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Why regular health check ups are a must

24/11/2022

Regular health check ups can help with everything from weight and blood pressure monitoring to early detection of more serious issues. Yet a significant proportion of people simply neglect to have them frequently. Indeed, according to a new national poll from NORC at the University of Chicago and the West Health Institute, around 40 percent of Americans reported skipping a recommended medical test or treatment. Meanwhile, 44 percent said they neglected to see a doctor despite being sick or injured in the last year because of cost. Separate research also reveals that men are more likely to miss health check ups, with a third of men thinking they do not need annual health screenings. The Harris Poll, which surveyed people nationally, also found that two-thirds of men believe they are “naturally healthier than others in general.” The benefits of regular health check ups First and foremost, regular health check ups can help detect medical conditions while they are still in their early stages, which can yield a number of follow on benefits. For example, an early cancer diagnosis can significantly improve a patient’s outcome. Treatment can be given sooner, increasing the chances of a patient responding positively. Furthermore, when medical conditions are diagnosed earlier, the chances of them becoming more severe are lessened. In turn, this means that healthcare interventions and associated costs are, inevitably, greatly reduced. Then there is the peace of mind that can be afforded through regular health check ups. Instead of wondering whether the few symptoms you are experiencing are serious, isn’t it better to get checked out and put your mind at ease? Finally, regular health check ups also serve to strengthen your relationship with doctors and physicians. By building mutual trust, more open and honest conversations can be had, which often lead to swifter diagnoses. Final thoughts When was the last time you had a health check up? On an annual basis wouldn’t be a bad start. Whether you are young or old, regular health check ups are important. Most medical conditions do not discriminate, which means staying abreast of any changes with your body is so important. Chances are you’ll be given a clean bill of health on a regular basis. But with regular health check ups, you stand a significantly greater chance of any potential medical issues being discovered early and, potentially, before they become a bigger problem. *Image by tomwieden from Pixabay 

Why picking your nose may increase your risk of Alzheimer's Disease

09/11/2022

If you're one of those people who picks their nose, or aggressively plucks any hairs you find there, new research may provide you with a reason to stop. According to a study in mice, the results of which are published in Scientific Reports, such habits as those outlined above may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease. That's because Chlamydia pneumoniae bacteria can easily travel along a nerve running from the nasal cavity into the brain. From there, the bacteria were seen to infect the mice's central nervous system. When the bacteria invade the brain, they display a key marker of Alzheimer’s disease. “We’re the first to show that Chlamydia pneumoniae can go directly up the nose and into the brain, where it can set off pathologies that look like Alzheimer’s disease,” study coauthor James St John, PhD, head of the Clem Jones Centre for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, said in a statement. “We saw this happen in a mouse model, and the evidence is potentially scary for humans as well,” Dr. St John said. In the mouse studies, the Chlamydia pneumoniae bacteria were found to have traveled to the mice's brains within 72 hours, but this was witnessed to be even faster among mice whose nasal passages were damaged. “Picking your nose [or] plucking the hairs from your nose is not a good idea,” St John said. “We don’t want to damage the inside of our nose, and picking and plucking can do that.

Crosswords or video games: which is better for your brain?

03/11/2022

In our modern age where smartphones and apps are ubiquitous, so-called brain training games are all the rage. But people of a certain age will be much more familiar with the good old-fashioned crossword. Which is better for your brain when it comes to slowing cognitive decline? New research has provided some insights. According to the study, led by Davangere Devanand, MD, a professor and director of geriatric psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, the humble crossword puzzle may actually be better for aging brains than new-fangled video games. “This is the first study to document both short-term and longer-term benefits for home-based crossword puzzles training compared to another intervention,” said Devanand. For the study, the researchers followed 107 adults aged 55 and over with mild cognitive impairment for 78 weeks. The participants were randomly given either crossword puzzles or brain-training games, and asked to do four 30-minute sessions weekly over three months. The participants were also asked to do a number of booster sessions up until the end of the study period. The researchers found that the people in the crossword group showed a small improvement in tests of memory and other mental skills. The results of the study are published in the New England Journal of Medicine. *Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Low carb diet can prevent and treat type 2 diabetes

27/10/2022

Over 400 million people worldwide are living with type 2 diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. Yet a new study suggests the condition could be controlled and even prevented through diet alone. Publishing their findings in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers from Tulane University in Louisiana in the United States revealed how following a diet that is low in carbohydrates can help people with unmedicated diabetes and those at risk for diabetes lower their blood sugar. For the study, the researchers recruited 150 participants and separated them into two groups: one which followed a low carb diet (less than 40 net grams of carbohydrates a day for the first 3 months and less than 60 net grams during months 3 to 6) and one which followed their usual diet. The researchers found that not only did the low carb diet group see their hemoglobin A1c, a marker for blood sugar levels, drop, they also lost weight and had lower fasting glucose levels. “The key message is that a low-carbohydrate diet, if maintained, might be a useful approach for preventing and treating Type 2 diabetes, though more research is needed,” said lead author Kirsten Dorans, assistant professor of epidemiology at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. *Image by Nemanja_us from Pixabay

Vitamin D deficiency may increase premature death risk

26/10/2022

It's often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, and now new research shows that vitamin D could prolong your life. According to a study by researchers from the University of South Australia, there is a causal relationship between vitamin D deficiency and premature death. For the study, the researchers recruited over 300,000 individuals, aged 37-73, from the UK Biobank. They obtained the participants' genetic data, as well as their vitamin D serum levels. Over a 14-year follow-up period, the researchers recorded all-cause mortality and deaths caused by cancer, cardiovascular disease respiratory disease. At the end of the research period, there had been 18,700 deaths. Further analysis revealed that the risk of death decreased significantly with increasing vitamin D levels, but that this effect plateaued when serum levels reached 50 nmol/L. “In this study, we found evidence for a benefit across all the main causes of death, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and respiratory disease-related mortality,” said study author Elina Hypponen, PhD, a University of South Australia professor and director of the Australian Centre for Precision Health. “However, in most cases, any benefit for increasing vitamin D levels was restricted to those individuals who have very low concentrations,” she added. *Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay 

New wearable device can track tumors in real time

20/10/2022

A revolutionary new wearable sensor, which tracks tumors in real time, could provide invaluable insights into how cancer cells respond to treatments. The new device can report in real time how a tumor is growing or shrinking. The results are sent wirelessly to a smartphone for analysis, enabling physicians to more closely monitor patients' progress. So far, the device has been used and proven itself in animal studies. “Our technology is the first bioelectronic device to monitor tumor regression, and the first technology to monitor tumors in real time,” said Alex Abramson, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech and a co-author of a new study focusing the device. At present, the most common ways to measure tumors are calipers or bioluminescence imaging (BLI). While these methods are useful and, indeed, accurate, they are only typically performed every few days or weeks. With the new wearable sensor, tumor information is captured every 5 minutes, allowing changes to be recorded in a more timely fashion. Furthermore, the new sensor can also detect extremely small changes that calipers and BLI can’t. Our sensor will allow us to better understand the short-term effects of drugs on tumors and allow scientists and health care professionals a more streamlined method to screen drugs that could become therapies in the future,” Abramson added. *Image by Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay

5 hours or less sleep could put older adults at risk of multiple chronic conditions

19/10/2022

Older individuals who regularly sleep for five hours or less could be putting themselves at risk of developing multiple chronic conditions, new research suggests. According to the research, the findings of which are published in the open access journal PLoS Medicine, people aged 50 and over who sleep for five hours or less per night are at greater risk of developing more than one chronic disease compared with their peers who sleep seven hours. In fact, at age 50, those who slept five hours or less had a 30 percent greater risk of multimorbidity compared with those who slept seven hours. “Our study showed that sleep five hours or less is associated with 30 to 40 percent increased risk of onset of multimorbidity,” says lead author Severine Sabia, PhD, of Université Paris Cité, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), and University College London. The association remained in each decade of life, whether sleep was measured at 50, 60, or 70 years old, says Dr. Sabia. When considered alongside previous research into the importance of sleep, the present study highlights why older individuals should prioritise this aspect of their lives. “Sleep is important for the regulation of several body function such as metabolic, endocrine, and inflammatory regulation over the day, that in turn when dysregulated may contribute to increase risk of several chronic conditions and ultimately death,” Sabia said. *Image by เดชาธร อมาตยกุล from Pixabay 

Eating earlier can reduce weight gain

12/10/2022

Eating earlier in the day can be beneficial for weight loss, new research suggests. According to the study by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, people who eat later are hungrier during the day and have lower levels of serum leptin, the hormone that helps regulate body fat. Later eaters also burned fewer calories and had a lower core body temperature. The researchers say that eating later actually changes gene expression in adipose tissue in favor of increased fat storage, which could predispose people to becoming obese. Based on the study, the researchers said that people who ate later in the day were twice as likely to feel hungry. They were also more likely to desire certain foods like starchy foods or meat. To thoroughly test, the researchers had half the study group eat earlier in the day and half eat later. Both groups then switched places and tried the alternative eating protocol. The results were mirrored on both occasions, underlining the study findings. Commenting on the study, Julie Palmer, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said that one main takeaway is that we feel hungrier when we wait to eat later in the day. “When higher-calorie foods are more available to us later in the day … we’re more likely to overeat them,” said Palmer.  *Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 

Lifting weights linked with longer life

06/10/2022

We recently wrote about how 10,000 steps a day may halve dementia risk. Now, separate research has revealed how lifting weights can help people live longer. According to the study by researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, US, regularly lifting weights was linked to a lower risk of death from any cause, with the exception of cancer. “Older adults who participated in weight lifting exercise had significantly lower mortality before and after factoring in aerobic exercise participation, and importantly, those who did both types of exercise had the lowest risk,” said lead author Jessica Gorzelitz, PhD, researcher in the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute. Publishing their findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers said individuals who met recommended amounts of both muscle-strengthening exercises and aerobic moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), appeared to gain additional benefit. The findings provide strong support for the current Physical Activity Guidelines for U.S. adults, added Gorzelitz. Current guidelines in the United States on physical activity recommend all adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week, or a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity, or an equal combination of the two. In addition, the guidelines also advocate two or more days of strengthening activities that incorporate all major muscle groups, including the legs, hips, back, abdomen chest, shoulders, and arms. *Image by Fabiano Silva from Pixabay 

10,000 steps a day may halve dementia risk

03/10/2022

Walking 10,000 steps a day could halve your risk of developing dementia in later life, new research suggests.   According to the study, the results of which are published in the journal JAMA Neurology, walking around 9,800 steps per day was associated with a 50% dementia risk reduction. However, there is also good news for people who are unable to achieve this many steps. That’s because walking just 3,826 steps a day reduced dementia risk by 25%.   The study used almost 80,000 individuals’ data from the UK Biobank, of whom 44.7% were male and 55.3% female and had a mean age of 61.1 years. At the start of the study, all participants were free of cardiovascular disease and dementia. The researchers followed up with everyone involved after a median of 6.9 years (6.4–7.5 years).   Dr. Claire Sexton, Alzheimer’s Association senior director of scientific programs and outreach, who was not involved in the study, said: “This is an important study that may help inform public health guidelines around the amount of physical activity necessary to reap health benefits.   “These results are not surprising given the robust data we have linking physical activity and better cognition. A strength of this paper is it used an objective, widely-understood measure of step count rather than self-reported data.”   *Image by Mabel Amber, who will one day from Pixabay

Good dental health can reduce dementia risk

15/09/2022

People with poor dental hygiene are 21% more likely to develop dementia in later life, new research suggests. According to the study, recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, poor oral health and tooth loss increased the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The study authors said their findings emphasize the importance of monitoring, as well as management of “periodontal health in the context of dementia prevention”. They added that because of this finding, dental professionals are in a great position to track and intervene should a patient's periodontal health begin to deteriorate. “Our mouth is full of bacteria (good and bad). We need these bacteria to live in equilibrium and when our dental hygiene is missing, the bad bacteria can overcome and install in our gums. There is evidence that bacteria can travel to the brain and participate with neurodegeneration that will ultimately decline our cognitive health,” she told Healthline. “Oral health is important for our overall quality of life. Taking care of our mouth is as important as taking care of our body. Our mouth is more exposed to the environment, and it is the entrance to our entire body,” she added. The research has spoken: Brush your teeth two to three times a day and visit a dentist twice a year as routine, or sooner if you notice a change in your dental health. *Image by Reto Gerber from Pixabay 

Switch 30 mins of social media for exercise to reap mental health benefits – study

13/09/2022

By replacing 30 minutes of daily social media use with physical activity, you will feel happier, new research suggests. According to the new study, switching social media for exercise for just two weeks can have a positive impact. The research team from the Mental Health Research and Treatment Center at Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany, headed up by assistant professor Julia Brailovskaia, Ph.D., reported that participants who swapped social media for exercise felt more satisfied, less depressed, and less stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic than their peers in a control group. Furthermore, the positive effects of the two-week period lasted for up to six months after the study concluded. “Given that we don’t know for certain how long the coronavirus crisis will last, we wanted to know how to protect people’s mental health with services that are as free and low-threshold as possible,” Brailovskaia said in a statement. “This shows us how vital it is to reduce our availability online from time to time and to go back to our human roots,” she added. “These measures can be easily implemented into one’s everyday life and they’re completely free – and, at the same time, they help us to stay happy and healthy in the digital age.” *image courtesy of Irina L from Pixabay 

Here's the lowdown on Tomato Flu

30/08/2022

A few months ago, we told you about an emerging health threat that was receiving a lot of attention: monkey pox.Today we're here to explain a little more about another health issue that is gaining some traction in the headlines at the moment: Tomato Flu. Called Tomato Flu because of the painful, red blisters it causes that can be as big as a tomato, the likely viral disease has so far impacted more than 100 children in India's Kerala region. According to The Lancet medical journal, Tomato Flu was first identified in the Kollam district of Kerala, India on May 6, 2022. The journal further notes that the disease is considered non-life-threatening and resolves on its own in time. Furthermore, The Lancet says that Tomato Flu's primary symptoms observed in infected children resemble those of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus which can cause high fever, rashes, and intense pain in joints. “Transmission is likely to be through close contact,” said Hannah Newman, MPH, director of infection prevention at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “The virus has been named tomato flu on the basis of the red, painful blisters it causes that can mimic the look and size of a tomato,” Newman added. Seeing as Tomato Flu is contagious, there is a significant chance it could spread outside of India. *Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay

New adhesive bandage offers twice the sticking power and pain free removal

18/08/2022

If you cut your finger, providing it's only a minor wound, one of the first things you'll reach for is an adhesive bandage. These simple yet effective medical dressings are found in most households around the world. But they have a couple of pitfalls: sometimes, they don't stick very well and oftentimes it hurts when they are removed. Now, researchers from Pennsylvania are looking to change this by developing an adhesive bandage that sticks well to skin – even hairy areas – and causes little pain when it is removed. To solve the problem, the researchers turned to the main ingredient in school glue. The problem with existing adhesive bandages is the ones that stick hard and fast are usually difficult to remove and can cause pain – especially if they are placed on sensitive skin. Other adhesive bandages are easier to remove but don't have the sticking power required to keep a wound closed, allowing to heal. Outlining their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Lehigh University, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia say their new bandage has been developed using vinyl alcohol – a primary ingredient in the glue – and boric acid, a common and naturally occurring compound frequently used in antiseptics. The result is an adhesive bandage that can effectively hold wound closed, yet can be painlessly removed by soaking it in water for just 30 seconds. *Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

Short walks after meals lowers diabetes risk – study

10/08/2022

Taking a short walk after eating can help lower the risk of type-2 diabetes and heart problems, a new study suggests. According to the study, published in Sports Medicine, just 2 to 5 minutes of light walking after a meal can reduce blood sugar and insulin levels. Blood glucose levels spike after eating, triggering the pancreas to release insulin to control the increase and promote the storage of glucose in fat, muscle, liver and other body tissues. Over time, some people's cells develop a resistance to insulin, which can lead to blood glucose levels remaining elevated. If this persists, complications, including cardiovascular disease and nerve damage, can occur. “With standing and walking, there are contractions of your muscles” that use glucose and lower blood sugar levels, Aidan Buffey, the lead study author and a PhD student in physical education and sport sciences at the University of Limerick, told The Times. “If you can do physical activity before the glucose peak, typically 60 to 90 minutes [after eating], that is when you’re going to have the benefit of not having the glucose spike,” he said. *Image by

Green tea may help reduce blood sugar and gut inflammation

04/08/2022

Its origins date back to 2737 B.C. in the Far East when the Chinese Emperor Shennong mistakenly drank water with a dead tea leaf boiled inside. Fast forward to today and people all over the world enjoy green tea as part of their diet, benefiting from the list of potential health benefits in the process. Now, new research shows that green tea may also help reduce blood sugar and gut inflammation. According to the study, published in Current Developments in Nutrition, people who regularly consume green tea have lower fasting blood sugar levels than their peers who don't. Furthermore, green tea extract was also found to decrease gut inflammation, highlighted by a decrease in stool inflammatory proteins. Senior study co-author Richard Bruno, PhD, a professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University, said the study showed positive results after just one month. “What this tells us is that within one month we’re able to lower blood glucose in both people with metabolic syndrome and healthy people, and the lowering of blood glucose appears to be related to decreasing leaky gut and decreasing gut inflammation — regardless of health status,” he said in a statement. “This could be a simple yet powerful intervention for people with metabolic syndrome or those at risk for it. It could be a therapy to start while we continue to promote healthy lifestyle changes,” said Olivia Vaughn, a registered dietitian nutritionist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. *Image by Mirko Stödter from Pixabay 

Smartphones could improve memory - study

02/08/2022

Smartphones and other electronic gadgets have been an ubiquitous part of many people's lives for years now. But while the myriad of apps that are available include many that can help us not forget important details or dates, there has always been some debate around how good these gadgets are for our own internal memories. Now, new research has shed a light on the subject. According to the study, published on August 1 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, external memory devices can actually improve memory for information that someone has never saved. For the study, led by University College London (UCL) researchers, 158 volunteers were asked to play one of three memory task games involving high and low value circles on a touchscreen digital tablet or computer. The researchers found that digital devices help people to store and remember very important information. This, in turn, frees up their own memory to recall additional, less important pieces of information. Participants who tended to use the digital devices to store the details of the high-value circles in the trial, demonstrated a memory improvement of 18%. Their memory for low-value circles was also improved by 27%, even in people who had never set any reminders for low-value circles. Senior author, Dr Sam Gilbert (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) said: “The results show that external memory tools work. Far from causing ‘digital dementia’, using an external memory device can even improve our memory for information that we never saved. But we need to be careful that we back up the most important information. Otherwise, if a memory tool fails, we could be left with nothing but lower-importance information in our own memory.” *Image by Thorsten Frenzel from Pixabay

Eating ultra-processed foods associated with poorer cognitive performance

28/07/2022

Eating ultra-processed foods could impair cognitive performance in older adults, new research suggests. According to the study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, older individuals who eat foods such as packaged snacks, breakfast cereals, choclates and pre-prepared pies, pizzas and pasta perform worse on standardized cognitive tests than their counterparts who do not consume such foods. The researchers from Australia that such food items contain little to no whole foods and typically include flavorings, colorings, emulsifiers, and other cosmetic additives. For the study, the researchers evaluated more than 2,700 participants who were 60 years old and above. The participants were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2011 to 2014. Each participant was asked to recall what they ate in a 24-hour period on two non-consecutive days. The participants then underwent standardized, validated cognitive tests, including one that assesses Alzheimer’s disease. “Research indicates that diets that follow a Mediterranean Diet style, recognized by the high proportion of foods with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, are associated with a reduced risk of age-associated cognitive decline and dementia,” said Barbara Cardoso, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a senior lecturer in nutrition, dietetics, and food at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. *Image by Hannah Chen from Pixabay

Wearable fitness trackers promote positive health changes - study

26/07/2022

The global wearable fitness tracker market is expected to be worth a staggering $138.7 billion by 2028, testimony to the enormous popularity of these devices. Now, new research shows that fitness trackers really do help motivate people to exercise more each day. According to the large-scale review published in The Lancet by researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA), wearable fitness trackers promote positive health changes. They spur individuals to move more and lose a modest amount of weight as a result. “Since activity trackers are becoming so widely used in society, research into their effectiveness has grown rapidly,” said lead researcher and UniSA PhD candidate Ty Ferguson. “We realized now was a great time to pull all this knowledge together and see if there is an overall message on their utility as health tools.” For its research, the UniSA team reviewed nearly 400 studies involving around 164,000 participants worldwide who use wearable fitness trackers to monitor their physical activity levels. The team found that wearable fitness trackers motivate people to walk up to 40 minutes more each day, equivalent to roughly 1,800 more steps. This resulted in an average weight loss of 1kg (2.2 lbs) over a 5-month period. “What was a nice surprise is just how helpful they were for such a wide variety of people, including all ages, healthy people, and those living with a variety of chronic conditions,” said Ferguson. *Image by Phi Nguyễn from Pixabay

New smartphone-enabled home kidney test cleared for use by FDA

19/07/2022

People who are at risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) can now monitor their kidney health from the comfort of their own homes thanks to a new smartphone-enabled test. Healthy.io’s Minuteful Kidney™ test, as it is known, uses a smartphone’s camera to look for the protein albumin in the individual’s urine. By monitoring their own kidney health, people can not only benefit from problems being detected early, but also need to take fewer trips to their doctor’s office or clinical laboratory. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the Minuteful Kidney test 510(k) clearance this month, enabling millions of Americans to potentially take advantage of it. Andrea Somerville, from Boston, is one such American who is already using the new test after her health insurer ordered it for her. whose doctor is monitoring her kidney function, received a Minuteful Kidney test kit in the mail after her health insurer ordered one for her. “It was easy to do and really easy to upload everything to my phone so that the results could go to me and to my doctor,” she said. “The other piece that’s nice,” she added, “is that you find out the results right then and there, and it’s done in the privacy of your own home.” *image courtesy of healthy.io

Common weedkiller found in 80% of people's urine

13/07/2022

A widely used weedkiller has been found in the urine of 80% of people who were tested as part of a national survey in the United States, including children as young as six. Of the 2,310 people whose urine was tested for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1,885 samples were found to contain glyphosate, one of the most popular weedkillers used around the world and the main active ingredient in the Roundup brand, owned by German pharmaceutical company Bayer. Almost a third of samples came from minors. The survey forms part of a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program. "Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the country, yet until now we had very little data on exposure," Alexis Temkin, a toxicologist at the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement. "Children in the United States are regularly exposed to this cancer-causing weedkiller through the food they eat virtually every day." Despite insisting that glyphosate is safe, Bayer is currently facing thousands of lawsuits which claim the chemical causes cancer. Bayer previously won four separate trials of a similar nature. In 202, the Environmental Protection Agency stated that glyphosate poses no serious health risk to humans and is “not likely” to cause cancer. *Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay

Just one in five Americans have 'optimal' heart health

30/06/2022

Only 20% of American adults have 'optimal' heart health, new research reveals. According to the study by the American Heart Association (AHA), the US population is well below optimal levels of cardiovascular health. This is based on AHA's Life’s Essential 8™ cardiovascular health scoring, its updated metrics to measure heart and brain health. The AHA's Life’s Essential 8 scoring includes: diet physical activity nicotine exposure sleep health body weight blood lipids blood glucos blood pressure With sleep being the newest addition. For the AHA study, researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 2013 to 2018. This data included non-pregnant, non-institutionalized individuals between two and 79 years old who did not have cardiovascular disease. All participants had an overall cardiovascular health (CVH) score calculated for them ranging from 0 to 100, as well as a score for diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep duration, body mass index (BMI), blood lipids, blood glucose, and blood pressure – all using AHA definitions. The results revealed that among the more than 23,400 American adults and children without cardiovascular disease (CVD), overall cardiovascular health was not ideal. Indeed, the research showed roughly 80% of people scored at a low or moderate level. Mitchell Weinberg, MD, chair of cardiology at Staten Island University Hospital, part of Northwell Health in New York, the AHA's Life’s Essential 8 scoring is both valuable and patient friendly for determining CVH. “Possessing one number that crystallizes a person’s current health status enables that individual to comprehend the need for change and target a single numeric goal,” he said. *Image by Andrzej Rembowski from Pixabay

Fit kids are mentally sharper in later life, finds study

29/06/2022

Kids who are physically active stand a greater chance of remaining mentally sharp for decades, new research suggests. The finding adds to the weight of evidence in favour of kids being physically active, such as the associated bone and muscle development benefits and reduced risk of diabetes and heart attack. The study by researchers in Australia followed 1,200 people for 30 years. It uncovered a link between childhood fitness and mental performance in middle age. Commencing in 1985, the study assessed the heart and lung fitness, power, and endurance, and measured for waist-to-hip ratio of children between the ages of 7 and 15 at the time. More than 30 years later, those with the highest fitness scores and lower waist-to-hip ratios as kids tended to score better in tests of their thinking skills. Interestingly, while physical exercise was associated with higher scores in things like processing speed and attention, it had no impact on memory. Michele Callisaya, PhD, a study co-author and associate professor from the National Centre for Healthy Ageing at Peninsula Health and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said: “This might be because the cognitive functions of processing speed and attention start to decline in midlife. Memory generally starts to decline later.” The results of the study are published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. *Image by Tri Le from Pixabay

How many immune-boosting microbes do people eat?

22/06/2022

Our gut microbiome – the trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and germs that live in our digestive tracts – is hugely important when it comes to health, influencing our immune systems, as well as our physical and mental states. But while we know that certain foods, such as fermented produce, yogurts, and non-starchy vegetables can help boost gut health, little is known about how many immune-boosting microorganisms people actually eat on a day-to-day basis as part of their diets. To investigate, researchers estimated the number of microorganisms per gram in more than 9,000 food items, including those high in such organisms, like yogurt, pickles, and kimchi. Then, to see how many people ate foods packed with microorganisms, the researchers took a detail look dietary data collected from 2001 to 2018 for almost 75,000 adults and children. Overall, 26% of adults and 20% of children consumed foods with high levels of microorganisms, researchers reported in The Journal of Nutrition. "When we think of microbes in our food, we often think of either foodborne pathogens that cause disease or probiotics that provide a documented health benefit," study co-author Colin Hill, PhD, of APC Microbiome Ireland at University College Cork, said in a statement. "It is very timely to estimate the daily intake of microbes by individuals in modern society as a first step towards a scientific evaluation of the importance of dietary microbes in human health and well-being," he added. *Image by rhys jung from Pixabay

Weight-loss surgery found to slash cancer risk and mortality

09/06/2022

Bariatric surgery, also commonly referred to as weight-loss surgery, can help to reduce the risk of developing six different types of cancer associated with obesity, new research suggests. For the study, more than 1,600 obese people who had either gastric bypass surgery or sleeve gastrectomy surgery were compared to a control group of over, 2,100 obese individuals with obesity who did not undergo surgery. Both groups were matched in terms of age, sex and BMI. According to the study, the findings of which were presented at the 2022 annual meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), people who underwent bariatric surgery were also less likely to develop any type of cancer compared to their obese peers who had not had surgery. In fact, the study found that only 5.2 percent of people who had bariatric surgery went on to develop some type of cancer during the 10-year study period, compared to 12.2 percent of those who did not have weight loss surgery. Furthermore, the overall 10-year survival rate for patients who underwent surgery was 92.9 percent, while it was just 78.9 percent for the non-surgical group. Commenting on the study, Dr. Shanu Kothari, president of the ASMBS, said: “Patients live longer after bariatric surgery because they have less cardiac events and less cancers.” *Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Drinking coffee (even with sugar) linked to longer life

03/06/2022

Drinking coffee – even with sugar in it – is linked to a longer lifespan, new research has revealed. According to the study by researchers at the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, people who drink coffee moderately are more likely to live longer than those who drink less or more. For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the UK Biobank, a database of around half a million people who have consented to having their medical and genetic information made available to researchers. The study team found that people who drank between 1.5 and 3.5 cups of coffee per day were less likely to die (due to any cause) during a 7-year follow up period. Perhaps more surprising is the finding that people who drink sweetened coffee appear to benefit the most. Indeed, these individuals were as much as 31% less likely to die than those who drink less than 1.5 cups and more than 3.5 cups per day. However, lead researcher Dr. Dan Liu said: “The results for those who used artificial sweeteners were less clear.” “Based on the findings, we can tell people that there is no need for most coffee drinkers to eliminate the beverage from their diet, but to be cautious about higher-calorie specialty coffees,” Liu concluded. In other words, be conscious of how much added sugar sometimes goes into popular coffee shop chain beverages. *Image courtesy of Soner Köse from Pixabay

What you need to know about monkeypox

24/05/2022

One of the latest developments, in what has been a tumultuous couple of years, is the recent monkeypox outbreaks that we're hearing about in the news. But what is monkeypox and should you be concerned? Monkeypox is a rare disease which is similar to smallpox but significantly less severe. Native to Africa, monkeypox is usually spread through animal-to-human contact. Once infected, the individual will likely notice skin lesions, fever, swollen lymph nodes and head and body aches. While most people will get better within two-four weeks, monkeypox can be fatal for some. Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) says monkeypox has a case fatality ratio of around 3-6%. As of May 21, 2022, the WHO says there are 92 laboratory-confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox from 12 Member States not endemic to the monkeypox virus, with no deaths thus far. According to Dr. Alex Li, deputy chief medical officer, L.A. Care Health Plan, there is no need for panic. “The CDC is monitoring this situation very closely,” he said. Li added that anyone who has symptoms similar to chickenpox, has had contact with symptomatic people, or has recently traveled to Africa, should contact a healthcare professional. *image: Congo rope squirrel (Funisciurus congicus), Damaraland, Namibia. Congo rope squirrels are one of several animals susceptible to the monkeypox virus. Credit: licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Want to stay on top of your weight? More sleep could be the answer, research suggests

12/05/2022

How much good quality sleep you get each night could impact your ability to not only lose weight but also maintain it, new research suggests. Studies have previously shown that a lack of quality sleep can increase people's desire for high calorie foods, including those that are loaded with carbohydrates. Now, new research reveals how a lack of quality sleep can also undermine people's attempts to maintain a healthy weight after dieting. For the study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen studied the quality and duration of sleep among 195 obese adults. They found that a low calorie diet can help aid better sleep, with sleep quality increasing by 0.8 global PSQI score points and sleep duration by 17 minutes per night after the initial 8-week period. Moreover, the researchers found that those who slept less than 6 hours a night, or had poor sleep quality, increased their BMI by 1.1 kg/m2. In comparison, obese adults who achieved over 6 hours of quality sleep each night reduced their BMI by 0.16 kg/m2. Dr. Signe Torekov, study lead author and a professor of clinical translation metabolism, said: “Adults who aren’t sleeping enough or getting poor quality sleep after weight loss appear less successful at maintaining weight loss than those with sufficient sleep.”

A one-week social media break helps reduce anxiety, depression - study

09/05/2022

It's become a ubiquitous part of most people's lives, but social media could be driving feelings of anxiety and depression, and taking a break from it for just one week can be beneficial, new research shows. According to the study, which is published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, people who stopped using social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for seven days reported an increased sense of well-being. Moreover, some said they got back around nine hours in their week that they would have otherwise spent scrolling such platforms. “Scrolling social media is so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking from the moment we wake up to when we close our eyes at night,” Jeff Lambert, the lead study author and a health and exercise psychologist at the University of Bath, said in a statement. “We know that social media usage is huge and that there are increasing concerns about its mental health effects,” he said. “We wanted to see whether simply asking people to take a week’s break could yield mental health benefits.” The researchers now want to investigate whether other groups can benefit from taking social media breaks, including younger people and those with physical and mental health conditions. The team also wants to monitor individuals for longer than a week to see if the benefits last over time. If the results do indeed last, the study authors say we might even see social media breaks being prescribed as an option for people dealing with mental health issues. *Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Food cravings could be our guts, not our brains, telling us something

28/04/2022

Most people experience cravings for certain foods from time to time. But did you ever stop to think that these cravings could be your body's way of telling you that it wants something in particular? New research by the University of Pittsburgh has revealed that when we crave foods, it could be our gut microbiome's way of getting us to forage for foods containing certain nutrients. Studying mice that had been bred to have no microbiome, the researchers showed they could influence the mice's diet preferences through their gut microbiomes. Drs Kevin Kohl and Brian Trevelline from the University of Pittsburgh collected microbes from three wild rodent species with different natural diets. They gave these microbic “cocktails” to 30 of the study mice. What they witnessed was mice with different microbes selecting foods rich in significantly different macronutrients. In other words, it was as though their guts were driving their food preferences. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr. Trevelline said: "Animals need a suite of essential amino acids to survive. But the microbes that live inside of our guts need [to] grow and have some of these same nutrients or make nutrients that the human body or the animal body can recognize. For instance, they make these essential amino acids, and then they’re released into the gut where they can be absorbed by the host.” *Image by John Hain from Pixabay 

Artificial pancreas could make life easier for people with type 1 diabetes

12/04/2022

For people living with type 1 diabetes, finger prick tests to check blood glucose levels are a necessary part of daily life. Without them, these individuals could experience potentially life-threatening hypoglycaemic attacks, where their blood sugar levels fall too low. But regular finger prick tests could become a thing of the past for people with type 1 diabetes thanks to an artificial pancreas being trialled in England. The technology includes a sensor under the skin that monitors blood glucose levels, a pump that automatically adjusts the amount of insulin the person needs and a smartphone app where they can input the number of carbohydrates they eat at meal times. NHS England says the artificial pancreas trial – which currently involves around 900 people – is the first nationwide test of the technology in the world. It also comes 100 years after the first diabetes patient received insulin injections. Prof Partha Kar, NHS national speciality adviser for diabetes, said: "Having machines monitor and deliver medication for diabetes patients sounds quite sci-fi like, but technology and machines are part and parcel of how we live our lives every day. "It is not very far away from the holy grail of a fully automated system, where people with type 1 diabetes can get on with their lives without worrying about glucose levels or medication." *Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 

Regular exercise linked to more heart health benefits among people with stress, anxiety

07/04/2022

People who suffer with stress and anxiety could realise heart health benefits through regular exercise, new research has found. According to the study by res earchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, regular physical activity among individuals with depression or anxiety had nearly double the cardiovascular benefit than in people without such diagnoses. The study found that, people who accomplished the recommended amount of physical activity per week – 150 minutes, according to he American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association – were 17 per cent less likely to suffer a major adverse cardiovascular event than those who exercised less. However, of those who achieved the recommended amount of physical activity per week, individuals with anxiety or depression had a 22 per cent risk reduction versus a 10 per cent among those without either condition. The analysis included more than 50,000 patients in the Massachusetts General Brigham Biobank database. Just over 4,000 of the patients analyzed had suffered a major cardiovascular event, like a heart attack, chest pain caused by a blocked artery, or underwent a procedure to open a blocked artery in the heart. Commenting on the study's findings, Michael Emery, MD, who is the co-director of the Sports Cardiology Center at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and was not involved in the study, said: “Exercise is medicine both physically and psychologically, and these factors interplay such that when you are more physically healthy your psychological state is more robust, and when you are mentally more healthy your physical state is improved.” *Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Just two servings of avocado per week cuts risk of cardiovascular disease

31/03/2022

Eating just two servings of avocado each week can cut your risk of cardiovascular disease by a fifth, new research reveals. According to the study by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, one avocado a week (equivalent to two servings) appears to cut the risk of coronary heart disease by 21% compared to people who do not eat avocado. Furthermore, by replacing half a serving of margarine, butter, egg, yoghurt, cheese or processed meats per day with the equivalent amount of avocado, people can lower their risk of heart disease by 16%-22%. Avocados contain dietary fibre, healthy monounsaturated fats and other key vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and vitamins C, E, and K. The new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAMA), involved almost 70,000 women from the NHS Nurses’ Health Study and around 40,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Cheryl Anderson, chair of the American Heart Association’s Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, said: “We desperately need strategies to improve intake of American Heart Association-recommended healthy diets — such as the Mediterranean diet — that are rich in vegetables and fruits. “Although no one food is the solution to routinely eating a healthy diet, this study is evidence that avocados have possible health benefits.” *Image by Juraj Varga from Pixabay

New research sheds light on why COVID-19 causes loss of smell, taste

29/03/2022

One of the most distinctive symptoms of COVID-19, the disease that can arise from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is loss of taste and smell. This symptom can even affect people for weeks and months after they have developed the disease. Now, new research provides some insight into why this is the case. Originally thought to be related to damage of the olfactory nerves, the decreased or altered sense of smell is called olfactory dysfunction. However, according to the new research published this week in The Laryngoscope, loss of smell due to COVID-19 may also be because of swollen and blocked nasal passages. “Initially, we noticed a pattern in patients with COVID-19 that they lost their sense of smell and taste. We noticed these findings could be used as an indicator of whether or not a patient had COVID-19, but we thought it had to do with the olfactory nerve,” said Dr. Anjali Bharati, an ER physician at Lenox Health Greenwich Village in New York, NY. However, the researchers discovered that a contributing factor of the loss of smell and taste is due to the tissues instead of nerves. The good news is that cells recycle and heal much more easily than nerve damage. “Nerve damage is a more serious thing. The question becomes ‘does it recover?’” said Bharati. “This news involves the physical makeup of the nose, like the nasal passage and the back of the throat. Nerve damage is part of the brain, which is more disconcerting than the nasal passages.”   *Image credit: Photo by doTERRA International, LLC via Pexels

Sugar-free drinks help lower weight and risk of diabetes

24/03/2022

Sugar-free and low sugar drinks can help people realise a number of health benefits, a new study has found. According to the research, the results of which are published in JAMA Network Open, drinking diet soda and sugar alternatives, such as Stevia and Equal, instead of can help people lose weight, reduce their BMI, and lower their risk of diabetes. In fact, the researchers said participants who consumed low and no-calorie beverages saw positive effects similar to those one would expect from water. “Ideally, you would replace sugary beverages with water as much as possible, but our findings show that people have another choice — a low-calorie or no-calorie beverage is a good option as well,” said Tauseef Ahmad Khan, MBBS, PhD, a researcher at the University of Toronto department of nutritional sciences and a coauthor of the study. Modern Western diets often contain too much sugar and it's causing a huge health problem. For example, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons (tsp) of added sugar daily, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends people limit their daily intake of sugar to about 6 tsp women and 9 tsp for men. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, lists higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease among the health issues related to too much sugar intake. *Image by DesignDraw DesignDrawArtes from Pixabay

This AI tool can be used to predict heart attacks

23/03/2022

Scientists have developed a method that could make automating the prediction of heart attacks a reality. The Artificial Intelligence-enabled tool, which was developed by scientists at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, uses an algorithm to measure people's levels of coronary plaque buildup. It then predicts how likely the person is to have a heart attack based on the amount and composition of their plaque. The tool, described in The Lancet Digital Health, performs its analyzes on medical tests called coronary computed tomography angiography (CTA), which take 3D images of the heart and coronary arteries. Until now though, there hasn't been a fast or automated way to analyze the CTA images. Plaque buildup can lead to arteries narrowing, which makes it more difficult for blood to get to the heart, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack. "Coronary plaque is often not measured because there is not a fully automated way to do it," said Damini Dey, PhD, director of the quantitative image analysis lab in the Biomedical Imaging Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai and senior author of the study. "When it is measured, it takes an expert at least 25 to 30 minutes, but now we can use this program to quantify plaque from CTA images in five to six seconds." Having been trained by the scientists, the AI tool accurately predicted which patients would experience a heart attack in five years based on the plaque seen in their CTA images. "More studies are needed, but it's possible we may be able to predict if and how soon a person is likely to have a heart attack based on the amount and composition of the plaque imaged with this standard test," said Dey. *Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Sleep in darkness to protect your health

17/03/2022

Sleeping with even a small amount of light may disrupt your blood sugar and cardiovascular control, new research suggests. According to the study by scientists at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, leaving a TV or bedside lamp on overnight is enough to the raise blood sugar and heart rates of healthy people. For the study – the results of which are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – 20 healthy volunteers were asked to spend two nights in the university's sleep lab. On the first night, all participants slept in a very dark room. On the second, half slept with a lighting level of 100 lux, equivalent to a TV or bedside light. Each morning, the research team investigated all the volunteers’ blood sugar control. They found that people who slept in the dimly lit room on their second night had slightly worse blood sugar control than on their first night. “They thought they slept well, but your brain knows that the lights are on,” said Senior study author Dr Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. People who had two nights under dark conditions had little difference in their blood sugar control. Zee added: “The results from this study demonstrate that just a single night of exposure to moderate room lighting during sleep can impair glucose and cardiovascular regulation, which are risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.” *Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Australia approves new malaria treatment for younger people

15/03/2022

A new malaria drug that can cure a certain type of the disease has been approved in Australia for kids and teens. Announcing the approval on Monday 14 March, the non-profit organization Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) said a single dose of tafenoquine (Kozenis) for use in combination with the traditional malaria drug chloroquine. This is the first time the drug has been authorized for use in children and will likely lead to more such approvals worldwide. Tafenoquine, which was developed by MMV and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), can cure a type of malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax, most common in South and Southeast Asia, South America and the Horn of Africa. It is estimated that P. vivax causes up to 5 million malaria infections every year, with children aged 2 to 6 four times more likely than adults to contract it, according to MMV. "We are proud to have worked with GSK to develop this child-friendly treatment and are thrilled by today's announcement. P. vivax malaria is particularly dangerous for young children for whom repeated relapses can lead to cumulative severe anemia and, in some cases, be fatal. Today, we have a tool to put a stop to the relentless relapse both for adults and children – we are one step closer to defeating this disease," Dr. David Reddy, CEO of MMV, said in a statement. The drug will be submitted for approval in nine countries, as well as to the World Health Organization, George Jagoe, an executive vice president with MMV, told The New York Times. *Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay

Having a healthy gut microbiome can improve the success of cancer treatment

01/03/2022

More is being discovered all the time about the significant role of the bacteria, fungi and other microbes that live in our stomachs and intestines when it comes to our health. Now, the largest study of its kind to date has confirmed the link between the gut microbiome and the response to cancer immunotherapy therapy for melanoma. The study, the findings of which are published in the journal Nature Medicine, was co-ordinated by King's College London, CIBIO Department of the University of Trento and European Institute of Oncology in Italy, University of Groningen in the Netherlands and funded by the Seerave Foundation. Dr Karla Lee, clinical researcher at King's College London and first author of the study, said: "Preliminary studies on a limited number of patients have suggested that the gut microbiome, as an immune system regulator, plays a role in the response of each patient to cancer immunotherapy, and particularly in the case of melanoma. This new study could have a major impact on oncology and medicine in general." It's known that dietary changes can alter the microbiome, as can next generation probiotics and faecal transplantation. This change is in turn modifying the microbiome's action on the immune system. With this new understanding of the microbiome's impact on cancer therapy effectiveness, clinicians can potentially look to alter a patient's microbiome before beginning treatment. This is potentially important because less than 50% of immunotherapy patients respond positively to treatment for melanoma. *image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

Owning a pet long term may slow cognitive decline - study

28/02/2022

Good news for pet lovers as a new study shows that having a long-term furry companion may delay memory loss and other kinds of cognitive decline. According to the preliminary study by researchers at the University of Michigan, pet ownership was especially beneficial for working verbal memory, such as memorization of word lists. The new data is expected to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 74th Annual Meeting in Seattle in April. In a press release, Dr. Tiffany Braley of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who authored the study, said: “Prior studies have suggested that the human-animal bond may have health benefits like decreasing blood pressure and stress.” However, she added, “our results suggest pet ownership may also be protective against cognitive decline.” Owning a pet for five or more years was linked to delayed ageing in the brain of adults around 65 years old. While owing a dog was found to be most beneficial, followed by owning a cat, people who cared for rabbits, hamsters, birds, fish and reptiles can also reap benefits. The bottom line is the Michigan researchers found that cognitive scores decreased at a slower rate in pet owners than non-pet owners over the six-year period. *Image by Sven Lachmann from Pixabay

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