All you need to know about: The Alexander Technique

What's it all about?The Alexander technique is a gentle approach that aims to re-educate the mind and the body through a series of movements so the body uses muscles more efficiently. The relationship between head and spine is key. When the neck muscles work well, the head should balance lightly at the top of the spine.
What the expert says ...
Brita Forsstrom has been an Alexander technique teacher since 1984. She now runs teacher training courses as well as classes in London. 'The Alexander technique is really about telling a client what not to do - that is, helping them to unlearn poor postural habits,' says Forsstrom. 'People don't often appreciate that, if you change the way your head, neck and back move, then all other movements in your body can improve. Thus it can help every area of sport technique, from running style to golf swing or tennis serve.'Try to be constantly aware of the way you're sitting, standing and moving; the tension that is causing the postural problems lies within your own body. It is about developing an awareness of where that tension is and then addressing it.
'There is no one correct position for your body - it's about adjusting your position to suit different situations. For example, when working at your desk, rest against the back of the chair. When you're having a phone conversation, sit up near the front of the seat rather than leaning back, so you're not engaged in forward lean, which can put strain on the spine.
'Every day, take time to lie down on a firm but comfortable surface. Recline for about 20 minutes with your knees bent, pointing up to the ceiling with a few paperback books to support your head. This classic Alexander position offers important rest both for your mind and body, allowing tension to be released and the back to lengthen in a coordinated way with the rest of body.
'While standing, keep the balance even between the front and back of the feet and avoid slumping down on one hip. An open-eyed attitude to your surroundings helps to keep you poised and balanced in any situation.
'The Alexander technique is suitable for everyone,' she says. 'It can help actors and professional athletes, but is just as good for pregnant women, new mothers, individuals with long-suffering back problems and patients with chronic diseases.'

Source - Guardian

Foods that guard against cancer

Is a chocolate treat likely to increase the chance of my colleague developing cancer of the breast, and another recurrence of my own prostatic cancer? Will the butter on the hot-cross buns at Easter be more hazardous than chocolate eggs, and just how much did that steak increase the likelihood of my developing colorectal cancer? Would I have done better to have chosen guinea fowl, because one study indicated that where red meat increased the incidence of some gut cancers, white meat reduced it?
These are some of the questions raised by research published last week by the Vasterbotten Intervention Project in Sweden. It studied the medical history of 64,500 men and women, and compared the incidence of cancer of the pancreas, skin, uterus and urinary tract with blood sugar levels.
Part of the funding for the project was provided by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). The project demonstrated a heightened risk for women but not for men. Unexpectedly, males with higher than average blood sugar levels were less likely to develop prostate cancer, but this difference was not clinically significant. A high-fat diet had previously been thought to be one of the factors that might increase the incidence of prostate cancer.
The heightened risk posed by increased blood sugar levels was, however, significant for those women whose levels were in the top quarter of the league table. They had an appreciably greater chance of developing one of the four cancers than did those in the bottom quarter of the table. Why the blood sugar caused an increase in these four cancers is unexplained, though. Was it an effect of raised insulin levels and insulin resistance, or was it associated with obesity?
The WCRF (UK) will publish its own more extensive study in November. This will be a follow-up to a similar but less rigorous examination of the statistics that were available and published in 1997. Rumour has it that the new report will not only extend existing knowledge, but has also detected differences in the emphasis that should be given to various known risk factors.

Source - Times

Blueberries 'protect against colon cancer'

Blueberries could help prevent one of the most common cancers, a study has found. The berries - already hailed as an anti-ageing 'superfood' - contain a compound called pterostilbene which could fight colon cancer.
It is hoped they could be developed into a preventative pill with fewer side effects than commercial preparations.
A U.S. study is the first to show the cancer-fighting potential of pterostilbene - one of the antioxidants in blueberries.
It is found in the pigment that gives blueberries their colour. The darker the berry, the higher the concentration of antioxidants.
The findings of the study will be released today at the American Chemical Society meeting in Washington by scientists at Rutgers University in New Jersey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Dr Bandaru Reddy, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers, said the blueberry compound will not cure colon cancer but could help prevent the disease.
He added: "This study underscores the need to include more berries in the diet, especially blueberries."
In a pilot study, 18 rats were given a cancer-causing compound called azoxymethane. Nine were placed on a balanced daily diet while the others were given the same diet supplemented with pterostilbene.
After eight weeks, the rats fed pterostilbene had 57 per cent fewer pre-cancerous lesions in their colons compared with the control group.

Source - Daily Mail

An orange a day to keep heart disease away

Oranges and grapefruits can help keep your arteries healthy and protect against heart attacks, say researchers.
The citrus fruits contain chemicals which reduced blood cholesterol levels by 20-25 per cent in studies on rats.

The findings could help explain why those who live in the Mediterranean tend to live longer and have lower levels of heart disease than those in northern Europe.
The researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem reported to Chemical & Industry magazine that the compounds, known as flavanones, not only reduced levels of bad LDL cholesterol, but also increased the ratio of good HDL cholesterol.
It is suggested that those with high cholesterol could try eating a diet rich in citrus fruits as a first alternative drugs such as statins.
It is already known that grapefruit consumption can have an effect on cholesterol levels by changing the way the liver functions - so much so that doctors warn patients who are prescribed statins not to eat grapefruit because it can increase the effect of the drugs.

Cocoa 'could get rid of the West's top killer diseases'

Not even Willy Wonka, Roald Dahl's eccentric chocolate-maker, could have dreamt that his scrumptious products might one day offer the world a panacea.
But scientists are close to claiming just that. A compound in unrefined cocoa has health benefits that may rival those of penicillin and anaesthesia, they say.
Norman Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, has spent years studying the Kuna people in Panama. He found that four of the most common killers - stroke, heart disease, cancer and diabetes - affected fewer than one in 10 of the Kuna.
Unrefined natural cocoa contains high levels of epicatechin, which Professor Hollenberg said was so important it should be considered a vitamin.
He told Chemist and Industry magazine: "If these observations predict the future, then we can say without blushing they are among the most important observations in the history of medicine. We all agree that penicillin and anaesthesia are enormously important. But epicatechin could potentially get rid of four of the five most common diseases in the Western world. How important does that make epicatechin? I would say very important."
Daniel Fabricant, vice-president at the Natural Products Association, said that the observations might warrant a rethink of how vitamins are defined. There are 13 vitamins that are defined as essential to the normal functioning, metabolism and regulation of cell growth, and deficiency is usually linked to disease.
"The link between high epicatechin consumption and a decreased risk of killer disease is so striking, it should be investigated further. It may be that these diseases are the result of epicatechin deficiency," Mr Fabricant said.

Source - Independent

Study shows fruit juice benefits

A diet rich in fruit juice could cut the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other diseases, according to research.
A team at Glasgow University has carried out one of the first studies into the benefits of antioxidants.
The study found that grape, apple and cranberry juices contained high amounts of the beneficial chemicals.
Antioxidants are natural chemicals which reduce cell damage caused by free radicals, a major cause of disease and ageing.
Researchers from the Human Nutrition group at Glasgow University examined different juices and how much antioxidant they contained as well as the different chemical compounds.
Polyphenols are a very strong antioxidant that get rid of free radicals in the body.
It is believed they can maintain and improve health and also protect against chronic diseases.

Source - BBC

Want a baby? Ban long hot baths

If a man wants to become a father, he should avoid long hot baths and stick to showers instead.
Scientists say they have confirmed the "old wives’ tale" that prolonged immersion in hot water affects male fertility.
Men used to spending half an hour or more in a bath or jacuzzi who gave up for three months were found to increase sperm production almost fivefold, according to research published in the journal of the Brazilian Society of Urology.
Sperm needs cool surroundings to develop best, which is why the testicles are outside the body.
Because of this, men who want to father a child are already advised not to wear tight clothing or underwear which causes too much heat to build up.
In a pilot study involving men with fertility problems, half of those who refrained from baths saw their sperm count rise by an average of 491 per cent.
The others failed to respond but they were all smokers. Tobacco has long been recognised as a major factor in infertility.
Dr Paul Turek, who led the team from the University of California at San Francisco, said: "It has been believed for decades that wet heat exposure is bad for fertility, but this effect has rarely been documented.
"We now have actual evidence to show patients that these recreational activities are a real risk factor for male infertility."

Coffee 'no boost in the morning'

That morning latte or espresso may not be the pick-me-up people think it is, a study has revealed.

University of Bristol researchers say the caffeine eases withdrawal symptoms which build up overnight, but does not make people more alert than normal.

The work, presented to the British Nutrition Foundation conference, showed only people who have avoided coffee for a while will get a buzz from caffeine.

But the British Coffee Association said regular drinkers did feel more alert.

Source - BBC News

Zinc could be key to eye disease

The mineral zinc may play a role in the development of a common cause of blindness, research suggests.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among elderly people in the developed world.
Researchers found high zinc levels in deposits in the eye which are a marker for AMD development.
The study, published in Experimental Eye Research and led by London's Institute of Ophthalmology, could help the development of new treatments.
AMD is a form of macular disease which affects the eye's retina, and causes loss of central vision.
An estimated 500,000 people in the UK have it, including 40% of people aged over 75.
An early sign of the disease is the formation of microscopic structures called drusen in the eye.
Exactly what the effects of these are and why they form is not yet fully understood.
The latest research found that drusen in eyes with AMD contain very high levels of zinc.

Source - BBC

Whole-grain breakfast cereals 'good for the heart'

To some it is like chewing soggy cardboard. To others it is the only way to start the day. Now researchers have come to the defence of lovers of muesli, Weetabix, Shredded Wheat and similar breakfast cereals with a study showing they really are better for the heart.
People who eat whole grain breakfast cereals seven or more times a week have a 28 per cent lower risk of developing heart failure, researchers found.
The risk of heart failure falls 22 per cent in those who eat the cereals two to six times a week and by 14 per cent in those who eat them up to once week.
The findings add to growing evidence for the health benefits of breakfast. Nutritionists say starting the day with an intake of complex carbohydrates, which take longer to be digested and release their energy more slowly, boosts concentration as well as being better for the body.
Previous research has shown that a bowl of high-fibre cereal in the morning can reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol.
Results from the Physician's Health Study in the US, one of the longest examining the link between health and diet, were presented at the American Heart Association's conference in Florida yesterday - and they seem to confirm the link. More than 10,000 doctors were monitored for 25 years with detailed annual questionnaires, including details of heart events and breakfast cereal consumption.
Four out of five said they chose whole grain cereals, with a third saying they ate them seven or more times a week, and a quarter eating them up to once a week. The study was conducted from 1982 to 2006.
Luc Djoussé, the assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who led the study, said: "There are good and powerful arguments for eating a whole grain cereal for breakfast. The benefits are not just for kids but also for adults. A whole grain, high-fibre breakfast may lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol and prevent heart attacks."

Source - Independent

It works for me: acupuncture

One woman’s life had been crippled by osteoarthritis until she found relief in Chinese medicineChristmas 2005 wasn’t much fun for 73-year-old Maureen Vine. She had long been a sufferer from chronic osteoarthritis in her knees, hips and back and she was now afflicted by an arthritic right ankle, which left her in pain and limping. “My youngest grandchild was 4 years old and he couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t play with him on the floor on Christmas Day,” Vine recalls. “It was just too painful. The terrible pain in my ankle spread to the sole of my foot, and I could hardly walk.”
Vine had suffered from osteoarthritis — in which wear and tear causes joint stiffness and pain — in the back, hips, and knees for 30 years, and had tried occasional physiotherapy, which had brought a little relief. But a stomach condition meant that she had to avoid antiinflammatory medication or strong painkillers. In November 2005 her right ankle began showing signs that it, too, had become arthritic and by the new year, Vine was at her GP in Hackney, East London.
“She prescribed some painkillers that I can tolerate called Co-dydramol,” Vine says. “I was taking eight a day, but they barely took the edge off the pain. I usually enjoy a daily walk around the park, but now I was housebound. Then I remembered that my son had recently tried acupuncture for his arthritic shoulder and said that it had worked wonders. Although I knew nothing about it and was a bit sceptical, I was willing to try anything. So I asked my doctor for a referral.”

Source - Times

Brushing teeth is proven to cut heart risk

BRUSHING your teeth properly can help prevent heart attacks and strokes, scientists have found.
Warding off gum disease can directly improve the health of blood vessels, according to the study by British and American researchers, which is the first to demonstrate that dental treatments can assist blood-flow through arteries.
An association between gum disease, or periodontitis, and narrowing of the arteries was already known. Inflammation was thought to be involved, but there was no proof of a causal link.
The new findings show that gum disease has a direct impact on the health of blood vessels. Tackling problems in the mouth enhances the ability of arteries to open up.

Source - Scotsman