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Weight Management and Gallstones

In Health, Healthcare, Medicine on October 26, 2012 at 6:44 am

It is estimated that digestive diseases affect 60 to 70 million people in the United States. Gallbladder disease is one of the more common of these diseases. Experts estimate that as many as 20 million Americans have gallstones.

Most people with gallstones do not know that they have them and experience no symptoms. These people may have painless gallstones, or silent gallstones. Sometimes gallstones cause abdominal or back pain. These are called symptomatic gallstones. In rare cases, gallstones can cause serious health problems. Hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and operations occur annually as a result of gallstones.

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are clusters of solid material that form in the gallbladder. The most common type is made mostly of cholesterol. Gallstones may occur as one large stone or as many small ones. They vary in size and may be as large as a golf ball or as small as a grain of sand.

Gallstones develop in the gallbladder, a small pear-shaped organ located beneath the liver on the right side of the abdomen. The gallbladder is about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide at its thickest part. It stores and releases bile into the intestine to help digestion.

Bile is a liquid made by the liver. It contains water, cholesterol, bile salts, fats, proteins, and bilirubin (a bile pigment). During digestion, the gallbladder contracts to release bile into the intestine, where the bile salts help to break down fat. Bile also dissolves excess cholesterol.

What causes gallstones to develop?

Illustration of the gallbladder and adjoining organs, the liver, pancreas, and duodenum.

According to researchers, cholesterol gallstones may form in several ways, such as:

When bile contains more cholesterol than it can dissolve.

When there is too much bilirubin or other substance in the bile that causes cholesterol to form hard crystals.
When there are not enough bile salts to break down fat and when the gallbladder does not contract and empty its bile regularly.

 

What are the symptoms of gallstones?

Some common symptoms of gallstones or gallstone attack include:

Severe pain in the upper abdomen that starts suddenly and lasts from 30 minutes to many hours.
Pain under the right shoulder or in the right shoulder blade.
Nausea or vomiting.
Indigestion after eating high-fat foods, such as fried foods or desserts.

Is obesity a risk factor for gallstones?

Obesity is a strong risk factor for gallstones, especially among women. People who are obese are more likely to have gallstones than people who are at a healthy weight. Obesity in adults can be defined using the body mass index (BMI), a tool that measures weight in relation to height. The table below shows how the BMI calculation works. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 refers to a healthy weight, a BMI of 25 to 29.9 refers to overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher refers to obesity.

As BMI increases, the risk for developing gallstones also rises. Studies have shown that risk may triple in women who have a BMI greater than 32 compared to those with a BMI of 24 to 25. The risk may be seven times higher in women with a BMI above 45 than in those with a BMI below 24.

Researchers have found that people who are obese may produce high levels of cholesterol. This leads to the production of bile containing more cholesterol than it can dissolve. When this happens, gallstones can form. People who are obese may also have large gallbladders that do not empty normally or completely. Some studies have shown that men and women who carry fat around their midsections may be at a greater risk for developing gallstones than those who carry fat around their hips and thighs.

Is weight-loss dieting a risk factor for gallstones?

Weight-loss dieting increases the risk of developing gallstones. People who lose a large amount of weight quickly are at greater risk than those who lose weight at a slower pace. Rapid weight loss may also cause silent gallstones (painless gallstones) to become symptomatic. Studies have shown that people who lose more than 3 pounds per week may have a greater risk of developing gallstones than those who lose weight at slower rates.

A very low-calorie diet (VLCD) allows a person who is obese to quickly lose a large amount of weight. VLCDs usually provide about 800 calories per day in food or liquid form, and are followed for 12 to 16 weeks under the supervision of a health care professional. Studies have shown that 10 to 25 percent of people on a VLCD developed gallstones. These gallstones were usually silent—they did not produce any symptoms. About one-third of the dieters who developed gallstones, however, did have symptoms and some of these required gallbladder surgery.

Experts believe weight-loss dieting may cause a shift in the balance of bile salts and cholesterol in the gallbladder. The cholesterol level is increased and the amount of bile salts is decreased. Following a diet too low in fat or going for long periods without eating (skipping breakfast, for example), a common practice among dieters, may also decrease gallbladder contractions. If the gallbladder does not contract often enough to empty out the bile, gallstones may form.

A drug called ursodiol that helps dissolve cholesterol in the bile may help prevent gallstones from developing during rapid weight loss. While ursodiol is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent gallstones, its “off-label” use (the practice of prescribing medications for periods of time or for conditions not FDA-approved) has been shown to be effective and safe. If rapid weight loss is highly likely, you should consider talking with your health care provider about using ursodiol.

Is weight cycling a risk factor for gallstones?

Weight cycling, or losing and regaining weight repeatedly, may increase the risk of developing gallstones. People who weight cycle—especially with losses and gains of more than 10 pounds—have a higher risk for gallstones than people who lose weight and maintain their weight loss. Additionally, the more weight a person loses and regains during a cycle, the greater the risk of developing gallstones.

Why weight cycling is a risk factor for gallstones is unclear. The rise in cholesterol levels during the weight-loss phase of a weight cycle may be responsible. It is also thought that each cycle increases one’s risk for gallstones. However, further research is required to determine the exact link between weight loss and the risk for gallstones.

Is surgery to treat obesity a risk factor for gallstones?

Gallstones are common among people who undergo bariatric surgery to lose weight. Bariatric surgery to reduce the size of the stomach or bypass parts of the digestive system is a weight-loss method for people who have a BMI above 40. This procedure is also an option for people who have a BMI above 35 with comorbid conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Experts estimate that about one-third of patients who have bariatric surgery develop gallstones. The gallstones usually develop in the first few months after surgery and are symptomatic.

How can I safely lose weight and decrease the risk of gallstones?

You can take several measures to decrease the risk of developing gallstones during weight loss. Losing weight gradually, instead of losing a large amount of weight quickly, lowers your risk. Depending on your starting weight, experts recommend losing weight at the rate of 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. Losing weight at this rate commonly occurs for up to 6 months. After 6 months, weight loss usually declines and weight stabilizes because individuals in lower weight groups use fewer calories (energy). You can also decrease the risk of gallstones associated with weight cycling by aiming for a modest weight loss that you can maintain. Even a loss of 5 to 10 percent of body weight over a period of 6 months or more can improve the health of an adult who is overweight or obese.

Your food choices can also affect your gallstone risk. Experts recommend including some fat in your diet to stimulate gallbladder contracting and emptying. Current recommendations indicate that 20 to 35 percent of your total calories should come from fat. Studies have also shown that diets high in fiber and calcium may reduce the risk of gallstone development.

Finally, regular physical activity is related to a lower risk for gallstones. Aim for approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week to manage your body weight and prevent unhealthy weight gain. To sustain weight loss, engage in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity.

What is the treatment for gallstones?

Silent gallstones are usually left alone and sometimes disappear on their own. Symptomatic gallstones are usually treated. The most common treatment is surgery to remove the gallbladder. This operation is called a cholecystectomy. In other cases, nonsurgical approaches—drugs—are used to dissolve the gallstones. Your health care professional can help determine which option is best for you.

Are the benefits of weight loss greater than the risk of getting gallstones?

Although weight loss increases the risk of developing gallstones, obesity poses an even greater risk. In addition to gallstones, obesity is linked to many serious health problems, including:

type 2 diabetes
high blood pressure
heart disease
stroke
certain types of cancer
sleep apnea (when breathing stops for short periods during sleep)
osteoarthritis (wearing away of the joints)
fatty liver disease
For people who are obese, weight loss can lower the risk of developing some of these illnesses. Even a small weight loss of 10 percent of body weight over a period of 6 months can improve health and lower disease risk. In addition, weight loss may bring other benefits such as better mood, increased energy, and positive self-image.

If you are thinking about starting an eating and physical activity plan to lose weight, talk with your health care professional first. Together, you can discuss various eating and physical activity programs, your medical history, and the benefits and risks of losing weight, including the risk of developing gallstones.

 

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Simple and Effective Desk Exercises

In Health, Healthcare, Medicine on August 13, 2012 at 8:00 am

Most of us spend most of our day in the office. Sitting for prolonged periods can lead to excess fat storage, weaken muscles, neck and back problems, a depressed mood, and a lack of energy. You may not want to turn your office into a mini gym, but there are exercises you can do sitting at your desk (reading, talking on the phone, etc.). They will help you stay fit, relieve tension and stress, keep your energy up and make you more alert.

Exercise 1Exercise for shoulders, chest, upper back and arm muscles
With your hand, take edge of a table and strain the hand, like you are trying to lift the table. When your muscles get tired, repeat the exercise with your other hand.office-fitness-exercise-1

Exercise 2: Exercise for shoulders, chest, upper back and arm muscles
Put your hand on the table, palm down. Press down as strongly as you can, and keep your strain as long as you can. Repeat the exercise with your other hand.
Exercises 1 and 2 can be done with your both hands at the same time.office-fitness-exercise-2

Exercise 3: Exercise for shoulders, chest, upper back and arm muscles
Put your right hand on the table, palm down. Put your left hand under the tabletop, palm up. Press your right hand down as strongly as you can, and keep your strain as long as you can. Simultaneously, with the same effort, press your left hand up as strongly as you can, and keep your strain as long as you can. When your muscles get tired, change your hands and repeat the exercise.office-fitness-exercise-3

Exercise 4: Exercise for hips and belly
Sitting on the edge of your chair, raise your straight leg some inches above the floor, and hold it for a few minutes. Raise the leg higher – it will make the exercise more effective. When your muscles get tired, change your leg and repeat the exercise.office-fitness-exercise-4

Exercise 5Exercise for the whole body
Sitting on the edge of your chair, and holding on to the edge of the table, raise straight legs. Hold them as high as it is convenient for you for as long as you can.office-fitness-exercise-5

Exercise 6: Exercise for the whole body
Put your right hand on the outer side of you right knee. Press on your knee as strongly as you can, like you are trying to move it toward your left leg. At the same time, strain your right leg to counteract your hand’s pressure. When your muscles get tired, repeat the exercise with your other hand and leg.
This exercise can be done for both sides simultaneously.office-fitness-exercise-6

Exercise 7: Exercise for the whole body
Put your right hand on the inner side of you right knee. Press on your knee as strongly as you can, like you are trying to move it away from your left leg. At the same time, strain your right leg like you are trying to move it toward your left leg. When your muscles get tired, repeat the exercise with your other hand and leg.
This exercise can be done for both sides simultaneously.office-fitness-exercise-7

Exercise 8: Exercise for arms, chest, and abs
Put your right hand on you right knee, and press on your knee down as strongly as you can. At the same time, strain your right leg and try to counteract your hand’s pressure raising your knee. When your muscles get tired, repeat the exercise with your other hand and leg.
This exercise can be done with both hands and legs at the same time.office-fitness-exercise-8

Exercise 9a: Exercise for arms and back
Take your right wrist with your left hand and the pull your hands in the opposite directions. When your muscles get tired, change your hands and repeat the exercise.office-fitness-exercise-9

Exercise 9b: Exercise for arms and back
As in the previous exercise, take your right wrist with your left hand. Now, with your left hand, pull your right hand down. Strain your right hand to counteract the left hands’ strength. When your muscles get tired, change your hands and repeat the exercise.office-fitness-exercise-10

Exercise 10: Exercise for arms, shoulders, and back
Take side edges of your chair with your hands. Pull up as strongly as you can for as long as you can.office-fitness-exercise-13

Exercise 11: Exercise for arms, shoulders, and chest
Put your hands on the tabletop. Make a fist with your left hand, and set it against your right palm. Press the hands firmly against each other. When your muscles get tired, change your hands and repeat the exercise.office-fitness-exercise-14

Exercise 12: Exercise for arms, shoulders, and chest
Lower your hands, join your palms (fingers pointing down) and press them firmly against each other, for as long as you can. Then, repeat the exercises with fingers pointing up.office-fitness-exercise-15

Exercise 13: Exercise for abs and legs
Raise your feet above the floor, couple them together, and pull in the opposite directions, till your muscles get tired.office-fitness-exercise-17

Exercise 14: Exercise for abs and legs
Raise straight legs above the floor and cross them. Press with your top leg on your lower leg. When your muscles get tired, change your legs and repeat the exercise.office-fitness-exercise-18

Enjoy your workout!

Source: http://going-well.com/2009/12/04/office-workout-routine-14-simple-and-effective-exercises-you-can-do-at-your-desk/

 

CLIMB THESE STEPS TO A HEALTHIER YOU

In Health, Healthcare, Medicine on August 12, 2012 at 8:00 am

You are never too out of shape, overweight, or old to change your habits. With all of life’s demands, it is easy to let your health and fitness slide.

 

Below are a few tips on how you can get on track with healthy habits. Chances are, you will realize it is not as hard as you think.

STEP 1: NO MORE EXCUSES. IT IS TIME TO THINK POSITIVELY!

Set goals and target your motivation.

Think of realistic and gradual changes you can make to improve your diet and physical activity level.

STEP 2: WHAT IS STOPPING YOU? JUMP OVER THOSE OBSTACLES!

Identify your roadblocks.

•No time? Exercise before work, during your lunch break, or before dinner.

•Do you dislike the taste of healthy food? Make your favorite meals in a healthy way.

STEP 3: CREATE A PLAN OF ACTION.

Make fun, small changes to improve your habits.

• Explore fun activity options like dancing or biking.

•Include family and friends for motivation and support.

STEP 4: STICK WITH YOUR NEW HEALTHFUL HABITS.

Do not be discouraged if you slip up. Keep going!

Reward yourself as you meet your goals. You deserve it!

Are you ready to change your habits and maintain a healthier lifestyle?

 

Active at Any Size Day 7: What can I do?

In Health, Healthcare, Medicine on August 7, 2012 at 8:00 am

Weight Training (Weight Bearing or Nonweight Bearing)

 

Weight training may help you:

◆Build strong muscles and bones. You can weight train at home or at a fitness center.

◆Increase the number of calories your body uses.

You do not need benches or bars to begin weight training at home. You can use a pair of hand weights or even two soup cans.

To make sure you are using the correct posture, and that your movements are slow and controlled, you may want to schedule a session with a personal trainer. Ask your health care provider for a referral to a personal trainer. You may need to check with your health insurer about whether this service is covered by your plan.

Weight Training Rule of Thumb

If you cannot lift a weight six times in a row, the weight you are lifting is too heavy. If you can easily lift a weight 15 times in a row, your weight is too light.

If you decide to buy a home gym, check its weight rating (the number of pounds it can support) to make sure it is safe for your size. If you want to join a fitness center where you can use weights, shop around for one where you feel at ease.

 

Active at Any Size Day 2: Barriers to being active

In Health, Healthcare, Medicine on August 2, 2012 at 8:00 am

 

How do I get started?

TO start being more active, try these tips:

◆Think about your barriers to being active. Then try to come up with creative ways to solve them. The following examples may help you overcome barriers.

1. Barrier: I don’t have enough time!

Solution: Be active for a few minutes at a time throughout the day. Sit less. Try to walk more while doing your errands, or schedule lunchtime workouts to boost your overall activity. Plan ahead and be creative!

2. Barrier: I feel self-conscious when I’m active.

Solution: Be active at home while doing household chores, and find ways to move more during your day-to-day activities. Try walking with a group of friends with whom you feel comfortable.

3. Barrier: I’m worried about my health or injury.

Solution: You might feel better if you talk to a health care professional first. Find a fitness provider to guide you, or sign up for a class so you feel safe. Remember that activity does not have to be difficult! Gentle activity is good too.

4. Barrier: I just don’t like exercise.

Solution: Good news—you do not have to run or do push-ups to get the benefits of being physically active. Try dancing to the radio, walking outdoors, or being active with friends to spice things up.

5. Barrier: I can’t stay motivated!

Solution: Try to add variety to your activities and ask your friends to help you stay focused on being active. Consider an activity video for extra encouragement. Also, set realistic goals, track your progress, and be sure to celebrate your achievements!

 

20 DAYS TOWARDS HAPPINESS AND HEALTH: DAY 9

In Health, Healthcare, Medicine on July 1, 2012 at 8:00 am

9. STRETCH

Fact: Sitting in front of a desk every day can wreak havoc on your body, especially since most of us don’t have the best posture. Hunching the shoulders and slumping in your seat can cause back pain, headaches, tension and tightness in your back, neck and shoulders


Just for 10 minutes a day, even while you are sitting, you can perform a few simple stretches to improve your bone and muscle functions. A few examples are illustrated in the picture.

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