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Do I need body fat testing?

  • Written by Dr. Lanika Buchanan
MANY OF US KNOW WE NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT BUT HOW MUCH? BODY FAT TESTING SEEMS SO CONFUSING. WHY IS THAT?

We all know that the majority of Americans are overweight and are trying to lose those extra pounds. What hasn’t been clear is a reliable method of testing the actual percentage of body fat. Relying on height/weight scales don’t work since a very muscular person will show as obese and a person with low muscle mass can look normal even if their body fat percentage is dangerously high. Some bio-impedance scales attempt to show body fat but they are so dependent on hydration that they’re often inaccurate. Skin calipers or pinch testing differ depending on the user (and hurt). Underwater weighing is difficult and not specific. X-ray methods in the form of DEXA and CT are extremely expensive. So what is the best option if you want to know how much excess fat you have and how much is safe to lose?

Ultrasound! It’s the newest technology for accurately measuring body fat and body mass index or BMI. It is very safe, easy to use, extremely accurate and best of all inexpensive enough to repeat multiple times to visually see your progress. Athletes can use it to measure muscle mass increases. It can also be used as a motivator during an annual exam to track body mass changes due to aging. We lose muscle mass every year after age 40 even if we exercise and eat the same. We need to work even harder as we age to get results with exercise and sometimes even after working out consistently the scale will NOT change. This can be extremely frustrating. It may be that you’re gaining muscle. Muscle does weigh more than fat, right? Wouldn’t it be nice to know for sure if you are on the right track?

Everyone should know their body fat percentage and lean muscle mass; they should be memorized like your birth date and social security number. The good news is; knowledge is power. Once you know your percentages you can work efficiently to decrease the fat, increase the muscle or just keep the great body you’ve already got.

So how does it work? When ultrasound waves penetrate tissue, reflections occur at different tissue boundaries. For example, there are strong ultrasound reflections at fat-muscle and muscle-bone. Ultrasound allows us to detect the true fat thickness at each measurement point. By making measurements at multiple points on the body an accurate body fat percentage can be determined. Also, ultrasound measurements are not affected by hydration, exercise level, and caffeine intake, therefore providing consistent results.

Ultrasound may sound intimidating, but if you’ve ever heard an echo you’re a long way to understanding how ultrasound measures tissue thickness. You hear an echo when sound travels through air and reflects from a wall or mountain and then comes back to your ear. If you time how long it takes for you to hear the echo you can calculate how far away the reflecting object is. An ultrasound signal that travels through tissue and then records the reflected signal works similarly. From these signals we can determine not only excess body fat but also healthy fat, body water and relative risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Call Health Moves to get your ultrasound body fat testing for $55, if you are a patient it is discounted to $35. Consider getting it retested at least once per year to better pursue your goals.Dr. Buchanan is a Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed acupuncturist. Health Moves www.HealthMoves.org.

What do you do with hunger?

  • Written by Caron MacLane

Have you ever felt hungry right in the middle of a project? Have you ever felt a yearning hunger for a project that you have been working on? When you are hungry, you can sit with the feeling before responding or you can react. Your choice may depend on whether your hunger is a distraction or a drive. When it is a distraction, it pulls you off course. When it is a drive, it pulls you on course.

When we look at the definition of hunger, it is a compelling need or desire for food (www.dictionary.com). You can react (without thought) or you can respond (with thought) consciously. You feel the yearning for food. You can react and eat whatever is handy. Or you can hold onto the hunger and just experience it. Contain it without action. This time gives you a chance to respond, deciding either to wait or to find something that is nourishing both to the mind and to the body. Think chocolate.

In a broader scope, hunger can be a drive to take you where you would like to go. "You gotta be hungry" according to Les Brown. When considered in this wider sense, the compeller can motivate further action. People feel an attraction to use their strengths, because they are more competent there. When they are more competent, they are more comfortable. They feel the compelling need to move in the direction of their competence. You can use this to take you where you would like to go. To be hungry is to yearn for something. Mother Teresa yearned to serve. She stayed focused and centered her life on service. She used her yearning to stay on her path. She was hungry to serve. Martin Luther King Jr. was filled with the quest for freedom for all people. It permeated his life. His effectiveness was in his singleness of purpose. He was hungry for freedom.

On the other hand, you could allow hunger to divert you. Like the times when you put off something because it is ominous to begin. You go find a snack to procrastinate. Your hunger has served as a distraction.

Perhaps you enjoy learning. You are in the middle of a task and you suddenly become curious about something. That moment seems like the perfect time to research it, as you have thought of it now and you are on the computer anyway. Your hunger for learning just became a distraction to what you are doing in the moment.

When you feel hungry, I encourage you to decide consciously what you will do with that hunger. Whether it is your hunger for food or your hunger for results, notice what happens when you just feel it. Without doing anything. Just be with it.

Notice whether it is a distraction or a drive. From there you can choose what aligns with what you desire long term.

Feel the hunger and use it! Use it to take inventory of what you would really like. Then go for what you would really like.

Tips for keeping fit this summer

  • Written by ARA
13606_B222_rgbSummer is here and the time is right for achieving your personal health and fitness goals. Whether you are looking to tone up for the last bit of bikini season or are looking to increase your overall fitness to enjoy the wealth of outdoor recreation available in the sunny summer months and coming fall, making choices that improve your overall health are key.

"Exercise is by far the overall best thing people can do to enhance their physical and psychological well-being," says Dr. Kevin Sverduk, associate professor and chair of the Sport-Exercise Psychology program at Argosy University, Southern California. "Regular exercise will boost your mood, sharpen your mind, give you greater self-confidence, reduce your chances of getting sick and expand your energy."

"We have a unique opportunity to exercise more in summer," says Dr. Suzanne Forbes-Vierling, a fitness/cardio instructor and chair of the College of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences at Argosy University, San Diego. "Whether it’s biking, power-walking with friends, trying out a new cardio routine, dance classes such as African, Afro-Cuban, Latin, belly-dance, try something different and exciting to shake up an old routine."

Remember, however, that you should consult your doctor prior to starting any physical activity.

Fitness is about more than what we do physically with our bodies — it’s also about what we put into our bodies. "It’s important to consider a permanent lifestyle shift in how we manage food — and eliminate diets," says Forbes-Vierling. Niki Wray, registered dietitian and nutrition instructor at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Phoenix agrees. "For a nutritionist, ‘diet’ is the food and beverages that we consume. For most of the public, however, it’s a loaded word that implies something we do for a short time."

So how do you find the right eating plan to suit your needs? "The government has new Dietary Guidelines for Americans," says Wray. Designed to remind Americans to adopt healthier eating habits, "MyPlate" has replaced the food pyramid as the go-to source for nutrition. "As an improved visual of a healthier diet, we’re very excited with the new food plate recently released," Wray says. For the complete guidelines, visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov.

"The site allows you to plug in your age, weight, height and activity level to determine a customized food plan," says Wray. "The goals include eating less, drinking more water instead of beverages with many calories, switching to low-fat dairy options and reducing your sodium intake."

Sverduk also encourages an understanding of the glycemic index when eating. "The glycemic index of foods is a number that correlates to the rate at which food you eat will be digested and converted into sugar. Foods that have higher GI such as breads, rice and sweets, raise the blood sugar level very quickly. When one’s blood sugar level is high, the body is stimulated to store the excess sugar as fat. Foods that have a lower GI such as chicken, beef and nuts, are digested much slower and do not raise the blood sugar level as high and as quickly. When the blood sugar level is normal or slightly low, the body will be stimulated to burn stored fat," he says.

Blood sugar levels can also be regulated through exercise. Thus eating a reasonable diet with low GI foods and regular bouts of exercise will help burn excess fat. You can learn more about the glycemic index of foods and find the GI for the foods you eat at www.glycemicindex.com.

"Every day is a new day and an opportunity to make healthy choices," says Sverduk. "If you fall off the program, just get back on. Be realistic, consistency and patience are the keys to successful lifestyle change."

Flip-flop fiascoes to sunburned toes: Tips for avoiding summer foot woes

  • Written by ARA
Relaxing on the beach, hiking through the mountains, trekking around a new city or just keeping up with all the kids’ summer activities — however you spend summer vacation, your feet will carry you through it all.

During the course of these adventures, your feet may endure stubbed toes, miles of walking, hot sand and possibly even some sunburn. So be kind to your tootsies, and take note of these tips for protecting your feet from summer heat, courtesy of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).

Foot care on the road

You may be looking forward to a beach vacation or lounging by the pool at a luxury hotel. But even those fun activities can take a toll on your feet if you don't practice proper safety.

"Even if you're just lying still on your back soaking up the sun's rays, your feet are still vulnerable," says Dr. Michael King, president of the APMA. "You can seriously sunburn your feet. And no matter how up-scale your hotel is, athlete’s foot can be present in all public pool areas."

To help steer clear of foot problems, walk barefoot as little as possible. Going shoeless exposes your feet to sunburn, plantar warts, athlete’s foot, ringworm and other infections and increases the risk of injury. Wear shoes or flip-flops around the pool, to the beach, in locker rooms and even inside your hotel room, as infection-causing bacteria can linger in carpets and on bathroom tiles.

Just as you rely on sunscreen and drinking plenty of water during the summer, these practices also help your feet. Apply sunscreen on your whole foot, especially the tops and fronts of ankles. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help minimize foot swelling caused by the heat.

Always pack an extra pair of shoes, especially if you expect your feet will get wet. And take along a foot-care kit that includes sterile bandages, antibiotic cream, an emollient-enriched cream, blister pads and an anti-inflammatory pain-reliever.

Avoid flip-flop fiascoes

Ditching heavy boots and wearing lighter footwear is one of the great joys of summer. But be aware that not all types of footwear are good for your feet. Flip-flops, in particular, can cause problems.

"During warmer months, many podiatrists treat more foot problems, and they can often be traced back to the wearing of flip-flops," King says. "You don't have to give up wearing flip-flops altogether; certain types offer a superior amount of stability and support than others."

So, what's considered a bad flip-flop? Flip-flops with soles that freely bend and twist offer no support or stability. Choose flip-flops that bend only at the ball of the foot and that provide arch support, which cushions the foot and provides stability. High-quality soft leather for the thong part of the flip-flop will help you avoid blisters.

Your toes or heels should never hang off the edge of the flip-flop.Throw away flip-flops that are old, worn, cracked or frayed — no matter how much you loved them last season.

Finally, never wear flip-flops for doing yard work, playing sports or taking long walks. Do wear good, supportive flip-flips at the pool, beach, or in public places.Your feet will take you to a lot of cool places this summer. Keeping them safe and comfortable can maximize fun during your warm-weather adventures.

Why Are My Eyes Red?

  • Written by Dr. K. W. Scarbrough, OD
Having red eyes is always a little alarming — for you and for anyone looking at you. Often red eyes are not contagious but are simply caused by inflammation or irritation. Some red eyes are very painful and some are not. We often use pain to gauge how severe a problem is, but with eyes pain is not always a good indicator.

Many people think of "pink eye" as a common contagious infection requiring antibiotics. Actually bacterial infections are rare, especially in adults. Children get them more readily because of hand-to-eye transfer of germs. Bacterial infections often follow a cold or respiratory tract infection because of the drain connecting the eye to the nose. They also create copious amounts of pus; the eyes are often glued shut in the morning.

Viruses cause nasty looking red eyes which are highly contagious. There is no pus but there is usually a flood of tears and some pain. Often one eye is infected first for a few days then the other. The second eye is less red and painful due to the immunity the body develops to the virus. A viral eye infection lasts seven to ten days. Waiting it out and using artificial tears is often the only treatment for a viral eye infection. Viruses are not helped with antibiotics. Steroids can make the eye more comfortable but these often prolong the infection. Some doctors use betadine eye washes if the infection is caught early enough. If infected, do not share towels, pillows, or washcloths with anyone in the family. Get plenty of rest. Do not go to work or school until you are fully well.

Allergies are a primary cause of red eyes, particularly during the spring and summer months. Allergy eyes are typically glassy, swollen, and very itchy. Simply rinsing the eyes out helps a substantial number of people manage their symptoms; cold compresses can also be used to numb the eyes and reduce swelling. Over-the-counter eye drops are available which can be very helpful. Taking oral antihistamines dries the eyes out and so may actually be counterproductive.

A broken blood vessel can create an alarmingly red eye without pain or loss of vision. This is a bruise on the white of the eye. The eye is sealed around the colored iris so no blood will enter the eye. Often no cause is found but heavy lifting, sneezing, constipation, or taking blood thinners such as aspirin, Motrin or flaxseed oil can be the culprit. Stop all such activities, after 24 hours use warm compresses to carry the blood away, and stop all blood thinners your doctor has not prescribed. The bruise usually resolves after a week or so but a little stain may remain.

Another cause of red eyes is dryness, typical of extended computer use, menopause, over-wear of contact lenses, and dry air. Treatment is geared toward moistening the eye. Artificial tears, silicone plugs, and eye drops all work well but there is no cure. Contact lens wear may become challenging.

Lid hygiene — washing the eyelashes with special soap — can make a big difference. There are some bacteria which live around the eye that can cause an overall red, cranky, gravelly eye. Middle aged persons with ruddy skin, fair hair, and light eyes are especially vulnerable. These bacteria are reasonably contained by lid washes and eating well, lubricating drops, and sometimes antibiotic ointments. Extreme cases may get significant relief with chronic low-dose oral antibiotics.

Eye injuries can cause a red eye without your knowledge. Sometimes the offending object is too embedded to be felt, or is tucked under the eyelid, or was transferred from the hand to the eye. Eyes that are injured can heal over but the internal parts of the eye become inflamed. This leads to vague nausea, light sensitivity, and a sense of fullness in the eye. Dilation and steroids are required to give the body a jumpstart toward healing.

In general with a red eye, using artificial tears is a good place to start. Any loss of vision must be explored immediately. If an eye is consistently red, painful, or light sensitive, see your eye doctor for a full checkup.

 

Dr. Scarbrough is the owner of Eagle Eye Vision Care PS in Woodinville. www.eevisioncare.com.