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The seven dementia risk factors: How many are you aware of?

07/02/2019

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

Study finds popular fitness trackers overestimate calories burned

29/01/2019

Do you use a fitness tracker to monitor your levels of physical activity and keep an eye on how many calories you’re burning from day to day? If you do, you could be relying on overestimated information, according to the findings of a new study. Researchers at Aberystwyth University in Wales found that many popular fitness trackers often overestimate the number of calories burned while walking by over 50%. In fact, all products tested by the research team ranging between £20 and £80 in price were inaccurate during walking and running tests. Surprisingly, some fitness trackers gave polarising results. For example, the Fitbit Charge 2, the best-selling fitness tracker on the market, scored very well when it came to estimating calories burned while running, underestimating by just 4%. However, when measuring walking, the same device overestimated calories burnt by more than 50%. Other less expensive devices, namely the Letscom HR and the Letsfit – significantly underestimated the number of calories burned while running by 33% and 40% respectively. However, both were more accurate than the Fitbit Charge 2 in estimating calories burned while walking, overestimating by 15.7% and just 2% respectively. One of the researchers, Dr Rhys Thatcher, said that while fitness trackers can be great as motivational tools, people need to be cautious in the data they provide. “If you want to know the exact number of calories that you are burning during an exercise session then it doesn't matter which device you use, you have to interpret the data with some caution,” he said.  

Too much exercise can negatively impact mental health - study

14/08/2018

A large-scale study has found that just 45 minutes of physical exercise three to five times a week can improve mental wellbeing. [Related reading: People who abstain from alcohol in middle age may have higher risk of dementia] According to the US study of 1.2 million people, people who exercised regularly had fewer “bad days” a month than their non-exercising counterparts. Furthermore, while activities such as cycling, aerobics and team sports had the greatest positive impact, all types of physical activity, including things like doing household chores and looking after kids, were found to improve mental health. Moreover, people who had previously been diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression were found to afford the greatest benefits. The optimal routine identified by the researchers was being physically active for 30 to 60 minutes every second day. More interesting is the researchers’ finding that too much exercise can have a negative impact. Dr Adam Chekroud, study author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University, said: "Previously, people have believed that the more exercise you do, the better your mental health, but our study suggests that this is not the case. "Doing exercise more than 23 times a month, or exercising for longer than 90-minute sessions is associated with worse mental health." The findings of the study are published in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal.

Less than 2 hours of walking per week may ‘considerably prolong life’

19/10/2017

We all know that regular exercise should be a part of our weekly routine, but finding the time and motivation is often difficult. But what if just a little bit of walking had the ability to considerably prolong your life? Would you make time then? A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that even as little as two hours of walking a week, compared with no physical activity at all, correlated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality. In other words, even levels of walking that do not meet government-issued guidelines still provide significant benefits and lower the risk of premature death by a considerable amount. Moreover, the study also found that going beyond government exercise guidelines was linked with a 20% decrease in mortality risk. Speaking about the findings of the study, Dr. Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D., strategic director of the Cancer Prevention Study-3 for the American Cancer Society (ACS), said: “Walking," she continued, "has been described as the 'perfect exercise' because it is simple, free, convenient, doesn't require any special equipment or training, and can be done at any age.” So, the next time you have a short journey to make and providing the weather is good and you’re feeling up to it, why not walk?

Dopamine could be to blame for people's reduced motivation to exercise

05/01/2017

The New Year is here and for many of you that will mean a new exercise regime designed to get you into shape and improve your overall health. For some people, though, sticking to a disciplined program of physical exercise is one of the hardest resolutions they can make because a lack of motivation gets in the way. But now new research sheds some light on why many people, despite understanding the benefits of regular exercise, find it hard in practice to stay physically active. Researchers from the Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), led by Alexxai V. Kravitz, focused on why obese animals also have a hard time carrying out physical activity. They found that a dysfunction in obese rodents' dopamine systems might help explain why. Mice fed on a high-fat diet started gaining significantly more weight than mice fed on a normal diet. They were also observed to have fewer movements; spend less time moving; and were slower when they did move, compared with the lean mice. Most interesting of all was that the overweight mice's changes in movements did not correlate with body weight gain. Instead, the researchers found that a deficit in striatal D2R explained the obese mice's lack of activity. "In many cases, willpower is invoked as a way to modify behavior. But if we don't understand the underlying physical basis for that behavior, it is difficult to say that willpower alone can solve it," said Kravitz.

Alzheimer’s Symptoms Could be Improved with Physical Exercise

30/07/2015

Just last week we told you about how a simple saliva test could be used to predict a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease. And now this year’s Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) in Washington, D.C., has heard how physical exercise not only has the potential to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, but also effectively treat it as well. Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer's Association, said: “Based on the results we heard reported today at AAIC 2015, exercise or regular physical activity might play a role in both protecting your brain from Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, and also living better with the disease if you have it.” The randomised controlled trials sought to assess whether moderate to high-intensity activity had an effect on 200 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s symptoms. The team from the Danish Dementia Research Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark, led by Dr. Steen Hasselbalch, found that the group of patients following the exercise programme experienced significantly fewer of the neuropsychiatric symptoms often associated with Alzheimer’s disease. "While our results need to be verified in larger and more diverse groups, the positive effects of exercise on these symptoms that we saw in our study may prove to be an effective complement or combination with antidementia drugs," said Dr. Hasselbach. "This calls for further study of multimodal treatment strategies, including lifestyle and drug therapies." The study further highlights the importance of undertaking physical exercise on a regular basis. The list of proven health benefits is increasing all the time and just a little physical activity now could dramatically improve your life in the future.     Photo credit: Medical News Today

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