It happened on Caroline Street: a Guided Tour of Houston’s Museum District

People ask us all the time, “What is the Houston Museum District? Where is it?”

Of course it happens to be the home of Doctor Gary Brewton’s office. But that may not help people find it.

If we answer with a question, “Do you know where the Museum of Fine Arts Houston is?”  some nod yes. But not everyone knows how to find the MFAH without using their GPS.

And many long time Houstonians (not to mention newcomers to Houston) think the entire Museum District is just the area along the intersection of BissonnetBinz, Main Street and Montrose Boulevard.

But the Museum District is much more than that. It extends north of Hermann Park all the way to Midtown.

Discover Quiet Caroline Street

Caroline Street is a great way to get to know the district, so we’ll take a quick tour. Quieter than Fannin or Main Street located a few blocks west, Caroline Street starts right in Hermann Park Drive. This southernmost block of Caroline passes right in front of the main entrance to the Houston Museum of Natural Science on the west side and the new McGovern Centennial Gardens, with its distinctive ziggurat hill, on the east side of the street.

One block north of Hermann Park Drive is the confusingly similar sounding Hermann Drive. (How to remember the difference? It’s not in the park — so no Park in the name.)

At the intersection of Hermann Drive and Caroline you’ll find the office of Doctor Brewton on the northwest corner. We are located on the 8th floor. Across the street on the northeast corner is Park Plaza Hospital, which occupies two full blocks.

Continuing a bit further north on Caroline, you’ll find the entrance to our parking garage on the west side of the street. In the next block of Caroline between Ewing and Binz Streets is another medical professional building. The Bodegas Taco shop is on the ground floor.

Caroline and Binz, and the Museum District Metro Station

The next street, Binz, is a major east west corridor. You can take Binz east toward the 288 South Freeway. Going westward, you’ll find the northbound METRO Red Line street car stop (Museum District Station) at the intersection of San Jacinto. The southbound stop is one block further west at Fannin. One block west at Main Street, Binz changes its name to Bissonnet — one of Houston’s longest streets. (Bissonnet goes west all the way to the Energy Corridor– first crossing the 610 West Loop and then the 59 Southwest Freeway, the West Sam Houston Parkway and finally crossing Highway 6 before terminating.)

Returning to our tour of the Museum District, we continue north on Caroline and cross Calumet. On the west side is the Clayton Library Center, which has a comprehensive genealogy department for researching your family history. On the northeast corner is the Holocaust Museum Houston.

Caroline is a calm boulevard with trees planted in the median along these blocks. Continuing north, we cross Oakdale. The new Asia Society Texas building, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, occupies the entire block on the northeast corner. The Texas Asia Society conducts quite a number of educational events as well as offering Chinese lessons during different times of the year.

Today’s Museum District is the Old Southmore Neighborhood

We now cross Southmore Boulevard. Southmore is the original name for this neighborhood. But the neighborhood was bisected in the 1970’s by the construction of the 288 South Freeway. The portion of the original neighborhood east of the South Freeway is still called Southmore, but here along Caroline Street it’s more common to call it by its newer name, the Museum District.

We now cross Palm, Witchita, Rosedale and Arbor Place. On our right is the Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC) on the southeast corner of Caroline and Wentworth. This museum has regular exhibitions and cultural events.

Now we cross Blodgett and come to Ruth Street. The Mexican Institute of Greater Houston is on the right, on the east side of Caroline. Further up the block on the west side of the street is the back entrance to the Consulate General of Mexico and the home of the Mexico Tourism Board.

We now cross Rosewood Street and pass under the 59 Southwest Freeway and cross Wheeler Avenue. The 59 will eventually be renamed Interstate 69, marking an important trade route from Mexico to Michigan and then into Canada.

The Southwest Freeway: Border between Midtown and the Museum District

Probably at this point most Houstonians would call the neighborhood north of 59 “Midtown” but there are still a couple more museums north of 59 that are members in the Museum District association. We’ll cross Barbee Street and Eagle Street. The giant Fiesta Mart grocery store is on the west side.

At the next block, Cleburne Street, the median down the middle of Caroline Street that marks it as a regal boulevard comes to an end. It’s just a normal street now.

We’re starting to approach the ever expanding Houston Community College (HCC) Central Campus. But before we do, we cross Truxillo Street and find another museum to discover. It’s the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, celebrating the history of black US army regimens dating back to the mid-nineteenth century until 1951, by which time the Army was desegregated.

The Houston Community College (HCC) Central Campus

Caroline now terminates for a bit at another major Houston east west thoroughfare — Alabama Street.  Ahead of us is the HCC Central campus. If you are driving, you can turn left on Alabama and then right on San Jacinto and then right again on Holman to reconnect with Caroline Street again. But caution: if you are driving, you’ll soon discover that Caroline is now one way, going south. (You can use San Jacinto to get into Houston’s downtown.) The far end terminus of Caroline is at Franklin Street in Houston’s eastern downtown, just one block shy of Buffalo Bayou.

This makes a good place to stop for now.

The intersection of Caroline and Holman is a good place to stop and look back at the imposing architecture of the main HCC Central campus building. It’s quite an impressive piece of classic architecture.

And we hope this tour helps you discover a little bit more of what Houston’s Museum District has to offer.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine now Recommended for Young Men

For many Texans, the last time they gave much thought to the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) was in 2011 when Governor Rick Perry was making his first run for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

Perry had issued an executive order mandating the HPV vaccine for young women. During a Republican candidate debate in September 2011, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) accused Kerry of foisting a potentially dangerous drug on the population and then later during an interview she insinuated that the vaccine can cause mental retardation.

Where do we find ourselves four years later? Well, Rick Perry is once again running for President. Michele Bachmann has retired from Congress. And the controversy over vaccines has shifted away from Texas to California, where low rates of vaccinations in certain areas have led to some of the first domestic cases of measles transmission seen in decades.

As the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine approaches its 10 year anniversary on the market, now’s a good time to review the situation.

The vaccine has been recommended for adolescent girls and young women since 2006. And, while it’s not widely known, it has also been recommended for adolescent boys and young men, since the year 2011.

Given the controversies, it’s understandable — but unfortunate! — that the United States is nowhere near its goal of 80% vaccination rate by the year 2020.

Dr Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases says: “I am frustrated that in 2014 four out of 10 adolescent girls and six out of 10 adolescent boys had not even started the HPV vaccine series and are vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV.”

What you need to know about HPV.

Genital human papillomavirus (HPV), commonly referred to as herpes or genital warts, is the most common sexual transmitted infection (STI) in this country, with an estimated 20 million Americans currently affected. It’s estimated that 6.2 million new cases arise each year for those ages 14 to 44.

There are more than 130 different types of HPV that have been identified. Types HPV-16 and HPV-18 are responsible for about 70% of cervical cancer in women.

But HPV can also cause cancer in men, not just in women. HPV-16 and HPV-18 cause approximately 90% of anal cancers. Consequently, recommendations have been expanded to include vaccinating adolescent boys and young men to prevent anal cancer in men. This is particularly important for those men who have sex with other men, as they have significantly higher rates of anal cancer.

Which HPV vaccines are on the market and who should get them?

There are currently two HPV vaccines on the market in the US.

They are quadrivalent, marketed under the name Gardasil®, and bivalent, marketed under the name Cevarix®.

Gardasil® is recommended for females 9 to 26 years old. Cevarix® is recommended for females 10 to 25 years old.

In 2009, the FDA approved Gardasil® for prevention of genital warts in young men. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended permissive use but not routine use of the vaccine for males aged 9-26 years. It is now approved to prevent anal cancer as well.

If you have questions about these vaccines, please contact Dr. Brewton at the office today.


New Guidelines for When to Start Taking Cholesterol-Lowering Statin Drugs

Cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as statins, are widely credited with significantly reducing the risk of dying from coronary heart disease, such as having a heart attack or stroke.

The underlying theory behind the medication is that cholesterol creates atheromatous plaques, or fatty lumps, in the walls of our arteries that can narrow and restrict to the passage of blood. This type of Arteriosclerosis is particularly dangerous when they rupture — it’s the major cause of heart attacks.

Research for a compound to reduce cholesterol is back to the early 1970s when Akira Endo at Sankyo pharmaceuticals in Japan identified the agent mevastatin (ML-2356B) produced by the fungus Penicillium citrinum.

The pharmaceutical giant Merck and Co. recognized an opportunity and brought the first statin, lovastatin, to market under the name Mecavor in 1987. (If you have ever eaten wild Oyster Mushrooms they contain the active compound in lovastatin.)

It wasn’t until results from the Scandinavian Simvastatin Survival Study (4s) conducted in the 1990s were published that the healthcare industry began to take notice of using statins to help prevent cardiovascular disease. This clinical trial assessed the effect of Simvastatin on a group of 4,444 patients between the ages of 35 and 72 had coronary heart disease. The absolute mortality due to coronary heart disease was reduced 3.5%, a 30% relative risk reduction.

Merck marketed this drug as Zocor, and it (along with the earlier Mecavor) earned the company over one billion dollars in 1995.

Thanks to expensive public awareness campaigns, Merck has educated a broad spectrum of the American public about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol. Many of us are aware of our own ‘bad’ cholesterol number, which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Now that medical researchers have more data about statin drugs, there is a more nuanced recommendation from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association about who should take cholesterol-lowering drugs, and when they should start.

These guidelines, first published two years ago, indicate that doctors and patients should consider the patient’s overall risk for coronary heart disease first, rather than just relying on a high cholesterol number before prescribing medication.

Since the release of this study, the question is whether these new guidelines are working out or not. As of this month, we have some new evidence endorsing the revised guidelines.

Medical researchers have published two papers this month in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the first paper, researchers compared to the new guidelines with the old ones using patients enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study. The new guidelines were found to be more accurate and efficient in identifying people with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In other words, evaluating patient risk for heart disease is more accurate than just relying on a bad cholesterol number alone.

In other words, if your overall risk for heart disease is low, one elevated cholesterol level test shouldn’t necessarily lead you to automatically begin treatment with statin drugs. On the other hand, if you have high risk factors, such as diabetes (considered a high risk for cardiovascular disease), then it is recommended treatment on statins, even if the cholesterol test number is low.

The second JAMA study took on the problem of what percentage of risk is the best go/no-go decision point for commencing cholesterol treatment?

As we all well understand, no medication is without side effects. While statins are considered generally safe, there have been side effects involving muscle problems, adverse reactions with grapefruit juice, and possible increased risk of diabetes. There may also be long-term risks that are not understood at this time.

The researchers concluded that statin treatment should begin if an individual’s risk of a heart attack or stroke is more than 7.5% in the next 10 years. And, from a macro economic standpoint, it might make sense for patients to begin treatment if their risk was as low as 4%.

Because many of the popular statins are no longer under patent protection, they don’t cost a small fortune as they once did. Consequently Medical researchers calculated that patients with risks as low as .5% per year could elect to take statin drugs and have positive benefits. .

The upshot is that research indicates that patients who have lower risk of cardiovascular disease have more leeway in making a decision about whether to start statin treatment. However, once the risk of heart attack or stroke increases to more than 7.5% over the next 10 years, statin treatment is recommended.


New warnings about Motrin, Advil and Aleve stroke and heart attack risks.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just raised its existing warning first issued in 2005 that use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) can increase your risk of stroke or heart attack.

Why the increased warning?

The FDA has collected more recent data and information that indicates these drugs can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke much earlier than once thought, even during the first weeks of treatment. According to Judy Racoosin, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director of FDA’s Division of Anesthesia, Analgesia, and Addiction Products, “There is no period of use shown to be without risk.”

Karen M. Mahoney, M.D., deputy director of FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products, advises: “Take the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time possible.”

Who is affected by this warning?

When the FDA first issue this morning in 2005, they focused on people with cardiovascular disease, especially those who recently had a heart attack or underwent cardiac bypass surgery.

The recent data indicates these drugs lead to a risk of heart attack and stroke for all patients, including those lacking evidence of cardiovascular disease. “Everyone may be at risk – even people without an underlying risk for cardiovascular disease,” Racoosin emphasizes.

Avoid risks of combining medicines, such as combining cold medicine with pain relief medicines.

One area of special concern to the FDA is that many consumers don’t realize that many different types of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines include the active ingredients of ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve).

By combining products, consumers can sometimes unwittingly take multiple doses of the same active ingredient.

A good example: Over-the-counter cold medicines often include NSAID ingredients to provide relief from cold and flu symptoms. It’s not an uncommon practice for consumers take a dose of either ibuprofen or naproxen in addition to these cold medicines, leading to a double dose and consequently upping the risk of stroke or heart attack.

What are some alternative pain relief medicines?

Aspirin, which technically falls in the NSAID category, is not included in this warning. In fact, aspirin is considered to be associated with lowering your risk of a heart attack or stroke. However, taking NSAIDs (like Motrin, Advil or Aleve) at the same time can interfere with that protective effect.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is another category of pain killer that was not included in this most recent warning about NSAID risks for stroke and heart attack. However, concerns over liver toxicity have caused the FDA to restrict Acetaminophen (Tylenol) dosages to no more than 325 milligrams (mg) per tablet. If you have old Tylenol prescriptions, these tablets may be over the current limit, so check. It’s also critical to not drink any alcohol on a day when you take Acetaminophen to avoid liver toxicity.

How to reduce your overall risk of Heart Attack and Stroke.

The NSAID group of drugs is effective at providing temporary pain relief and inflammation reduction. These drugs block the production of prostaglandins, which are thought to be associated with inflammation and pain in the body.

These drugs have been used to treat fever and pain with injuries, including tendinitis, sprains and strains as well as dental problems. NSAIDs have often been used to relieve pain associated with menstrual cramping. Patients with debilitating conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis often turn to prescription strength NSAID drugs to treat pain.

The new research indicates it’s important to take these NSAID medications for the shortest possible amount of time at the lowest possible dosage. If you find you need to take them for a period of longer than 10 days, you should consult with us here at the office.

Patients who have coronary artery disease (known angina or history of heart attack), or have high blood pressure, or those who have had a stroke are at greatest risk.

As always, eliminating smoking will reduce your overall risk of heart attack and stroke. Improved diet and daily exercise will help prevent onset of diabetes and help reduce heart attack and stroke risk as well.

If you have not been able to take aspirin in the past due to stomach upset, you can try to lessen the chance of stomach irritation by taking medication with a meal. We can also look at other forms of aspirin that may be less irritating..

Welcome the Heroes at Houston Pride

There lots of good things in store during this week’s Houston LGBT Pride Celebration® in Houston, plus some changes too. For detailed information, check out the full list of events on the Pride Houston Facebook Events page.

There’s also a lot of anticipation leading up to Thursday and Friday, when the Supreme Court of the United States could deliver their decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges case on gay marriage.

Saturday’s main Pride Parade is Downtown, Not in Montrose

Perhaps the biggest change this year is the venue for the annual Pride parade. For the first time since 1979, the parade will not run down Westheimer in the Montrose neighborhood where it all began.

Instead, the parade route starts in downtown Houston at the intersection of Milam Street and Walker. The parade continues down Walker Street, making a left on Smith Street and ending at Pease Street.

The parade kicks off at 8:30 pm and lasts until 11:00 pm on Saturday June 27, 2015.

Admission is free.

British Grammy-Winner Estelle Fanta Swaray will headline the Houston Pride Festival main stage. Click to view her song "American Boy" featuring Kanye West.

British Grammy-Winner Estelle Fanta Swaray will headline the Houston Pride Festival main stage. Click to view her song “American Boy” featuring Kanye West.

Grammy-Winner Estelle Fanta Swaray and Big Freedia on Main Stage

Saturday’s celebrations start at noon with the the Houston LGBT Pride Festival main stage entertainment. The stage is located at McKinney St and Smith St.

Headliners include:

  • ESTELLE – “American Boy,” TV show Empire
  • BIG FREEDIA – The Queen Diva of Bounce
  • GINGER MINJ – RuPaul’s Drag Race
  • JESSICA SUTTA – formerly of the Pussycat Dolls

The Festival concludes at 7:00 p.m. to shift gears for the start of the parade at 8:30 p.m.


Big Freedia, the New Orleans entertainer and FUSE TV reality TV star, known for popularizing 'Bounce' music sings the hit 'Y'all Get Back Now'

Big Freedia, the New Orleans entertainer and FUSE TV reality TV star, known for popularizing ‘Bounce’ music, will appear on the Houston Pride Festival main stage. Click to view the hit ‘Y’all Get Back Now’ music video.


Is Chocolate the Answer to Good Health?

For those of us who are chocolate connoisseurs, it’s hard not to get excited when you read some of the newest medical journal articles that touch on the health benefits of chocolate.

Scientists have been studying chocolate’s primary ingredient, cocoa, to understand what effect it has on inflammation, brain function and heart health.

Of course, the true chocolate fans probably already believe that chocolate is the cure-all for just about anything.

Why the interest in chocolate?

Scientists are interested in chocolate because the main ingredient cocoa contains flavanols, a type of polyphenol. Polyphenols are a category of antioxidants that occur naturally in certain kinds of tea, berries and red wine. They are associated with good health benefits, such as reduced inflammation and lower blood pressure.

Does chocolate to make you smarter?

Scientists in a Harvard study wanted to find out if flavonol-rich cocoa drinks helped elderly persons improve their memory and thinking skills.

The results are interesting. While there was generally no great difference between the groups who received the flavonal-rich cocoa in the two month study and those who did not, there was one exception. The participants who began the study with an already compromised blood flow to the brain showed marked improvement. They could complete a cognitive memory test in 116 seconds (compared to 167 seconds) and the blood flow to their brains increased about 8%.

What about chocolate and blood pressure?

In a recent study of 30 healthy young individuals published in Cardiovascular System, test participants were given a small square (about 8 grams) of 70% cocoa chocolate each day for a month. The test participants who received the chocolate had improved arterial flow (increasing from 14% to 23%).

Consuming regular chocolate candy bars won’t work either. Keep in mind that a serving of 70% cocoa chocolate is not the same as your typical milk chocolate candy bar. This level of cocoa is not terribly sweet and, for some people, it actually might taste like medicine!

A word of caution here. If you have high blood pressure, please confer with Dr Brewton on the best approach (nutrition, exercise and possibly medication) to take for your own health.

Insulin sensitivity and chocolate.

In another study, published in Endocrine Abstracts, scientist tried to determine if consuming polyphenol-rich dark chocolate had an effect on insulin sensitivity among those who do not have diabetes.

After a month, the participants who were eating the polyphenol-rich dark chocolate had better insulin response. The implication is that it’s possible that eating dark chocolate with very high levels of cocoa might help delay or prevent the onset of diabetes and prediabetes.

Chocolate and a Healthy Heart?

A word of caution. With the widespread adoption of electronic medical records, we need to get ready for an explosion of medical studies that crunch data from thousands, if not millions, of anonymized health data records.

Many times this data crunching can uncover unexpected or unexplained relationships which warrant further study. Such is the case of a study from the journal Heart, which attempts to correlate the cause and effect between eating dark chocolate and heart disease.

In this case, the health records of nearly 21,000 men and women were studied to examine the association between chocolate intake and the risk of future cardiovascular events, like cardiac arrest. The results are interesting. Generally, those who reported greater intake of chocolate had statistically lower incidence of future heart disease.

All things in moderation, including chocolate.

You might want to give dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa a try.

Like all things, eat it in moderation. Just remember: if you take in too many calories from chocolate, you’re likely cancel out cocoa’s benefits for your health.


MERS: What you need to know about this new disease.

If you’re traveling to the Middle East or to South Korea, you should become familiar with a relatively new disease known as MERS. We have prepared a short Q&A outlining what is known about this disease and how to help protect yourself from infection.

What is MERS?

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, is relatively new viral respiratory illness. Like SARS, MERS is a coronavirus.

Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and myalgia (muscle pain). One quarter of MERS patients also report diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

The incubation period is estimated to be around five or six days, but it could be as short as two days and as long as two weeks. Again, these are estimates.

How widespread is MERS? How fatal is it?

To date, 1,338 people have been infected world-wide. 484 have died from the disease. The overall case fatality rate is 36.2%.

South Korea is experiencing a relatively large outbreak at the moment, the largest to date outside the Arabian peninsula.

How can I avoid MERS infection while traveling?

Avoid contact with sick persons. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water (or alcohol-based hand sanitizer).

Most of the human-to-human infections appear to have occurred in a healthcare setting, such as at a hospital or in a home. It appears that healthcare workers or family members taking care of a patient are at particular risk.

If you are traveling in the Middle East (or another area with camels), the World Healthcare Organization (WHO) advises avoiding contact with camels. Do not come in contact with raw camel milk, camel urine or uncooked camel meat. Cooked camel meat and pasteurized camel milk is considered ok per WHO guidelines.

How long has MERS existed?

The first diagnosed case of MERS in humans was in 2012, in Saudi Arabia. Further cases appeared later that year in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Where did MERS come from?

The disease is believed to have passed from animals to humans. Bats are believed to be the original source of the virus; however transmission to humans appears to have occurred from infected camels. It’s possible that camels in the region have been infected with the virus since the 1990s. Camel handlers in the Saudi peninsula appeared to be among the first human cases of the disease.

Where are the MERS Infection outbreaks located?

The website uses World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health data from each affected country to track the spread of MERS.

Over 20 countries have reported cases, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Turkey, Oman, South Korea, mainland China and Thailand.

As of today, South Korea has 13.3% of global MERS infections with 178 diagnosed cases, 23 of which have resulted in deaths.

Why does MERS seem to hopscotch across the globe?

The Saudi economy relies extensively on foreign workers. It is thought the regular transit on long-distance airplane flights by foreign workers back to their home countries has contributed to MERS’ sudden appearance in seemingly unrelated locations.

Is MERS likely to create a worldwide health crisis like Ebola?

Unlike Ebola, the MERS virus is relatively inefficient at human-to-human infection. As long as the MERS virus does change significantly, it is not likely to rapidly escalate into a worldwide health crisis like Ebola did.

However, if the MERS virus mutates significantly and becomes more efficient at human-to-human transmission, all bets are off. Some scientists are very worried about this possibility.

Is there a test for MERS?

Because the United States declared that MERS is a threat to public health back in May 2013,  there are specific rules which allow emergency in vitro tests of MERS virus.

The CDC has reportedly tested three polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based tests: RealStar MERS-CoV RT-PCR Kit from Altona Diagnostics, the FTD hCoV-EMC from Fast-track Diagnostics, and the genesig Novel Coronavirus hCoV-MERS from Primerdesign.

Is there a treatment for MERS?

To date, there is no treatment or vaccination against MERS.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) issued a report (PDF file, opens in new window) in 2013 outlining steps needed to create a MERS vaccine.



Healthy Living Houston: Sitting is the New Smoking?

We love modern electronic gadgets that simplify our life, make our work more productive and time at play more fun. And in many cases, these gadgets can help us live healthier lifestyles.

For example, more and more of us are wearing electronic devices that help us achieve our fitness goals by tracking the number of stairs we climb, tracking the calories we eat or tracking our heartbeat rates.

But there is a downside to the increasing number of electronic devices we enjoy at work and at home. When everything is accessible at your fingertips, there is less and less reason to get up from your chair. The result: an unhealthy sedentary lifestyle.

Do you Lead a Sedentary Lifestyle at Work?

Our transition to a service economy combined with today’s modern conveniences has led an increasing number of us to lead a more sedentary lifestyle, especially at work.

There are a few exceptions. If you have a job in agriculture, in manufacturing, shipping and distribution or the food service industry, you’re more likely to be standing on your feet at the job.

But more and more of us work all day at a computer with a rolling desk chair with everything right at hand. No need to stand up except take a bio break!

But wait you say! “I work with a tablet.” Well unfortunately it looks like repeated use of smartphones and tablets can contribute to ‘Tablet Neck’ according to this report from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Sitting is Bad for You — Even if You Exercise Regularly.

In the last year, more and more health professionals have begun using the expression “sitting is the new smoking” to describe the problem.

What are the consequences of sitting too much? We turn to an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine by David Alter, MD, PhD, Senior Scientist at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University Health Network and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

Key Findings of the Study:

  1. Sitting for prolonged periods of time increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of whether a person exercises regularly or not.
  2. Exercising one hour a day doesn’t eliminate the problem. In other words, even if you exercise regularly, prolonged sitting remains a separate health issue.

What does Dr Alter recommend?

  1. Every thirty minutes you should take a short (1-3 minute) break and stand up. Standing burns twice as many calories as sitting.
  2. Gradually change your behavior. Try reducing your sitting times by 15 – 20 minutes per day at first. Reduce sitting week by week. Over the long term you should try to eliminate 2 to 3 hours of sitting during a 12 hour day.

Educators are also taking notice. Students seem to benefit from standup desks.

School physical education programs have been on the wane for many years and today’s students populations are more sedentary than in the past. Obesity is an increasing problem.

In response, there have been studies to see if stand up desks can help student performance and weight management. Mark Benden, Associate Professor at Texas A&M, has studied the impact of standing desks on Texas fourth grade students.

Students using the standing desks burned 300 more calories per week than the control group. Overweight students burned up to 575 more calories compared to the students who sat at normal desks.

Teachers in Benden’s study reported better behavior and more focus on learning among the students using the standup desks.

Does Fidgeting Help Students Learn?

Now research is looking at whether encouraging students to ‘fidget’ and move around while in the classroom is actually productive. One chair manufacturer, Safeco, has introduced a desk/chair combination with a built-in swing for students to move their legs around as they sit. Safeco’s Alphabetter desk is designed to encourage student movement in the classroom but minimize distraction to other students in class.

Can standing desks like these help students perform better? It’s possible. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that many students (and perhaps boys especially) perform better when they are active. Students diagnosed with ADHD may also benefit from this type of increased physical activity. We look forward to seeing results from upcoming peer reviewed studies.

What about Moving Desks?

The evidence seems to indicate that using standing desks while at work will improve your health. But should you take it one step further and use a desk that can change your seating position throughout the day? What about desks with built-in treadmills?

So far we have not found evidence that the treadmill desks are more effective than standing desks, but they certainly make a statement. Here humorist and commentator Mo Rocca takes a look at treadmill desks at his office and at Cosmopolitan magazine.

Moveable Furniture Designs Now Widely Available for Commercial Applications

Buyers at the largest tradeshow for commercial office furniture, NEOCON, were able to test out dozens of different moveable, reconfigurable seating and work table solutions.

Attendees at the trade show awarded the NEOCON Gold Prize in the category for Tables: Training and Work to a sit-to-stand table designed by Joey Ruiter for BOLD Furniture.

Sit-to-stand table designed by Joey Ruiter for BOLD Furniture

Sit-to-stand table designed by Joey Ruiter for BOLD Furniture

This elegant desk can move from a fully seated sitting position to a full standing desk.

A Desk that Reminds You to Move: The Kinetic Desk by Stir

Maybe you need a more active reminder to change your seating position throughout the day. That’s the thought behind the Stir desk, invented by ax-Apple engineer JP Labrosse who is now the CEO of Stir. The Stir desk has an ‘active mode’ that decides on its own when you need to change seating positions. Before moving it gives you a subtle tactile alert — then a motor moves the desk surface up or down. Check out the video to get an idea of how it works:

A Cheaper Solution: Potato Sack Races at the Office

It doesn’t take a lot of money to modify an IKEA desk to sit higher so you can stand as you work. Hopefully your version will look more elegant than this one. But what about moving desks or desks with treadmills? Are they worth the money? Until we see some conclusive studies, we’re not sure and they can be quite expensive.

Looking for a cheaper solution? You may find inspiration from Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. Here she challenges Jimmy Fallon to a Potato Sack Race Race in the White House.