Whether we like to admit it or not, the technology in our lives—and the fact that we use much of it while sitting down—is contributing to a growing list of health problems in our society. Those who sit at a desk all day or sit behind the wheel of a car or truck with little or no exercise are at increased risk for a number of chronic health problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, those who have such a sedentary lifestyle are in danger of things like “obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.”
One study showed that those who spend a large amount of time in front of a television or other forms of screen entertainment had a roughly 50% greater risk of death from any source. It’s not really difficult to imagine why this might be the case. Greater body weight combined with lower strength and stamina and reduced balance and flexibility means less agility and durability. This in turn raises the likelihood of more accidents or injuries. The same study showed a 125% greater risk of problems from cardiovascular disease. Care was taken to separate the risk of sitting from that of high blood pressure. Those who had the same high blood pressure, but who sat less, had fewer incidents of health problems.
WebMD has added cancer to the list of ailments for which excessive sitting may be a risk factor. One Australian study of 63,000 older adult men showed that men who sat for more than 4 hours a day were more likely to have a serious, chronic illness than those who sat for less than 4 hours per day. Above 6 hours per day, men were at significantly greater risk of diabetes. Those who regularly sat more than 8 hours a day had the highest level of health risk.
Yet another study showed that back pain strikes 80% of all adults at some time in their life. A significant number of these people suffer because they sit too much. Their core muscles lose conditioning and their waistline becomes a burden that causes the back muscles to do more work to make up for soft abdominals. Weak muscles put the body at risk even during simple tasks. With a more sedentary lifestyle, it becomes easier and easier to overdo the reaching, the lifting or other simple physical work that occurs during any typical day.
There’s another reason that movement is particularly important when it comes to maintaining good spinal health. If the spine is kept motionless, circulation is reduced and it cannot get the nutrients it needs to stay healthy or to heal itself.
If you already have back pain, seeing a chiropractor is a big step in the right direction. A chiropractor can help to realign your vertebrae and, in many cases, an adjustment can provide immediate relief. However, even world-class chiropractic care is no substitute for a healthy lifestyle that includes a good diet and lots of exercise. The doctor can’t do all the work for you.
So what can you do? The Mayo Clinic recommends finding more excuses to move around throughout the day, instead of saving it up for a trip to the gym. Waiting until the end of the day to push your body at the gym for 30 minutes is a bit like saving your meals to the end of the month and eating 90 platefuls all at once. You need to spread your movement throughout the day so your body can stay in top condition.
Folic acid is synthesized from folate (also called vitamin B9 or folacin), which plays a crucial role in a number of body functions, particularly in the proper development of the fetus from the first days of conception.
Physicians advise that all women of childbearing age take a regular folic acid supplement since 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, and as the neural tube, from which the infant’s nervous system will develop, is one of the first things to develop in a fetus. Often, by the time a woman realizes she is pregnant, much of that important development is already done. Women who are deficient in folate risk giving birth to infants who are low in birth weight or due to neural tube defects have a spinal malformation, such as spina bifida, or other neurological disorders.
Folic acid is so important that it is one of the vitamins that the FDA requires be added to fortified foods such as bread, flour, breakfast cereals, pasta and rice. Since this requirement was enacted in 1998, the rate of neural tube defects has decreased 26%.
Folate is also crucial to proper cell growth. DNA and RNA, the building blocks of all our cells, rely on folate to develop properly, and folate has been found to help prevent the changes in DNA that can lead to the development of cancerous cells. It also aids in the healthy formation of red blood cells, which is necessary in order to avoid anemia.
Folate helps keep homocysteine levels in the blood low, reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease, aids in the proper functioning of your nerves through the synthesis of neurotransmitters, and helps prevent dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis-related bone fractures.
Signs of folate deficiency include: insomnia, depression, irritability, muscle fatigue, sore tongue, diarrhea, gingivitis and mental fuzziness.
Some good natural sources of folate include: green leafy vegetables such as spinach and collard greens; beans and legumes such as lentils and peas; and fruit and fruit juices, particularly tomato juice and orange juice. Liver is also an excellent source, and cooking it does not easily destroy its folate, which can be the case when cooking vegetables. To maintain the greatest amount of folate in your vegetables, either eat them raw or cook them for as short a time as possible.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that adults get 400 mcg of folic acid every day, either through their diet or by taking a dietary supplement. If pregnant, that amount should be raised to 600 mcg daily, and 500 mcg every day for women who are breastfeeding.
Like the other B-vitamins, riboflavin (also known as vitamin B2), plays a key role in the production of energy and the maintenance of metabolism. Its distinctive characteristic is its bright yellow fluorescent color, which can often be seen in the urine of those taking supplements of the vitamin, the excess of which is excreted through the kidneys. And because only small amounts of it are stored in the liver and kidneys, regular intake must be received through the diet.
Working together with an enzyme, riboflavin helps to break down homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood are related to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and bone fractures. Vitamin B2 works with different enzymes to help in the creation of some of the other B-vitamins such as B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine) and B1 (thiamine), and also aids the optimal utilization of iron and folic acid.
Riboflavin also works as an antioxidant by helping in the recycling of glutathione, a molecule that neutralizes the effects of dangerous free radicals that damage the body’s cells and DNA, accelerating the aging process and increasing your risk of cancer. It is also useful to our cells by helping them in the most efficient use of oxygen and in encouraging healthy cell growth.
Recent studies have found that supplementing with vitamin B2 may help those who suffer from migraines. According to a study published in the European Journal of Neurology, 23 migraine sufferers were given 400 mg. of riboflavin every day for three months and recorded the frequency, duration and intensity of their migraines during this period. The results showed the number of migraines to be reduced by half, from an average of four per month to two, and were shorter in duration, though their intensity was unchanged.
Deficiency in riboflavin is not common, but is more apt to be found in alcoholics, women taking birth control pills, the chronically ill and the elderly. Some signs of riboflavin deficiency are swollen tongue, skin cracks, particularly around the corners of the mouth, weakness, sore throat, hair loss, blurred vision, cataracts, and light sensitivity.
The best dietary sources of riboflavin are meat, dark green leafy vegetables, whole or fortified grains, mushrooms and dairy products. The recommended daily allowance is 1.3 mg per day for adults. Though not sensitive to heat, acid or oxidation, riboflavin is easily destroyed by exposure to light, so be sure to buy dairy products such as milk or yogurt in opaque containers.
The effect of alcohol consumption on your health can be either positive or negative, depending on the amount you drink. Like most things, moderation is the key to getting the greatest benefits from alcohol. Those who drink moderately generally live longer and in better health than those who either abstain completely or drink heavily.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), moderate drinking lowers your risk of heart disease by 40 to 60 percent. And people who normally consume one or two drinks daily have the lowest rate of mortality, according to the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association. The mortality rates of those who have suffered a heart attack are 32 percent lower than those of abstainers. The moderate consumption of alcohol leads to a lower incidence of strokes and can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and prostate problems.
A European study found greater arterial elasticity in volunteers who had a drink of beer, wine or spirits each day, compared to those who were abstainers. In another study of over 18,000 men from the Physicians Health Study, those who increased the number of drinks they consumed from one to six per week showed a 29 percent lower risk of contracting cardiovascular disease. This was also found to be useful to diabetics, who achieved a 58 percent reduction in heart disease risk by consuming an alcoholic drink every day.
Alcohol has been shown to increase your “good” HDL cholesterol while reducing your “bad” LDL cholesterol, in addition to decreasing clotting and increasing blood flow to your heart. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the risk of stroke to be cut in half for those who take two alcoholic beverages per day.
A standard drink is considered to be one:
12-ounce bottle or can of beer
5-ounce glass of wine
1 1/2 ounce serving of distilled spirits (the equivalent of a shot glass)
“Moderate” drinking is considered to be the consumption of one to three alcoholic drinks per day, depending on your body size. Less than that provides only minimal health benefits and more than that leads to a number of health problems, including liver disease, cirrhosis, cancer, high blood pressure and depression. The over-consumption of alcohol is one of the leading causes of preventable death worldwide, according to a study in The Lancet.
Of course, those who are pregnant, suffering from alcoholism or have adverse reactions to alcohol should abstain, as the benefits do not outweigh the risks. But for most healthy adults, moderate alcohol consumption will help them live longer and healthier lives.