ISLAMABAD - A simple aerobic walking program is as effective as clinical therapy in treating lower back pain, a new study suggests.

Health Professions say that their treatment option - that includes walking two to three times a week for a period of 20 to 40 minutes - fits easily into a daily routine and allows those with back pain to be more responsible for their own health.

According to Dr Katz-Leurer, research has shown that when people walk actively, abdominal and back muscles work in much the same way as when they complete exercises that target these areas. And unlike muscle strengthening programs, which often call for specific equipment and can involve exercises that require expert supervision, walking is a simple activity that can be done alone. For the study, the researchers recruited 52 patients with lower back pain to participate in a randomized control trial. Through questionnaires, they were initially assessed for pain levels, feelings of disability, and avoidance of daily activities, as well as muscle and walking endurance.

Then, half of the participants completed a typical clinic-based muscle strengthening program, with two to three exercise sessions a week for six weeks. The other half completed a six-week aerobic walking program, walking two to three times weekly. Participants started with 20 minutes of walking, then progressed to 40 minutes as their endurance improved. Results showed that both groups improved significantly in all areas of assessment, demonstrating that the walking program was “as effective as treatment that could have been received in the clinic,” says Dr. Katz-Leurer.

Dr Katz-Leurer says that the walking program has the additional advantage of encouraging patients to follow a healthier lifestyle overall. In terms of physical fitness, those in the walking group were able to walk an average of 0.05 miles farther during a six-minute walking test at the end of the program compared to the pre-program assessments. She also notes that that regularly active people are less likely to suffer typical aches and pains over their lifetime. Walking, a low-impact activity, also lowers blood pressure, boosts brain and immune system functioning, and reduces stress, she says.

Water therapy enhances skin beauty

Water is nature’s best beautifying agent. It keeps your skin hydrated and clean inside and out. There are several ways you can use water to keep your body and skin glowing all the time. When you drink water, your body is able to effectively excrete impurities from your body. Without enough water, your body has to work hard to purify your insides. The result is that you soon become dehydrated and extremely fatigued. One sign that you are dehydrated is that your urine deepens in colour. Your sweat also smells stronger than usual and your skin starts looking sluggish and dull. Drink at least two litres of water throughout the day. After spending a day in this season’s sweltering heat, soak your body in a tub of cool water with bath salts. This will cool you down and lower your temperature to the correct degree.

Hearing loss pushes decline in memory, thinking

Older Americans who have hearing loss have an accelerated decline in thinking and memory abilities, compared to those with normal hearing, according to a study published in JAMA Archives of Internal Medicine.

Those with hearing loss experience a 30% to 40% greater decline in thinking abilities compared to their counterparts without hearing loss, according to the findings published Monday.

Hearing loss is common among old older adults, affecting about two-thirds of adults 70 and older, and about one-third of adults younger than 60, according to lead study author Dr. Frank R. Lin of Johns Hopkins University.  A large number of people with hearing loss are untreated, Lin explained, because they associate hearing loss with the stigma of getting older.

About two years ago Lin and his associates published a paper showing that hearing loss was associated with greater risk for developing dementia. “Fortunately most of us will never develop dementia, but most of us will experience some kind of cognitive decline over time,” explained Lin.

Rather than looking at hearing loss and dementia, the researchers studied people with normal cognitive function to determine whether people with hearing loss had different rates of memory and thinking decline compared to people with normal hearing. Dementia rates are projected to rise as the world’s population ages, the study noted; identifying factors that may contribute to cognitive decline and dementia in older adults may lead to ways to slow and treat brain decline.

The researchers studied about 2,000 older adults enrolled in a long-term study which began in 1997. All subjects included in the study had no dementia or cognitive impairment.  Each subject went through an audiometric assessment performed in a sound-treated booth, which Lin described as “the gold standard” for hearing testing. Their memory, thinking abilities and decision-making were also tested.

Both tests were repeated at three, five and six years, and researchers looked at average decline in memory and thinking abilities, comparing people with normal hearing to those with reduced hearing.

“We found that people with hearing loss had a faster rate of mental decline compared to people with normal hearing. ... And the greater the rate of hearing loss, the faster the decline of memory and thinking. It was dose dependent,” said Lin. People with hearing loss took 7.7 years to have a five-point drop in their thinking skills, compared to 10.9 years for people with normal hearing. Why does this happen? Lin said there’s no definite explanation, noting that various explanations may apply. When people suffer from hearing loss, it’s not that they can’t hear.

It’s that the cochlea, the part of the inner ear that converts a complex sound to a precise signal that goes to the brain for decoding, isn’t doing a good job converting, so people hear a garbled signal. Lin described it like a bad cell phone connection.

One theory is that “if the brain is dedicating extra resources to try and hear what’s going on, it’s probably taking away from other brain resources like thinking and memory, “ explained Lin.

A second explanation, using the cell phone example, is that people experiencing lousy reception end up tuning out, because it’s so labor intensive to try to hear the call. This explanation plays into the idea of social isolation, which has been shown to have negative health effects including increased illness, death rates, and increased cognitive decline and dementia.

A third possible explanation is that some mechanism in the brain is affecting both hearing and brain function. Lin said it’s likely that the hearing loss and brain decline are explained by all three factors. He also acknowledged that while his study tried to adjust for other factors affecting hearing and cognitive abilities, they did not account for factors including something in the inflammatory process or the age of mitochondria, the energy factories of cells.

Lin thinks the big public health question is whether treating hearing loss will have an impact on brain function and memory decline.