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September 2015 Health Newsletter Print-Friendly Newsletter

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» How Pillow Height Affects Muscle Activity and Perceived Comfort
» Bicycle-Related Injuries Increasing in the U.S.
» Struggles with Sleep May Increase Risk of Heart Disease

How Pillow Height Affects Muscle Activity and Perceived Comfort

A recent report studied how using foam pillows of three different heights affected the comfort and electromyographic (EMG) activity of the neck and mid-upper back muscles of participants. The study was performed by a team of therapists and researchers in the University of São Paulo School of Medicine in São Paulo, Brazil. Performed in 2014 and published in 2015, the study revealed the associations among pillow height, EMG activity, and perceived comfort. Twenty-one asymptomatic adults were observed using three different foam pillows of 5 cm, 10 cm and 14 cm, or approximately 2 inches, 4 inches and 5 1/2 inches. Study participants rated their comfort using a 100-mm visual analog scale, while researchers calculated EMG activity of the neck and mid-upper back muscles, called the sternocleidomastoid and upper and middle trapezius muscles. Participants considered height 1 (approximately 2 inches) to be the least comfortable and height 2 (approximately 4 inches) the most comfortable. In addition, all muscle groups showed statistical differences in EMG activity between heights 1 and 2, but not between heights 2 and 3. Individuals who prefer sleeping with a flat pillow may want to think twice, as a four-inch pillow may be the best choice for perceived comfort and back and neck support.

Source: JMPT. Volume 38, Issue 6, Pages 375-381.
Copyright: LLC 2015

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Bicycle-Related Injuries Increasing in the U.S.

Adult bicycling injuries increased sharply between 1998 and 2013, according to a new study that also reveals the increase is largely among cyclists over age 45. Bicycling is a popular among people of all ages for sport or commuting, but a growing number of adults embrace cycling as a low-impact exercise. The survey comes from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which collects data that includes bicycle-related injuries of those over age 18. Between 1998-1999, there were an estimated 96 bicycle-related injuries and about 5 hospital admissions per 100,000 people. Between 2012-2013, however, those numbers rose to 123 injuries and about 11 hospital admissions per 100,000 people. Researchers further examining the data discovered the correlation between injuries and age. In 1998, 23% of reported injuries were in riders over age 45. In 2012, this figure rose to 42% of injuries. Compared to younger individuals, older riders are more likely to be hurt in crashes or collisions. The study found that extremity injuries are less common, but head and torso injuries have risen. These findings demonstrate the importance of wearing appropriate safety gear as well as the need for U.S. cities and communities to support better bicycle riding infrastructures.

JAMA, online September 1, 2015.
Copyright: LLC 2015

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Struggles with Sleep May Increase Risk of Heart Disease

A targeted study by researchers at the Kangbuk Samsung Hospital in Seoul, South Korea has found that getting too much or too little sleep can contribute to the "hardening" of arteries. This condition, caused by calcium buildup in the arteries, can be an early warning sign of heart disease or lead to heart attacks. The study involved over 47,000 men and women, with an average age of 42, who completed a sleep questionnaire and underwent a series of tests. These tests measured arterial stiffness and evaluated calcium and plaque deposits in arteries. The average duration of sleep among participants was 6.4 hours per night. Researchers categorized those who slept five hours or less each night as "short" sleepers, and those who slept nine hours or more each night as "long" sleepers. The study found that poor sleep quality can lead to stiffer arteries whether an individual sleeps too few or too many hours. Researchers subsequently determined that those who slept an average of seven hours per night and reported good sleep quality had the lowest levels of vascular disease.

Source: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, online September 10, 2015.
Copyright: LLC 2015

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