Best and Healthiest Meal Choices – Know the Do’s and Don’ts

Thursday, August 02, 2012 9:05 AM comments (0)

Healthy-MealJust as athletes need to properly stretch and hydrate before and after a workout or event, they also need to be making smart meal choices. What you eat—regardless if you are an athlete or not—will greatly impact your health.

It can often be hard to determine which foods are best, especially with the myriad of options available at most grocery stores. A good place to start is learning how to make smart nutritional choices when it comes to fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

Michael Rakotz, MD, Family Medicine physician at Northshore, gives advice on the best meal choices for both athletes and non-athletes alike:

  • Focus on eating “good” fats. These include vegetable oil, olive oil and foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (such as seeds, nuts and fish).
  • Avoid transfats and limit your consumption of saturated fats.
    o    Transfats (think commercially baked goods) can be deadly. Try to avoid anything that says “partially hydrogenated” on the label. Make smarter pit stops – skip the fast food whenever possible.
    o    Saturated fats should be consumed on a limited basis. These include fatty cuts of red meat, pork (bacon) and whole fat dairy products (whole milk, yogurt and cheese). Choose leaner cuts of beef and pork, and if possible, eat meat and eggs from cows and hens that are grass fed.
  • Skip the white, choose whole wheat. Selecting the most enriched carbohydrates can be confusing. It’s always better to choose a whole grain bread (whole wheat, whole oat or whole rye should be the first ingredient); you’ll get more fiber and less of a rise in blood sugar. Processed white bread provides very little nutritional value and contains higher amounts of sugar. It’s best to choose whole wheat over white; this applies to rice (brown is better than white), pasta and most baked goods. Choose sweet potatoes over white potatoes, and make sure to eat the skin (which contains much of the fiber).
  • Pass on any sweetened drinks (made with either sugar or high fructose corn syrup).  In moderation, natural sugars (like those that come from fruit) are best. Check labels carefully and try to limit the grams of sugar in anything you buy.
  • Eat nuts in moderation. A handful a day is a good serving size since nuts are very high in calories. Nuts are an excellent source of protein, fiber and good fat. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, those who eat a handful of nuts a day lower their risk of heart disease. Some good options include: almonds, pistachios, walnuts and hazelnuts.
  • Make smart protein choices. Eat lean meat, pork and poultry. Eat fish twice a week and limit you consumption of red meats to no more than two times per week.

What smart meal choices do you make to maintain your health?

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Stretching – A Few Short Minutes Could Improve Performance

Wednesday, August 01, 2012 4:36 PM comments (0)

It’s hard enough sometimes to get into a regular workout schedule, but then to add an extra 5-10 minutes to each session for stretching can make it even more difficult. Fortunately, the benefits of stretching both before and after a workout can make this extra time worth it.Stretching

April Williams, MS, RCEP Exercise Physiologist at NorthShore, discusses the benefits of stretching pre and post workout:

  • Reduces injury. There is nothing worse than pulling or tearing a muscle from working out. Warming up your muscles before a workout can help reduce muscle strain and pain during exercise. The same holds true for when your workout is complete. To help energize your muscles before an activity you could do a dynamic warm-up. This type of warm-up involves moving, much more than just holding a stretch, and can help prepare your body for your activity. This could consist of doing 10-15 repetitions of lightly skipping, walking lunges, side stepping exercises, etc.
  • Improves muscle soreness and stiffness. Just as you may need a cup of coffee to get you going in the morning, your body also needs some time to prepare for strenuous activity. Stretching will give you a greater range of motion during your workout, in your activities of daily living and can also help relieve stress.
  • Improves circulation. Stretching can improve blood flow, making for an easier warm-up, workout and cool down.
  • Enhances flexibility. Have you ever noticed that after time goes by without working out you may not be able to reach your toes when stretching your legs? Continued stretching exercises will make you more limber and flexible. This is especially important since not all of our muscles get used on a day-to-day basis. Stretching is something that should be done on a daily basis because as we get older, our muscles tend to get shorter/tighten, and if they are not stretched they may not work properly. Stretching is a wonderful way to help protect against this loss as we age.

Be sure that you are gently stretching all major muscle groups, especially after working out.  It will be easier for you to get a better stretch once your muscles are already warm from your activity. The following stretches are good starting points for any workout, and can be customized depending on your needs and activity:

  • Arm stretches. This can include doing arm circles (in both directions), stretching your arm across your chest or behind your head. Another option is to give yourself a big bear hug, switching out which arm is on top. Plan to hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds. Make sure you never bounce or have short, quick movements.
  • Leg stretches. This should include hamstring and quadriceps. You can do many of these stretches either standing up or sitting down. You can stretch your calves by leaning against a stationary object. Bend your front leg slightly and leave your back leg straight with the heel on the ground. Don’t forget to change legs to get the other side, too!

Do you stretch before and after you exercise? How long to you usually stretch for?

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Proper Hydration Is Key for Endurance Athletes

Wednesday, August 01, 2012 3:40 PM comments (0)

Proper-HydrationWhether you’re training for a big race or involved in minimal daily physical activity, drinking water is essential to keeping your body hydrated and healthy. For most people the recommendation is to drink eight glasses of water. However, if you are an endurance athlete training for a marathon or triathlon, this amount of water may not be sufficient to refuel your body.

Brian Shortal, MD, Cardiologist at NorthShore, marathoner and triathlete, gives his advice on what endurance athletes can do to stay properly hydrated:

  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after a workout. Measure your weight before and after a workout to determine how much fluid you’ll need to rehydrate. (Remember: A loss of two pounds is the equivalent of one liter of fluid).
  • Replenish your electrolytes. When you sweat, your body loses sodium, calcium, potassium and other important minerals. Drinking just water after an intense workout won’t help replenish these electrolytes. A sports drink, such as Gatorade, or coconut water will help. Check out a side-by-side comparison of the two beverages.  

To view tips on how to train for a race in the summer heat—including avoiding certain times, monitoring your weight and urine—view our previous post.

What do you drink to stay hydrated after a strenuous workout?

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Motivated to Work Out? Planning Your Exercise Routine

Sunday, July 29, 2012 9:16 AM comments (0)

Workout-MotivationHas watching the London games made you eager to start a new exercise routine? While your training schedule probably won’t be as grueling, diving right into a new routine can be difficult. Beginning slow and identifying your workout goals is a great starting point.

Carrie Jaworski, MD, Sports Medicine physician at NorthShore, gives the following tips for starting a new exercise routine:

  • Choose an activity that you enjoy doing. You’ll be more likely to stick to it. This could include walking, cycling, running, swimming, jumping rope, or even playing basketball or soccer with your kids.
  • Find 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week to exercise. Keep in mind that you can break these 30-minute workouts into shorter intervals. Maybe given your schedule it’s easiest for you to work out for 10 minutes in the morning and 20 in the evening. Do what’s best (and most convenient!) for you.
  • Mix it up. Aim to do aerobic exercise three to five times per week and strengthening workouts twice a week.
  • Work to perceived exertion. You should be able to carry on a conversation without feeling winded or out of breath.
  • Prevent injuries. Be sure to properly stretch before and after your workout. If you do get injured, remember P-R-I-C-E: Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

What weekly workout activities do you enjoy most? How do you stick with your routine?

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Heat Stroke - Something you Should Sweat

Monday, July 23, 2012 4:51 PM comments (0)

Heat StrokeA day of fun in the sun can lead serious ailments if you’re not careful. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to stay hydrated and seek shade when you’re enjoying outdoor activities. Learn how to beat the heat this summer by learning the signs and symptoms of heat stroke.

Rick Gimbel, MD, an emergency medicine physician, shares some of the facts and warning signs for identifying heat stroke:

  • Heat stroke is the most serious heat condition, and can often be avoided if other heat-related symptoms aren’t ignored.
  • As your core body temperature rises in the heat, various symptoms may arise. Commons signs of the onset of a heat illness include: thirst, excessive sweating, nausea, cramps, headaches, dizziness and fainting.

    If you experience any of these symptoms it is important to drink plenty of fluids (water is best), seek a cool place (either indoors or in the shade) and rest. It may also help to take a cold shower or to ice the body.
  • Prolonged exposure to humidity and the sun can head to heat stroke—an indication that the body temperature is above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. When not properly treated, heat stroke can be fatal. If you suspect you or someone you know may have heat stroke, immediate medical attention is required. Delaying treatment may lead to brain and organ damage or death.

Have you ever experienced heat cramps, exhaustion or stroke? When do you usually know you’ve had too much sun?

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Sexual Health – Common Concerns for Men and Women

Thursday, July 19, 2012 11:53 AM comments (0)

Sexual-healthTalking to your physician about sexual health issues may not always be an easy, comfortable conversation – even if conditions are common in men and women of all ages.

Sexual disorders can be a result of cancer treatments and other health concerns, menopause, medication and environmental/lifestyle factors. With the right treatment, these disorders can often be minimized and resolved.

Jeffrey Albaugh, PhD, Urology Clinical Nurse Specialist at the John and Carol Walter Center for Urological Health, identifies sexual disorders found in both men and women:

  • Desire Disorder – This disorder is linked to a lack of sexual desire/libido. Our busy lifestyles can play a leading role in this disorder, as anxiety, stress and depression can all influence one’s sexual desire.
  • Arousal Disorder – This disorder refers to difficulty becoming or staying aroused/excited. In men this is most commonly seen as erectile dysfunction (ED), which can be easily treated with a variety of non-invasive and surgical treatment options. Sexual arousal is dependent on blood flow and nervous system functions, and can often be impacted by health concerns such as diabetes, heart problems, high cholesterol, etc.
  • Orgasm / Climax Disorder – One’s ability to orgasm is often dependent on the type of stimulation. In men this disorder can refer to premature, rapid or delayed ejaculation disorders. In women it can consist of having difficulty reaching climax (both with and without a partner).
  • Sexual Issues arising from cancer treatment – This includes penile rehabilitation in men after prostate cancer treatments.

What other sexual health topics would you like to learn more about?

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Relax, Unwind – Health Benefits of Massage

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 7:58 AM comments (0)

Massage-BenefitsDim lighting, soothing music and invigorating scents can all be recipes for relaxation. And, in our busy lives, it’s often nice to have some downtime to focus on relaxation and rejuvenation of both the mind and body.

Massage therapy has been around for centuries and can be used for various wellness purposes. Massage therapy comes in many forms – including shiatsu, contemporary western massage, Swedish massage and tissue release.

Charlotte Walker, a massage therapist in NorthShore’s Integrative Medicine program, identifies some of the potential health benefits of massage therapy:

  • Enhance circulation and reduce blood pressure
  • Relieve muscle tension and stiffness
  • Cleanse the system
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Stimulate nerves and relax the body
  • Restore the body’s flow of energy
  • Decrease anxiety

As is the case with any alternative treatment option you may be undergoing, it is important to inform your physician about this treatment, especially if you are being treated for any specific health conditions.

Have you ever gotten a massage? How often do you go?

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Achy Stomach and Digestive Issues – When Is It a Problem?

Thursday, July 12, 2012 8:55 AM comments (0)

Digestive-ProblemsDigestive problems—such as cramps, bloating, diarrhea and gas—are common ailments to many Americans. These symptoms can be influenced by the food we eat, the lifestyle we live and our family history of gastrointestinal issues.

Inflammatory bowel disease (including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are both related to symptoms of the bowel.  That is why they are commonly confused with one another.

Eugene Yen, MD, Gastroenterologist at NorthShore and director of the Crohn’s and colitis program, offers his advice on the differences associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and IBS:

  • The main difference between the two is that IBS does not involve inflammation of the bowel, and thus is treated differently.
         o    Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are treated with medications and
               sometimes surgery.
         o    IBS can often be managed with diet and lifestyle changes, and
               sometimes with different medications.
  • Symptoms of both of these conditions can be similar. In addition, many patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease have IBS symptoms. In other words, patients who have their IBD under good control can sometimes get abdominal pain and diarrhea in the absence of intestinal inflammation.
  • It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between IBS and IBD, so if you have been experiencing intestinal issues, we recommend seeking the consultation of your physician.

Have you ever experienced any of the symptoms of IBS? What other information do you want to know about the topic?

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Bite to Itch – Summertime Insect Protection

Monday, July 09, 2012 9:31 AM comments (0)

Insect BitesWith warm weather comes bugs that bother – whether they bite, sting or carry disease and illness. Although the cases of people with West Nile virus and Lyme disease have been relatively small, it is better to exercise proper prevention than to suffer the consequences these conditions may bring.

Ernest Wang, MD, Emergency Medicine physician, provides the following tips for avoiding insects and treating bites:

  • Wear insect repellent with DEET, being certain to avoid contact with your mouth and eyes. Some repellents will work for mosquitoes, ticks and other pesky insects. Remember: It’s always best to follow the directions on the bottle. For additional prevention, use a repellent on your clothing; typically these are not suitable for skin and contain permethrin.
  • Dress appropriately if you plan to be in a wooded or grassy area. Pants and long sleeves are best, and are an excellent way to limit your skin exposure. Once you’re back inside it’s a good idea to shower. Not only will this wash away the repellent, but it may also wash away any ticks that haven’t yet latched onto your body. You’ll also want to be sure to check your entire body thoroughly for ticks (especially your ears, waist, head, belly button, arms and legs).
  • Avoid areas with standing water, as these are often hotbeds for mosquitoes and ticks.
  • Resist walking barefoot in the grass. Bees can often be on the ground and this will help you avoid being stung. It’s also wise to avoid perfumes and bright colors, as these may attract bees.
  • Treat your bites. If you do get bitten and develop a bite that is red or raised try:  1) applying an ice pack for 10-15 minutes 3-4 times a day and 2) taking Benadryl for itching will both provide symptomatic relief from the local insect bite reaction.  Bites rarely develop into a skin infection (cellulitis), but this usually takes several days. If there is any question, call your doctor to have it evaluated.
  • Know the signs of having a potentially dangerous anaphylactic (rapidly progressing allergic) reaction to a bite. Reactions are most commonly associated with stings by bees, wasps or hornets. Hives, swelling (of the face, eyes, tongue and lips), throat tightness, difficulty breathing, vomiting or feeling faint/lightheaded are all signs of potentially dangerous anaphylaxis, and you should contact your doctor immediately or call 911.

What do you do to avoid bug bites in the summer? Have you ever found a tick on your body?

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Cluster Headaches are a Seasonal and Painful Affliction

Friday, July 06, 2012 7:59 AM comments (0)

Cluster-HeadacheDubbed ‘suicide headaches,’ cluster headaches strike without warning. Symptoms include pain on one side of the head (usually behind the eye or temple) that occur seasonally, in the spring and late fall.

Dr. B.T. Horton, the researcher who first identified these headaches in 1939, said his patients had to be constantly watched for fear of suicide because the pain is so excruciating.

Steven Meyers, MD, Neurologist with NorthShore, offers the following known facts about cluster headaches:

  • Tend to strike young adults and men more often than women
  • Put African Americans at more risk than Caucasians
  • Can last for days, weeks or longer
  • Most often occur at a precise time of day or night, in a regular pattern
  • Pain can mysteriously ease almost as quickly as it begins
  • May be triggered by changes in daylight in the spring and fall. The cyclical nature suggests a connection to the body’s biological clock.

While there is no cure for cluster headaches, there are treatments that can decrease the severity of pain, shorten the duration and even prevent them. The key is correct diagnosis. Relatively rare, they affect less than 1% of the population and are frequently mistaken for migraines. Be sure to see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and relief.z

Do you suffer from cyclical, painful headaches? What do you do to relieve headaches?

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