The Healthy Geezer
Taking minerals, effects of second-hand smoke and lower back pain
Q. Should I take minerals?
It’s important to talk with your doctor before taking mineral pills, especially if you take prescription medicines, have any health problems or are elderly. Taking too much of a mineral can cause problems with some medical tests or interfere with drugs you’re taking.
Minerals are “micronutrients” your body needs in small but steady amounts. Your body can’t make most micronutrients, so you must get them elsewhere.
Minerals come from the earth or water, and plants and animals absorb them to get nutrients. The “major minerals” are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfur and chloride. They are considered significant minerals because adults need them in large amounts.
The “trace minerals” are chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc. Your body needs them in smaller amounts.
Whole foods are your best source of minerals. It would be hard to “overdose” on minerals that you get from your foods. But if you take supplements, you can easily take too much.
Q. Aren’t some people making a bit too much out of second-hand smoke?
Second-hand smoke — also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) — is made up of the “sidestream” smoke from the end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the “mainstream” smoke that is exhaled.
Nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke absorb the same 4,000 chemical compounds that smokers do. More than 60 of these compounds are known or suspected to cause cancer.
Each year, in the United States alone, second-hand smoke is responsible for about 40,000 deaths from heart disease and about 3,000 lung cancer deaths,
Second-hand smoke causes increased cardiovascular risks by damaging blood vessels, decreasing your ability to exercise and altering blood cholesterol levels.
Some research indicates that people exposed to a spouse’s cigarette smoke for several decades are about 20 percent more likely to have lung cancer. Those exposed long-term to second-hand smoke in the workplace or social settings may increase their risk of lung cancer by about 25 percent.
Q. You never hear about lumbago anymore. Has it been cured?
Lumbago is lower back pain. The song is just about ended, but the malady lingers on.
Back pain affects about eight out of 10 people. Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. If you’re sedentary most of the time and then exert yourself on rare occasions, you are more likely to injure your back than someone who exercises daily.
If you’re carrying a big belly, you put added stress on the muscles in your lower back and are a candidate for agony.
Some back pain, including disc disease, may spring from your genes. Race can have an influence, too. African-American women, for example, are two to three times more likely than white women to develop spondylolisthesis, a condition in which a bone — vertebra — of the lower spine slips out of place.
Your job can be a significant influence on back health. If your work requires heavy lifting or sitting all day, you risk hurting your back. Many sanitation men and writers suffer from back troubles.
Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. If you would like to ask a question, write to email@example.com.