January 19, 2010 [Volume 4, Issue 3]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
Break Free of the Sugar Addiction
Snow-Shoveling Safety Tips
Three Steps to Better Health

Break Free of the Sugar Addiction

The health issues that develop as a result of a high-sugar diet are strongly linked to the response of the hormone insulin to carbohydrate ingestion, a phenomenon known as the glycemic response. Simple carbohydrates such as sugar are considered high glycemic and are metabolized quickly by the body, resulting in a rapid release of insulin and a quick rise and fall in blood sugar.

Insulin resistance is a progressive condition that occurs when normal insulin activity is inadequate to produce a response on insulin receptors on muscle and adipose (fat) cells. Initial signs of insulin insensitivity include high circulating levels of both glucose and insulin. In addition, consumption of excess dietary carbohydrate can stimulate lipolysis (fat generation), resulting in higher levels of circulating triglycerides, very-low-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

As the body's ability to store excess energy becomes further impaired, fat deposition begins to occur around the internal organs. This specific form of weight gain, known as visceral fat, is characteristic of insulin resistance and is strongly linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.

Recognizing the sources of sugar in your diet can require some savvy label reading skills. Sugar can be listed on food packages in a variety of ways, including glucose, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, sucrose, and cane sugar, to name a few.

As a consumer, it is important to recognize that all of these are types of sugar, and as a result all can cause negative health effects. A particular form of sugar used in processed foods, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), may be especially damaging. HFCS is one of the most commonly used sweeteners in the U.S., and is produced from corn starch via a series of enzymatic processes. Clinical research now shows that HFCS may present more health risks than regular cane sugar.

When looking to reduce dietary sugar intake, many of us turn to artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes as an alternative option. But ingestion of artificial sweeteners still initiates an insulin response from the pancreas as a means of inducing carbohydrate metabolism. Since artificial sweeteners provide no carbohydrate value, insulin levels remain high, leading to hypoglycemia and increased hunger. This interference with appetite control mechanisms can lead to overconsumption of food at the next meal.

If your current diet is high in refined sugars, try taking small steps to regulate your intake. Cut down on soda drinking or dilute juices with water. You can also reduce your intake of processed foods and start making your own meals at home to limit your exposure to sugars that are incorporated as part of food processing. If you must use sugar, try sticking with more natural varieties, such as honey, agave, molasses, fruit, and cane sugar. Making these minor adjustments can have significant benefits on all aspects of your health and well-being. Talk to your doctor for additional information.

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Snow-Shoveling Safety Tips

Anyone who has shoveled snow before knows how good a workout it can be. When you consider that the average shovelful of snow weighs 5-10 pounds, the average driveway or walkway may hold hundreds of pounds of snow. But despite the benefits, shoveling snow can also be physically stressful; bending, lifting, and twisting, combined with the exposure to freezing weather conditions, can take a serious toll on the body.

The following are some quick tips on how to shovel snow smarter. If you're in an area of the country that gets snow, pay attention; if not, pass these tips on to a friend or family member as applicable.

Do a warm-up first. A tight, stiff body is asking for injury. A few minutes of stretching can save you a lot of pain later. When you are shoveling, don't forget to breathe. Holding your breath makes you tight and stiff.
Use the right size shovel. Your shovel should be about chest high on you, allowing you to keep your back straight when lifting. A shovel with a short staff forces you to bend more to lift the load; a too-tall shovel makes the weight heavier at the end. Also keep one hand close to the base of the shovel to balance weight and lessen the strain on your back.
Timing is everything. Listen to weather forecasts so you can shovel in ideal conditions. If possible, wait until the afternoon to shovel. Many spinal disc injuries occur in the morning when there is increased fluid pressure in the disc because your body has been at rest all night.
Use proper posture. When you do shovel, bend your knees and keep your back straight while lifting with your legs. Push the snow straight ahead; don't try to throw it. Try to shovel forward to avoid sudden twists of the torso and reduce strain on the back. The American Chiropractic Association recommends using the "scissors stance," in which you work with your right foot forward for a few minutes and then shift to the front foot.
Take your time. Working too hard, too fast is an easy way to strain muscles. Take frequent breaks. Shovel for about five minutes at a time and then rest for two minutes.
See your chiropractor. Gentle spinal manipulation will help keep your back flexible and minimize the chance for injury. If you do overdo it, your chiropractor can help you feel better and prevent more injury.

Taking heed of these simple tips could make the difference between spending the day enjoying a new snowfall or lying in bed with a sore back, sprained ankle or other injury that could have been easily avoided. Your doctor can tell you more about how to minimize injury risk when exercising or performing any vigorous activity.

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Three Steps to Better Health

Wouldn't it be great if you could achieve better health in just a few easy steps? Of course, it's never that easy, but here are a few things you can work on right now in your quest for a lifetime of health and wellness:

Sleep More: We've become a culture of sleep deprivation rather than rest; there are so many things to do and so little time to do them that we often sacrifice what we need most for good health: sleep. Poor sleep contributes to fatigue and irritability in the short term and is linked to serious health conditions in the long term. So tonight, turn in early and get the sleep your body and mind deserve.

Eat Less: Excess - another cultural staple that wreaks havoc on our bodies and leads to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and more. Portion control is a major step toward attaining and maintaining a healthy weight, as is eating less overall. Too many of us fall victim to the buffet and "super size" mentality, rather than eating frequent small meals that will fuel your body the right way.

Keep Moving: With obesity at an all-time high and on the rise, there's no better time to get off the couch and start moving. It's a simple concept: When your body moves, good things happen - increased metabolism, fat loss, better circulation; and when it doesn't move, you're setting the stage for all sorts of negative consequences, including weight gain, various diseases and even cancer.

Talk to your doctor about other ways you can improve your health and happiness - one step at a time.

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The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. MPA Media is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.

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