Friday, 1 July 2011

Knuckle Cracking !

Ever wonder where the ‘snap, crackle and pop’ sound comes from when you crack your knuckles?
The answer may surprise you.
What actually does the ‘popping’ is not the bones or the joints themselves, but the little capsules of liquid that lie in between the bones.  It’s called “synovial fluid”. 
When we pull or bend our fingers beyond their natural limits, the bones and joints pull apart.  The ‘synovial capsule’ is then stretched.  Because of its expansion, the pressure in the synovial fluid decreases. With that bubbles quickly form, expand and then burst. 
The “burst of the bubble” is what we are hearing during a knuckle crack.
The ultimate question you are probably asking…
“Does cracking knuckles cause arthritis like my mom once told me?”
 Well, your mother was probably making assumptions…either that or she was a bit grossed-out by the whole thing and just wanted it to stop.
After many tests, there is no clear evidence that cracking knuckles causes arthritis.   There is however some evidence suggesting that grip-strength may slightly decrease for habitual knuckle-crackers. 
What the popping does seem to do is increase mobility in joints. 
It is of course possible to crack many other joints other than our knuckles – Eg. back, neck, hips, wrists, shoulders, toes, ankles, etc.
I suppose this is why we have chiropractors – The true masters of “synovial bubble popping”.


Eyes are made for seeing and feet are made for walking…
But did you know that certain parts of our bodies are virtually useless? Some of these apparently‘lost their function’ over time. 
So, while our ancestors may have had a use for them many moons ago, in today’s world they really don’t add much value.  Similar to the way cassette tape players in cars are losing their function as we’ve evolved to CDs and MP3 files. Today, few (if any) cars are built with a tape-deck – our bodies seem to change with the times as well.
An example in Humans…
The Appendix
The appendix does about as much for a human as wings do for an ostrich (Hint: Ostriches don’t fly…).
Evolutionary theorists believe that our appendix may have been important to our early ancestors who were big time plant-eaters. 
Today the appendix is a small pouch that doesn’t directly assist us with digestion.  So, perhaps the appendix lost its power as a result of our increased consumption of meat. 
With a bit of humour, Paleontologist Alfred Sherwood Romer once remarked that the major purpose of the appendix was probably to give financial support to the surgical profession.  (The Vertebrate Body, 1949). 
Each year, there are hundreds of deaths from appendicitis and hundreds of thousands of appendectomies performed.
The vast majority of people who have their appendix removed, don’t miss it at all – perhaps the greatest bit of proof that it is of no real importance.

Tonsils & Adenoids...Useless parts ?

Tonsils & Adenoids – seems they are about as useful as ashtrays on a motorbikes.
It is sometimes argued that tonsils and adenoids could be considered part of our immune system – protecting us from viruses and infections – particularly in children.
However their design is not effective in dealing with the variety of viral infections that people encounter in today’s society.
Tonsils and adenoids are apparently the product of an immune system that was developed in a time when children didn’t have exposure to many other people andtheir germs – These days, all the toxins in our environment and food, the large population and the variety of germs being passed around at daycares, schools etc. is far greater than it would have been back then.
The bottom line is – we can very easily live without them…especially as adults.
In fact many people do.
Tonsils and adenoids sometimes cause more harm than good.  They get infected quite often in children, causing frequent illness.
In these cases, they are surgically removed with no ill-effects.

Wisdom Teeth ...Useless Body part ?

Wisdom teeth – they’re about as useful as a fifth wheel on a car!
These teeth grow way in the back of our mouths.  As you know, dentists often remove wisdom teeth, sometimes before there are even any problems with them. 
Wisdom teeth often grow-in crooked or are ‘impacted’ and can eventually cause pain.  Theearlier in life they are removed the easier they are removed – as the roots haven’t developed much.
Our early ancestors may have needed these teeth more than us.  Having more teeth would not only help in the chewing of tough animal flesh, but some people believe it also aided in the chewing of plants – something that helped compensate for an inability to easily digest cellulose (found in plants).  Over time, as our diets changed, our jaws became smaller…but wisdom teeth still tend to appear.
Some scientists in Japan have actually harvested stem cells from extracted wisdom teeth.  In some cases patients getting their wisdom teeth pulled have an option to have the stem cells gathered and saved in case they might ever be needed in the future.
So, not only don’t we need our wisdom teeth, they may actually be more useful out of our mouths than in.

Untold Powers of the eyes....

It’s old news that our eyes make us see…But have you considered how our eyes speak? 
As the saying goes, “The eyes are the windows to the soul”.  
Eye contact is a crucial part of our non-verbal communication.
Our eyes can tell others we’re listening, interested or not paying attention. 
They can also communicate a whole range of emotions – happiness, anger, boredom, surprise, etc.
In North America – eye contact is often associated with trust. 
People who avoid eye contact can sometimes come across as deceitful. On the other hand, it can also indicate shyness or intimidation.   
Looked at differently, someone who nevertakes their eyes off of you may come across as a bit ‘creepy’ or aggressive.
So if you’re intentionally trying to communicate your trustworthiness, be sure you glance away now and then…or at the very least, blink.
Cultural Differences…
In some East Asian, African and Native North American cultures it is considered disrespectful to look a more senior or dominant person in the eye.
And as a sign of respect, some Middle Eastern cultures also feel there should be limits to the amount of eye contact made between members of the opposite sex (with the exception of spouses and family). 
Animal Alert!!
If ever caught face to face with a bear, giving it the ‘evil eye’ may not help you…
Many mammals including bears, dogs and chimpanzees, instinctively interpret direct eye contact as a threat. 

Spinning Dancer and the Optical Illusion.....

It is estimated that about 75% of the information we receive from our surroundings comes through our sense of sight.
But can we always trust what we are seeing?
If you’ve been on the internet enough, you’ve probably come across the image of the “spinning ballerina”. 
It asks the question:  Is she turning clockwise or counter-clockwise?
Depending on what direction you see her turning, they suggest it can be determined if you are “right or left-brained”.
What do the experts say?
Well, many experts think this is hog-wash and unlikely to be true! But leaving “brain-sidedness” to the side…
The spinning dancer is a great example of anoptical illusion. Stare at her long enough and you’re likely to see her spin both ways.
Optical illusions fool our brains into ‘seeing’ things that are not actually a good representation of reality.
One of the main reasons optical illusions work is because many of the eyes’ receptors perceive images and colours at different rates of speed.
So, depending on how an image is put together using colour, brightness, depth, movement etc. the receptors might be sending false images to the brain.
A Practical Use For Optical Illusions…
Interior decorators are sometimes known for creating optical illusions.
With the right colour combinations or contrast in a tiny downtown apartment, we can create the ‘perception’ of space. 
Sometimes getting tricked is a good thing.

Mystery Eye Twitching...

Has your eye ever twitched uncontrollably? 
This can last a day or two or sometimes as many as 2 or 3 weeks.
What’s actually twitching is the bottom eyelid.  It is a type of muscle spasm.
Officially called blepharospasm, it is completely harmless…but really, quite annoying. 
Why does this happen, anyway?
The exact reason our eyes twitch is not known, but the experts do have a few ideas.
Check out this list:
Eyelid twitching tends to occur when…
  • We are under stress
  • We consume too much caffeine
  • We don’t get enough sleep
  • We stare at a computer screen too long

Why ankles swell in Airplanes ?

Have you ever been on an overnight flight? 
After flying through the clouds for 6 or 8 hours you may have noticed your ankles doubled in size.
Some people believe it’s from traveling at high altitudes…
But Here’s The Truth About Swelling…
It’s from sitting still in a cramped space for too long.
It doesn’t only happen up in the sky – it could just as easily happen in a bus or train.
When your legs are ‘dangling’ for a long time, the fluid in your blood vessels eventually follows the path of least resistance – seeping down into the tissues of your lower extremities.  The longer your feet are hanging down, the more fluid will gather.
The cramped seating doesn’t help.  Being tall is only fun until you travel overnight.
It’s rare that these trips are not fully booked, so stretching out over multiple seats is usually not an option.
If possible, stand up and stretch out in the aisle once per hour. This will help get the fluid out of the tissues and back in the blood vessels.
If you’re trapped in a window seat and don’t want to disturb your neighbour, simply moving your feet and toes can go a long way. 

See Green...

When you look around your home, what do you see? A few plants strategically placed for a touch of green and decor, perhaps?
Did you know that house plants – beyond being pretty – are actually good for our health?
Aside from removing carbon dioxide from the air and giving off the oxygen that we need to breathe, plants also act as natural filters.
They remove types of toxins and indoor pollutants – many of which are found in our homes and are both invisible and unavoidable.
They help remove chemicals and toxins produced by carpets, drywall, paint, printer ink and even glues!
A study done by NASA researchers recommends office workers to have at least one plant in their personal breathing space.

Silent Threats

What do the following generally have in common? 
  • The holiday season
  • Monday mornings
  • Major sporting events
  • Market Crashes
 Answer:  They are all times when ‘anxiety’ is usually at a high… and when heart-attack ratestend to increase.
Most of us are aware that eating healthy and exercising regularly are important ‘preventative steps’. 
But “stress” is a health factor that oftengoes overlooked and is the cause of many problems, even for people who live otherwise ‘healthy’ lives.
When we get stressed, adrenaline (the “stress hormone”) is released into the body. 
It sets-off the ‘fight or flight’ response, speeding up the heart rate and pumping more high-pressure blood in less time. 
The increased force of the blood can damage artery walls and increase plaque formation– leading to clogged arteries and consequently, heart-attacks.
Adding to this problem is the fact that during some stressful times (like the holiday season) people also tend to fall into bad habits – eating more of the things they ‘shouldn’t’ and skipping out on healthy routines. 
Finding ways of managing stress or decreasing anxiety in our lives is just as important asregular healthy eating and exercise.

Stomach Ulcer...myths

An ulcer is basically a crater that has been eroded in the lining of the stomach. 
You would probably feel abdominal pain, some bloating and possibly some nausea.  In severe cases it can cause sudden gastrointestinal bleeding…quickly turning life-threatening.
People talk about suspected causes of ulcers.
Myths and Assumptions…
Many people point fingers at diet.
Spicy food is often blamed for the problem.  Probably because it burns in the mouth we think it will cause damage in our stomachs.
But considering that the acid in our stomach is strong enough to dissolve a razor blade, it is doubtful that a little spice is going to do what our digestive acids cannot.
Stress also receives blame for ulcers.  But just like spicy food, this has proven to have little if any part in the development of ulcers.
So what’s the story?
Between 70-90% of ulcers are caused by a bacteria that lives in the stomach’s acidic environment and can also be caused or worsened by certain anti-inflammatory drugs.
Also, while some ulcers do occur in the stomach, most ulcers actually develop in the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum.

What is a stroke?

What is a stroke?
A stroke or “brain attack” occurs when the vessels supplying blood to the brain are blocked, interrupting the blood flow. This results in the death of the brain cells. Depending on the area of the brain involved and the extent of brain cell death, the specific body functions such as speech, movement or memory may be affected.

The symptoms of stroke are loss of consciousness, numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, confusion and difficulty in speaking or understanding, problem in vision, dizziness, loss of balance and coordination, headache and vomiting.

A quick neurological examination is the first step. The symptoms are assessed and certain blood tests may be carried out. An electrocardiogram and CT scan may also be done. MRI may be advised to detect subtle changes in the brain. Neurosurgeons may advise an MRA (magnetic resonance angiography) to detect blockage of the brain arteries inside the skull.

Smoking causes deposition of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, which slow down the blood flow and resulting in stroke.

Lowering blood pressure has been conclusively shown to prevent both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. Studies show that intensive antihypertensive therapy results in a greater risk reduction. High cholesterol levels have been inconsistently associated with (ischemic) stroke. If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, follow your doctor's treatment recommendations.

Limit the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet. Try to avoid trans fat entirely

Frequent and regular physical exercise or activities boost the immune system, and helps prevent the risk of heart disease and stroke.

If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control. Diabetes causes the small vessels to close prematurely. Good control of blood sugar is important in decreasing the risk of stroke in people with diabetes.

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation.

Being overweight or obese are also risk factors for heart disease or stroke. So, you should eat healthy and do exercise regularly to maintain weight.

Headache: causes and prevention tips

Headaches are a result of irritation of nerves and pain sensitive structures such as the nerves arising from the brain, the blood vessels and muscles in the head and neck region.

Some common varieties of headaches are migraine with aura where the pain is preceded by an aura with blurred vision, tingling in the skin, appearance of zig-zag lines in front of eyes and confusion. The other is migraine without aura, which has no warning aura.

Other kinds of headaches include: Tension headache, Cluster headache, Rebound and Sinus headache. Headaches can also occur due to head injuries.

Headaches are also associated with systemic infections, vascular diseases and metabolic disorders. Most important are those associated with raised pressure in the head which includes headache with tumours.

A detailed history of headaches is essential. The patient should maintain a record of headaches, and an account of sleep, diet, emotional episodes and other contributing factors, leading to headaches.

Maintaining proper diet and regular exercising at a fixed time of the day help prevent headaches.

Stretch frequently if your job requires you to remain seated for long periods of time.

Avoid eating food that triggers headache. Chocolate, wine and aged cheeses can trigger headaches.

Do yoga and meditation regularly to avoid headaches. Performing yoga would help you to manage stress.

You should go to bed every night at a decent time, and make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep.

Don't drink caffeine. Stay away from sodas and coffee that contain caffeine, which restricts blood vessels and causes headaches.

Head massage can also provide relief to headaches. A head massage makes you feel relaxed and calms you mind and revitalise the brain and body. It also improves blood circulation in different parts of your head.

Ice packs have been used for years to treat headaches and they still work. You usually find ice packs at your drugstore. A cold rag on your neck or forehead can also work wonders.

Get your teeth checked regularly. Periodic headaches may be linked to a dental problem.

Pain killers suppress the pain, without affording it a permanent cure. And when the pain resurfaces, it will arrive with double force.

Ventilate your home and workplace.

A neurological examination involving assessment of the cranial nerves, reflexes and brain function is essential. Other tests that may be asked for include CT scan or MRI. Blood tests including a complete blood count and chemistry profile may also be helpful.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

5 Indoor workouts for the monsoon

Don't the weather 'rain on your parade', you can still stay fit in the wet season. Experts show how... 

So what if you can't get out for your regular run around the block due to the wet streets and rainy climes? There's no reason to let your workout regime slip. Apart from the aerobics and do-it-yourself hip-hop videos, there is a workout plan you can follow at home to keep fit. Exercise gurus get into indoor fitness mode...

1. Treadmill
Zareen Watson, trainer to Bollywood stars, says the simplest way to stay fit indoors is to go for a walk! "On a treadmill of course," she says. "You can do anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes of walking. How you use the treadmill is dependent on your body history - if you have a bad knee or back it is not advisable to run. You may do a brisk walk at a speed you can safely maintain. You can also do a jogging workout, depending on your fitness level. What is very effective is if you do interval training, for instance, running for 2 minutes and then 2 ½ minutes of walking or 2 minutes of incline followed by 2 ½ minutes of walking on a flat surface. This sort of altering allows for a recovery period."

2. Stepper
"Any climbing exercise facilitates the muscles, warms you up faster and causes more calories to burn, generates more heat and thus a surge in the metabolic rate. Climbing also gives you more stamina and tones the legs. The Stepper and Elliptical Trainer (ET), works great as the legs are the largest muscle group," states fitness guru Mickey Mehta. There's a lot of variation one can try, like doing an alternate step, or hop-on, hop off. He adds, "As far as the Elliptical Trainer goes, it can give you almost 80% of a body workout and just half an hour on it is enough. It is a little better than a treadmill as you're using your arms, shoulder, chest, back, lower body and legs. You can do just legs also and sometimes exert force on the hand too."

3. Pumping iron 
Althea Shah of Gold's Gym talks of several indoor exercises on can do with weights. "Start after a warm-up. For the lower body do squats with dumbbells in your hands. Grab a chair and place it behind you. Standing in front of the chair with your feet shoulder width apart, then bend your knees and slowly squat towards the chair. Let your butt lightly touch the chair and slowly come back up. Do this 10-15 times, rest for a moment then repeat. You can also do lunges. For the Shoulder Press, hold the dumbbells to each side of the shoulders with elbows below wrists. Press dumbbells upward until arms are extended overhead. Lower to sides of shoulders and repeat. A Lateral Raise will have you hold dumbbells in front of thighs with elbows slightly bent. Then bend over with hips and knees bent slightly. Raise upper arms to sides until elbows are shoulder height. Maintain elbows' height above or equal to wrists. Lower and repeat. You can also do a Chest Press - lie flat on a bench, hold dumbbells directly above chest. Bend elbows slightly and maintain throughout the exercise. Open the arms to the sides. Elbows should remain 'locked' in a slightly flexed position. When upper arms are parallel to floor, return the weights to the starting position and repeat. This can be done on a flat bench or an inclined bench," she adds.

4. Aquatic workout 
If you like the water, it's time to get wet and happy with this one! Aqua specialist Deepali Jain says it's a great workout. "If you want to strengthen your core (your abs and back muscles), Aqualates works for you. The moment you lower yourself into the cool blue water, your work out begins. Millions of invisible fluid fingers reach out to knead and tone up the tiniest of muscles in your body you never knew existed, de-stressing them and rejuvenating you and the feel good factor is galore. When the depth of the water is waist deep the gravitational pull (gp) and buoyancy are working 50-50 % on your body. When you're chest deep, it is 25% gp and 75%b p, but when you're neck deep, then the gp is 0 percent and your workout becomes impact free.

The water being 13 times thicker than air, the calorie burn out rate goes up to 700 calories an hour, which is no mean feat, leading to weight loss, with no risk of injury due to the water cushioning you from all sides like a protective corset." And what are the exercises to do? "The specific exercises that are done against buoyancy give a fabulous overall tone to the body, giving you a lean mean healthy look. The only thing to remember is to do Aqualates under the supervision of a certified trainer," cautions Jain.

5. Swiss Ball 
Celebrity fitness trainer Deanne Pandey votes for the Swiss Ball. "It's also called the Balance Ball, Exercise or Pilates Ball.," she says. "The most important feature is that it is very good for functional moves and stability muscles. To explain, a Chest Fly on a bench may work only the pectoral muscles, but if done on a ball, it starts activating more than those muscles. And as you have to balance, the core starts getting stronger. You basically work multi-muscles which are very good for weight loss." The exercises done on the Swiss Ball are Wall Squats, Chest Fly and Press, Tricep Extensions and all Bicep Extensions. "A great exercise for the back is to lie on the ball till you feel a slight stretch on the spine. Hold this for a few minutes then relax, sit up and stretch. However, when using the ball one must be careful not to have any other equipment around, so you don't fall on it," she says.

3 rules to remember: 
- Wear the right gear: Sure, you're at home but you still need to wear your tracks and shoes, not slippers.
- Don't be distracted: Forget the phone and doorbell during your workout time.
- Be honest: Jot down what you have accomplished and don't cheat on it.