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Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008 01:18 pm

Health briefs

Staying active, dental health, and fluid consumption

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Don’t assume you have to sweat
Older, frail people can get a free “gym pass” and still benefit from activities that are not as taxing as physical fitness, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. Low-level activities, such as playing cards and shopping, can provide the life-lengthening benefits as exercise, according to a 13-year study of 2,800 people age 65 and older. Activity was split in three groups: social, fitness, and productive.
Teeth are made to last forever Like sucking on pickles? How about savoring a cold swig of your favorite soft drink? If you like food and drinks with high acid content, you can wear down your tooth enamel, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. There’s no need to stop eating yogurt, fruit, honey, and raisins. You just need to change how you eat them, says Dr. David Bartlett, an Academy member. Bartlett advises waiting 20 minutes after eating acidic foods to brush your teeth, and eating and drinking high-acid items within five minutes, instead of nibbling or sipping through the day. People with teeth sensitive to hot and cold are good candidates for dentin bonding, in which a dentist paints a thin film over teeth to protect them from further erosion. Toothpastes formulated for sensitive teeth and a neutral pH can also help harden tooth enamel that has gotten soft due to erosion.
Athletes: Don’t overdo the fluids
With all the bottled water and sports drinks lining grocery shelves, you might think athletes really need all that fluid. They don’t. Many athletes who run marathons, triathlons, or do long-distance cycling tend to overhydrate, causing exercise-induced hyponatremia, a form of water poisoning that has been linked to deaths of marathon runners, according to experts at Georgetown University Medical Center. Frequently, the public’s impression of the amount of water that is necessary to drink for good health is not based on factual data, says Dr. Joseph Verbalis, a professor and interim director at Georgetown University Medical Center. “Many in society have promoted this idea that you need to continually drink a large amount of fluid, such as 8 ounces of water, eight times a day. But most people don’t really need that much.”
One study showed that 13 percent of Boston marathon runners suffered from hyponatremia. Some people have gained a dangerous 6 to 7 pounds during a single marathon because their kidneys could not excrete all the unnecessary fluid. “There’s a misconception among the sports community that consuming sports drinks rather than water will protect you from becoming hyponatremic,” Verbalis says. “That’s simply not true. Drinking too much of anything puts some people at risk from potentially dangerous levels of hyponatremia.”
So when should you take a drink? When you’re thirsty, Verbalis says.
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