Monthly Archives: April 2017

How To Walk Away From Pains and Aches?

We take our walking skills for granted ever since we learnt walking as babies – thereafter, we don’t give it a second thought. Often times we notice people with atypical walking steps and strides and we may ourselves be walking incorrectly but are not consciously aware of it. Walking improperly is one of the major contributors towards joint pains, hip problems and body aches including headaches. In this article, we will cover three basic points of walking properly

The most important biomechanics of walking involves the first step contacting the ground with a heel strike while the second foot should have the toe on the ground. The heel strike is followed by that opposite toe pushing off from the ground and the cycle continues with the other foot. The alternating heel-strike followed by toe-off is the only correct form of stepping. We may notice that young children have a spring-like motion in their step whereas some older individuals will shuffle their toes forward without landing with the heels first. Shuffling and other improper forms of walking create imbalanced pressure points. We can practice proper walking at first with slight exaggerated movements until it feels more natural. The head will bounce up and down slightly and there will be a swing in the step when we walk properly!

The second point is to pay attention to the stride length. The stride length should not be too short and it should not be too long either. Sometimes people will walk with lazy short steps and this type of walking does not contract the gluteus muscles at all. We can try to find the stride length that gives a slight contraction in our gluteus muscles but at the same time is quite comfortable. Thus when we are walking, the hip and the gluteous muscles will also be working.

The third important point to pay attention to is the shoulder movement during walking. The opposite shoulder to the heel strike should rotate slightly towards that leg. As the cycle continues there is a crossover rotation of the shoulder joint towards the opposite leg.

To summarize, the first contact with ground should be with the heel strike, followed by the toe push-off using a comfortable stride length. There is also a slight rotation of the opposite shoulder towards the leg with the heel strike.

At first we can practice these walking points by exaggerating the movements until it feels natural. Following these steps in walking will ensure that the pressure points in the body are appropriately balanced and this will help to relieve unnecessary hip pains, joint pains and aches. Thus, with just walking we can get rid of a lot of unnecessary pains!

How to Break the Cycle of Hunger and Insulin Resistance?

Have you ever felt trapped in a cycle of continuous hunger and food cravings and never feeling satiated? Many of us live through this feeling every day when the more nutrients we consume, the more we crave and never feel quite satisfied. What are the underlying mechanisms and implications of this state of the metabolic system? Well this might seem like a detour but stay tuned with me! I am going to bring it around full circle and try to simplify the complex scenario involving insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance itself is quite simple to understand. It is the condition where our body cells are not responding to the insulin produced by our pancreas. The underlying biological mechanism leading to the condition of insulin resistance appears to be inflammation which can be modulated by the fatty acid composition of the diet. The human body has numerous checks and balances in place to provide optimal blood glucose levels and avoid unnecessary upheavals. These days we have excess nutrients and insulin has the difficult task of defending the body against potential damage from excessive nutrient intake. All nutrients are however naturally inflammatory since their metabolism into other compounds can lead to increased inflammation. Cellular inflammation can disrupt and deactivate insulin’s action by disturbing signaling mechanisms within the cell.

Insulin resistance can be modulated by the fatty acid composition in our food. Omega-6 and saturated fatty acids (such as palmitic acid) are the pro-inflammatory molecules, whereas omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory molecules. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids can decrease and even reverse inflammation within the hypothalamus. Saturated fats can cause inflammation in the hypothalamus of the brain disrupting the signaling pathways mediated by the hormones insulin and leptin that make us feel ‘full and satisfied’. As a result, our brain continues to send hunger signals to our stomach and unfortunately the vicious cycle of inflammation and insulin resistance continues. As a result, there is accumulation of excess calories which are stored as fat in the adipose tissue.

Excess weight however, is not the cause of insulin resistance. The origin of insulin resistance may start with inflammation in the hypothalamus that disrupt satiety signals, increase hunger and food intake starting an orchestra of events that go downhill. When there is excess fat in the body, that is not necessarily a problem if the fat can be safely stored in healthy fat cells that are responsive to insulin. However, fat cells do not have an unlimited capacity to expand. When they expand uncontrollably, it results in inflammation of the fat cell. With ongoing inflammation in the fat cell, high levels of free fatty acids can leave the fat cell to enter the general circulation where they can be taken up by other organs, such as liver and skeletal muscles. These organs also eventually develop insulin resistance. The liver in fact, cannot safely store large amounts of fat which can lead to fatty liver disease.

Skeletal muscle is a very important tissue for uptake of glucose and for storing energy. Physical activity can reduce insulin resistance in skeletal muscles and also increases the uptake of glucose without requiring insulin. The amount and composition of fatty acids in the diet can have a significant role in the modulation of insulin resistance. Last but not the least, monitoring thyroid function can optimize metabolism and prevent the development of insulin resistance.

How Insulin Resistance Can Affect You?

Food that we consume is broken down and processed in our digestive tract into sugar molecules known as glucose that can be easily absorbed by the cells of our body. The amount of #glucose# in our blood is modulated by the hormone #insulin# released by the #pancreas#. These glucose molecules are assisted by insulin to gain entrance inside the cells of the body. The insulin binds to the glucose molecules and act as a key that unlocks the door to the cells. Specifically, the insulin will carry the glucose to the #liver#, #muscle# and fat cells to be stored for release of future energy. In Type II #diabetes#, the cells are not responsive to insulin and this is known as #insulin resistance#. The insulin will still carry the glucose molecules to the cells but the cells will not open their doors as easily. As a result, there is too much sugar build-up in our blood, known as blood glucose concentration, which can damage the liver, kidneys, eye and nerves. The pancreas in turn tries to pump out more insulin to deal with the high glucose concentration in the blood stream. As a result of the increased insulin in the blood, it is also very difficult for the body to burn fats. In fact, the fatty acids in the blood move into fat storage that lead to increase in weight gain. Additionally, since the cells don’t have enough glucose to provide continuous energy release, one can feel more tired and have more sugar cravings.

Thus insulin resistance causes:

1) Fatigue and tiredness
2) Increased food cravings
3) Increased weight gain.

How can we cope with insulin resistance? We can eat more complex carbohydratess to slowly introduce the glucose into our blood stream – this prevents too much insulin from releasing and building up in the blood causing fat storage and subsequent weight gains.

We can simultaneously increase our levels of #physical activity# and engage in moderate exercises. When our muscles are more active, that increases the amount of glucose that can be easily taken up by our muscle cells, without needing the help of insulin. Additionally, the #energy storing capacity# in our muscles increases gradually with increased muscular activities.

What are the Costs of Aging Muscles?

Sarcopenia is the exponential loss of skeletal muscle mass with aging and typically onsets after the third decade of life. The loss of strength and force steadiness are some of the main behavioral complications of the aging neuromuscular system. There is a significant correlation between a sedentary lifestyle and the progression of muscle loss. The main effects of sarcopenia are:

1. Decreased muscle strength
2. Limited functional mobility
3. Loss of functional independence
4. Frailty and general weakness
5. Falls and fractures
6. Osteoperosis
7. Weight Gain
8. Diabetes

The over 65 population will approximately double from 36 million in year 2008 to approximately 72 million by year 2030! The risk of disability is 2-5 times greater in older persons with sarcopenia than an older person with normal muscle function. Sarcopenia exponentially increases the risks of major falls and fractures among the elderly and a significant proportion of the elderly who fall are unable to function independently in the community.

What are the healthcare costs associated with sarcopenia? In USA, the costs of direct health care visits as a result of sarcopenia amounted to $18.5 billion in the year 2000. Additional costs for those who were no longer able to live independently in the community amounted to $26.5 billion. There is typically a strong association of sarcopenia with diabetes and costs associated with diabetes was approximately $156 billion in year 2010!

So what can be done to decelerate the loss of skeletal muscle and onset of sarcopenia? Exercise interventions and strength training among the elderly can decelerate the loss of muscle strength and improve force steadiness. Walking frequently whenever possible or light weight-lifting or moderate strength training can help to keep the muscles engaged and slow down the progressive loss of muscle mass.