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Children Need More Exercise for Heart Health

Children need at least 90 minutes of exercise a day to avoid heart disease when they are older, according to a new study reported in Lancet (July 23, 2006). The old guidelines recommending 30 minutes of exercise three times a week, or even an hour a day do not appear to be adequate for preventing obesity and heart disease. Researchers used heart rate monitors to measure the activity of 1700 nine- to-fifteen-year-olds in Denmark, Estonia, and Portugal. They then calculated a heart-attack risk score consisting of blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin resistance, and skinfold thickness.

They compared physical activity from the heart rate monitors with the heart attack risk-factor score and found that the more active the child, the lower the heart attack risk score. Many children who exercised for 60 minutes a day were still overweight and had high heart attack risk scores. The authors suggest that the lack of regular physical activity is likely to mean that the children are spending too much time watching TV, playing video and computer games, and eating junk food. There is no reason to expect that the results would be different with American children. The current recommendation of at least an hour per day of moderate activity in children may not be sufficient for future heart health.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Are antibiotics the best treatment for urinary tract infections?

Many men suffer from constant irritation in their urinary tubes, urinating frequently at night, urgency to urinate when their bladders fill, and discomfort during urination. Often doctors do a culture which shows no cause, so they prescribe doxycycline antibiotics for a week or two, and their patients get no relief. A study from Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden shows that many of these patients are infected with a bacteria called mycoplasma genitalium which cannot be cured by taking doxycycline, but can be cured by taking an erythromycin antibiotic such as Zithromax, or Biaxin (Sexually Transmitted Infections, August 2006). If you are a man or woman who suffers persistent urinary symptoms, check with your doctor and ask for a urine culture for mycoplasma or just an extended prescription for an erythromycin-type antibiotic.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: What’s the proper way to do sit-ups?

Sit-ups can strengthen your belly muscles, but doing them incorrectly can hurt your back. Sit-ups should be done while you lie on your back with your knees bent enough for the soles of your feet to touch the floor. Place both hands on your chest and slowly raise your head off the ground. Raise your shoulders about one foot and then lower them to the ground. Do this slowly ten times, rest a few seconds and then do two more sets of ten. After a week or two this exercise will feel easy, so add a light weight held behind your neck or on your chest. As you become stronger, you can use heavier weights.

There's no need to do more than 30 sit-ups in one workout. To strengthen your belly muscles, you increase the resistance, not the number of repetitions. Keep your knees bent to protect your back. If you do a sit-up with your legs straight, you place a great force on the iliopsoas muscles that increase the arch in your back, which can damage the ligaments and joints. If your belly muscles are weak, you are likely to arch your back excessively when you sit up and increase the chances of injury. If you are doing sit-ups to flatten your stomach, you need to raise your head only about one foot because going higher than that uses the quadriceps muscles in the front of your upper legs, not your belly muscles.


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Suzanne’s Mango-Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars

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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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