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Mayo Clinic suggests healthy choices

Taking fish oil supplements--without fishy burps Do fish oil supplements just seem too ... well ... fishy? The February issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter explains some health benefits of this diet supplement and ways to overcome the occasional fishy aftertaste. Fish oil supplements are especially good for those who want the heart-health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids but don't like to eat fish. Fish oil supplements often are prescribed for heart attack survivors; the supplements can help prevent future heart problems. They also are prescribed for people with high triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. Tips to avoid fishy aftertaste or burps include: • Swallow the capsule frozen. This slows the breakdown of fish oil in the stomach, often reducing fishy burps. The fish oil is still digested effectively. • Take the capsule at the beginning of a meal. Food traps the fish oil in the stomach, and mixing buffers the odor. • Try an "odorless" supplement. This type of coated capsule passes through the stomach and dissolves in the intestines. • Switch brands. A different brand may taste less fishy. For fish oil purists, some manufacturers make a pure omega-3 fatty acids product that doesn't taste fishy, although it is likely to cost more than standard products. A well-rounded exercise program Don't blame aging alone for diminishing strength, flexibility and fitness. Inactivity and lifestyle choices are the more likely culprits, according to a Special Report on Lifelong Exercise, a supplement to the February issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter. Age can exact a toll on the body as muscles weaken and bones become more brittle. But a well-rounded fitness program with five components--aerobics, strength training, core stability, balance and flexibility--can help counter the effects of aging. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program. Regular aerobic activity improves the body's use of oxygen and is important for cardiovascular health. Walking, biking, dancing and other activities can be aerobic exercise, depending on the intensity. A good starter goal is 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity at least three days a week, working up to five days a week. Strength training uses free weights, body weight, resistance bands or weight-resistance machines to increase muscle strength and endurance. Strength training two to three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes is sufficient for most people. Improvements should be noticeable within weeks. Core stability training, part of strength training, focuses on the areas around the trunk. A strong core increases balance and combats poor posture and back pain. Pilates workouts, a low-impact fitness technique, or balanced sitting on a large fitness ball are examples of ways to increase core stability. Technique is important; to get started, working with a trainer may be beneficial. Almost any activity that requires movement can help balance. And, balance exercise can be incorporated into strength training by adding variations such as standing on one leg or using a weight in only one hand. Poor balance is a major cause of falls that result in fractures and disability. Flexibility can be maintained or improved with regular stretching. It's a good idea to stretch for five to 10 minutes before and after workouts. A trainer, doctor or physical therapist can suggest exercises to maintain and increase flexibility. Other highlights of the report, which covers the benefits of exercise and how to get started and stick with a program, include: • Regular physical activity, for example, gardening or walking the dog, is beneficial. But a planned structured exercise program, such as swimming laps, taking brisk walks or lifting weights, yields greater rewards. • While small amounts of exercise--as little as 10 minutes at a time--can be beneficial, more is needed to achieve greater health improvements. The federal government's Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week for basic health benefits. For greater benefits, adults should aim for 300 minutes of moderate activity or 150 minutes of vigorous activity a week, according to the guidelines. Moderate activity includes brisk walking, water aerobics, ballroom dancing, doubles tennis or biking on level ground. Vigorous activity includes jogging, running, aerobic dancing, swimming laps, singles tennis and cycling faster than 10 miles an hour.--The payoffs can be plentiful. Exercise helps prevent cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes and some cancers. Exercise boosts the immune system, increases energy and improves sleep. It also increases life expectancy and helps people maintain independence as they age. Treating sleep apnea can be a lifesaver Obstructive sleep apnea isn't merely a snoring problem. This serious medical condition strains the cardiovascular system and increases the risk of high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, irregular heart rhythms, stroke and sudden cardiac death. The February issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter examines this condition, including risk factors and common symptoms and treatments. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax during sleep and obstruct airflow. The airway narrows or even closes at the end of the exhalation. Breathing may stop momentarily. The most common signs and symptoms include waking up feeling tired, excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, breathing cessation while sleeping, morning headaches and startled awakening with shortness of breath. Dry mouth or sore throat upon awaking and trouble staying asleep also are symptoms. Obstructive sleep apnea affects people of all ages, but is most common in adults ages 45 to 65, usually men. In women, the risk increases with postmenopause. Risk factors include excess weight; high blood pressure; having a naturally narrowed throat or enlarged tonsils or adenoids; a family history of the condition; smoking; chronic nasal congestion; and using substances that relax throat muscles such as alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers. No one should ignore obstructive sleep apnea symptoms. The following treatment options can be effective, even lifesaving: • Lifestyle changes--For milder cases of obstructive sleep apnea, lifestyle changes such as losing weight or stopping smoking may be helpful. • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines--CPAP devices are generally the preferred treatment for moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea. They deliver air pressure through a mask during sleep. The continuous air pressure keeps the airway open. Adjustable positive airway devices are similar, but the machine automatically adjusts air pressure as needed during sleep. • Surgery--For some patients, surgery is necessary. Several procedures that can be helpful include removal of nasal polyps, straightening of the cartilage between the nostrils or removing enlarged tonsils or adenoids.