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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

Stay fit to live longer

Posted: 10 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Why pop pills when you can turn  to exercise for a natural remedy?

Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of deaths globally, but physical inactivity could emerge as the biggest public health problem of the 21st century.

According to the 2010 World Health Organization report on mortality and burden of disease estimates, physical inactivity causes 3.2 million deaths a year.

Yet, many refuse to incorporate some form of movement into their daily lives, preferring to be sedentary.

"Changing patterns in leisure and work have led to a health crisis. A low level of fitness causes more deaths than any other illness. Failure to reduce chronic diseases will result in heavy losses in terms of human life and economic production," says Dr Steven Blair, a professor in the departments of exercise science, and epidemiology and biostatistics, at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South California, United States.

Dr Blair, who was previously attached to the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research in Dallas, had conducted a study with his colleagues. They monitored 25,341 men and 7,080 women for an average of eight years to compare the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and risk factors that predispose people to an early death.

The researchers made these principal observations: People who were fit, but smoked, had high blood pressure or high cholesterol, had lower death rates than people who were otherwise healthy.

And moderately fit men and women had a considerably lower death rate than those in the low fitness group.

"Yes, everything has genetic reasons, but being fit is good for you whether you have other risk factors or not. Even weekend warriors have better health outcomes than someone who doesn't exercise," states Dr Blair, who was in Kuala Lumpur recently.

But there are people who don't know how to exercise! Mopping, sweeping and gardening count because some activity is better than nothing.

"A low level of fitness causes more deaths than any other illness,¿ says Dr Steven Blair.

Dr Steven Blair

He says: "The best form of exercise is the one you can do virtually anywhere. Each person needs to find what works for him. The excuse is always that there is not enough time. You can walk around the couch during a commercial break – don't tell me you're too busy!"

The key is to make exercise fun. Some people thrive on sociability, so for them, group activities are pleasurable – walking, volleyball, line dancing, squash, badminton, etc.

Others find joy in the outdoors – hiking, cycling, mountain-biking, rock climbing, kayaking, etc. For gym junkies, there are aerobic classes, running on the treadmill, elliptical training, or perhaps swimming.

The fun factor increases when you minimise monotony and routine, and maximise sociability, variety and enjoyment.

Is being overweight bad for you? Not necessarily, although fat people are often associated with being unhealthy.

"The obesity epidemic is caused by decreased occupational energy expenditure and not because of eating more. There are people who fall into the category of being metabolically healthy, but obese," argues Dr Blair.

"All you need to do is exercise, because exercise is medicine. Every visit to the doctor, your height and weight are measured, but never your fitness because doctors don't know how to give a prescription for fitness," he says.

Hence, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) rolled out the Exercise Is Medicine (EIM) initiative in 2011, aimed at encouraging primary care physicians and other healthcare providers to include exercise when designing treatment plans for patients, or to refer the patient to a qualified health and fitness professional.

EIM has just made its way to Malaysia under the Move Malaysia banner, a programme mooted by the Olympic Council of Malaysia.

The ACSM recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity.

Dr Blair, who is a past president of ACSM, says: "It's not hard. You just have to start and stick to it."

At 75, the academician doesn't portray a picture of fitness and calls himself "fat".

A decade ago, he stated in an interview: "I need more than an hour of vigorous exercise. I have run nearly every day for 35 years and now, at 65, I run 40km (25 miles) a week, which is a lot for a fat, old man." Even so, he gained 11.36-13.6kg (25 to 30lbs) in 35 years.

But he practises what he preaches: exercise is medicine.

"You can't tell by looking at somebody's body shape whether he or she is fit. Many studies show that overweight people are less likely to die than unfit, normal weight people.

"If you're fit and fat, you don't have an elevated risk," he rationalises.

"Obesity is overrated. There are too many negative perceptions out there about fat and obese people. You need to take other factors into account."

Dr Blair keeps track of his exercise level by wearing a pedometer. He has taken more than five million steps every year since he turned 70.

He says, "Everyone should have a goal. Monitoring is a good strategy and can be applied to many behaviours. Generally, for adults, moderate exercise is to walk five to six kilometres an hour. For older people, depending on their mobility and disability, they should be able to walk 400m in less than 15 minutes."

"Even if you're too old, frail and sick, it's not hazardous to take up a physical activity."

Vaginal rejuvenation: A 'private' makeover

Posted: 10 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

The emergence of vaginal rejuvenation means that now a woman's privates can also be 'improved'.

Consultant Aesthetic Physician Dr Karen Po. (do not reuse)

Consultant aesthetic physician Dr Karen Po. 

With the standards of beauty and perfection constantly being raised, a growing number of women are now choosing to rejuvenate their vaginas to enhance both form and function.

Never before has a woman's privates generated so much hype, at least, not in the open.

What has typically been the subject of hushed conversation between close girlfriends and one's gynaecologist is now coming out in the open.

Not only are women openly discussing vaginas these days, but there is also a new fad that has hit today's Malaysian women and generated quite a number of raised eyebrows – designer vaginas.

As women's awareness of their bodies start to increase, more and more women are resorting to vaginal rejuvenation to restore the youthful form and function of their genitalia.

Just like a facelift or breast augmentation, women can now also have more attractive and functional genitalia through vaginal rejuvenation.

In the past, this type of operation was only performed for cases of serious diseases or injuries, but today, more women are requesting for more aesthetically-pleasing genitals to improve the quality of their lives and relationships.

While many may never openly admit to having undergone this procedure, or any aesthetic procedure for that matter – Malaysian women are still conservative that way – I have seen countless women of all ages and races walk through my doors in recent years.

But what is an attractive vagina in the first place?

An attractive or "perfect" vagina can be described as tight, light-skinned with symmetrical inner labia sheared to tiny strips of skin that cannot be seen when you stand.

Sadly, the relentless passing of time, as well as changes to hormonal levels, can cause significant functional and structural changes to a woman's genitals.

Pregnancy, menopause and an active sexual lifestyle can lead to the loosening of the vaginal muscles and soft tissues over time, causing laxity and loss of contraction during intimacy.

When a woman goes through hormonal shifts, which can occur during pregnancy or menopause, her body undergoes changes as well. This can affect both the vagina and vulva.

Examples of changes that can occur to the vaginal area are:

·Thinning of vaginal walls

·Lack of folds

·Dryness or less lubrication

·Loss of elasticity or flexibility

The external area of the genitalia, or vulvo, can also experience scarring, abnormal tearing, darkening, wrinkling and lengthening of the labia majora during the course of a woman's lifetime.

All this can adversely affect a woman's general well-being, as well as sexual satisfaction of herself and her partner.

It can also severely affect her self-esteem and confidence, which in turn can cause her relationships or marriage to suffer.

Unfortunately, the body is not able to naturally repair the looseness of the vagina – hence why many women have started resorting to cosmetically rejuvenating their genitalia in recent years.

In fact, vaginal rejuvenation has become a multi-million ringgit industry in Malaysia in the last five years, with the emergence of non-surgical procedures like Fractional CO2 laser, surgical threads and dermal fillers.

Essentially, vaginal rejuvenation includes designer vaginoplasty (plumping the labia majora or outer lips, and trimming the labia minora or inner lips), vaginal tightening (strengthening vaginal tissue), clitoralplasty (snipping off excess skin from the clitoris), hymenoplasty (restoring the hymen), and G-spot rejuvenation (making the G-spot more prominent).

Many natural and non-invasive treatments are being developed in vaginal rejuvenation, making it relatively painless, safer and more affordable.

As a result, more and more women have started to opt for these procedures.

There are also treatments such as the MonaLisa Touch, which effectively marks a new frontier in vulvo-vaginal procedures.

It regenerates the fibres weakened by age, while inducing the production of new collagen to restore the ideal conditions of the vagina.

Arguably, there is a grey area here, and I understand that many women might be up in arms after reading this article.

After all, in a world where women are constantly being held up to unrealistic beauty standards, the emergence of vaginal rejuvenation means that now a woman's privates could become an additional feature by which they are scrutinised and judged.

But while having a "perfect vagina" may not necessarily be a goal for all women, in the many cases I have witnessed and worked on firsthand, vaginal rejuvenation does go a long way in helping a woman regain her self-confidence, enhance her general well-being and improve the quality of her sexual relationship.

n Dr Karen Po is a consultant aesthetic physician. Her interest in aesthetic medicine started when her eldest daughter was born with a café-au-lait birthmark on her face. In the process of finding the best treatment for her daughter, she developed a passion for aesthetic medicine and has been in the aesthetic field ever since. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Natural solutions to ease joint pains

Posted: 10 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Natural solutions to help ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

These days, more mums are returning to work after having a baby, and many parents turn to their own parents for help with the kids.

Thus, more seniors are having to help their children out by looking after the grandkids. Many parents say their parents are their first choice when it comes to childcare – the ones they trust the most.

Even though most grandparents adore their grandkids, they find it physically challenging, especially those with joint aches and pains.

If you have heard them crying "ouch!" when climbing the stairs or while they're playing with your children, or complaining about stiffness when trying to bend or straighten their knees, they may be suffering from osteoarthritis.

This is a condition characterised by the breakdown of joint cartilage. The cartilage cushions the ends of the bones and allows easy movement of joints.

The cartilage in the joint is important because it allows the joints to move smoothly and helps prevent friction between bones. However, as people approach middle age, they find themselves in a situation where their joint cartilage regrowth is unable to keep up with the rate of wear and tear.

When the joint cartilage wears out, it causes pain, inflammation and swelling – also known as osteoarthritis.

Self-help measures can reduce the stress on your joints and reduce the severity of osteoarthritis. Some of the measures that can be taken include:

·Losing weight to take pressure off the knees.

A new study shows that for each pound of body weight loss, there is a four-pound reduction in knee joint stress among overweight people with osteoarthritis, and the effects of this reduction of pressure on the knees should have a significant impact on the progression of osteoarthritis of the knee.

·Exercising regularly and keep moving. This helps to keep the joints working well, but it's also important not to overexert the joints.

·Supplementing with joint health nutrients. This helps cartilage regrowth and strengthens the worn-out cartilage.

Some of us will be aware of the role of glucosamine and chondroitin for relief of joint pains.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are found in the body, and they work by supplying the natural raw ingredients cartilage needs to repair and rebuild itself.

They also work by suppressing the natural enzymes that break down cartilage in the first place.

Besides glucosamine and chondroitin, it has been found that a natural form of sulphur found in living tissues, MSM, can also be useful for joint pain.

MSM delivers sulphur to the body in a useable way to help strengthen joint connective tissues.

Many developed nations across the globe such as the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, regularly observe positive results in the treatment of osteoarthritis when oral MSM supplements are added to glucosamine and chondroitin nutritional therapy.

Studies have also found that MSM helps to reduce stiffness and swelling, thus, reducing pain and improving flexibility.

So, if you are currently taking only glucosamine and chondroitin, you may be missing out on the synergistic benefits of MSM.

A combination of the three is currently in the market, and the Arthritis Foundation of America recommends starting it with a low dosage of 500mg twice a day and increasing gradually to 1,000mg twice a day.

After starting MSM, allow a reasonable period before you begin to notice any benefits.

> This article is courtesy of Live-well Nutraceuticals. for more information, please consult your pharmacist or e-mail iinfo@livewell2u.com.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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