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Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Snowmageddon" - Are you prepared & fit enough to shovel your way out

"Snowmageddon" - it's the term I heard the weather lady say yesterday describing the storm that's coming into Toronto & the GTA tomorrow. Yikes! Hopefully, some of you have snowblowers to help dig out, but if you don't shoveling is a great exercise, but beware, it's much more taxing on your body that you probably even realize. In fact, you have an increased risk of a heart attack while you're shoveling.

Here are some tips for those of you preparing for "Snowmageddon":

1. Individuals with heart conditions or those who are relatively inactive should be especially careful. Please consult your doctor.

2. Choose a snow shovel that is right for you!
  • Be sure that your shovel has a curved handle, as this enables you to keep your back straighter when shovelling.
  • Obtain a shovel with an appropriate handle length. The length is correct when you can slightly bend your knees, flex your back 10 degrees or less, and hold the shovel comfortably in your hands at the start of the shovelling stroke.
  • Plastic shovel blades are lighter than a metal ones, thus putting less strain on your spine.
  • Sometimes, a smaller blade is better than a larger blade. Although a small blade can't shovel as much, it avoids the risk of trying to pick up a too heavy pile of snow with a larger blade.

3. Warm up your muscles before you start shovelling. You are more likely to get a sprain or a strain with cold, tight muscles than with warm, relaxed muscles.

4. Please take it slow! Shovelling can be quite strenuous, much like lifting weights. It can raise your heart rate and blood pressure dramatically, so pace yourself. Be sure to warm up before you start.

5. If you experience pain of any kind, stop immediately and seek assistance.

6. Freshly fallen, powdery snow is easier to shovel than the wet, packed-down variety.

7. Push the snow as you shovel. It puts less strain on your back than lifting.

8. Shovelling technique is very important. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends: "If you must lift the snow, lift it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Holding a shovel of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine. Never remove deep snow all at once; do it piecemeal. Shovel an inch or two; then take another inch off. Rest and repeat if necessary." Remember to move your feet rather than twisting!

9. Never throw snow over your shoulder.

10. Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks to stretch your back, arms and legs.

11. Remember to dress warmly and that extremities, such as the nose, ears, hands and feet, need extra protection.


Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic Essentials Health Centre
"The care you want, the health you need"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Breast Cancer & Hormone Replacement Therapy: What we know now - The good news

By now, a lot of people know about the increased risks of getting breast cancer when a woman goes on hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The Women's Health Initiative - a large scale study - was stopped in 2002 when it was noticed that estrogen and progestin users had a noticeably greater risk of developing heart problems and breast cancer. Statistical analysis shows that at the peak, the breast cancer risks for women on HRT were twice that of women on a placebo pill.

Fortunately, retrospective analysis shows that these risks dropped quickly once the HRT group stopped using the pills. In fact, this group's risk levels returned to normal in about two years. Very good news indeed considering it takes about 10-15 years for a smoker's risk profile to go back to normal levels.

Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic Essentials Health Centre
"The care you want, the health you need"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Proof: Yes, you can be addicted to Sweets

In my practice, I've had a number of patients tell me that they like sweets like chocolate, candies & sugary drinks like pop and even juice. Some don't like the thought of taking a break off of these products. Sometimes, I feel that it's really necessary and I will voice my opinions despite the protest of the patient. Why are some people so reluctant to give up their daily dose of sugar?

Well, I've just found some interesting research just published by the CBC.

A Synopsis

Princeton University researchers found that rats exhibit cravings, withdrawal symptoms and relapse when deprived of sugary drinks that the rats had become addicted to and drank frequently. The researchers even showed that the rats became more withdrawn and anxious after taking away their sugar.

Previous research had demonstrated that rats ate more and had disturbed sleeping patterns when they were consuming large quantities of sugar.

Ingesting large quantities of sugar increases the dopamine levels in the rats' brains, which increases the amount of pleasure one feels.

The researchers showed that rats denied sugar for prolonged periods after learning to binge worked harder to get it when it was reintroduced to them. This is interesting as I do not know how long the rats were denied their sugar. In my practice, I've found that patients who cut out their "addictions" (ie. sugar, caffeine, etc) experience cravings and some withdrawal symptoms for the first week or two, but then find that they do not crave them as much. It might be because I'm also supporting them with a diet plan that provides all the nutrients that the body needs. I'm a firm believer that if you feed and give your body what it needs, your food addictions are reduced dramatically, provided you're also sleeping properly & managing your stress levels.

Yours in health,

Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic Essentials Health Centre
"The care you want, the health you need"

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fast facts: Interesting medical news

Women are two times more likely to develop depression than men.

If you're elderly and depressed, you are twice as likely to put on visceral fat - the kind that shows up around your belly and increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

There is a link between people who experience sleeping problems to depression & diabetes. Sleeping problems include everything from quality and quantity of sleep.

An afternoon siesta brings more mental alertness and improved physical performance than a strong cup of coffee.

Regular, moderate exercise during pregnancy helps to reduce the need for an epidural when giving birth compared to sedentary mothers.


Yours in health,

Dr. Ian Koo, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic Essentials Health Centre
"The care you want, the health you need"