France has become the first European country to reimburse the costs associated with remote monitoring of patients with chronic medical conditions. The initiative aims to reduce hospitalizations and enhance patient well-being. Starting from July 1, the country's health insurance scheme, Assurance Maladie, has begun refunding the expenses incurred during these remote checks, which are sometimes conducted through video calls. What is medical remote monitoring? Medical remote monitoring, known as "télésurveillance médicale" in French, involves the use of video or biomedical devices to allow healthcare professionals to monitor a patient's condition. This can include devices such as glycemic monitors, pacemakers, or other biomedical tools. It's important to note that télésurveillance médicale differs from téléconsultation, which refers to doctor appointments conducted via video. However, video calls may be incorporated into medical remote monitoring if necessary. Distance monitoring eliminates the need for patients to make frequent in-person visits to healthcare practitioners or rush to the hospital in case of an issue. Instead, patients may need to perform specific regular tasks at home and report the results to their doctor. For instance, they might be required to measure their blood pressure, monitor their weight, and complete a brief questionnaire every week, with the data being sent to their doctor. One patient, Jean-Louis Bernard, aged 74 from Caen, shared his experience with Le Monde, stating, "When you have a chronic illness, your condition can rapidly deteriorate, and if you're not careful, you may end up in the emergency room, even after consuming a meal that's too salty. Thanks to this tool, medical teams can respond to even the slightest alert and advise me remotely." His wife, Michelle, emphasized the invaluable assistance provided by remote monitoring, as it has prevented Jean-Louis from being hospitalized since he started using it, whereas hospitalizations were previously frequent. Why has reimbursement been extended to all individuals in need? The decision to make remote monitoring reimbursements accessible to all aims to achieve the following objectives: - Enhance the quality of care for patients undergoing distance monitoring. - Reduce hospitalizations and emergency room admissions by enabling patients to receive care at home. - Update healthcare processes and enhance care organization. - Improve patients' quality of life and overall comfort. Which conditions are eligible for distance monitoring? Since 2014, remote medical monitoring has been covered on an experimental basis under the ETAPES program (Experiments de télémédecine pour l'amélioration des parcours en santé) for the following five conditions: - Chronic respiratory failure - Chronic heart failure - Chronic renal failure - Diabetes Cardiac arrhythmia requiring cardiac prostheses The ETAPES program has now concluded, and distance monitoring can be implemented for any patients whose healthcare professionals determine the necessity, particularly for those who are at risk of hospitalization or health complications. The Ministry of Health has emphasized that patients must be fully informed about the process and provide their consent for monitoring. Which healthcare professionals can offer télésurveillance? According to Assurance Maladie, any doctor can refer a patient for remote monitoring. However, only healthcare professionals "whose specialities are referred to in the ministerial decrees registering telemonitoring activities, whatever their sector of practice and their place of practice” are authorized to carry out remote medical monitoring. These professionals can operate from general practitioner surgeries, nursing homes, health centers, hospitals, or clinics. *Photo by John Valette via Pexels
In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, telehealth has emerged as a transformative force, changing the way patients receive care. Coupled with wearable devices, telehealth offers a powerful combination that empowers patients to actively engage in their own self-care. This article explores the intersection of telehealth and wearable devices, highlighting their impact on patient engagement, monitoring, and overall healthcare outcomes. The Rise of Wearable Devices Wearable devices, such as fitness trackers, smartwatches, and medical wearables, have gained significant popularity among consumers. These devices provide continuous monitoring, real-time data collection, and insights into individual health metrics. They have increasingly found integration into telehealth settings, allowing for remote patient monitoring and personalized healthcare delivery. While wearable devices offer numerous benefits for patients in self-care, challenges related to data accuracy, device interoperability, and user adoption must be addressed to fully harness their potential. Telehealth and Remote Patient Monitoring Telehealth platforms seamlessly incorporate wearable device data for remote patient monitoring. This integration enables healthcare providers to remotely monitor patients' health metrics and vital signs in real-time. Continuous data collection and analysis through wearable devices facilitate proactive interventions, allowing for improved chronic disease management and preventive care. Real-life case studies have demonstrated the successful integration of wearable devices into telehealth programs, showcasing positive patient outcomes and enhanced healthcare experiences. Empowering Patients through Self-Monitoring Wearable devices play a pivotal role in encouraging self-monitoring and promoting healthy behaviors among patients. By providing real-time feedback on physical activity, sleep quality, and other health metrics, wearable devices motivate individuals to engage in regular exercise, maintain good sleep hygiene, and adopt healthier lifestyles. Patients can track a wide range of health parameters, including physical activity levels, sleep patterns, heart rate, and blood pressure. Furthermore, wearable devices leverage gamification elements and personalized feedback to enhance patient motivation and engagement, resulting in improved self-care adherence and long-term engagement. Enhancing Chronic Disease Management Wearable devices, when integrated with telehealth solutions, offer significant benefits for managing chronic conditions. For instance, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices enable remote monitoring of patients with diabetes, facilitating timely adjustments in medication or lifestyle interventions. Wearable blood pressure monitors assist in managing hypertension, while smart inhalers help monitor asthma symptoms and medication usage. These devices also improve medication adherence through reminders and alerts, reducing the risk of complications. Continuous monitoring of health metrics allows healthcare providers to detect early signs of health deteriorations, enabling timely interventions and preventing adverse events. Promoting Healthy Lifestyles and Preventive Care Wearable devices act as powerful tools for promoting healthy lifestyles and preventive care. They track physical fitness, weight management, stress levels, and other factors contributing to overall well-being. Integration with telehealth platforms enables personalized health recommendations and interventions based on collected data. Wearable devices can facilitate early detection and prevention of diseases by continuously monitoring health metrics and analyzing trends. By empowering individuals to make positive lifestyle choices and adopt healthier habits, wearable devices contribute to proactive health management and reduce healthcare costs in the long run. Final Thoughts Telehealth and wearable devices have revolutionized patient self-care, offering a personalized and proactive approach to healthcare. By incorporating wearable devices into telehealth practices, patients have the means to actively engage in their health management. However, privacy, security, and ethical considerations must be prioritized to ensure responsible use of wearable devices in self-care. As technology continues to advance, the integration of telehealth and wearable devices holds immense potential to improve patient outcomes and transform the future of healthcare. At France Surgery, we can help you get in touch with a clinician from our network of medical experts in France. Contact us today to find out more. *Image by FitNishMedia from Pixabay
Telemedicine, the practice of using technology to provide medical care remotely, is changing the way we think about healthcare. With telemedicine, patients can access medical care from the comfort of their own homes, saving time and money while improving access to care. One of the most common forms of telemedicine is virtual consultations. Through videoconferencing, patients can connect with healthcare providers to discuss their symptoms, receive a diagnosis, and even receive a prescription for medication. Virtual consultations are particularly useful for patients who live in rural or remote areas, or who have difficulty traveling to appointments due to mobility issues or other health concerns. Telemedicine is also transforming how diagnostic tests are performed. With digital diagnostics, patients can perform certain tests at home, such as monitoring blood sugar levels or taking blood pressure readings, and then transmit the data to their healthcare provider for analysis. This allows doctors to monitor their patients' health more closely and make more informed decisions about their care. Another area where telemedicine is having a significant impact is in mental health care. With telemedicine, patients can access mental health services from anywhere with an internet connection. This is particularly important for people who live in areas where mental health services are scarce or who have difficulty accessing traditional mental health care due to stigma or other barriers. While there are many benefits to telemedicine, there are also limitations to be aware of. For example, telemedicine may not be suitable for all medical conditions or situations, and there may be limitations to the types of treatments that can be provided remotely. Overall, however, telemedicine is an exciting development in healthcare that has the potential to improve access to care, reduce costs, and improve health outcomes for patients around the world. *Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
As they say, “prevention is better than cure”, yet many people only visit their healthcare physician when they feel significantly unwell. Sometimes, sadly, depending on how long they have left it, their treatment options and prognoses can be more limited. Early detection and intervention of health issues can have several benefits. Some of the main reasons why it's important to identify health issues early include: – Increased treatment options: If a health issue is detected early, there may be more treatment options available, and the treatment may also be less aggressive and more effective. – Improved outcomes: Early detection and treatment of health issues can lead to better outcomes, such as a greater chance of recovery or remission. – Reduced risk of complications: Early detection can help to reduce the risk of complications from a health issue, such as the development of chronic conditions or secondary illnesses. – Increased chance of survival: For some health issues, such as certain types of cancer, early detection can greatly increase your chance of survival. – Cost savings: Treating health issues in their early stages can be less expensive than waiting until they are more advanced and harder to treat. This can also reduce the burden on the healthcare system. Overall, early detection is crucial for preventing or minimizing the consequences of a disease, which is why preventive screenings, regular check-ups, and being aware of potential health concerns are important. Here are 5 ways you can ward off health issues: 1. Eat a balanced diet: Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help to keep the body healthy and ward off disease. 2. Get regular exercise: Regular physical activity has been shown to improve overall health, reducing the risk of chronic disease, and promoting longevity. 3. Get enough sleep: Getting adequate sleep is essential for maintaining good health and can help to improve immune function and prevent chronic disease. 4. Manage stress: Chronic stress can have a negative impact on overall health, so it's important to find ways to manage and reduce stress, such as through meditation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques. 5. Preventive health screenings: Regular check-ups and screening tests can help to detect and prevent health issues in their early stages, when they are more treatable. This includes tests like blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer screening,and sexual health checks.
In our last blog, we explained why regular health check ups are a must. But if you haven’t had one for some time, you might not know what to expect. Don’t worry; we’re here to provide you with some of the common aspects of a physical examination (exam) so you know what to expect. Still not sure about the importance of regular medical check ups? According to one published in the American Journal of Medicine, inadequate physical examination is a significant source of medical errors and subsequent adverse effects. So what can you expect from a physical exam? Updated health history First and foremost, any good doctor will ask you about your health history. This will include any past problems, as well as new developments and changes. This is your opportunity to explain any concerns you may have and provide your physician with as much information as possible so they have as clear a picture as possible of your overall health. During this part of the physical exam, be prepared to answer questions relating to your lifestyle, like whether you smoke, how much alcohol you drink, the amount of exercise you get and possibly dietary habits. It’s important to be honest, as it’s only yourself you’re doing an injustice to if you’re not. Vital sign checks Another important part of any physical exam are the vital sign checks. These standard tests provide a benchmark of your health based on a set of recommended guidelines. Vital sign checks will involve taking your blood pressure (anything less than 120/90 is considered “normal”), measuring your heart rate (between 60 and 100 is considered “normal”), checking your respiratory rate (12 to 16 breaths per minute is “normal” for a healthy adult) and taking your temperature (“normal” body temperature can range between 97 F (36.1 C) and 99 F (37.2 C)). Visual and physical exams The final aspect of your physical exam will comprise a series of visual and physical tests, designed to look for signs of any potential problems or medical conditions. The visual exam will include examination of the following: - Head - Eyes - Ears - Nose - Chest - Abdomen - Musculoskeletal system, such as your hands and wrists - Nervous system/neurological functions, such as reflexes, balance and speech and walking The physical exam will comprise: - Touching, or “palpating,” parts of your body (like your abdomen) to feel for anything unusual - Checking your skin, hair, and nails - Checking your organ size and shape - A possible examination of your genitalia and rectum When was the last time you had a physical exam? If it’s been a while, maybe it’s time you considered having one. Look out for our blog next week on the additional laboratory and screening tests you can expect during a physical exam.
In our last blog, we explained why regular health check ups are a must. But if you haven’t had one for some time, you might not know what to expect. Don’t worry; we’re here to provide you with some of the common aspects of a physical examination (exam) so you know what to expect. Still not sure about the importance of regular medical check ups? According to one published in the American Journal of Medicine, inadequate physical examination is a significant source of medical errors and subsequent adverse effects. So what can you expect from a physical exam? Updated health history First and foremost, any good doctor will ask you about your health history. This will include any past problems, as well as new developments and changes. This is your opportunity to explain any concerns you may have and provide your physician with as much information as possible so they have as clear a picture as possible of your overall health. During this part of the physical exam, be prepared to answer questions relating to your lifestyle, like whether you smoke, how much alcohol you drink, the amount of exercise you get and possibly dietary habits. It’s important to be honest, as it’s only yourself you’re doing an injustice to if you’re not. Vital sign checks Another important part of any physical exam are the vital sign checks. These standard tests provide a benchmark of your health based on a set of recommended guidelines. Vital sign checks will involve taking your blood pressure (anything less than 120/90 is considered “normal”), measuring your heart rate (between 60 and 100 is considered “normal”), checking your respiratory rate (12 to 16 breaths per minute is “normal” for a healthy adult) and taking your temperature (“normal” body temperature can range between 97 F (36.1 C) and 99 F (37.2 C)). Visual and physical exams The final aspect of your physical exam will comprise a series of visual and physical tests, designed to look for signs of any potential problems or medical conditions. The visual exam will include examination of the following: Head Eyes Ears Nose Chest Abdomen Musculoskeletal system, such as your hands and wrists Nervous system/neurological functions, such as reflexes, balance and speech and walking The physical exam will comprise: Touching, or “palpating,” parts of your body (like your abdomen) to feel for anything unusual Checking your skin, hair, and nails Checking your organ size and shape A possible examination of your genitalia and rectum When was the last time you had a physical exam? If it’s been a while, maybe it’s time you considered having one. Look out for our blog next week on the additional laboratory and screening tests you can expect during a physical exam.
In our last blog, we explained why regular health check ups are a must. But if you haven’t had one for some time, you might not know what to expect. Don’t worry; we’re here to provide you with some of the common aspects of a physical examination (exam) so you know what to expect. Still not sure about the importance of regular medical check ups? According to one published in the American Journal of Medicine, inadequate physical examination is a significant source of medical errors and subsequent adverse effects. So what can you expect from a physical exam? Updated health history First and foremost, any good doctor will ask you about your health history. This will include any past problems, as well as new developments and changes. This is your opportunity to explain any concerns you may have and provide your physician with as much information as possible so they have as clear a picture as possible of your overall health. During this part of the physical exam, be prepared to answer questions relating to your lifestyle, like whether you smoke, how much alcohol you drink, the amount of exercise you get and possibly dietary habits. It’s important to be honest, as it’s only yourself you’re doing an injustice to if you’re not. Vital sign checks Another important part of any physical exam are the vital sign checks. These standard tests provide a benchmark of your health based on a set of recommended guidelines. Vital sign checks will involve taking your blood pressure (anything less than 120/90 is considered “normal”), measuring your heart rate (between 60 and 100 is considered “normal”), checking your respiratory rate (12 to 16 breaths per minute is “normal” for a healthy adult) and taking your temperature (“normal” body temperature can range between 97 F (36.1 C) and 99 F (37.2 C)). Visual and physical exams The final aspect of your physical exam will comprise a series of visual and physical tests, designed to look for signs of any potential problems or medical conditions. The visual exam will include examination of the following: Head Eyes Ears Nose Chest Abdomen Musculoskeletal system, such as your hands and wrists Nervous system/neurological functions, such as reflexes, balance and speech and walking The physical exam will comprise: Touching, or “palpating,” parts of your body (like your abdomen) to feel for anything unusual Checking your skin, hair, and nails Checking your organ size and shape A possible examination of your genitalia and rectum When was the last time you had a physical exam? If it’s been a while, maybe it’s time you considered having one. Look out for our blog next week on the additional laboratory and screening tests you can expect during a physical exam. *Image by Hamilton Viana Viana from Pixabay
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
Reducing salt intake by just 1g per day can significantly lower a person's risk of heart disease, a new study has found. According to the Chinese study, published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, & Health, almost 9 million cardiovascular events could be prevented each year by 2030 if people cut their salt intake by just 1g per day. Despite the World Health Organization recommending people to eat a maximum of 5g of salt per day, the researchers noted that China has one of the highest daily salt intakes in the world with an average consumption of 11 grams per day – more than twice the WHO recommended amount. Furthermore, around 40 per cent of all deaths in China are associated with or because of cardiovascular disease. Specifically, the researchers found that reducing salt by 1g per day could lower the average systolic blood pressure by 1.2 mm/Hg, potentially preventing 9 million cardiovascular disease events and stroke cases by 2030 – of which 4 million would be fatal. “While this study focused on the salt intake in China, the benefits of salt reduction in an American diet are well established,” Dr. Jeffrey Tyler, a cardiologist with Providence St. Joseph Hospital in California, told Healthline. “People who are middle or older age, diabetic, with kidney disease… benefit, even more, when reducing salt intake.” *Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay
The American Heart Association (AHA) has added sleep to its cardiovascular health checklist for the first time. Sleep now joins diet, exercise, tobacco use, weight, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and blood pressure on the association's list of factors people can modify to stay healthy. The AHA published its new checklist, called “Life’s Essential 8,” in the journal Circulation on June 29. The old checklist, created in 2010, was known as “Life’s Simple 7.” “Not only is sleep health related to the other things that play a role in heart health, it seems to also be directly related to cardiovascular health itself,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, the director of the sleep and health research program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, who helped compile the new AHA checklist. “Sleep is changeable, and studies show that you can improve aspects of heart health just by improving sleep,” Dr. Grandner says. People who get less than six hours of good quality sleep a night are at increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, as well as worse mental and cognitive health, Grandner says. Likewise, those who get more than nine hours of sleep a night are also less likely to be healthy and more likely to die prematurely, he added. *Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay
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
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
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
Initially, when the COVID-19 outbreak first happened, many thought the SARS-CoV-2 virus caused mainly respiratory problems. And while that assumption still holds true, new research shows that the disease can actually impact multiple organs in a person's body. The new study, the results of which appear in the BMJ, sought to discover whether adults develop other health conditions after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. For the research, a team led by Dr. Ken Cohen, executive director of translational research at Optum Labs, studied the health insurance records of 133,366 adults aged 65+ in the United States who had received a COVID-19 diagnosis before April 1, 2020. The researchers compared the records to individuals who did not have COVID-19 in 2019 or 2020 and individuals who had a lower respiratory tract infection but not COVID-19. The team then identified new conditions occurring 3 weeks or more after each participant’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Of those individuals who had a SARS-CoV-2 infection in 2020, 32% sought medical attention for a new or persistent condition. This was 11% higher than the comparison group from 2020. Among the new or persistent conditions were respiratory failure, fatigue, high blood pressure, memory issues, kidney injury, mental health-related diagnoses, hypercoagulability and cardiac rhythm disorders. Dr. Alicia Arbaje, director of Transitional Care Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine and a clinician at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, said: “I think this work is significant. First, because it focuses on older adults, and this is the population that’s most likely to demonstrate long-term effects from this infection, and so I think it’s important and timely given the phase of the pandemic that we’re in.” [Related reading: Long Covid may hinder women's response, recovery from exercise] *Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay
Magnesium is an essential macromineral, which means we all need to consume relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the recommended daily amount of magnesium adults 19-51+ years should consume is 400-420 mg daily for men and 310-320 mg for women. Almonds, cashews, peanuts and spinach are all good sources of magnesium. But walnuts are even more magnesium-rich, providing around 158mg of the macromineral per 100g. Consuming enough magnesium in your diet is linked with a number of health benefits, including healthy bones, lower type 2 diabetes risk and better cardiovascular health. Magnesium is also linked to improved muscle contraction and nerve transmission, as well as better regulated blood pressure and boosted immunity. Previous research has shown that mice on a low-magnesium diet experience faster rates of cancer spread. Furthermore, said mice have weaker immune defenses against influenza viruses. Now, Swiss scientists have discovered that a type of immune cell, called a cytotoxic or “killer” T cell, need magnesium to do their jobs and eliminate cancerous or infected cells. The researchers discovered that magnesium activates a protein called LFA-1 on the surface of cytotoxic T cells, which they use to lock on to their targets. Senior author Dr. Christoph Hess, Ph.D., from the University of Basel in Switzerland and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, explains: “In the inactive state, this docking site is in a bent conformation and thus cannot efficiently bind to infected or abnormal cells.” “If magnesium is present in sufficient quantities in the vicinity of the T cells, it binds to LFA-1 and ensures that it remains in an extended — and therefore active — position.” The researchers also found, through analyzing data from past clinical trials of cancer immunotherapies, that low serum levels of magnesium were associated with more rapid disease progression and shorter survival. The Swiss study appears in the journal Cell. *image by Pera Detlic from Pixabay
A new study has, worryingly, revealed that one in five people who have hypertension (high blood pressure) take medication that actually increases blood pressure. This revelation is particularly pertinent considering that nearly half of US adults have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Medical advice says people's blood presasure should, ideally, be under 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Now, researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, United States, a Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital, have discovered that a significant proportion of people with hypertension are actually taking medication that may raise blood pressure. Indeed, according to the team's research, which looked at data relating to some 27,599 US adults, nearly one in five with hypertension were on medication that could raise their blood pressure. In fact, the authors found that a total of 15% of all adults were on these medications. While it was expected that some of the individuals would be taking prescription medications that could raise blood pressure, the researchers were surprised to find that there were so many. Speaking to Medical News Today, letter co-author, Dr. Timothy Anderson, said: “In some cases, these medications are appropriate, as they are treating an important issue without a better alternative. However, in many cases, I think the risk of raising blood pressure is simply overlooked, particularly for patients using these medications for many years.” The results of the study cited in this article appear in a research letter in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. *image courtesy of Image by Gerald Oswald from Pixabay
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says nearly half of American adults are living with high blood pressure (hypertension). Left untreated, this hypertension can lead to serious cardiovascular conditions, such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure. Individuals with hypertension are often advised to reduce their salt intake, as doing so can help reduce blood pressure levels. Now, a group of researchers from Pennsylvania State University has decided to investigate the health effects of herbs and spices, particularly whether they can benefit people with hypertension. The researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial to look at the effect of longer-term consumption of herbs and spices on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. They found that a higher level of herbs and spices in food reduced 24-hour blood pressure readings. The findings appear in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Speaking to Medical News Today, Prof. Penny Kris-Etherton, one of the lead authors of the study, said: “Indeed, the blood pressure-lowering effects of herbs and spices in an average Western diet were surprising to me. “We [already know] about the effects of many lifestyle factors, especially dietary factors, that can increase blood pressure — such as sodium, alcohol, and caffeine — and others that can decrease blood pressure, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, […] weight loss, physical activity, and some vitamins, including folate and vitamin D when intake is low, but the blood pressure-lowering effects of herbs and spices are new!” *Image by monicore from Pixabay
Residents of Milam County, Texas, who saw the only two hospitals in their county close in 2018, will soon be able to take advantage of an unattended telehealth station. The $200,000 OnMed station is part of a $10 million grant from Blue Shield of Texas to A&M University to address the rural area's healthcare needs. With a large touchscreen, thermal camera, weight scale, stethoscope, and handheld camera, the telehealth station is capable of checking several aspects of a patient’s health. Furthermore, with a quick press of the touchscreen, patients are connected to a healthcare professional more than a thousand miles away, at the Tampa headquarters of OnMed. The professional, usually either a nursing assistant or nurse practitioner, is able to talk the patient through undertaking some basic checks, including blood pressure, respiratory readings, and blood oxygen saturation. There is even a dispensary attached to the booth which enables patients to get meds like common antibiotics, blood pressure, and diabetes medication instantly. At the end of each teleconsultation, an ultraviolet sanitizes all of the surfaces and equipment inside the booth ready for the next patient. Residents of Milam County will initially be able to use the telehealth station for two years, after which time a decision will be made on its future. Patients with or without insurance can take advantage of the telehealth station for as little as $45 to $65 per consultation. OnMed is also working with Auburn and Tuskegee with a view to placing stations in rural Alabama. CEO Austin White expects as many as 15 stations to be in operation across the country by the end of the year. *Main image credit: OnMed
Several studies have revealed that COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting men and the potential reasons include everything from biology to bad habits. According to the World Health Organization, men have accounted for 69% of COVID-19 related deaths in Europe. Meanwhile, reports suggest that in New York City men have been dying from COVID-19 at almost twice the rate of women. It is thought that both genetics and lifestyle choices play a part when it comes to COVID-19 outcomes in men. First and foremost, because of their extra X chromosome, women have stronger immune systems and respond better to infections than men. Then there is the fact that more elderly men suffer from heart disease than elderly women and that high blood pressure and liver disease are more prevalent in men too. All of these conditions are factors that are associated with more negative COVID-19 outcomes. In addition, men are statistically more likely to smoke than women. In fact, according to Our World in Data figures, more than one-third (35%) of men in the world smoke, compared to just over 6% of women. With smoking one of the biggest risk factors for chronic lung disease, men are at a much greater disadvantage should they get COVID-19. [Related reading: Can you catch the new coronavirus twice?]
It’s a well-known fact that sleep is of utmost importance to health. Specifically, it’s been shown that a lack of high-quality sleep negatively impacts our resilience, productivity and performance. Furthermore, long-term chronic sleep deprivation is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Now, new research suggests that irregular sleeping patterns may contribute to the risk of cardiovascular problems. The study was carried out by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, who analysed data from 1,992 patients in their 60s and 70s with no cardiovascular problems at baseline. They found that those who had the most irregular sleep patterns (defined as 2 hours or more difference in sleep duration each night) had a twofold plus increased risk of cardiovascular disease than patients with one hour or less difference in sleep duration. Importantly, even after adjusting for other risk factors, patients with irregular sleep patterns remained at significant risk of cardiovascular events. Publishing their findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the researchers said: “Our study indicates that healthy sleep isn’t just about quantity but also about variability and that this can have an important effect on heart health.” Do you get enough sleep each night? Is your sleeping pattern pretty irregular? If not, you could be increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Remember, getting enough high-quality sleep is extremely important and beneficial to your health.
We recently wrote about how avoiding five specific bad habits can significantly extend your life. Now, a new meta-analysis published in The BMJ adds further weight to the argument for eating less salt and being healthier. According to the meta-analysis of 133 clinically randomised trials, lowering salt intake reduces blood pressure – even in individuals who are not yet at risk of hypertension-related conditions. This is important because heart disease is the number one global killer and high blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease. Furthermore, hypertension is also the leading cause of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease, highlighting how potentially beneficial a low slat diet could be for many people. Interestingly, the research found that the greater the reduction in salt intake, the greater the benefit to blood pressure. At present, U.S. government guidelines advise Americans to not consume more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of salt per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. However, the vast majority of U.S. adults are eating more sodium than they should -- average of more than 3,400 mg each day. One of the biggest problems is the amount of salt that is contained in manufactured foods, which is usually added to enhance flavour, texture and colour, as well as improve longevity. So even if you don’t reach for the salt shaker at every mealtime, you could still be consuming too much. It’s good to get into the habit of checking the foods you buy to see how much they all contain. After all, just a small reduction could significantly improve your health and reduce your risk of early mortality. Speaking about the findings of the research, lead author Feng He, a researcher at Queen Mary University of London, said: “The totality of evidence in the JACC review and this latest BMJ research shows that reducing our salt intake will be immensely beneficial.”
Scientists believe they have discovered the reason why stress can make hair turn white. They’ve also found a potential way of preventing it from happening which doesn’t involve hair dye. In a chance finding while studying mice, the scientists noticed that dark-furred mice turned completely white within weeks after experiencing stress. The reason for this, the scientists say, is because the stress damaged stem cells that control hair and skin colour. The US and Brazilian researchers say their discovery is significant as it could lead to new treatments being developed that can protect hair colour from the effects of stress and ageing. Publishing their findings in the journal Nature, the researchers Universities of Sao Paulo and Harvard say the effects are linked to melanocyte stem cells, which produce melanin and are responsible for hair and skin colour. In a separate experiment, the researchers found they could prevent stress from affecting hair colour by giving the mice an anti-hypertensive, which treats high blood pressure. They were also able to identify the specific protein that causes damage to the stem cells. When this protein, cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK), was suppressed, mice that were subjected to stress did not experience the same fur colour change. It’s a breakthrough that could lead to drugs being developed which suppress CDK and delay the onset of grey/white hair.
While it’s not possible or practical for everyone, training for and completing a marathon significantly improves the health of a new runner’s arteries, a study suggests. For the study, researchers from Barts and University College London analysed 138 novice runners attempting the London Marathon. Following six months of training, the runners’ arteries were seen to regain some youthful elasticity, something which should reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, the runners’ blood pressure fell by as much as if they had been prescribed medication. Interestingly, those who were the least fit before the training appeared to afford the most health benefits. The best news is that the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the study, says smaller amounts of aerobic exercise are likely to have a similar effect, meaning people don’t necessarily need to train for a marathon to benefit. Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Metin Avkiran, an Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “The benefits of exercise are undeniable. Keeping active reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and cuts your chances of an early death.” According to NHS England guidelines, every week, adults should do a minimum of either: 150 minutes moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, doubles tennis or cycling 75 minutes vigorous exercise, such as running, football or rugby It’s also important to do strengthening activities - such as push-ups, sit-ups or lifting and carrying - at least twice a week.
People who take daily blood pressure medication should take it just before bedtime to get the most out of it, researchers say. Writing in the European Heart Journal, the researchers say that while it may sound like a very simple tip, it’s one that could save lives. The reason why taking such medication at bedtime is more beneficial is because our body clocks alter the way our bodies respond to it. At night, our blood pressure is typically lower than it is during the day. However, if for some reason our blood pressure does not dip and remains consistently high, our chances of having a stroke or heart attack significantly increase. The study found that patients who took their daily blood pressure medication before bedtime had significantly lower average blood pressure both at night and during the day than those who took their medication in the morning. Their blood pressure also dipped more at night. Lead researcher Prof Ramon Hermida, from the University of Vigo in Spain, said doctors should consider recommending their patients take their daily blood pressure medication at night going forward – especially as it’s “totally cost-free. It might save a lot of lives. “Current guidelines on the treatment of hypertension do not recommend any preferred treatment time. Morning ingestion has been the most common recommendation by physicians based on the misleading goal of reducing morning blood pressure levels. “The results of this study show that patients who routinely take their anti-hypertensive medication at bedtime, as opposed to when they wake up, have better-controlled blood pressure and, most importantly, a significantly decreased risk of death or illness from heart and blood vessel problems.” The next step is to determine whether the findings of the study apply to different brands of blood pressure medication. Lifestyle factors that have an impact on blood pressure: Smoking Drinking too much alcohol Being overweight Not doing enough exercise Eating too much salt
Gum disease is linked to an increased risk of hypertension, a new study has found. Furthermore, the more sever the gum disease, the greater a person’s risk of high blood pressure. The research by University College London's Eastman Dental Institute – the findings of which appear in the journal Cardiovascular Research – shows people with periodontitis (an advanced form of gum disease) have a higher risk of hypertension. Hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), affects 32% of all American adults, and as many as 47.2% of people aged over 30 have some form of gum disease, which is why the new research is so intriguing. While the two conditions may appear to be completely unrelated, the new research shows otherwise. And when you consider that high blood pressure is the leading cause of premature death worldwide, affecting up to 45% of adults, the findings of the study could result in much more attention being paid to combatting gum disease going forward. Specifically, the research revealed an association between moderate-to-severe periodontitis and a 22% higher risk of hypertension, Moreover, severe periodontitis was linked to a 49% higher risk of hypertension. Speaking about the findings of their research, senior author Prof. Francesco D'Aiuto, from the University College London Eastman Dental Institute in the United Kingdom, said: “Previous research suggests a connection between periodontitis and hypertension and that dental treatment might improve blood pressure, but to date, the findings are inconclusive. “Hypertension could be the driver of heart attack and stroke in patients with periodontitis,” he added.
A pill that contains four different medicines and is designed to be taken daily could dramatically reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes, a new study has found. The polypill – which is the generic term used to describe a medication that contains multiple active pharmaceutical ingredients – contains aspirin, a cholesterol-lowering statin and two drugs to reduce blood pressure. For the study, researchers from Iran and the UK studied around 6,800 people from more than 100 villages in Iran. Half were given the polypill and advice on how to improve their health through lifestyle changes and the other half were just given the lifestyle changes advice. After five years, the group taking the polypill had experienced 202 cardiovascular events, while the group that had just been given the advice had experienced 301 cardiovascular events. In other words, the group taking the polypill had experienced around a third less cardiovascular events. The researchers say the pill costs just pennies a day, but could have a huge impact, especially in poorer countries where doctors have fewer options available to them. Stroke and coronary heart disease are the top two causes of death worldwide, killing more than 15 million people each year. Obesity, smoking and doing little exercise are all risk factors associated with an unhealthy heart. Based on the findings of the study, if 35 people were all given the polypill daily, it would prevent one of them developing a major heart problem within 5 years. “Given the polypill's affordability, there is considerable potential to improve cardiovascular health and to prevent the world's leading cause of death,” said Dr Nizal Sarrafzadegan, of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran. The findings of the research are published in The Lancet.
Having high blood pressure before middle age may pose a risk to brain health in later life. According to a new study, the results of which are published in The Lancet Neurology, the “window of opportunity” to safeguard brain health runs from the mid-30s to the early-50s. And having high blood pressure in the 30s and 40s could lead to blood vessel damage and brain shrinkage. For the study, a team of researchers from UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology followed 500 people born in 1946. Throughout the study, participants had their blood pressure measured and had brain scans. The researchers found that blood pressure increases between the ages of 36 and 43 were linked to brain shrinkage. Moreover, blood pressure increases between 43 and 53 were associated with blood vessel damage or “mini strokes” when people reach their 70s. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: “High blood pressure in midlife is one of the strongest lifestyle risk factors for dementia, and one that is in our control to easily monitor and manage. “Research is already suggesting that more aggressive treatment of high blood pressure in recent years could be improving the brain health of today's older generations. “We must continue to build on this insight by detecting and managing high blood pressure even for those in early midlife.”
Most people feel nervous ahead of surgery, even if the procedure they’re about to undergo is straightforward. To calm these nerves, patients are often given medication. But a new study suggests that music could be just as effective. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, a special song written to reduce anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate performed as well as a sedative for calming patients ahead of surgery. For the trial, 157 surgery patients were either given the drug midazolam or play the so-called “world’s most relaxing song”, Weightless by UK band Marconi Union, while they were being given an anaesthetic to numb a part of their body. Patient anxiety was equally reduced in both groups, suggesting the music was an effective alternative to the drugs. The great news about this is the music medicine is both free and completely safe, whereas the drugs cost money and can have side effects. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Veena Graff, assistant professor of anaesthesiology and critical care at the University Of Pennsylvania Perelman School Of Medicine, said: “Music lights up the emotional area of the brain, the reward system and the pleasure pathways. “It means patients can be in their own world, they can be comfortable and have full control.” Intrigued what the world’s most relaxing song sounds like? Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JNM-xPZXgI
A major study has found that the UK has a big obesity problem, and that there are severe health implications for people who are even just a little overweight. According to the research, which was funded by healthcare firm Novo Nordisk, individuals with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30-35 were 70% more likely to develop heart failure than their healthy weight peers (18.5-25 BMI). Furthermore, the study of 2.8 million adults also showed that people who were even slightly overweight were twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. The study, which is due to be presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow, also revealed: The risk of Type 2 diabetes for people with a BMI of 35-40 was almost nine times higher People with severe obesity (BMI of 40-45) were 12 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes People with severe obesity also had triple the risk of heart failure, high blood pressure, and dyslipidaemia (elevated levels of total or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, or low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol) A BMI of 40-45 was also linked with a 50% higher risk of dying prematurely from any cause Speaking about the findings of the study, Public Health England said “sustained action” was needed to tackle obesity.
We recently wrote about how just one rasher of bacon a day can increase bowel cancer risk. Now, new research has revealed that replacing red meat with plant protein can reduce heart disease risk. For the study, researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, and Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, conducted a meta-analysis of trials comparing the effects of meat vs. other diets on our health. The results are published in the journal Circulation. It was an approach that allowed the researchers to not only examine the health effects of red meat, but also see whether substituting red meat for other protein sources brought benefits. Analyzing data from 36 randomized controlled trials, the researchers looked at the blood pressure and blood concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoproteins of the participants. They then compared these levels with those of people who ate less red meat and more chicken, fish, legumes, soy, nuts, or carbohydrates. They found that while there wasn’t much difference in lipoproteins, blood pressure, or total cholesterol, diets high in red meat did cause an increase in triglyceride concentrations. In addition, diets rich in high-quality plant protein led to lower levels of bad cholesterol. Speaking about the findings of the research, Marta Guasch-Ferré, lead author of the study and research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “Previous findings from randomized controlled trials evaluating the effects of red meat on cardiovascular disease risk factors have been inconsistent. “But, our new study, which makes specific comparisons between diets high in red meat versus diets high in other types of foods, shows that substituting red meat with high-quality protein sources lead to more favorable changes in cardiovascular risk factors.”
Previous claims that one or two alcoholic drinks a day doesn’t do any harm and could actually be protective are now in significant jeopardy following the publication of a large genetic study in The Lancet. According to the UK and Chinese researchers who followed 500,000 Chinese people over a 10-year period, the findings of the study are the best evidence yet on the direct effects of alcohol. While the negative health implications of heavy drinking are understood, the impact of consuming small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis has remained unclear. The researchers, from the University of Oxford, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, found that: drinking one to two alcoholic drinks every day increased stroke risk by 10-15% drinking four alcoholic drinks every day increased stroke risk by 35% For the purposes of the study, one drink was defined as either: a small glass of wine a bottle of beer a single measure of spirits In other words, even light-to-moderate drinking can increase blood pressure and a person’s chances of having a stroke. Prof David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, said drinking alcohol on a daily basis gives the “opposite effect of taking a statin” (drugs that are used to lower cholesterol levels). The bottom line, according to Prof Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, is the “claims that wine and beer have magical protective effects is not borne out”.
Our daily diets are bigger killers than smoking and account for one in five deaths around the world. In other words, the food you eat could be sending you to an early grave. But which diets are the worst? Well, according to an influential study in The Lancet, salt – whether it be in bread, processed meals or soy sauce – shortens the most lives. The Global Burden of Disease Study used estimates of different countries’ eating habits to determine which diets were shortening the most lives. Here are the three most dangerous diets: Too much salt - three million deaths Too few whole grains - three million deaths Too little fruit - two million deaths Low levels of seeds, nuts, vegetables, fibre and omega-3 from seafood were the other major killers. Speaking to the BBC, Prof Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said: “We find that diet is one of the dominant drivers of health around the world, it's really quite profound.” Salt is such a big problem because it significantly increases a person’s blood pressure, which in turn increases their chances of heart attacks and strokes. Around 10 million out of the 11 million diet-related deaths were because of cardiovascular disease, highlighting why diets containing too much salt are such a problem.
A new study has revealed that half of UK adults cannot name a single dementia risk factor. If asked, how many could you name? The study by Alzheimer's Research UK found that just 1% of UK adults could name the seven known dementia risk or protective factors. Heavy drinking, smoking, genetics, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes are the six dementia risk factors, while physical exercise is a protective factor. According to the study, more than half of UK adults know someone with dementia, yet only half also recognised that the disease is a cause of death. Furthermore, a fifth of people quizzed for the report incorrectly said that dementia is an inevitable part of getting old. Right now, there are more than 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and that number is expected to top one million by 2025. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for around two-thirds of all cases. Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It is a sad truth that more people are affected by dementia than ever before and half of us now know someone with the condition. Yet despite growing dementia awareness, we must work harder to improve understanding of the diseases that cause it.” You can read the full Alzheimer’s Research UK report here: https://www.dementiastatistics.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Dementia-Attitudes-Monitor-Wave-1-Report.pdf#zoom=100
People who have sedentary jobs could significantly boost their lifespans by taking short, regular movement breaks, a new study has found. It’s no secret that individuals who spend a lot of time sitting down are more likely to develop certain adverse health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases, as well as having increased risk of osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, colon cancer and high blood pressure. However, just a small amount of exercise, the study suggests, could lower the risk of early death. According to the research – the findings of which are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine – individuals who sat for less than 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of early death. For example, workers who had a movement break (involving some low-intensity exercise) every 30 minutes had a 17% lower risk of death than their counterparts who did not have any breaks. Moreover, individuals who broke up periods of sitting every 30 minutes with moderate- to high-intensity exercise lowered their risk of early death by 35%. Speaking about the findings of the research, Keith Diaz, an assistant professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City and study lead, said: “If you have a job or lifestyle that involves a lot of sitting, you can lower your risk of early death by moving more often, for as long as you want and as your ability allows — whether that means taking an hour-long high-intensity spin class or choosing lower-intensity activities, like walking.”
The inevitable abundance of food and alcohol you consumed over the festive period has probably left you feeling as though you need to detox a little now the New Year is here. One of the simplest ways to do this is by choosing to not drink alcohol for the entire month of January. Started by UK-based charity Alcohol Change UK, Dry January, as it is known, has become something of a widespread phenomenon, with an estimated 4.2 million people in the UK alone expected to participate this year. Taking part is easy. All you have to do is not drink any alcoholic drinks throughout the month of January. If you’ve curbed your drinking already this month, well done! If you haven’t, it’s not too late to start. Here are some of the health benefits of quitting alcohol for at least a month: Save money (alcoholic drinks can be expensive) Improve your general health (you can potentially lower your blood pressure and cholesterol) Promote weight loss (alcoholic drinks contain plenty of calories) Sleep better (alcohol is not your best friend when you want a good night’s sleep) Improve your long-term relationship with alcohol (prove to yourself that you don’t need it and don’t have to rely on it going forward) Are you up for the Dry January challenge? It’s only for a month and the potential health benefits speak for themselves.
How’s your blood pressure? Do you even know? If you haven’t had it checked recently, your blood pressure could be creeping up (getting higher) and you might not have even realised. In fact, high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is often called a “silent killer” because it rarely causes symptoms until a person’s health is already severely damaged. That’s why keeping an eye on your blood pressure and looking out for any potential symptoms is so important. Failure to seek treatment when you have high blood pressure can lead to serious health complications such as stroke and heart disease. This is ironic when you consider that hypertension can usually be treated with lifestyle changes and/or medication. So what high blood pressure warning signs should you be looking out for? First and foremost, the only way to check whether you have high blood pressure or not is to have it checked by a health professional, or check it yourself providing you know how to and have the necessary equipment. Remember, just because you feel ‘fine’ does not mean you aren’t at risk of hypertension. If your blood pressure becomes extremely high (above 180/120 mmHg), something referred to as ‘hypertensive crisis’, you may experience any of the following symptoms: Severe headaches Nosebleeds Severe fatigue Chest pain Irregular heartbeat Vision problems Back pain Severe anxiety Blood in your urine Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing) Hypertensive crisis is a medical emergency and immediate intervention is required to prevent serious damage to blood vessels and major organs. So, in short, you are unlikely to know whether you have elevated blood pressure or not until serious damage has occurred. Get your blood pressure checked regularly and heed any advice from medical professionals on how to keep yours at a healthy level.
Alcohol and the amount people drink is the frequent focus of medical studies. However, studying alcohol consumption often results in mixed findings. For example, while drinking too much alcohol can result in liver disease and high blood pressure, other studies have shown that a glass of beer or wine a day can help people live longer. [Related reading: Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding: new study shows possible child cognitive development impact] Now a new study suggests people who abstain from alcohol in middle age may have a heightened risk of dementia later in life. The long-term study, which tracked the health of more than 9,000 civil servants in London, found that middle-aged people who drank over the recommended alcohol limit each week and those who abstained completely were more likely to develop dementia. Specifically, abstinence in midlife was associated with a 45% greater risk of developing dementia compare to people who drank between one and 14 units of alcohol per week. But before you reach for a glass of wine, it should be noted that early life alcohol consumption was not taken into account for the study. People who are teetotal in midlife may have a history of heavy alcohol consumption in their younger years. Indeed, Dr Sara Imarisio, the head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “As this study only looked at people’s drinking in midlife, we don’t know about their drinking habits earlier in adulthood, and it is possible that this may contribute to their later life dementia risk.” The results of the study were recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Doctors should take a person’s marital status into account when assessing their risk of heart attack and stroke, a major study has found. For the study, researchers at Keele University analysed numerous trials involving more than two million people. They found that individuals who were never married, divorced or widowed were 42% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. They were also 42% more likely to die from heart disease and 55% more likely to die from a stroke. Risk factors such as age, sex, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes are usually associated with cardiovascular disease. However, the findings of the new study suggest marital status should also be added to the list. Senior author, Mamas Mamas, Professor of Cardiology at Keele University, in England, said: “Our work suggests that marital status should be considered in patients with or at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and should be used alongside more traditional cardiac risk factors to identify those patients that may be at higher risk for future cardiovascular events”. The researchers say the reason marriage could have a protective effect on cardiovascular disease is because of the additional emotional and social support that’s afforded by having a spouse. People with long-term partners are more likely to have symptoms spotted earlier and encouraged to seek medical advice as a result.
Have you ever encountered someone who calls themself ‘fat but fit’? It’s not uncommon to meet people who are clearly overweight, yet not perturbed by their situation because they consider themselves to be fit and healthy. However, a large study conducted in America has found that women who are overweight or obese but otherwise healthy are still at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). For the study, researchers from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke tracked the health of some 90,257 women in the US over a 30-year period. They found that women who were overweight or obese, but had none of the typical cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, excess cholesterol and diabetes, were 20% and 39% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their normal weight and metabolically healthy peers. Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Matthias Schulze, who led it, said: "Our large cohort study confirms that metabolically healthy obesity is not a harmless condition, and even women who remain free of metabolic diseases for decades face an increased risk of cardiovascular events.” The study also found women who were of normal weight, but metabolically unhealthy, were over two-times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their peers of the same weight who were metabolically healthy. Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, added: "This large scale study confirms that obesity, even if unaccompanied by other warning signs, increases risk of cardiovascular disease in women."
While a low sperm count and problems with sperm quality are huge hurdles for couples who are trying to get pregnant, a new study shows that men with low sperm counts are also at increased risk of illness. The study of 5,177 men in Italy found that those with low sperm counts were 20% more likely to have more body fat, more "bad" cholesterol and higher blood pressure – all factors that increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke. They were also 12 times more likely to have low testosterone levels. Dr Alberto Ferlin, from the University of Bresci, who led the study, said: "Infertile men are likely to have important co-existing health problems or risk factors that can impair quality of life and shorten their lives. "Fertility evaluation gives men the unique opportunity for health assessment and disease prevention." The study’s authors say that men with low sperm counts should be actively checked for other potential health problems, which may have a greater chance of being rectified if treated earlier. However, the authors of the study stressed that their findings did not prove that low sperm counts cause metabolic problems, merely that the two are linked in some way.