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Strengthen Quad Muscles to Help Your Knees

Doctors have known for many years that having weak quad muscles (in the front of your upper legs) increases risk for damage to the cartilage in your knees. A study from Purdue University shows that strengthening these muscles slows down knee cartilage damage and may even improve knee function (Arthritis & Rheumatism, October 2006).

The researchers placed 221 adults in their sixties and seventies either on a program of strengthening their muscles in their upper legs or just moving their knees in a series of range-of- motion exercises. The subjects exercised three times per week (twice at a fitness facility and once at home) for 12 weeks. This program was followed by a transition to home-based exercise for 12 months. Older people weaken naturally with aging, but the range of motion exercisers lost more strength than those who exercised against progressive resistance. The strength training helped retain joint space, signifying that this group had less loss of cartilage.

The knee is like two sticks held together by four bands called ligaments. Strength training stabilizes the muscles that support the knee and helps to prevent loss of cartilage with aging. People with knee pain should get a diagnosis from their doctors. Most will be advised to do exercises that strengthen the knee, such as pedaling a bicycle or performing knee strengthening exercises that involve bending and straightening the knees against resistance. People with knee pain should avoid exercises that jar the joints, such as jumping or running.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: How should we interpret the news reports that antioxidant supplements are harmful?

In 1956, Denham Harman at the University of Nebraska proposed that antioxidants would prolong life. He explained that the human body converts food to energy by stripping off electrons and protons from food in a series of chemical reactions that leaves extra electrons to attach to oxygen. Most of the charged oxygen combines with hydrogen to form water, but some sticks to the DNA in cells to damage them and shorten life. He proposed that antioxidants would prevent this and thus prolong life. A recent review of the world's scientific literature shows that he may be wrong. Researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark analyzed 68 studies involving 230,000 participants taking antioxidant supplements and found that beta carotene and vitamins A and E, given singly or combined with other antioxidants, shortened the lives of those who took them (JAMA , February 2007).

Current research shows only four possible ways to extend maximum lifespan: exercise, calorie restriction with adequate nutrition, and two chemicals: resveratrol and dichloroacetate. All these enhance the mitochondria in cells so that they produce far fewer oxidants. None have been shown to extend life by increasing antioxidant production. Mitochondria are the furnaces in cells that turn food into energy. By increasing the size and number of mitochondria, these four factors make the engines far more efficient so that they burn fuel cleaner to produce far less reactive oxygen species. None have been shown to increase antioxidant production.

Taking large doses of antioxidants, such as the vitamins; beta carotene and vitamins A, C and E, produces high tissue levels of these vitamins that the body couldn't possibly be exposed to from food. This could interfere with normal chemical reactions and shorten your life. At this time nobody really knows whether taking antioxidant supplements prolongs or shortens life.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is it safe to take ibuprofin for arthritis pain if I'm also taking aspirin for heart attack prevention?

The most recent Therapeutic Arthritis Research and Gastrointestinal Event Trial (TARGET) shows that ibuprofen may increase heart attacks in people at high risk (Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, May 2007). Aspirin can help to prevent heart attacks, but ibuprofen interferes with aspirin's ability to prevent clotting. In this study, 18,000 arthritis patients over 50 were treated with either lumiracoxib (brand name Prexige, not sold in the United States) or ibuprofen or naproxen (sold in the US as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). There was no difference in the number of heart attacks and strokes among participants at low risk for heart attacks. However, high risk patients taking aspirin plus ibuprofin or naproxen were nine times more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes over one year as those on lumiracoxib. Check with your doctor.

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Recipe of the Week

Catfish Gumbo

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 26th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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