Health Advice: Grinding Teeth, Vitamin Deficiencies and Walking Exercise

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ILLUSTRATION: ROBBIE MARANTZ
Of grinds, greens and simply going for a stroll.

The To Your Health column covers health advice topics on grinding your teeth and methods to reduce it, vitamin deficiencies and how Folic Acid and B12 can help, and getting your exercise through the simple task of walking.

Health Advice: Grinding Teeth, Vitamin Deficiencies and Walking Exercise

When it concerns the fitness of body, mind or spirit,
the editors of
American Health are there, staying
on top of up-to-date medical research, providing health advice, separating fad from
fact and helping you preserve and improve life’s most
precious gift–your good health. Here are just a few
items culled from recent and upcoming issues, including
another connection between nutrition and cancer
prevention.

Bruxer Busters

Bruxers are people who clench, grind and gnash their teeth,
accelerating tooth wear and frequently giving themselves
broken fillings and headaches. University of Florida
psychologist Jeff Cassisi and other researchers at the
University of Missouri tracked 10 heavy-duty bruxers who
wore nighttime sensors attached to their cheeks for two
weeks. Whenever the sensor detected extreme tension in the
chewing muscle (the masseter), a bedside alarm went off,
which the bruxer had to get up and turn off: As a result,
those bruxers reduced nocturnal gnashing for two weeks
after treatment. Cassisi hopes the alarm can permanently
change behavior, eliminating the need for the traditional
antibruxing plastic mouthpiece.

A Folic Acid/B 12 Connection

Beta-carotene has gotten a lot of press as a cancer
preventive, but another health boosting ingredient of leafy
green vegetables is folic acid.

A 1985 USDA survey found that the diets of women average
only 51% of the RDA for folic acid, of men 76%.
Furthermore, studies have found that smokers with injured
lung cells have particularly low levels of both folic acid
and B 12 . These deficiencies may lead to DNA mutations,
making lung cells even more susceptible to such carcinogens
as cigarette smoke.

More recently, nutrition scientist Douglas Heimburger,
M.D., and colleagues at the University of Alabama Medical
Center in Birmingham studied 73 male heavy smokers with
potentially precancerous lung cells. Half the group
received daily doses of 10 mg folic acid (25 times the U.S.
RDA) and 500 mcg B 12 (83 times), and the other half were
given placebos. At four months, six of the 37 untreated
controls
spontaneously showed reduced lung-cell
injury, but two-and-a-half times more of the
treated men–14 of 36–had reduced injury.

Heimburger cautions that though the results are
encouraging, smokers shouldn’t use supplements as an excuse
not to quit. “The benefits of quitting smoking far
outweigh those of dietary changes,” he stresses.

Folic acid also protects against birth defects, and another
Alabama study found that 22 women with cervical dysplasia
(potentially premalignant cells) improved when treated with
folic acid alone, while a control group stayed the same or
worsened.

The best natural sources of this helpful vitamin are
dark-green leafy vegetables such as spinach and romaine
lettuce, as well as broccoli, oranges and liver.

Take a Walk

It’s long been doctrine that you have to exercise hard 20
to 60 minutes a day, three to five times a week, to reap
many health benefits. Living up to that standard is so
intimidating that a lot of people don’t even try. Among
those who agree to start an exercise program, half don’t
make it past six months. (Studies show that 25% of these
dropouts don’t even appear for their first session! )

But workouts don’t have to be difficult to be healthful.
Dr. James M. Rippe, cardiologist and a leading physiology
researcher at the University of Massachusetts medical
school, recently reported on some significant research
breakthroughs. He’s found that you can reap
immediate benefits from less exercise than was
previously believed.

For example, mild exercise–such as walking–can
reduce tension, anxiety and blood pressure on the first
day, and, over a moderate distance (about three
miles), you get about the same relaxing benefits whether
your walking speed is fast, medium or slow.

Additionally, in a 12-week study Rippe conducted with 23
women of average fitness, as little as 12 minutes of
stationary cycling done three times a week produced a
significant improvement in maximum oxygen consumption (VO 2
max), the measure of aerobic conditioning. In fact, a 50%
boost in VO 2 max occurred within two weeks. The results
suggest that average women–and probably men, as
well–can develop a healthier heart and body without
sweaty efforts.