Regular exercise should be part of any New Year resolution

The human body works most efficiently when it can attain a regular rhythm. A daily pattern should consist of sufficient sleep, regular nutritious meals and periods of exercise. This last component has become increasingly important in maintaining good general health. More recently, exercising regularly has been shown to possibly avoid several chronic conditions.

The definition of "regular" exercise also has presented a dilemma. Recommendations have varied in regard to the amount of time, intensity and type of activity.

Aerobic activities include walking, swimming, running and biking. Resistance fitness consists of lifting weights, using stretch bands or using body resistance. Walking or swimming at a slow pace is considered moderate exercise while running is classified as intense.

The current federal recommendations suggest 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week or 75 minutes of intense exercise as a maintenance amount for fitness. Those numbers should double if weight loss is a goal.

In addition to medication, regular exercise has been part of the prescription for patients suffering from type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. The latest data indicates that these disorders can actually be avoided through regular exercise even in patients who have a family history.

Among the most feared chronic illnesses is dementia. Current estimates indicate that 5.1 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease. This number continues to grow as baby boomers age. Several recent studies have demonstrated that Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive conditions may be avoided through regular exercise.

The protective mechanism is both a direct effect as well as a secondary benefit of increasing blood flow to the brain. Ideally, a regular fitness regimen should begin in mid-life or sooner for maximum benefit.

The arrival of a new year encourages many people to begin a weight loss regimen. Adding an exercise component to that regimen for any length of time may have an added longevity benefit.

Dr. Alessi is a neurologist in Norwich and serves as an on-air contributor for ESPN. He is director of UConn NeuroSport and can be reached at

Early recognition can help prevent serious eye injuries

Approximately 20 percent of all eye injuries are sports-related. These account for 42,000 emergency department visits in the United States each year. Prevention and early recognition can avoid permanent visual impairment.

The eye is divided into the anterior and posterior segments. The major components of the anterior segment, including the lens, pupil, iris and cornea, serve to focus an image on the posterior segment. It accomplishes this by changing the shape of the lens and allowing adequate amounts of light into the eye.

The posterior segment receives the image on the retina and transmits the information via the optic nerve to the brain where it is identified.

Excessive exposure to sunlight is common in athletes who participate in outdoor sports. Ultraviolet light exposure will damage the anterior segment of the eye and cause premature cataracts.

Blue light frequencies of sunlight will penetrate further into the eye resulting in damage to the posterior segment and potentially causing permanent visual loss from conditions such as macular degeneration.

Sunglasses with the appropriate filtering mechanism should be worn whenever possible to avoid these conditions.

Lacerations involving the eyelid have attracted recent attention due to their severity and potentially successful treatment. The eyelid contains a system of intricate glands, ducts and blood vessels that protect and nourish the eye.

"A laceration involving the margin of the eyelid or the tear drainage system should ideally be repaired by a physician with expertise in reconstructive surgery of the eyelid," reports Dr. Kira Segal, an ophthalmologist specializing in oculoplastic surgery at the University of Michigan. "If a specialist is not immediately available, simply place antibiotic ointment and a patch over the laceration. Repair can be delayed up to 72 hours from the time of injury as the eyelid's highly vascular structure decreases the risk for infection."

Serious eye injuries can be prevented with appropriate protective eyewear. Every eye injury should be taken seriously.

Dr. Alessi is a neurologist in Norwich and serves as an on-air contributor for ESPN.  He is director of UConn NeuroSport and can be reached at