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Knee Injuries Limit Future Athletic Activity

A study from East Germany shows that athletes who tear the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in their knees will have permanent knee damage if they return to competitive sports (Arthroscopy, June 2005). The anterior cruciate ligament runs from the top bone of the knee to the bottom one and prevents the top bone from sliding forward when the foot hits the ground during running and walking. If it is torn, the knee becomes so unstable that a person will have difficulty walking, so all torn anterior cruciate ligaments must be repaired.

In this study, East German Olympic athletes who tore their knee ligaments in 1963-1965, and returned to competition after having their ligaments repaired, were examined 10 and 20 years later. Virtually all had severe knee cartilage damage and more than half had total knee replacement surgery.

Athletes with repaired torn ACLs probably should never run or jump again, although they may be able to pedal a bicycle. Another study showed that people who have broken cartilage in their knees can walk and cycle, but should not run or jump.

To keep your bones from wearing down at the joints, their ends are covered with a thick white gristle called cartilage. Even one bleed into a joint damages its cartilage forever. Doctors cannot replace or heal broken cartilage, they can only replace entire knee joints. Operating and removing broken cartilage probably increases a person's chances of needing a knee replacement, particularly if the exerciser continues to run and jump. Shearing forces on the knee are very great during walking downhill and running, and minimal during walking on level ground and cycling. So people who have ever damaged cartilage in their knee should walk on level ground, swim or cycle, and avoid running and jumping.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: My 80-year-old mother is seven inches shorter than she used to be. Can I keep this from happening to me?

The bones of your spine are separated by pads called discs. As you age, these discs dry out and become smaller. However, regular exercise compresses and relaxes these discs as you move up and down. This helps to keep the discs from shrinking and maintains your height. Regular exercise also helps to strengthen bones and keep them from bending or being crushed. One study from Israel showed that people who exercise regularly lose only half as much height as people who never exercise -- just 2.6 centimeters compared with 5.5 centimeters. If you have not already started exercising to prevent heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and loss of mental function, and just to keep you feeling good, you should exercise to help you stand taller as you age.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What foods are high in iodine?

The most reliable source is iodized salt. Saltwater fish and shellfish, eggs and dairy products are also good sources of iodine. The iodine content of plants depends on the soils in which they are grown, so is hard to predict.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I'm a vegetarian and am concerned by news that soybeans may be unhealthy. Should I stop eating soy products?

All plants contain chemicals that are healthful and chemicals that can harm us. Fortunately for us, our ancestors learned which plants are edible and healthful, and taught us to avoid those that are poisonous. However, if you eat very large amounts of one food, you can poison yourself, even though reasonable amounts are harmless or beneficial.

For example, soybeans contain genistein, a weak estrogen that may help to prevent breast cancer. They contain omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent heart attacks, and are loaded with fiber that helps to prevent diabetes. But they also contain small amounts of trypsin inhibitors that increase risk for pancreatic damage and cancer in animals. Hemagglutinins in soybeans could cause clots to form and travel to the lungs. Goitrogens in soybeans block thyroid function to increase your need for that hormone. Estrogen-like genistein in soybeans could stimulate immature lobules in breast tissue of infants to increase risk for breast cancer many years later. Phytates in soybeans and many other plants can block the absorption of minerals.

However, you would need to eat very large amounts of soy products to get any of these negative effects. Enjoy a moderate amount of soy foods, but do not let health claims lead you to eat huge amounts of soy to the exclusion of other foods. A healthful diet is a varied diet.

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More Holiday Recipes - Featuring SALMON
Salmon shows up in lots of Diana's favorite recipes for entertaining. Almost everyone likes the flavor, and its pretty color adds eye-appeal to your buffet.

Smoked Salmon Salad
Chilled Salmon Mousse
Salmon Steaks with Portobello Mushrooms

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

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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