Cleveland Clinic experts on warding off roller coaster mishaps, the latest mammogram guidelines, salmon and more.
Q: We love roller coasters as much as our kids—but a day at the amusement park leaves us feeling beat up all over. How can we get our thrills without paying for it later?
A: Roller coasters can be both a thrill—and a pain in the neck. Bending forward, along with the twisting and rotation from sudden turns, increases pressure at the back side of the disc where your spinal canal is located, and can exacerbate disc problems. Bending backward puts more force on the spinal joints, which can aggravate arthritis. Even “tame” rides can lead to pain later, especially if you’re already tense or sore, as any sudden, forceful movements can set off muscle spasms. Loosening up tight muscles before getting on a ride might help to reduce spasms. And drinking plenty of water helps keep discs hydrated, dispersing forces more evenly, which may reduce problems. If you’re still paying the price the next day, take heart: Pain and minor strains suffered after a fast, jarring ride tend to respond well to cold packs and over-the- counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.
—FREDRICK WILSON, DO, director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Spine Health
Q: I’m still confused about when to start getting mammograms— and how often. Can you help?
A: You’re not the only one questioning the standard recommendation to begin yearly mammograms at age 40. But despite recent findings showing that they cut the risk of death for women in their 40s by just 15 percent (compared with around one-third for women in their 60s), we at Cleveland Clinic are sticking with the current guidelines, as is the American Cancer Society. But mammograms do come with concerns. They can’t determine conclusively whether lumps are cancerous—for that, an invasive biopsy is needed. As many as 7 out of 10 lesions are benign (harmless), based on biopsy results. So researchers are working to improve screening tools. Cleveland Clinic and other major breast cancer centers are testing Imagio, a system that uses both sound and light waves to generate images of the breast. Imagio offers a real-time view of blood oxygen levels, which could be a powerful predictor as malignant tumors use more oxygen than benign growths. It also allows us to see what’s happening at the edge of a tumor, where growth occurs. Imagio is one of many tools that could back up the results of mammograms and allow us to be more effective at detecting cancer early.
—STEPHEN GROBMYER, MD, section head of surgical oncology and the director of breast services at Cleveland Clinic
Q: What’s the better choice— wild or farmed salmon?
A: Both types of salmon offer nutrients we need. But it’s becoming clearer that the risks associated with farmed fish are higher—so your best bet is to keep it wild. Here’s why: Nutritional content. A small wild salmon fillet has 131 fewer calories and half the fat of a farmed salmon fillet. Farmed salmon may have a bit more omega-3 fatty acids, but it also has 20.5 percent more unhealthy saturated fat. Risky pollutants. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are linked to Type 2 diabetes, obesity and stroke in women. Levels of one type are five to 10 times higher in farmed fish. Unsafe contaminants. In recent studies, toxins in farmed salmon exceeded the levels considered safe for frequent consumption by the Environmental Protection Agency.
—KRISTIN KIRKPATRICK, MS, RD, LD, registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute
Cleveland Clinic, home to 120 medical specialties and subspecialties, is consistently named one of the nation’s best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. Visit them online at health.cleveland- clinic.org.