or trigger the onset of the other and vice versa, making it important to address both problems simultaneously.
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Abdominal Ultrasound

Abdominal ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to acquire images of the abdominal organs. Unlike x-ray, ultrasound is non-ionizing radiation, so it has no known negative effects on the patient. It is often used in conjunction with other imaging modalities. Ultrasound, x-ray, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) image the body using different technologies, so each may be helpful in determining different properties of a mass for a more complete diagnosis.

Preparation

Bowel gas hinders the visualization of the abdominal organs. When a loop of gas-filled bowel lies between the transducer and the organ being examined, an artifact called shadowing is seen on the image and obstructs the view of the organ. Patients who are scheduled for an abdominal ultrasound are asked to fast during the eight hours prior to the examination. This allows bowel gas to subside for optimal imaging.

Most likely, the patient will not need to undress for this examination. The patient's shirt will be pulled up around the chest and towels will be used to protect the clothing from the ultrasound gel. Ultrasound gel is water-based and will not damage clothing. Upon drying, it may look like a white splotch that can be easily removed.

abdominal ultrasound

Protocol

Several organs are imaged during an abdominal ultrasound. The pancreas is located in the upper, middle region of the abdomen. The liver is a larger organ that lies in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen. The size of the liver is measured. The patient usually lies on his or her back during the imaging of the liver and pancreas.

The gallbladder lies underneath the liver and must be imaged with the patient lying in two positions: on his or back, and on the left side. This allows the sonographer to differentiate between gallstones and polyps as gallstones will move within the gallbladder with the change in position. Lying on the left side also moves bowel loops toward the left side of the abdomen to create a larger sonographic window. The gallbladder wall and common bile duct are measured.

Bowel becomes more of an issue when imaging the spleen on the left side. The patient will most likely be asked to roll up on his or her right side to move bowel toward the right side of the abdomen. The size of the spleen is measured. It is usually enlarged in cases with mononucleosis. The kidneys may or may not be measured in images with the liver and spleen. A renal ultrasound is ordered if full examination of the kidneys is necessary.

Abdominal ultrasound is often used in children when radiation exposure is highly undesirable. It is often used to follow-up computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations to better visualize liver ducts, to determine if a mass is cystic or solid, or to assess blood flow using Doppler.

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Acetaminophen for Low Back Pain

Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, may be a good alternative treatment for back pain. The main ingredient in Tylenol is acetaminophen. Classified as an painkiller, Tylenol is an nonprescription drug used to alleviate pain and decrease fever.

acetaminophen

Getting Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is purchased in the form of certain pain medications, like Excedrin, Vanquish and Aspirin-Free Anacin. Tylenol is procurable in generic form, and in combination with other medications.

Acetaminophen is consumed for short-term pain relief for moderate to mild pain, and to temporarily relieve high fever. One may take acetaminophen for neck and back pain if one has muscle pain and/or chronic rheumatoid arthritis.

Acetaminophen impacts the brain. It acts by reducing the level of the central nervous system chemical that activates pain signals. It also wields a cooling effect by suppressing the prostaglandins (lipids derived from fatty acids) that play a role in the brain’s temperature control center.
Acetaminophen and Tylenol are found in tablet, extended release capsule, pill, liquid, or drop form. You may take acetaminophen with or without meals. It also comes in suppository pill form.

Precautions of Acetaminophen

The acetaminophen label discourages consuming alcoholic beverages and acetaminophen at the same time. An overdose of acetaminophen in combination with alcohol could cause liver problems, and possibly death. It's possible that liver problems could occur even after taking the amount recommended on the boxes.

Studies are being conducted to determine the circumstances in which this might happen. Patients with liver illness, and/or alcoholics should visit with their physician prior to taking acetaminophen, and should read the directions on the box. One should never consume more than the recommended quantity.

Allergic reaction to Tylenol or other components of the drug is possible. If you experienced allergic reactions to any of the ingredients listed on the package, don’t use it. Also, refer to your physician if you have an allergy after consuming a dose.

If your son or daughter is under two years old and has a cold, cough, or other respiratory issue, speak with your physician before administering him any drug with acetaminophen in it. Inappropriate use of Tylenol can bring about serious side effects, and can even cause death in younger patients.

References:
Chou R, et al. (2007). "Diagnosis and treatment of low back pain: A joint clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society." Annals of Internal Medicine. 147 (7): 478–491.
Chou R, and Huffman, LH. (2007). "Medications for acute and chronic low back pain: A review of the evidence for an American Pain Society/American College of Physicians clinical practice guideline." Annals of Internal Medicine. 147 (7): 505–514.

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Aciphex (Rabeprazole)

Aciphex (rabeprazole) is a proton pump inhibitor used to treat GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and duodenal ulcers.

aciphex

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) occurs when stomach acid leaks out of the stomach and into the esophagus, resulting in heartburn and damage to the inner lining of the esophagus (erosive esophagitis). Aciphex (rabeprazole) is a proton pump inhibitor often used to prevent GERD symptoms.

How Aciphex Works

The active compound in Aciphex is rabeprazole sodium, which limits the stomach lining’s ability to produce gastric acid (hydrochloric acid). Reducing stomach acid alleviates GERD symptoms and gives the esophagus time to heal. When taken with antibiotics, Aciphex is used to treat duodenal ulcers.

Aciphex Doses

Aciphex is generally taken for four to eight weeks to relieve GERD symptoms and heal damage caused by erosive esophagitis. If this time frame is insufficient a further four to eight weeks is warranted.

Aciphex is also taken over long periods of time to treat chronic GERD and other conditions caused by excessive stomach acid. The medication is usually taken once a day, and can be taken with or without food. Aciphex pills should not be crushed, chewed or split as the pill is designed to release rabeprazole sodium slowly.

If you miss a dose of Aciphex, take the dose as soon as you remember. An exception to this rule occurs if you are close to your next dose, in which case skip the missed dose.

Rabeprazole Drug Interactions

Before taking Aciphex inform your doctor of any other medication, vitamins, or herbal supplements you take. You should not take rabeprazole sodium if you are allergic to proton pump inhibitor medications including:
  • Aciphex (rabeprazole)
  • Nexium (esomeprazole)
  • Prevacid (lansoprazole)
  • Prilosec (omeprazole)
  • Protonix (pantoprazole)
  • Zegerid (omeprazole).
Patients with liver disease should inform doctors of their condition before taking Aciphex.

Aciphex may interact with other medications, so be sure to provide your doctor with a complete list of current medications. Be sure to inform your doctor if you take blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin), Nizoral (ketoconazole) or medication containing cyclosporine such as Sandimmune or Neoral.

Pregnancy and Aciphex

Aciphex is not considered harmful to an unborn child, but expectant mothers should inform their doctors they take Aciphex. It is not known if rabeprazole sodium can be transferred by breast milk, and doctors may recommend stopping Aciphex treatment while breastfeeding.

Aciphex Side-Effects

As a rule, Aciphex is a well tolerated medication. Like any drug, however, the possibility of unwanted side effects exists. Side effects of Aciphex can include insomnia, headaches, diarrhea, upset stomachs, nervousness, rashes and itching. Seek immediate medical attention if Aciphex use triggers hives, facial swelling (including the lips, tongue and / or throat) or difficulty breathing.

Aciphex and Osteoporosis

While Aciphex is considered safe for long term use, a study published in 2008 suggests a link between long-term use of Aciphex and bone fractures.
Disclaimer: The information contained within this article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute in any way for care and treatment by a qualified health professional.

Resources

Drugs.com (updated 24 July, 2008).
RxList. (n.d.). Aciphex.

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Using Oxygen Safely While Traveling

oxygen safely while traveling

Get copies of oxygen prescriptions from the health care provider who diagnosed the need to use oxygen, and make sure there is not any other needed paperwork. Depending on the means of travel, make prior arrangements for oxygen at the end of the destination. With some forms of transportation oxygen may travel with you. Before traveling, call a local company to find out the requirements for traveling with oxygen. Leave plenty of time to make those needed arrangements.

Traveling By Auto with Oxygen

Just as if there is a pet in the car, it is necessary to keep windows cracked open for the air to circulate. When using liquid oxygen, place the canister upright on the floor or on the seat. Secure it with a seat belt or tie it securely to the back of the seat. Store any extra oxygen canisters behind the seat: do not put them in the trunk as temperatures there can rise too high. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke in a car with oxygen.

Traveling By Bus or Train with Oxygen

Call the bus or train depot in advance and report the need for oxygen. Most likely, the oxygen tank can go along. Some transportation companies require a copy of the prescription prior to entry onto the train or bus. Being without oxygen, even for a short time, can be dangerous, so preparation ahead of time is crucial.

Traveling By Plane with Oxygen

Call the airline in advance to make arrangements: oxygen tanks may not be allowed on the airplane. However, airlines may supply oxygen for a fee. Be aware that the airline's oxygen will only be available on the plane; oxygen is required for the airport. Call the local medical equipment company to arrange to have oxygen delivered at the airport, as well as for any layovers during the flight.

Traveling By Ship with Oxygen

Most cruise ships will allow personal oxygen to come along. It is advisable to call the cruise ship prior to boarding, and make arrangements. The shipping line will need a letter from a health care provider including a medical history, and a copy of the oxygen prescription. Arrange to have oxygen delivered at the ship, as well as to any layovers during the cruise.

Traveling Dos and Don'ts

Always keep open flames at least five feet away from stored oxygen or oxygen in use. This includes cigarettes, pipes, matches, candles, or fireplaces. Keep oxygen at least five feet away from any other source of heat like space heaters, furnaces, and radiators. When not in use keep the oxygen canister completely turned off. It is advisable to keep a fire extinguisher at hand, and know how to use it.

Never smoking near oxygen. Post a "no smoking" sign near oxygen tanks. Never use oxygen while cooking with gas. Do not spray air freshener or hairspray near oxygen: aerosols are highly flammable. Using vapor rub, petroleum jelly near oxygen is dangerous as oil-based products are flammable as well.

A good place to start making plans to travel with oxygen is with a local supplier. Chain suppliers usually can help by communicating with their offices in other towns to make arrangements. Many are part of a network that can make a trip comfortable and safe.

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