Health Watch: Don’t let winter aches and pains slow you down

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Happy holidays, time with friends and family, the freshness of a new year - there are many things to look forward to with the arrival of winter. If you're among the millions of Americans, however, who suffer from chronic pain, winter can bring on a whole new set of problems and pains.

Whether you suffer from chronic ailments like arthritis or fibromyalgia, or simply experience the aches, pains and stiffness associated with past injuries or with aging, winter's cold and dampness can exacerbate these problems.

Here is some simple advice to minimize winter's impact on chronic pain and avoid new pains from injuries:

Hot and cold therapy

While arthritis and fibromyalgia can cause excruciating pain, both also respond well to positive influences like exercise, diet and hot/cold therapy.

To help minimize winter's impact on these two chronic ailments, be sure to stay active and maintain prescribed medications and therapies. Dress warmly when going outdoors, wearing layers that help trap heat near your body.

Shoveling safely

To avoid common winter injuries from shoveling snow or slips and falls, follow this advice:

- Stretch before you start, just as you would if engaging in a workout.

- Shovel while it's still snowing and shovel repeatedly throughout the snowfall. That way, you're not trying to move a large amount of heavy, wet snow when the snowfall is over and the accumulation greater.

- Use a small shovel - a large one may tempt you to overdo it - and let the stronger muscles of your legs do most of the lifting and pushing work. Bend at the knees to avoid excess strain on your back.

Other outdoor dangers

Raking leaves, shoveling snow, even sitting for long hours in the cold on stadium bleachers watching a football game - all can put undue strain on your neck and shoulders.

When performing outdoor physical activity that could strain your neck, be sure to take regular breaks, and let your strong leg muscles do as much of the work as possible. If you're sitting for long periods in the cold, dress warmly in layers and be sure to protect your neck with a warm scarf. Shift position often, standing up when possible, bending forward and gently stretching your neck, arm and shoulder muscles to avoid stiffness.

Finally, be aware of the risk and dangers of inclement winter weather. If you must walk on ice, take measures to ensure your footing is good, such as using special cleats that attach to your shoes or wearing thick-soled snow boots.

With a few precautions and the right therapy, you can enjoy winter months free of the aches and pains associated with colder weather.

-- ARA

New research: Migraine raises stroke risk

Analyzing results from 21 studies, researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that migraine headaches are associated with higher chances of the most common kind of stroke: those occurring when blood supply to the brain is suddenly cut off by the buildup of plaque or a blood clot.

The ischemic stroke risk for those with migraines is 2.3 times those without, according to calculations involving 622,381 men and women. In those who experience aura, the sighting of flashing lights, zigzag lines and blurred side vision along with migraines, the risk of so-called ischemic stroke is 2.5 times higher.

Researcher said the information could help doctors identify people who are most at risk for stroke.

-- Johns Hopkins

Did You Know?

A new study found that people who received daily text messages reminding them to apply sunscreen were nearly twice as likely to use it. – UC Davis

Health Tip: Holiday eating without weight gain

Do you anticipate the holidays but dread the "inevitable" holiday weight gain? These tips will help you enjoy the season more while eating less.

- Skip the store-bought goodies, the dried-out fudge and the so-so stuffing. If the food you select doesn't taste as good as you expected, stop eating it.

- Most people are food suggestible, so socialize away from the sight of food.

- Grazing mindlessly leads to eating food that you won't even remember. Eat mindfully by reducing distractions and sitting down to eat — even if it's just a cookie.

- Be cautious of obligatory eating. Deal with food pushers with a polite but firm, "No thank you."

- Don’t use exercise as punishment for eating. Instead, look for opportunities to move more.

-- Michelle May, M.D., author of “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle.”

Number to Know: 22

In a study of more than 1,600 adults without heart disease, researchers found that people who have a positive attitude during stressful events are 22 percent less likely to have a fatal or nonfatal heart attack than those who have negative attitudes.

-- American Heart Association

Children’s Health: Evidence of food allergies growing

A new report, “Food Allergy Among Children in the United States,” found an 18 percent increase in the prevalence of self-reported food allergy.

In addition, visits to ambulatory facilities related to food allergies nearly tripled between 1993-1997 and 2003-2006 from an estimated 116,000 to 317,000 visits per year.

Rates of food allergy among boys and girls were similar, but there were differences by race/ethnicity. Reported food allergy has increased the most among Hispanic children.

-- American Academy of Pediatrics

Senior Health: Tips for coping with low vision

Low vision means you cannot fix your eyesight with glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery. There are special tools and aids to help people with low vision read, write and manage daily tasks:

- Large-print reading materials, magnifying aids, closed-circuit televisions, audio tapes, electronic reading machines, and computers with large print and a talking function.

- Write with bold, black felt-tip markers.

- Use paper with bold lines to help you write in a straight line.

- Put colored tape on the edge of your steps to help you see them and prevent you from falling.

- Use motion lights that turn on by themselves when you enter a room. These may help you avoid accidents caused by poor lighting.

-- National Institutes of Health

GateHouse News Service