Colorectal Cancer Disparities in USA: “We Should Be Embarrassed”

What You Need to Know: Lack of education, regardless of race or ethnicity, is the most important factor linked to disparities in mortality rates from colorectal cancer in the United States.

Background: It has long been known that there are disparities in mortality rates from colorectal cancer (CRC) between educated white and uneducated black populations in the United States. The study, led by Ahmedin Jemal, PhD, from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, looked at the rate of death from CRC in people younger than 65 years (i.e., premature death) in each of the 50 states from 2008 to 2010. The researchers classified CRC patients 25 to 64 years of age by level of education (12 years or fewer, 13 to 15 years, and 16 years or more), race/ethnicity, and state.

Results:

They found there were significantly more premature CRC deaths in states with the lowest education levels than in those with higher levels. In fact, rates of premature death decreased with increased years of education, regardless of race or ethnicity.

  • In the white population, Delaware had the fewest premature CRC deaths, but even in that state, the rate was 15% higher in the least-educated than in the most-educated people (rate ratio [RR], 1.15; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.66 – 2.01). New Mexico had the most premature CRC deaths; the rate was 3-fold higher in the least-educated than in the most educated people (RR, 3.18; 95% CI, 2.01 – 5.05).
  • In the black population, rate ratios ranged from 0.84 (95% CI, 0.54 – 1.30) in Mississippi to 2.41 (95% CI, 1.62 – 3.59) in Virginia. New York had the lowest death rate (12.9%) among those with the lowest level of education.
  • Blaise Polite, MD, MPP of the University of Chicago expressed this view in an editorial: “The major finding from this study…remains unaltered: If you are black or have low educational attainment, where you live in the United States determines how likely you are to die as a result of colorectal cancer. That is an experiment that has to end in the 21st-century United States.”

My Take: We should be embarrassed. Between 2008 and 2010, more than 23,000 deaths from colon cancer, 50% of the total, could have been prevented if all states had colon cancer equal to the five states with the lowest rates for the most educated whites. An equally important point is the variation among the states; 69% of deaths could have been prevented in Mississippi, compared with only 29% in Utah. While lifestyle factors no doubt contribute to disparities, access to colonoscopy is a key component to reducing your chance of dying from colorectal cancer.

An author of the study adds: “Screening is recommended for people 50 to 75 years. In those with 12 years or less of education, only 40% get screened, compared with 70% of those with a college-level education,” he explained. Even worse, “in the uninsured population, it is only 19%. That is ridiculously low, and highlights the importance of access to care.”

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

References: 

 

Couples More Likely to Get Healthy Together

What You Need to Know: People are more successful in taking up healthy habits if their partner makes positive changes too.

The Evidence: Scientists at UCL funded by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, and the National Institute on Aging looked at how likely people were to quit smoking, start being active, or lose weight in relation to what their partner did. The research looked at 3,722 couples, either married or living together and over the age of 50, who were taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).

  • People were more successful in swapping bad habits for good ones if their partner made a change as well. For example, among women who smoked, 50 percent managed to quit if their partner gave up smoking at the same time, compared with 17 per cent of women whose partners were already non-smokers, and eight per cent of those whose partners were regular smokers.
  • Men were equally affected by their partners and were more likely to quit smoking, get active, or lose weight if their partner made the same behaviour change.

My Take: Now is the time to exercise (even a 30 minute brisk walk, 5 times perweek can meaningfully improve your health), maintain a healthy diet and weight, be prudent about alcohol consumption, and quit tobacco. These lifestyle changes can make a big difference to our health and cancer risk. And this study shows that when couples make those changes together they are more likely to succeed. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.


References:

  • Sarah E. Jackson, Andrew Steptoe, Jane Wardle. The Influence of Partner’s Behavior on Health Behavior Change. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7554
  • Cancer Research UK. “Couples more likely to get healthy together.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 January 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150119124551.htm>.

How Can You Reduce Your Risk of Getting Cancer?

Recent reports suggest that about 2 out of 3 cancers may be due to “bad luck.” Today, we focus on the other third: What can you do to reduce your risk of cancer?

What You Need to Know:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight and being physically active had the greatest impact on overall risk of a cancer-related death. 
  • Restricting alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men was associated with 29% reduced risk for obesity-related cancers. Additionally, the risk was up to 71% lower for the most common site-specific cancers in the United States (breast, prostate, and colorectal).

Background

  • As people make their resolutions for 2015, two new studies — which show that curbing alcohol consumption, adding more plant foods to the diet, and losing excess weight can help reduce the risk of developing cancer — serve as a reminder that a healthy lifestyle is important.
  • In 1997, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) issued cancer prevention guidelines for weight management, diet, and physical activity. These were updated in 2007 and are considered to be the most comprehensive scientific analysis of cancer prevention and causation ever undertaken. Specifically, the guidelines reported that excess body fat is associated with an increased cancer risk and that there is convincing evidence that the consumption of alcohol, red meat, and processed meat elevates cancer risk. Since that time, numerous studies have reported links between colorectal cancer risk and alcohol, between breast cancer mortality and obesity, between breast cancer relapse and obesity, and between breast cancer risk and red meat.

The Evidence: The first study, published online January 6 in Cancer Causes & Control, showed that eating a plant-based diet and limiting alcohol intake, both already included in various cancer prevention guidelines, could help cut the risk for obesity-related cancers (about a third of all of cancers). In a cohort of nearly 3000 adults, the researchers found that restricting alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men was associated with 29% reduced risk for obesity-related cancers. Additionally, the risk was up to 71% lower for the most common site-specific cancers in the United States (breast, prostate, and colorectal). For individuals who consume starchy vegetables, such as corn, potatoes, and yams, sufficient consumption of nonstarchy legumes, fruits, and vegetables was associated with a reduction in the risk for colorectal cancer.

Pronounced Effect on Cancer Risk

In their study, Makarem and colleagues investigated whether the healthful behaviors outlined in the WCRF/AICR guidelines were associated with the risk for obesity-related cancers, in particular, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer. Of the 2983 adults enrolled in the Framingham Offspring cohort from 1991 to 2008, the researchers identified 480 incident obesity-related cancers.

Data from food frequency questionnaires, anthropometric measures, and self-reported physical activity were used to develop a 7-component score based on recommendations for body fatness; physical activity; foods that promote weight gain; plant foods; animal foods; alcohol; and food preservation, processing, and preparation. The cohort was, on average, middle aged to older and overweight, but had a relatively high level of physical activity. The mean duration of follow-up was 11.5 years.

The overall score was not associated with obesity-related cancer risk after adjustment for confounders such as age, sex, smoking, energy, and pre-existing conditions (hazard ratio [HR], 0.94; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.86 – 1.02). However, when the score components were considered separately, the researchers found that for every unit increment in the alcohol score (representing an improvement and more closely meeting the guideline recommendations), there was 29% lower risk for obesity-related cancers (HR, 0.71; 95 % CI, 0.51 – 0.99) and a 49% to 71% reduced risk for breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers.

Similarly, each unit increment in the subcomponent score for nonstarchy plant foods (fruits, vegetables, and legumes) for those who eat starchy vegetables was associated with a 66% lower risk for colorectal cancer (HR, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.22 – 0.88).

Healthy Body Weight and Exercise Reduce Mortality

The second study, published online January 7 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reported similar results. Researchers found that greater adherence to the cancer prevention guidelines of the American Cancer Society (ACS) was associated with a reduction not only in cancer incidence, but also in cancer mortality and total mortality.

The ACS guidelines recommend that individuals avoid smoking, achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, and eat a healthy diet that emphasizes plant foods. In their study, Geoffrey Kabat, PhD, senior epidemiologist in the Department of Epidemiology & Population Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, and colleagues report that maintaining a healthy body weight and being physically active had the greatest impact on overall mortality for both men and women.

The researchers used data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, a prospective cohort study of 566,401 adults who were 50 to 71 years of age in 1995 and 1996, when they enrolled in the study. They were followed for a median of 10.5 years for cancer incidence, 12.6 years for cancer mortality, and 13.6 years for total mortality.

During the study period, there were 73,784 cases of cancer, 16,193 cancer deaths, and 81,433 deaths from any cause. The patients were stratified by how closely they adhered to ACS guidelines, and adherence to the guidelines was associated with a reduced risk for all cancers combined. When the highest level of adherence was compared with the lowest level, the hazard ratio was 0.90 for men and 0.81 for women.

In addition, increased adherence was associated with a reduction in risk for 14 of 25 specific cancers. Reduction in the risk for gallbladder cancer was 65% in men and women combined, for endometrial cancer was 60%, for liver cancer was 48% in men, for colon cancer was 48% in men and 35% in women, and for rectal cancer was 40% in men and 36% in women.

My Take: These results add to the existing evidence on the potential role of limiting alcohol intake and increasing the intake of plant foods in influencing cancer risk. Dietary advice on cancer should focus on encouraging the consumption of a plant-based diet providing abundant non-starchy fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and restricting alcohol, if consumed at all, to the recommended levels. Try to stick to the ACS Guidelines, as the closer you follow them, the greater the benefit in cancer risk-reduction. Finally, exercise and don’t use tobacco. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

References: Cancer Causes Control. Published online January 6, 2015. Abstract; Am J Clin Nutr. Published online January 7, 2015. Abstract; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/837976#vp_2

Going Dry: The Benefits Of A Month Without Booze

Background: As New Year’s resolutions go, cutting back on food and drink are right at the top of the list. And while those vowing to change their eating habits may cut the carbohydrates or say a sweet goodbye to sugar, for regular drinkers, the tradition may involve what’s known as a “dry January”: giving up booze for a month. But could such a short-term breakup with alcohol really impart any measurable health benefits?

The staff at the magazine New Scientist decided to find out, using themselves as guinea pigs. The findings of their small but intriguing experiment suggest the answer is a resounding yes.

The Study: The magazine is based in the U.K., where the dry January concept has been gaining traction, thanks to an annual campaign by the charity Alcohol Concern. In late 2013, 14 healthy New Scientist employees filled out lifestyle questionnaires, underwent ultrasounds and gave blood samples. Then, 10 of them gave up alcohol for five weeks, while four of them continued drinking normally.

“Normal” drinking for the New Scientist group ranged from 10 units of alcohol per week — the equivalent of about eight 12-ounce bottles of regular-strength beer — to 80 units, or 64 beers, per week. Those numbers may seem high, but in Britain, where drinking is a national pastime, the group’s supervising doctor told them none were problem drinkers. (Incidentally, Britain’s National Health Service recommends no more than 14 to 21 alcohol units per week.)

Scientists say beer has more nutrients and vitamins than wine or spirits. “There’s a reason people call it liquid bread,” says researcher Charlie Bamforth.

Dr. Rajiv Jalan, a liver specialist at the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London, analyzed the findings. They revealed that among those in the study who gave up drinking, liver fat, a precursor to liver damage, fell by at least 15 percent. For some, it fell almost 20 percent.

Abstainers also saw their blood glucose levels — a key factor in determining diabetes risk — fall by an average of 16 percent. It was the first study to show such an immediate drop from going dry, Dr. James Ferguson, a liver specialist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham in England, told us last year. Overall, the evidence is convincing but not all that surprising, said Ferguson, who was not involved in the experiment.

“If you take time off from alcohol, it’s going to be beneficial for your liver from the reduction of fat,” he told The Salt. “People always forget the amount of calories in alcohol, so if you take a month off, and you usually consume 20 units, you’re going to lose weight and fat. It’s a massive reduction in calories. “

The main causes of excessive fat in the liver are obesity and excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol changes the way the liver processes fat, resulting in more fat cells that can cause inflammation, leading to liver disease. But Ferguson warned that a dry January could trigger the same sort of negative boomerang effect as do restrictive diets: First you abstain, then you binge to make up for it. He questioned whether a dry January leads to a wetter-than-normal February.

Beyond that, there’s the question of whether and how much these improvements last in the long run. Ferguson offered a sobering view.

“I don’t think taking one month ayear off alcohol makes any difference,” he says. “It’s more important to cut back generally.”

My Take: If you drink, consider doing so in moderation: Women in general should consume no more than an average of 1 standard drink daily (and preferably no more than 3 at any one time), and men should limit their intake to 2 standard drinks. Alcohol has some health benefits: It can lengthen your life, lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, improve your libido, reduce your risk of getting a common cold, drop your chances for dementia, lower your probability of getting gallstones, and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. But… in moderation, please. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2015/01/06/372088383/going-dry-the-benefits-of-a-month-without-booze?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20150106

Alcohol: Seven Health Benefits

Getting wasted every weekend might not be the best thing for your physical or mental well-being, but moderate alcohol consumption may have some substantial health benefits. It should be noted that alcohol consumption and its benefits vary based on an individual’s body makeup and type.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. This definition is referring to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days.”

Now, we’ve all heard the reasons why alcohol is bad for you, but what about the benefits? Here is our list of seven ways that drinking alcohol in moderation (when you’re of the legal drinking age of course) might benefit your health.

1. It Can Lower Your Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
The School of Public Health at Harvard University found that “moderate amounts of alcohol raises levels of high-density lipoprotein, HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol and higher HDL levels are associated with greater protection against heart disease. Moderate alcohol consumption has also been linked with beneficial changes ranging from better sensitivity to insulin to improvements in factors that influence blood clotting….Such changes would tend to prevent the formation of small blood clots that can block arteries in the heart, neck, and brain, the ultimate cause of many heart attacks and the most common kind of stroke.” This finding is applicable to both men and women who have not been previously diagnosed with any type of cardiovascular disease.

2. It Can Lengthen Your Life
Drinking occasionally could add a few years to your life. A study by the Catholic University of Campobasso reported that drinking less than four or two drinks per day for men and women respectively could reduce the risk of death by 18 percent, as reported by Reuters. “Little amounts, preferably during meals, this appears to be the right way (to drink alcohol),” said Dr. Giovanni de Gaetano of Catholic University, another author on the study. “This is another feature of the Mediterranean diet, where alcohol, wine above all, is the ideal partner of a dinner or lunch, but that’s all: the rest of the day must be absolutely alcohol-free.”

3. It Can Improve Your Libido
Contrary to prior beliefs, newer research has found that moderate drinking might actually protect against erectile dysfunction in the same way that drinking red wine might benefit heart disease. In a 2009 study published in the, Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers found that the chances of erectile dysfunction were reduced by 25 to 30 percent among alcohol drinkers. The lead researcher, Kew-Kim Chew, an epidemiologist at the University of West Australia, conducted the study with 1,770 Australian men. In his study, Chew cautiously noted that he and his team in no way are advising men to hit the bottle, and that further research is needed to accurately connect impotence and alcohol consumption.

4. It Helps Prevent Against the Common Cold
The Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University found that while susceptibility to the common cold was increased by smoking, moderate alcohol consumption led to a decrease in common cold cases for nonsmokers. This study was conducted in 1993 with 391 adults. In 2002, according to the New York Times, Spanish researchers found that by drinking eight to 14 glasses of wine per week, particularly red wine, one could see a 60-percent reduction in the risk of developing a cold. The scientists suspected that this had something to do with the antioxidant properties of wine.

5. It Can Decrease Chances Of Developing Dementia
In a study that included more than 365,000 participants since 1977, as reported in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, moderate drinkers were 23 percent less likely to develop cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. “Small amounts of alcohol might, in effect, make brain cells more fit. Alcohol in moderate amounts stresses cells and thus toughens them up to cope with major stresses down the road that could cause dementia,” said Edward J. Neafsey, Ph.D., co-author of the study, as reported by Science Daily. “We don’t recommend that nondrinkers start drinking,” Neafsey said. “But moderate drinking — if it is truly moderate — can be beneficial.”

6. It Can Reduce The Risk Of Gallstones
Drinking two units of alcohol per day can reduce the risk of gallstones by one-third, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia. The study found that those who reported consuming two UK units of alcohol per day had a one-third reduction in their risk of developing gallstones. “Researchers emphasized that their findings show the benefits of moderate alcohol intake but stress that excessive alcohol intake can cause health problems,” according to the study.

7. Lowers The Chance Of Diabetes
Results of a Dutch study showed that healthy adults who drink one to two glasses per day have a decreased chance of developing type 2 diabetes, in comparison to those who don’t drink at all. “The results of the investigation show that moderate alcohol consumption can play a part in a healthy lifestyle to help reduce the risk of developing diabetes type 2,” researchers said in a statement to Reuters.

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter. Remember: If you drink, please do so in moderation. For men, that may mean no more than two standard alcohol-containing drinks; for women, that means one per day. Try to drink no more than 3 at any given time.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: http://www.medicaldaily.com/7-health-benefits-drinking-alcohol-247552

Sleep/Wake Cycles

Sometimes you drift off to dreamland before you count your third sheep. Other times you toss and turn half the night before you slip into a fitful sleep. After lunch you may be dragging, yet later, your energy levels soar, just in time for bed. How and when you feel sleepy has to do with your sleep/wake cycles, which are triggered by chemicals in the brain.

Brain chemicals and sleep: 

  • Chemicals called neurotransmitters send messages to different nerve cells within the brain. Nerve cells in the brainstem release neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine, histamine, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters act on parts of the brain to keep it alert and functioning while you are awake.
  • Other nerve cells stop the messages that tell you to stay awake, causing you to feel sleepy. One chemical involved in that process is called adenosine. Caffeine promotes wakefulness by blocking the receptors to adenosine. Adenosine seems to work by gradually building up in your blood when you are awake, leading you into drowsiness. While you sleep, the chemical slowly dissipates.

Sleep processes

  • Two body processes regulate sleeping and waking periods. These are called sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock. With sleep/wake homeostasis, the longer you are awake, the greater your body senses the need to sleep. If this process alone was in control of your sleep/wake cycles, in theory you would have the most energy when you woke up in the morning and be tired and ready for sleep at the end of the day.
  • But your circadian biological clock causes highs and lows of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. Typically, most adults feel the sleepiest between 2 and 4 a.m. and between 1 and 3 p.m., which explains those after-lunch yawns. Getting plenty of regular sleep each night can help to offset these sleepy lows.
  • Your internal clock is regulated by an area of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN is located in the hypothalamus. The SCN is sensitive to signals of dark and light. When the optic nerve in your eyes senses the morning light, the SCN triggers the release of cortisol and other hormones to help you wake up. But as night falls and darkness settles, the SCN sends messages to the pineal gland. This gland triggers the release of the chemical melatonin to make you feel sleepy and ready for bed.

Neurotransmitters and your sleep

  • Some neurotransmitters help your body to recharge while you sleep and even help you to remember things that you learned, heard, or saw while you were awake. It seems that the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which peaks both during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and while you are awake, helps your brain retain information gathered while you are awake and then “sets” that information as you sleep. So if you study or learn new information in the hours before bed, “sleeping on it” can help you remember it.
  • Other neurotransmitters may work against you as you sleep. Abnormalities with the neurotransmitter dopamine may trigger sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome.
  • Getting consistent, sufficient levels of sleep can help you feel awake and refreshed during the day, and relaxed and sleepy at night so you’re ready for a long, restful night of slumber.

My Take: Because melatonin levels are regulated, at least in part, by exposure to light, try to sleep in a very dark room. For women, estrogen levels can rise with light exposure, as melatonin and estrogen are linked.  I would also suggest no blue light exposure within an hour of sleeping: That means you, that individual with the cell phone, television, or e-reader. The bedroom is for two things… I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: http://inhealth.cnn.com/getting-a-good-nights-sleep/sleep-wake-cycles; Medical Reviewers: Amy Finke, RN, BSN ; MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: Jan 5, 2014
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.

Help Your Back with Good Sleeping Posture

Background: Most everyone knows that good posture is important, but good posture doesn’t apply just to sitting and standing. The muscles and ligaments of your back relax and heal themselves while you sleep. In order to protect your back, good posture is important while sleeping.

Tips to help you sleep better:

  • Choosing a mattress. Little scientific research exists on which mattress is best for back pain or for maintaining a healthy back. The mattress that’s right for you lets you wake up feeling rested and free of pain or soreness. Unless you have a condition that may require a certain type of mattress, you should choose a mattress that provides support for the natural curves of your spine and is comfortable.
  • If you sleep with a partner, you should have enough space to move into a comfortable sleeping position. Consider replacing your mattress every 9 to 10 years. If you have a back problem, ask your health care provider or physical therapist to recommend the type of mattress that would be best for you.
  • The right pillow. Pillows are not just for your head and neck. Depending on your sleeping position, additional pillows can help keep your spine in proper alignment. The pillow for your head should support the natural curve of your neck and be comfortable. A pillow that’s too high can put your neck into a position that causes muscle strain on your back, neck, and shoulders. Choose a pillow that will keep the neck aligned with the chest and lower back. Your pillow should be adjustable to allow you to sleep in different positions. Replace your pillows every year or so.
  • Alignment. Regardless of your sleeping position, try to keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned.
  • If you sleep on your back, a small pillow under the back of your knees will decrease stress on your spine and support the natural curve in your low back. The pillow for your head should support your head, the natural curve of your neck, and your shoulders.
  • Sleeping on your stomach can create stress on the back because the spine can be put out of alignment. Placing a flat pillow under the stomach/pelvis area can help to keep the spine in better alignment. If you sleep on your stomach, a pillow for your head should be flat, or sleep without a pillow.
  • If you sleep on your side, a firm pillow between your knees will prevent your upper leg from pulling your spine out of alignment and decrease stress on your hips and low back. Pull your knees up slightly toward your chest. The pillow for your head should keep your spine straight. A rolled towel or small pillow under your waist may also help support your spine.
  • Insert pillows into gaps between your body and the mattress.
  • When turning in bed, remember not to twist or bend at the waist but to move your entire body as one unit. Keep your abdomen pulled in and tightened and bend your knees toward the chest when you roll.
  • Keep your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned when turning as well as when sleeping.

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad: Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

References: Medical Reviewers: Trina Bellendir, MSPT, CLT ; MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: Oct 28, 2013; http://inhealth.cnn.com/getting-a-good-nights-sleep/good-sleeping-posture-helps-your-back?did=t1_rss5
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.