Millions of guys drive with their wallet in their back pocket, but they can’t figure out why they moan when they get out of the car.
Here’s the physics. When one cheek is riding around higher than the other, that bump on your rump can trigger chronic pain in your back, hips and shoulders, and set off foot cramps.
Here’s the physiology. Eventually, you may compress the sciatic nerve (it runs from each side of the spine down through the back of each thigh to the foot) and cause searing leg pain and numbness called sciatica. You also can aggravate the piriformis muscle (it’s near your glutes), which can irritate the nerve and trigger lower back and sciatic pain.
Here’s the fix: Get that wallet out of your back pocket! Next, do stretches to restore alignment and relax tense muscles — but pull over first. Pilates and Hatha yoga (stay away from the more aggressive forms) will work. Now, customize your car seat. Use the controls to drop the seat as close to the floor and as far back as possible, then adjust your seat position from there — including headrest, angle of the steering wheel and the mirrors. Now drive safely.
Conquering canker sores
When you get a canker sore, there’s no doubt that it’s the mouth that’s causing you pain. No one is sure why these mouth ulcers (they have no relationship to herpes-triggered cold sores) pop up in the mucous membranes that line the cheeks, gums and tongue, but they seem to run in families, affect women more than men, and are related to stress, food allergies, hormonal shifts or poor nutrition. Luckily, they’re not contagious. To ease the discomfort:
• Apply a paste of baking soda and water to the affected area, or rinse your mouth with a solution of 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons baking soda.
• Melt ice chips against the sore.
• If you think they’re related to an allergy, an antihistamine may help, and eliminate the offending food from your diet.
• Avoid spicy or acidic foods.
• Brush your teeth gently.
• There are over-the-counter numbing gels; ask your pharmacist about them, but use them sparingly.
• Once you’ve eased the discomfort, turn your attention to stress relief. Practicing meditation daily and getting enough physical activity may help prevent outbreaks.
If you do get canker sores more than a couple times a year, or they don’t go away within a week or two, talk to your doc. They may be a sign of vitamin deficiency (a blood test will tell you) or bacterial infection.
Lower your CRP levels
These days, if you know your C-reactive protein level, you can take steps to cool down body-wide, blood-vessel-damaging inflammation that triggers heart attacks and many other ailments.
CRP is cranked out by the liver when your immune system, hormones and serum proteins respond to an injury or irritation somewhere in your body. Inflammation follows. What causes those injuries and irritations? Pick one: inactivity, obesity, smoking, chronic stress, periodontal disease, acute (a cold) or chronic (an ulcer) infection, autoimmune diseases and a diet loaded with saturated fats and processed foods.
A blood test can determine your CRP levels: A reading of less than 1 mg/L says you have a low risk for heart disease; up to 2.9 mg indicates an intermediate risk; 3 mg or more puts you at high risk.
What should you do if you have elevated CRP?
• Get active. Exercise lowers CRP and quells inflammation.
• Take 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C a day; abnormally high CRP levels may drop 25 percent.
• Opt for a Mediterranean diet loaded with the odd omegas — olive oil (omega-9), nuts (some have omega-7), salmon (omega-3), seeds, fruits and vegetables — with very little saturated fats and no trans fats; CRP may fall by 20 percent. Add high fiber (100 percent whole grains and beans). You’ll cut your risk of having high CRP levels by 63 percent.
Now you’re thinking
Keeping your innards healthy keeps your intellect sharp. Over 10 years, resolving eight minor complaints (like sinus or skin problems, foot and ankle conditions and changes in vision, hearing or dental health) can reduce your risk of dementia by 30 percent.
And you can banish major dementia risks — excess weight, high blood pressure, a large waist and elevated triglycerides, LDL (“L” equals “lousy”) cholesterol and blood sugar — by making smart lifestyle changes (and taking meds, too).
Get sharp and follow our three-step program:
1. Aim for a healthy weight. How? Control your cravings by eating four to six times a day; use menu planning to make healthy choices that you love; avoid eating for three hours before bed; enjoy healthy snacks (walnuts, apples, edamame).
2. Avoid the five food felons: added sugars and sugar syrups, any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole, most saturated fat and all trans fats; and add foods you love, such as fruits, veggies, nuts and beans. Cook with rice bran oil; the vitamin E makes it brain-friendly.
3. Add these odd omegas (3, 7, 9) to your diet; they’re anti-inflammatory and help reduce brain-damaging high LDL cholesterol levels. Also smart: Take B vitamins: 6 milligrams B-6; 400 micrograms folic acid; 25 micrograms B-12 if you’re under 50 and 400 to 800 micrograms if older.
The buzz about West Nile
For the past 13 years, this mosquito-borne infection has been an ever-increasing problem: 2012 is one for the record books in Canada and the U.S. WNV caused more than 44 deaths before September.
What is it? WNV comes from being bitten by a mosquito that has bitten an infected bird. Almost 80 percent of the time, it causes no symptoms; 20 percent of folks with WNV have a mild, flu-like reaction, swollen lymph glands or a rash. But for 1 out of 150 people, the result is high fever, headache, neck stiffness, coma, tremors, convulsions, vision loss, numbness and paralysis — and brain and nerve damage may be permanent.
Who’s at risk for serious problems? The elderly and those with a chronic disease or a weak immune system are most vulnerable.
How can you protect yourself? Put screens on windows and doors; eliminate standing water (in kiddie pools, flowerpots, clogged rain gutters). Wear long sleeves and pants, especially at dawn and dusk, and use insect repellant 100 percent of the time (no excuses) on clothing and exposed skin. Try oil of lemon eucalyptus for kids 3 or older, or citronella; 30 percent deet is the most effective repellant. It’s safe for adults and children over 2 months. Use mosquito netting on infant carriers and strollers.
If you do get it? There is no cure for WNV, but quick treatment for symptoms minimizes risk of long-term complications.