Archive for July, 2012

Hot Tub Safety Tips

Hot tubs, also known as spas, Jacuzzis and soaking tubs, have long been enjoyed by people seeking relaxation, stress reduction and a way to soothe aching muscles.

In my research for this column, I could find no scientific studies relating to the safe use of hot tubs. Most literature I reviewed states that if you have health questions relating to safe use of your hot tub, you should consult your physician.

Well, folks, because of the lack of medical research data, this physician — and most of my colleagues with whom I have spoken — can’t give any scientifically proven guidelines for the safe use of hot tubs. What advice we can give falls along the lines of experience and common sense.

With that being said, here are my guidelines for the safe use of hot tubs:

Shower with soap and water before and after use of a hot tub.

Do not heat your tub hotter than 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and use an accurate thermometer to determine the temperature. Even if you’re in good health, do not soak longer than 20 minutes at a time.

A temperature of 100 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes is safer for those with heart disease or chronic medical problems and during pregnancy. It would be best not to use a hot tub during the first three months of pregnancy.

Children should be at least 5 years old and soak no longer than 10 to 15 minutes — and always under adult supervision — in a tub no hotter than 100 degrees.

Avoid hot tub use if under the influence of alcohol or drugs such as tranquilizers, antidepressants or sleeping pills.

Slowly exit the tub after soaking. Sit on the edge for a few minutes before standing upright. This should prevent the possibility of passing out because of the tub lowering your blood pressure.

Keep the tub clean and well maintained.

One way to prevent overheating is to not submerge your entire body in the hot tub water. Keeping your arms and shoulders out of the water is a good way to avoid getting too hot.

If someone with heart disease has been cleared by a doctor as well enough to exercise, they are probably at no risk when using a hot tub according to the above guidelines. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no evidence for increased risk of a heart attack while relaxing in a hot tub.

Hot tub folliculitis is a common pimple-like rash that will afflict some people after the use of a tub with a low chlorine level. It can be avoided by properly maintaining the tub and by showering after tub use. Unless severe, this rash will usually heal itself without the need to seek treatment from a doctor.

Enjoy your hot tub — that’s what it’s for.

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Coffee Not Detrimental to Health

I remember growing up and hearing warnings about consuming too much coffee, because it was possibly related to health problems. Well, my fellow java drinkers, the tide seems to be turning.

The results of new studies are coming out showing that coffee consumption — especially in larger quantities, such as four to six cups a day — appears to be beneficial for a number of health problems.

Many of the studies found that decaffeinated coffee had as many good effects as the caffeinated variety.

It’s been estimated that there are more than 1,000 different chemicals found in a cup of coffee. Many of these chemicals are antioxidants. These are substances which, when floating around the bloodstream, can prevent or at least slow damage to many types of cells in our bodies. Although fruits and vegetables are also high in antioxidants, coffee is the main source for most Americans.

Some could argue that there must be potentially harmful chemicals found in coffee as well, but so far the benefits of the brew seem to outweigh the risks.

Caffeine is actually a drug and not a nutrient required for good health, as are vitamins and minerals. It is a mild stimulant, resembling the more potent stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamine. Its positive effects are related to stimulating the brain and boosting the strength of muscle contractions.

Caffeine does have some short-term undesirable side effects, such as raising blood pressure and causing blood vessels to stiffen. Those with high blood pressure should limit their coffee intake. Young people, many of whom are now drinking highly caffeinated “energy” drinks, also ought to limit or avoid caffeine, because it might weaken their developing bones.

Some diseases that have been shown to be less frequent from coffee consumption are:

– Alzheimer’s disease

– Parkinson’s disease

– Certain cancers

– Diabetes

– Liver disease

– Stroke

The bottom line is that although coffee consumption might be good for you, it still can’t be said that it’s so good that drinking it should be recommended.

So to those of us who enjoy our cup of joe, continue to do so. For those who don’t, there are many other ways to keep healthy.

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Cholesterol is a natural wax-like substance circulating through our blood vessels that helps create healthy cells and hormones. A certain amount of cholesterol is definitely good for us, but an excess amount can cause fatty deposits in the lining of blood vessels. This makes it harder for blood to flow through the vessels carrying life-sustaining oxygen and may lead to either a heart attack or a stroke.

High cholesterol per se has no symptoms and can be detected only by a blood test. Men should have a baseline cholesterol blood test at age 35, women at age 45, and both sexes every five years thereafter — or sooner, if a doctor so determines because of risk factors. Even children should be tested if they are obese, have high blood pressure or diabetes, or have a strong family history of high cholesterol.

Most of the cholesterol in our bodies is manufactured right in the liver. A lesser amount comes from certain foods, such as fatty meats, dairy products and eggs. Therefore, a high cholesterol count can be due to either heredity or diet.

Cholesterol is carried through the blood attached to certain proteins. This combination of cholesterol and protein is called a lipoprotein, of which there are three types:

– Low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Referred to as “bad cholesterol,” these are what cause damage to blood vessels.

– Very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL). These carry another type of fat, called triglycerides, which can also damage blood vessels.

– High-density lipoproteins (HDL). Referred to as “good cholesterol,” these actually pick up excess cholesterol and take it back to the liver.

Risk factors for developing high levels of cholesterol are smoking, diabetes, obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise and family history of heart disease.

The first thing to do to control high cholesterol is to change one’s lifestyle with an emphasis on exercising and eating a healthy diet.

If your total cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol, remains high, your doctor will probably recommend medication. The choice of medication depends on several factors, such as your age, your state of health and possible side effects.

There are a variety of medications which help to lower cholesterol and triglycerides. They all do their work differently and have specific side effects. This is where your doctor will have to fine-tune the medications to your specific needs and set up regular visits to monitor your progress.

The bottom line is to have your cholesterol checked and, if it’s high, get it lowered to a more normal level. The results are in on this one: Lowering an elevated cholesterol level will help promote a longer and healthier life.

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