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Backpack safety

More than 8,300 5-18-year-olds received medical treatment for backpack-related injuries last year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

More than 8,300 5-18-year-olds received medical treatment for backpack-related injuries last year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

A backpack injury might sound like something that might be incurred during a long-distance trek in the mountains, but last year, thousands of children were treated in hospitals and doctors’ offices for injuries due to their school backpacks.

For that reason, said American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) spokesperson Dr. Afshin Razi, a spine surgeon, parents should not take lightly the danger of a child’s overloaded backpack.

“Injuries to the muscles and joints can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems,” Razi said. “The good news is that many schools are shifting to having electronic textbooks rather than having students carry around heavy books.”

The AAOS and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America issued these tips for avoiding backpack-related injuries this school year:

• Use both shoulder straps to better distribute backpack weight, and adjust straps to keep the load close to the back. Consider cross-body bags and roller bags, which can be good alternatives to backpacks.

• Remove or organize items if too heavy, and pack heavier things low and toward the center of the bag.

• When lifting a backpack, bend at the knees.

• Carry only items required for the day.

• If the backpack seems too heavy for the child, have them remove some of the books and carry them in their arms to ease the load on the back.

• Encourage your child to inform you of any numbness or tingling in arms or legs, which could indicate too much weight is being carried.

• Encourage your child to drop off books in his or her locker as time permits throughout the day.


Calories on the go

Which of the following is the least healthy scenario for enjoying a bite to eat: eating while visiting with a friend, while watching TV, or while taking a walk?

According to results of a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, eating while taking a walk is the least healthy because it could lead to overeating later in the day.

For the study, researchers gave participants a cereal bar and had them eat it while doing one of the above-mentioned activities. Later in the day, participants were offered a variety of snacks, some healthy and some not. Compared to the other participants, those who ate their cereal bars on the go ate more snacks and consumed five times the amount of chocolate.

Lead author Jane Ogden, a professor at the University of Surrey, said there are a couple of possible explanations for the walkers overeating later in the day.

“This may be because walking is a powerful form of distraction which disrupts our ability to process the impact eating has on our hunger. Or, it may be because walking, even just around a corridor, can be regarded as a form of exercise, which justifies overeating later on as a form of reward,” Ogden said.

Eating in the presence of any form of distraction can actually lead to weight gain, Ogden said.

“When we don’t fully concentrate on our meals and the process of taking in food, we fall in to a trap of mindless eating where we don’t track or recognize the food that has just been consumed,” she said.


Messenger moles

The number of moles on a person’s body may send a message about melanoma risk.

Dermatologists have known for some time that people who have more than 50 moles have an increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. And according to new research, melanoma patients with fewer than 50 moles tend to have a more aggressive form of the disease.

Caroline Kim, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Harvard Medical School, noticed in treating patients with advanced melanoma that those with fewer moles tended to have the most aggressive cancers. Upon review of the medical charts of nearly 300 melanoma patients, Kim discovered that:

• Patients with fewer moles had thicker, more aggressive melanoma than those with many moles.

• Patients with many moles who also had atypical moles – another melanoma risk factor – tended to have thinner, less aggressive cancers.

• Compared to those with fewer moles, patients with more than 50 moles were more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma at a younger age.

Kim said one reason for her findings could be that people with a large number of moles may be more likely to get regular checkups with a dermatologist, resulting in early detection of their cancer and treatment when the melanoma is thinner and less aggressive.

Another reason could be attributed to biological differences in patients.

“We already know that melanomas are not all the same genetically,” Kim said. “It’s possible that there are different pathways that drive melanoma in these two patient groups, resulting in different degrees of aggressiveness. If patients with fewer moles are more prone to aggressive melanoma, then we need to make sure that they are also being educated and screened, in addition to patients with many moles.”

Kim said more research is needed to confirm the results of her study and noted that while some people have a heightened risk for skin cancer, it can strike anyone.

“It’s important to educate yourself about skin cancer no matter how many moles you have,” she said. “All skin cancers, including melanoma, are most treatable when they’re detected early, so it’s important to be aware of warning signs on your skin.”

Kim’s research was presented at the American Academy of Dermatology’s 2015 Summer Academy Meeting.


Spice it up

A daily dose of spicy food could lead to a longer life, recent research suggested.

In an observational study in China, researchers looked for a link between spicy food consumption and total risk and cause of death among roughly 500,000 adults. Participants were enrolled in the study between 2004 and 2008 and had no history of cancer, heart disease or stroke.

During a median follow-up of 7.2 years, roughly 20,000 participants had died.

Compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those who ate spicy foods one or two days a week had a 10 percent reduced risk of death, and those who consumed spicy foods daily or almost every day had a 14 percent lower risk of death.

The most commonly consumed spices among those who reported eating spicy foods were fresh and dried chili peppers. Results were similar for men and women and stronger among those who did not drink alcohol.

Because the study was observational, researchers said it is too early to conclude that spicy food increases longevity but called for more research they said could “lead to updated dietary recommendations and development of functional foods.”


On the calendar

 “Sports Injury and Concussion Prevention” is from 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 23 at Progress West Hospital’s Healthwise Center, 6 Jungermann Circle, Suite 117 in St. Peters. Dr. Brandon Larkin, from St. Peters Bone and Joint, provides information on how to keep an athlete safe. Admission is free, and registration is required. For more information or to enroll, call 344-2273, or visit progresswest.org.

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