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Millions of Americans who suffer from joint pain and arthritis may reduce their pain and inflammation by eating tart cherries, according to research from Oregon Health & Science University.

Researchers have found that drinking tart cherry juice daily for three weeks helped reduce inflammation in a study of 20 women between the ages of 40 to 70. All of the women had inflammatory osteoarthritis, commonly characterized as “wear and tear” arthritis.

Athletes are often at greater risk for this condition because excessive joint use can break down cartilage, leading to pain and injuries, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

“With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, it’s promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with arthritis medications.” said Dr. Kerry Kuehl, lead investigator from Oregon Health & Science University in a news release. “I’m intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit – especially for active adults.”

Tart cherries are loaded with antioxidant compounds, called anthocyanins.

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Patients who undergo surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament – commonly called ACL – may want to set up physical therapy sessions as soon as possible, according to a new study.
That’s because a team of orthopaedic surgeons found that physical therapy, begun quickly after surgery, can offer very good results for patients.
Bracing, however, did not seem to improve a patient’s outcome.
“The most important thing for ACL surgery patients is to start physical therapy early and rigorously,” said Dr. Rick Wright, professor and co-chief of the sports medicine department at the Washington University Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. “It can be difficult at first, but it’s worth it in terms of returning to sports and other activities.”
The review, published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, looked at 29 studies that focused on treatment after reconstructive ACL surgery.
The ACL, which runs through the middle of the knee joint, is most commonly hurt when a person suddenly changes direction, stops quickly or lands incorrectly after a jump, according to a news release from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Other findings from the review include:

  • Physical therapy should being within a few days of ACL surgery.
  • Balance therapies may help patients.
  • No vitamins or other supplements have been proven to have an effect on healing the ACL.
  • While neuromuscular therapies are not harmful, their benefits require more study.
  • More study is needed for accelerated rehabilitation.

Source: American Academy of Orthpaedic Surgeons

Alice Warchol is a freelance health writer and fitness instructor.

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Stroke survivors may be able to improve their balance through group yoga classes once they no longer receive rehabilitative care, according to new research published in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers looked at the potential benefits of practicing yoga for eight weeks among a small group of people considered chronic stroke survivors – those who had strokes more than six months earlier, according to a news release from the AHA. People often have balance problems after a stroke that can last a long time. Stroke survivors are at greater risk for falls and disability.

“For people with chronic stroke, something like yoga in a group environment is cost effective and appears to improve motor function and balance,” said lead researcher Arlene Schmid, an occupational therapist.

In order to participate in the small pilot study, each person had to be able to stand independently. The oldest stroke survivor was 90 years old.

Over the weeks, the classes gradually became more challenging. The students practiced modified yoga postures as well as relaxation and meditation techniques.

At the end of the eight weeks, researchers found that those who completed the yoga classes significantly improved their balance, the news release states. They also felt more independent and less afraid of having a fall. Many talked about being able to take a shower and not having to use a motorized scooter at the grocery store.

“For chronic stroke patients, even if they remain disabled, natural recovery and acute rehabilitation therapy typically ends after six months, or maybe a year,” said Schmid, a rehabilitation research scientist at Roudebush Veterans Administration-Medical Center and Indiana University.

But improvements can take longer.

“…We know for a fact that the brain still can change,” she said. “The problem is the healthcare system is not necessarily willing to pay for that change. The study demonstrated that with some assistance, even chronic stroke patients with significant paralysis on one side can manage to do modified yoga poses.”

Researchers noted that the study’s conclusions are limited due to its small size and lack of diversity. Further study is needed.

Source: American Heart Association news release

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You probably know that soda is bad for you, right?

But do you know how it really can sabotage weight loss?

I’ve never been much of a soda drinker. And this little bit of math makes me really, really glad.

Say you drink one soft drink every day. That’s roughly 140 calories. By the end of the year, that can turn into close to 14 pounds of unwanted weight gain, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Yikes! That’s at least one dress size.

The nonprofit organization representing food and nutrition professionals has some great advice for soda lovers.

Ask yourself this: could you eat 26 teaspoons of sugar?

If you can’t, you might not want to open that 32-ounce bottle of soda because that’s what it likely contains.

Scary, isn’t it?

If you’re looking around the kitchen, trying to find something else to sip on. Federal health officials recommend a beverage that doesn’t contain sugar, such as water, or a diet, low-calorie drink.

Dress up a glass of water with a slice of lime or lemon. Or try adding just a splash of 100 percent juice to plain sparkling water.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how such a small change can create big results.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health blog writer and fitness instructor.

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If you placed a marshmallow on the dinner table in front of your child, could they wait to eat it?

Could they wait 15 minutes?

It’s hard enough for adults to delay gratification. But kids who are able to learn self-control skills at age 4 have a lower body mass index 30 years later, according to a study to be published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

In fact, it also helps them as adolescents in other areas such as: academics, social skills and handling stress, according to a press release from Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati.

“Interventions can improve young children’s self control, which may decrease children’s risk of becoming overweight and may have further positive effects on other outcomes important to society…” said lead researcher Tanya R. Schlam, from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, in the release.

Between the years 1968 and 1974, researchers gave 653 4-year-olds a test on how well they could delay gratification. They were offered a cookie or a marshmallow and told that if they could wait an unspecified amount of time to eat it, they would be given a second treat. The children were made to wait 15 minutes.

Years later, researchers followed up with the study participants.

“The researchers found that each minute a child delayed gratification predicted a 0.2 decrease in adult BMI.”

They also discovered that only 24 percent were overweight and 9 percent were obese. That’s considerably lower than the national average in 2008 which found 34 percent overweight and 34 percent obese, according to the news release.

With results like that, it makes putting off dessert worth the wait.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health blog writer.

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Processed food. It’s a widely-used term for food that’s bad for you, right?

Not necessarily so, according to a study published in the July issue of Advances in Nutrition.

Where would we be without pasteurized milk, researchers ask?

How would people with celiac disease and lactose intolerance be able to eat many foods that require processing to remove gluten or lactose?

The authors of the study note that processing has other benefits, according to a news release from the American Society for Nutrition. For example, freezing vegetables right after they have been harvested help preserve their nutritional content.

“…Consumers need to understand that not all processed foods are created equal – a fast food burger with all the trimmings may not be a good choice, but frozen broccoli generally is,” a statement from the ASN reads. “Understanding more about food processing and the nutritional values of individual processed foods will help consumers make healthy choices.”

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Going out to lunch may never be the same.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

Soon, many chain restaurants nationwide will be required to display nutritional information for everything they sell.

Not only will you see how many calories come in that grilled chicken salad with pecans and crumbled cheese, but how much fat and sodium it contains, too.

It’s information that may ruin a few appetites.

Federal health officials are hoping the new requirement – a part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – will spur patrons to demand healthier choices.

I think it could work.

You see, there’s a particular chain restaurant that I like to visit. Nope, it doesn’t have a drive-thru.

It’s the kind of place I can walk in wearing my gym clothes, order quickly, grab my lunch and find a table.

You might think I love this place because it serves roasted turkey on a bed of baby greens packed with nutrition. And that’s definitely part of it.

But the real reason I love this place is because the calories for everything you order are posted right next to the price.

It makes a difference when it comes to maintaining weight loss.

If you’re like me, every calorie counts. I keep track of all my daily calories on my phone with an app specifically made for weight loss and exercise.

I won’t lie. This restaurant boasts some of the sweetest looking scones and cupcakes I’ve seen in a long time.

And it’s not the price that keeps me from getting one.

It’s the posted calorie count.

Alice Warchol is a freelance health blog writer and fitness instructor.

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InMotion physical therapy in Hampton Roads can help you increase your sports performance.Families, volunteers and coaches nationwide are helping prevent childhood obesity and they don’t even know it.

Every time a child heads onto the soccer field or runs another lap around the track, their chances of becoming obese get slimmer and slimmer.

In fact, “teens who play on three or more sports teams…were 27 percent less likely to be overweight and 39 percent less likely to be obese compared with teens who did not play on any sports team,” according to a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics on a study published in the online issue of Pediatrics.

Researchers interviewed more than 1,700 high school students from New Hampshire and Vermont for the study, which considered how many sports they play, their height, weight and activity level.

What they found may surprise some.

Physical education classes appeared to have little sway on how much teens weigh. But getting to school the old-fashioned way – by walking or riding a bike – “was associated with a reduced likelihood of obesity,” the news release states.

According to the authors of the study, high school sports reduce obesity and weight problems because teenagers who play them engage in “moderate to strenuous activity levels.”

“Study authors conclude that increasing opportunities for all teens, regardless of athletic ability, to participate in sports should be a priority in obesity prevention efforts.”

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics news release

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The last thing you might want to do when your knees hurt is put on a pair of cross trainers and head out the door for the gym.

But that might just be part of the answer to finding relief.

Losing weight combined with exercise reduces pain and helps people who have knee osteoarthritis regain some of their mobility, according to research from Wake Forest University.

In fact, moderate exercise and staying on a diet long term helped study participants improve mobility and reduce pain by as much as 50 percent, according to the Intensive Diet and Exercise for Arthritis trial.

The study included more than 450 overweight adults who have pain caused by osteoarthritis.

Source: Wake Forest University

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Lemonade. Sweet tea. Cupcakes.

It’s not easy to give up sugar.

But for anyone trying to lose weight or maintain their blood sugar levels because they have diabetes, it’s imperative to cut out these sweet, empty calories.

Here’s one strategy that may work: try substituting drinks that contain added sugars with those that rely on non-nutritive sweeteners for their sweetness such as: aspartame, acesulfame-K, neotame, saccharin, sucralose and plant-derived stevia.

According to a joint statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association, non-nutritive sweeteners “may help people reach and maintain a healthy body weight – as long as the substitution doesn’t lead to eating additional calories later.” The statement also said that for diabetics, these sweeteners “used alone or in foods and beverages remain an option and when used appropriately can aid in glucose control.”

The statement comes at a critical time for much of the adult population in the United States. Two-thirds are either overweight or obese. Eating excess dietary sugars contributes to heart disease and obesity, which then increases a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes.

Women should eat no more than 100 calories per day of added sugars, according to a news release from the AHA. For men, the limit is 150 calories.

“While they are not magic bullets, smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could help you reduce added sugars in your diet, therefore lowering the number of calories you eat. Reducing calories could help you attain and maintain a healthy body weight, and thereby lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes,” said Christopher Gardner, associate professor of medicine at Stanford University in California, in the news release. “But there are caveats.”

Drinking a diet soda will cut out 150 calories from your day but won’t help you lose weight if you reward yourself later with a cupcake.

The joint statement does not address the safety of using non-nutritive sweeteners, which are evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Source: American Heart Association news release

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