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Here’s Why Stretching Exercises Are So Important For The Muscles

The Kashmir Monitor

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Myles Schneider, 74, a semiretired podiatrist who lives in Reston, stretches for 60 minutes, six times a week. Schneider, who also walks briskly for 45 minutes twice weekly and runs three times a week for 45 minutes in the deep end of a pool, spends more time stretching than he does in actual exercise.

An hour of slow stretching may seem excessive, but it works for Schneider.

When he was into distance running in his 20s, he stretched for about 10 minutes before and after his runs. But he always felt rushed. Since reaching his mid-50s, however, he’s been stretching in the late afternoon or early evening. “After a few minutes, I feel more energized and no longer tired,” he said. “I also really notice myself relaxing mentally, especially if I’m stressed-out about something. Also, I’m certainly more flexible than I was 20 years ago.”

 

Exercise dogma long has extolled the value of stretching, usually as a warm-up before exercise or as a cool-down afterward. By not bracketing stretching to his workouts, Schneider skirts the debate over whether slow stretching – known as “static” stretching – helps or hinders sports performance.

From the 1960s to the late 1990s, fitness professionals firmly believed that static stretching was a useful adjunct before exercise, warming up the muscles and, in doing so, preventing injury. Later, however, research suggested the opposite was true – that it caused muscle fatigue and slower sprinting times in elite athletes.

This prompted many of them to abandon it for “dynamic” stretching, which looks more like real exercise. Today, many experts think a combination of both before a vigorous workout or competition is the best approach.

To understand the controversy, it’s important to know what happens at the muscles’ cellular level during static stretching.

“Our muscles are made of thousands of muscle spindles – like hairs in a ponytail – that give the muscle cell the ability to stretch and contract by sliding past each other in a coordinated fashion,” said Michael Jonesco, an assistant clinical professor of sports medicine and internal medicine at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. “Static stretching pulls on the cell to the max, and can cause some stretch injury that takes time to recover, and can therefore cause a temporary drop in performance.”

Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, puts the muscles in motion repetitively, and “is essentially preparing your muscle in a gradually progressive fashion to do the job you want it to do,” said Edward Laskowski, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at the Mayo Clinic. “For example, you may want to do a front kick in martial arts or in dance. So you would start with some slow and gentle kicks, gradually increasing speed and intensity until you are performing the kicks you normally would.”

A comprehensive review of the scientific literature over the past 15 years tries to put the controversy to rest. After considering hundreds of studies, researchers concluded that a mixed warm-up – static stretching along with dynamic stretching – was the optimal approach. “Brief periods of static stretching, often followed by dynamic periods of warm-up, is a great means to prepare for competition,” Jonesco said.

Laskowski agreed. “A combination of stretches is likely best,” he said. “Static stretching to ensure equal flexibility side-to-side and to optimize range of motion about the joint, and dynamic stretching as a preparation for a sport or activity, especially one requiring explosive movements.”

Moreover, regular static stretching – whether tied to exercise or not – conveys a number of benefits. It increases range of motion in the joints, enhances flexibility, improves circulation and reduces risk of injury, among other things. “I like to think of stretching as a way to optimize the range of motion about your joints,” Laskowski said. “The more motion you have, the better the muscles can work.”

Recent research in animals and an unpublished preliminary study in humans also suggest that static stretching helps the elderly and those with impaired mobility because it increases blood flow to the muscles. The data showed that regular stretching improved walking ability among those with peripheral artery disease, a condition that causes painful cramping in the lower extremities and afflicts more than 8.5 million Americans. It also might improve mobility for diabetics, who sometimes suffer nerve damage in their extremities. “You are never too old to gain a benefit,” Laskowski said. “Our connective tissue tightens as we get older, so stretching is beneficial as we age.”

For optimal benefit, Laskowski suggested holding a stretch for at least 30 seconds. Don’t bounce, which can cause “micro trauma” to the muscle, he added. Many people stretch both before and after exercise, but given a choice, Laskowski said, he believed the best time to stretch is after, when the muscles and tissues are warm. Symmetry also is important – equal flexibility on each side – to prevent muscle imbalance, which can lead to injury, he said.

Jonesco agreed. “Be sure to do both sides, right and left,” he said. “I also recommend antagonistic muscle pairing as well – front to back, for example, quad and hamstring.”

He dismisses the lack-of-time argument some people make. “Static stretching is simple,” Jonesco said. “It can be done anytime with minimal effort. Do it while in the hot tub or shower. You can do it while sitting in your work chair.”

Schneider always finds that hour. “I put some music on or watch a television show while I stretch. I’m relaxed, I’m not rushed, and it gives my muscles a better chance to stretch out,” he said. “I have kept that schedule to this day.


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Health

Eggs for breakfast benefit those with Type 2 diabetes

The Kashmir Monitor

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People with Type 2 Diabetes (TED) should opt for eggs for breakfast, a recent study suggests. According to the findings, a high-fat, low-carb breakfast (LCBF) can help those with T2D control blood sugar levels throughout the day.

“The large blood sugar spike that follows breakfast is due to the combination of pronounced insulin resistance in the morning in people with T2D and because typical Western breakfast foods – cereal, oatmeal, toast and fruit – are high in carbohydrates,” said Jonathan Little, lead author of the study published in the Journal of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

According to Little, breakfast is consistently the “problem” meal that leads to the largest blood sugar spikes for people with T2D. The research shows that eating a low-carb and high-fat meal first thing in the morning, is a simple way to prevent this large spike, improve glycemic control throughout the day, and can perhaps also reduce other diabetes complications.

 

Study participants, with well-controlled T2D, completed two experimental feeding days. On one day, they ate an omelette for breakfast and on another day, they ate oatmeal and some fruit. An identical lunch and dinner were provided on both days. A continuous glucose monitor – a small device that attaches to your abdomen and measures glucose every five minutes – was used to measure blood sugar spikes across the entire day. Participants also reported ratings of hunger, fullness and a desire to eat something sweet or savoury.

Little’s study determined that consuming a very low-carbohydrate high-fat breakfast completely prevented the blood sugar spike after breakfast and this had enough of an effect to lower overall glucose exposure and improve the stability of glucose readings for the next 24 hours.

We expected that limiting carbohydrates to less than 10% at breakfast would help prevent the spike after this meal. But we were a bit surprised that this had enough of an effect and that the overall glucose control and stability were improved. We know that large swings in blood sugar are damaging to our blood vessels, eyes, and kidneys. The inclusion of a very low-carbohydrate high-fat breakfast meal in T2D patients may be a practical and easy way to target the large morning glucose spike and reduce associated complications,” he explained.

He does note that there was no difference in blood sugar levels in both groups later in the day, suggesting that the effect for reducing overall post-meal glucose spikes can be attributed to the breakfast responses with no evidence that a low-carb breakfast worsened glucose responses to lunch or dinner.

“The results of our study suggest potential benefits of altering macronutrient distribution throughout the day so that carbohydrates are restricted at breakfast with a balanced lunch and dinner rather than consuming an even distribution and moderate amount of carbohydrates throughout the day,” Little asserted.

As another interesting aspect of the research, participants noted that pre-meal hunger and their cravings for sweet foods later in the day tended to be lower if they ate the low-carb breakfast. Little suggests this change in diet may be a healthy step for anybody, even those who are not living with diabetes.

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Health

Symptoms of liver disease and ways to keep it healthy

The Kashmir Monitor

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The liver, which measures about 1,00 grams in weight and 15 cm in length, is responsible for the synthesis of various proteins, coagulation factors, cholesterol, triglycerides and bile including glycogenesis. It is also responsible for detoxifications of drugs, alcohol and control of infections. Located in the upper right part of the abdomen separated from chest cavity by the diaphragm, it is one the most vital organs in the body.

However, the graph of liver disease in India has grown over the decade and the dynamics has changed drastically, says Dr (Prof) Gourdas Choudhuri, executive director, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatobiliary Sciences, Fortis Memorial Research Institute.

“Earlier liver diseases were synonyms with Hepatitis B and C only, but today we see lot of cases of liver failure, fatty liver, and every year about 10 lakh people with new liver disease are diagnosed in our country,” he says.

 

On World Liver Day, which is observed every year on April 19 to create awareness and understand the importance of the liver, he lists a few liver diseases and also shares tips on how to take care of the organ:

A few known liver diseases:

  1. Hepatitis A, B or C
  2. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  3. Alcoholic fatty liver
  4. Fatty liver
  5. Cirrhosis of the liver
  6. Alcoholic hepatitis
  7. Hemochromatosis

You must visit a doctor in case you have the follow symptoms:

  1. Unexplained abdominal pain and swelling which is continuous in nature.
  2. Itchy and red skin around the stomach. Regular red patches around the stomach and skin are primary indication of something being wrong inside.
  3. Dark urine is another early sign of liver disease. No matter how hydrated you are, if your urine is dark in colour you must visit a doctor.
  4. Loss of appetite.
  5. Blood in stool, or pale or tar-coloured stool.
  6. Swelling in legs and ankles.
  7. Nausea or vomiting.

To prevent liver diseases you must keep your lifestyle and weight in check, he suggests. Protection is the best cure for liver diseases.

“Protect yourself from hepatitis infected people and alcohol. Vaccination is another important part to avoid liver disease although there are no vaccination for all liver diseases but there are for Hepatitis A & B. Sharing of drugs and needles are also the major cause of liver disease, avoid it at any cost. Unprotected sex, tattoo and piercing from same needles or infected needles with same drugs has the highest risk of liver disease,” Dr (Prof) Gourdas Choudhuri adds.

Tips for liver care:

  1. Adopt a healthy lifestyle and have a balanced diet.
  2. Eat foods from all the food groups: grains, proteins, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and fats. Include green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, apple and walnut in your diet.
  3. Eat foods that have lot of fibre such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, rice and cereals such as quinoa, millet and buckwheat.
  4. Ensure safe blood transfusions to avoid contracting hepatitis A, B, C.
  5. Maintain personal hygiene and be sure to wash hands after using the washroom.
  6. Avoid tap water when travelling.
  7. Say no to alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
  8. Exercise regularly.

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Health

BP drug shows promise for treating Parkinson’s

The Kashmir Monitor

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Felodipine, a prescribed drug to treat high blood pressure, has shown promise against Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and forms of dementia in studies carried out in mice and zebrafish at the University of Cambridge.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, scientists have shown in mice that felodipine may be a candidate for re-purposing.

A common feature of neurodegenerative diseases is the build-up of misfolded proteins.

 

These proteins, such as huntingtin in Huntington’s disease and tau in some dementias, form “aggregates” that can cause irreversible damage to nerve cells in the brain.

A team led by Professor David Rubinsztein used mice that had been genetically modified to express mutations that cause Huntington’s disease or a form of Parkinson’s disease, and zebrafish that model a form of dementia.

Felodipine was effective at reducing the build-up of “aggregates” in mice with the Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease mutations and in the zebrafish dementia model. The treated animals also showed fewer signs of the diseases.

“This is the first time that we’re aware of that a study has shown that an approved drug can slow the build-up of harmful proteins in the brains of mice using doses aiming to mimic the concentrations of the drug seen in humans,” said Professor Rubinsztein.

The hypertension drug was able to slow down progression of these potentially devastating conditions and “so we believe it should be trialled in patients,” he added. In healthy individuals, the body uses a mechanism to prevent the build-up of such toxic materials.

This mechanism is known as autophagy, or ‘self-eating’, and involves cells eating and breaking down the materials. “This is only the first stage, though. The drug will need to be tested in patients to see if it has the same effects in humans as it does in mice. We need to be cautious, but I would like to say we can be cautiously optimistic,” said Professor Rubinsztein.

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