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Blood pressure pills are more effective at bedtime

24/10/2019

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

Just 10% weight loss can reverse effects of type-2 diabetes

03/10/2019

A new study has found that if people with type-2 diabetes achieve just 10% weight loss within 5 years of being diagnosed, they are twice as likely to experience remission at the 5-year follow-up as those who haven’t lost any weight. The findings of the study by researchers from Cambridge appear in the journal Diabetic Medicine and were obtained through analysis of 867 people aged 40-69 with newly diagnosed type-2 diabetes. Having followed the study participants for 5 years, the researchers found that 257 (30%) had diabetes in remission. Speaking about their findings, first author Hajira Dambha-Miller, Ph.D. said: “Our results suggest that it may be possible to get rid of diabetes, for at least 5 years, with a more modest weight loss of 10%. This will be more motivating and hence more achievable for many people.” The fact diabetes can be sent into remission with just moderate weight loss – and not just the drastic intensive weight loss measures we’ve known about for some time - will be welcome news for many people living with the condition. It reinforces the importance of managing one’s weight through dietary choices and physical exercise. Going forward, the Cambridge team hopes to be able to use the research to help medical professionals better support patients with type-2 diabetes and reduce their symptoms.

Study shows four-in-one pill reduces risk of heart attack, stroke

29/08/2019

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.

More physical exercise associated with lower mental health risk

13/08/2019

While exercise has long been thought to help boost mental health and there’s evidence to support this, less is known about whether physical activity can actually prevent the onset of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Indeed, previous studies have suggested that low levels of physical activity are associated with a greater incidence of several common mental health problems, but few studies have investigated whether the opposite is true: more exercise = less risk of developing mental health disorders – until now. By conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of four different studies, the researchers from University College London were able to assess the impact of physical exercise on mental health risk. Publishing their findings in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the researchers said low and medium levels of cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with a 47% and 23% greater risk of common mental health disorders, compared with high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness. In other words, doing more physical exercise does seem to have a positive impact on a person's mental health risk. The research makes for interesting reading when you consider that mental health issues are growing and not everyone benefits from therapies and medication. The researchers are now planning to explore this avenue further to see if they can identify the underlying mechanisms of the relationship between exercise and mental health.  

You’re never too old to benefit from exercise

16/07/2019

Even if you’ve been pretty physically inactive for much of your life, exercising more in your later years can still afford benefits and lower your risk of premature death, a new study has found. According to research by the University of Cambridge - which studied 15,000 Brits - by doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, physically inactive individuals can reduce their risk of early death by 24%. However, it’s people who are already physically active who can benefit the most from more exercise. That’s because the study found that individuals who were already doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week could reduce their risk of early death by as much as 42%. Finally, all older adults involved in the study saw a “substantial” boost to their life expectancy by being more active – regardless of their activity levels previously. So, the simple message is clear: the more exercise, the better. And it’s never too late to make a difference in your life. Speaking about the findings of the study, the results of which are published in the British Medical Journal, Huw Edwards, from health body UKactive, said: “This  provides further evidence against the outdated idea that people should do less as they age or while managing a long-term illness. “The time has come for a total rethink of how we approach our later years.”

Not all types of sitting are equally unhealthy when it comes to heart risk

27/06/2019

We are frequently warned about the health consequences of leading a sedentary lifestyle. But new research reveals that not all types of sitting are equally unhealthy. The study by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons found that sitting in front of a TV (known as ‘leisure-time sitting’) was associated with a greater risk of heart disease and death. In fact, study participants who watched four or more hours of TV a day were found to have a 50% greater risk of cardiovascular events and death compared to those who watched less than two hours a day. However, the study also found that participants who sat for long periods at work had the same level of risk as those who sat the least, suggesting the type of sitting really does have an impact. Furthermore, the study also revealed that even the most avid TV watchers could reverse the effects of their longer sedentary periods with moderate to rigorous exercise. For example, individuals who watched TV for four hours or more each day, and undertook 150 minutes or more exercise a week, had no increased risk of stroke, heart attack or death. Speaking about the findings of the study, Keith M. Diaz, Ph.D., assistant professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said: “It may be that most people tend to watch television for hours without moving, while most workers get up from their desk frequently. The combination of eating a large meal such as dinner and then sitting for hours could also be particularly harmful.”

Can weighing yourself every day prevent weight gain?

30/05/2019

With more than 37% of American adults living with obesity, and more than 32% overweight, any strategies for curbing weight gain should be closely examined to see if they could help the situation. Now, new research suggests that weighing ourselves every day could effectively prevent weight gain – especially over the usually over-indulgent holiday period. Published in the journal Obesity, the research was led by Jamie Cooper, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Georgia in Athens. For the study, Cooper and colleagues recruited 111 adults aged between 18 and 65. Each participant was told to try and maintain their starting weight during the holiday season, but wasn’t given any advice on how to do this. Instead, the participants were all told to weigh themselves – some daily and others less frequently. At the end of the 14-week trial, the participants who weighed themselves every day either maintained their starting weight or actually lost weight. In contrast, the participants who did not weigh themselves every day all gained weight. The researchers suggest that by weighing themselves every day and being able to exercise more/eat less to combat small weight increases, those participants were able to maintain their starting weight or lose weight. Speaking about the findings of the research, Study co-author Michelle vanDellen, said: “People are really sensitive to discrepancies or differences between their current selves and their standard or goal. When they see that discrepancy, it tends to lead to behavioural change. Daily self-weighing ends up doing that for people in a really clear way.”

Just one hour of brisk walking a week can really benefit people with osteoarthritis

02/04/2019

We’ve only just written about how a low-carb diet may help relieve symptoms of knee osteoarthritis and now a new study has revealed that just one hour of brisk walking per week can significantly lower mobility-related disability in people with knee osteoarthritis. According to the research, the findings of which appear in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, just one hour of weekly exercise lowered the risk of mobility-related disability in seniors with knee osteoarthritis by 85% and that of daily living disability by nearly 45%. For the study, a team of researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago, IL, led by Dorothy Dunlop, Ph.D., analyzed data from more than 1,500 adults. All of the participants were living with osteoarthritis and experienced aches, pain, and stiffness in their lower extremities as a result. However, none of them had a disability prior to the study. Over a period of four years, the researchers monitored the participants’ levels of physical activity. They found that the seniors who got at least one hour of moderate-to-vigorous activity each week had no trouble performing a range of daily tasks. However, in seniors who did not engage in this much physical activity, 24% could not walk across a street before the traffic lights changed, and 23% struggled to perform their daily morning tasks. Speaking about the findings of the research, Prof. Dunlop said: “We hope this new public health finding will motivate an intermediate physical activity goal. One hour a week is a stepping stone for people who are currently inactive. People can start to work toward that.”

Just 10 minutes of gardening each week could lower your risk of death

21/03/2019

If you’re over 40, just 10 minutes of leisurely activity each week could lower your risk of death from multiple causes. That’s the key finding from a recently published study by researchers from China and the United States. According to the study involving 88,140 US adults, even low-level physical activity, such as gardening, can help people live longer lives. Publishing their findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers said that even people who spend just a short time each week being physically active have a lower risk of death due to cancer, cardiovascular issues and all-cause mortality. However, participating in more vigorous types of exercise, including running and cycling, affords even greater health benefits. Unlike people who were physically inactive, those who undertook between 10 and 59 minutes of moderate, leisurely exercise each week had an 18% lower risk of death from all causes. Those who were physically active for a little longer (between 150 and 299 minutes per week) had a 31% lower risk of all-cause death. Undertaking over 1,500 minutes of physical activity on a weekly basis resulted in a 46% decrease in overall mortality risk. Furthermore, individuals who opted for more vigorous exercise instead of lighter physical activity had a much lower mortality risk still.

Your ability to do push-ups may predict your cardiovascular risk

26/02/2019

How many push-ups (also known as press-ups) can you do? Do you even know? Do you even care? Well maybe you should… That’s because a new study has found that a man’s ability to do push-ups may be a good indicator of their cardiovascular risk. The findings of the study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, may enable physicians to assess cardiovascular risk more easily and more cost effectively. Simply put, the more push-ups a man can do, the lower his cardiovascular risk and vice versa. Speaking about the findings of the study, first author Justin Yang, M.D. said: "Our findings provide evidence that push-up capacity could be an easy, no-cost method to help assess cardiovascular disease risk in almost any setting.” For the study, researchers measured both the push-up capacity and the submaximal treadmill exercise tolerance of each participant at the beginning. Yearly physical exams and medical questionnaires were then used to gather relevant data. The researchers found that participants who were able to complete over 40 push-ups to begin with had a 96% lower cardiovascular risk than those who could only complete 10 or fewer push-ups. It is still unknown whether the findings of the study also apply to women and men who are older, younger and/or less physically fit than the participants. That’s the study involved 1,104 active male fire fighters with a mean age of 39.6 and mean BMI of 28.7.

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

Less sitting, more moving tied to longer life

31/01/2019

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.”

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.  

Stair-climbing ‘exercise snacks’ can boost cardiorespiratory health

24/01/2019

Most people understand the important role exercise plays in maintaining and boosting your health. But expensive gym memberships coupled with the busy lives many people lead mean that getting enough exercise is often a non-starter due to the associated expenses and/or a lack of time. The good news though is that new research shows stair climbing, at short intervals that last just a few minutes throughout the day, can improve cardiorespiratory health. For the study, researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, led by Martin Gibala, Ph.D., observed two groups of sedentary youngsters. One group climbed three flights of stairs three times a day and had recovery sessions of between one and four hours in between, while the other group did not exercise. At the end of the study period, the cardiorespiratory health of both groups was assessed. The group that performed the stair climbing each day had higher cardiorespiratory fitness than the group that did no exercise. Moreover, the stair climbers were also found to be stronger at the end of the intervention. Jonathan Little, Ph.D., an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of British Columbia in Okanagan, Canada, and study co-author, said: “We know that sprint interval training works, but we were a bit surprised to see that the stair snacking approach was also effective. “Vigorously climbing a few flights of stairs on your coffee or bathroom break during the day seems to be enough to boost fitness in people who are otherwise sedentary.” So there you have it. You can boost your cardiorespiratory health by simply adding ‘exercise snacks’ into your daily routine.

Mediterranean diet Linked to healthy brain aging

03/01/2019

The New Year is here and for many that means attempting to stick to one or a bunch of resolutions. Eating more healthily, doing more exercise and quitting smoking will be at the top of the list for many people. If one of your goals for 2019 is eating more healthily, perhaps you should consider following a Mediterranean diet. While it varies depending on where you go, a Mediterranean diet, in a nutshell, is one that incorporates all of the healthy eating habits of people who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain - so more vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, grains, cereals, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. And less meat and dairy foods. As well as being linked with better health, including a healthier heart, a Mediterranean diet also promotes healthy brain aging, according to new research. A recent study involving 116 healthy adults aged 65–75 years, conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, found that participants who ate a Mediterranean diet performed better in memory, general intelligence, and executive function tests. “Our study suggests that diet and nutrition moderate the association between network efficiency and cognitive performance,” said Aron Barbey, a psychology professor at The University of Illinois.

Could blocking a single gene be the key to curing obesity?

05/12/2018

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is a “global epidemic” that must be tackled if we are to prevent its ill effects. In the United States, nearly 40% of adults and 18.5% of children aged 2 to 19 are obese. Obesity is a major risk factor for type-2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. That’s why finding effective ways to treat the condition is paramount. But now scientists say they are on the verge of creating a pill that could make obesity a thing of the past - without the need for diet and exercise. Sounds too good to be true, right? Nevertheless, the team at Flinders University in South Australia say that they key to curbing obesity could lie in a single gene known as RCAN1. The team found that when RCAN1 was removed in mice and they were then fed a high fat diet, they did not gain weight. In fact, they could eat as much food as they wanted over a prolonged period of time, the researchers say. Damien Keating, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cellular physiology at Flinders, and leader of the research team, said blocking RCAN1 allows the body to transform unhealthy white fat into calorie-burning brown fat. Stunning pictures of the mice used for the trial highlight the difference when RCAN1 was blocked and when it wasn’t. The results of the research are published in the journal EMBO Reports.

Strength training better for the heart than aerobic exercise, study finds

20/11/2018

Strength training exercises benefit the heart more than aerobic activities, such as walking and cycling, new research suggests. The survey of more than 4,000 American adults found that static exercise, like lifting weights, is more effective at reducing the risk of heart disease than cardiovascular exercise. Specifically, while undertaking both static and dynamic exercise was associated with a 30% to 70% reduction of cardiovascular risk factors, the link was strongest for younger individuals who did static exercises. Nevertheless, any amount of exercise brings benefits and doing both static and dynamic types is still better than focussing on just one kind, the researchers from St. George's University in St. George's, Grenada said. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr. Maia P. Smith, assistant professor at the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at St. George's University, said: “Both strength training and aerobic activity appeared to be heart healthy, even in small amounts, at the population level.” Current American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend that American adults should undertake at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity every week. The same guidelines also stipulate that said activity should be spread across the week and not completed in just one or two days. Are you doing enough physical activity each week? If not, you could be increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. [Related reading: Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer]

WHO report reveals world’s fittest country

18/09/2018

What’s the fittest country in the world? Would you have any idea if you were asked? Even hazard a guess? Hint: It’s a country in Africa. According to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report, Uganda is the world’s most physically active country. Published in the medical journal The Lancet, the study findings are from a compilation of surveys completed in 168 countries. Just 5.5% of Ugandans do not do enough physical activity. People living in Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania and Togo are also getting plenty of exercise, too. In comparison, people living in Kuwait (the least active nation) have far more sedentary lifestyles, with 67% of the population not active enough. The report highlights a distinct divide between the levels of physical activity in poorer countries vs. wealthier countries. People in poorer nations are more likely to walk to work and/or have jobs that see them being physically active throughout the day. Recommended exercise guidelines for 19- to 64-year-olds Here’s what the UK’s NHS recommends: At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as cycling or brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (such as running or a game of tennis) every week Strength exercises that work all the major muscles at least two days per week Long periods of sitting should be broken up with light activity Are you getting enough physical activity? Could a small lifestyle change enable you to? [Related reading: Open-plan offices could improve health, reduce stress]

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.

Night owls face more health risks than early risers

15/05/2018

Are you a night owl or a morning person? A new study suggests that it could make a big difference to your health and it’s not good news for late risers. According to the paper authored by Dr Kristen Knutson and Professor Malcolm von Schantz, of Northwestern University (Chicago) and the University of Surrey (UK) respectively, night owls have an increased risk of early death, psychological disorders and respiratory illness than people who are, so to speak, up with the lark. The paper backs up previous research that suggests people who regularly go to bed late are more likely to suffer ill health. Over a six-year period, night owls were found to have a 10% greater risk of death than larks, according to the paper. This finding held true even after adjusting for expected health problems in people who go to bed late, such as metabolic dysfunction and heart disease. Using data extracted from the UK Biobank, a data store containing medical and genetic information relating to some 500,000 people aged 40 to 69 from across the UK, the researchers were able to determine the effect a lack of sleep has on individuals. While night owls often make up for their lack of sleep during the week by staying in bed longer at weekends – referred to as “social jet lag” - it is seemingly not enough to combat the potential health problems they face. Commenting on the findings of the research, Dr Knutson said that “night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies. They shouldn’t be forced to get up for an 8am shift. Make work shifts match people’s chronotypes. Some people may be better suited to night shifts.” Being a night owl was also associated with psychological stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, eating at the wrong time, and drug or alcohol use. So, if you're someone who regularly goes to bed late and doesn't get enough sleep during the week, maybe it's time to change your habits.

Large study finds link between brain injuries at a young age and dementia later in life

12/04/2018

People who suffer brain injuries have an increased risk of developing dementia in later life, a new study has found. The large study of 2.8 million people found individuals who had at least one traumatic brain injury were 24% more likely to develop dementia than those who hadn’t. Interestingly, the risk was found to be greatest in people who had the brain injury while still in their 20s. These individuals were found to be 63% more likely to suffer from dementia in later life. However, despite the findings of the study, independent experts have said that other lifestyle factors, such as smoking and a lack of exercise, are actually more important. According to Dr Doug Brown, chief policy and research officer at Alzheimer's Society, these risk factors “are much easier for all of us to do something about". Nevertheless, the research does show a correlation between brain injuries and dementia. Jesse Fann, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, said: "Our analysis raises some very important issues, in particular that efforts to prevent traumatic brain injury, especially in younger people, may be inadequate considering the huge and growing burden of dementia and the prevalence of TBI worldwide." TBI is the term used to describe a concussion.

Older cyclists have the immune systems of 20-year-olds

13/03/2018

Older individuals who do lots of exercise can prevent their immune systems from declining and protect themselves against infection, scientists say. For the research, scientists from King’s College London followed 125 long-distance cyclists, some of who were in their 80s. They found that some had the immune systems of much, much younger individuals. For example, Prof Norman Lazarus, 82, of King's College London, who co-authored the research and took part in it, was found to have the immune system of a 20-year-old. "If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it. It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system,” he said. Speaking about the research, Prof Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham and co-author, said people’s immune systems decline at a rate of about 2-3% a year from the age of 20. That’s why older individuals are more susceptible to infections, rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer. Because the cyclists were found to have the immune systems of much younger people, they have added protection against conditions that tend to affect older individuals. Furthermore, the researchers believe that physically active, older individuals respond better to vaccines, meaning they are also better protected against influenza. The good news is that you don’t need to be a competitive cyclist to reap the benefits. Just being more active and puffing yourself out from time to time can help.

Exercise can help middle-aged people reverse heart risk

09/01/2018

While many people will be using the start of the New Year to kick-start certain lifestyle changes in an attempt to become “healthier”, there are some who might think it’s too late based on their age. However, a new study has revealed that it’s often not too late for many who want to improve their fitness. In fact, with exercise, even individuals who are into their late middle age can reduce or even reverse the risk of heart failure caused by years of sedentary living. But there’s a slight catch – it requires at least two years of aerobic exercise four to five days a week. According to the study, which was published in the journal Circulation, individuals aged 45-64 who followed an aerobic exercise routine for two years showed an 18% improvement in their maximum oxygen intake while exercising and a more than 25% improvement in "plasticity" in the left ventricular muscle of the heart, compared to their counterparts who didn’t follow such an exercise regime. The take-home message of the research is that exercise needs to be part of a person’s daily routine, like teeth brushing. Dr Richard Siow, vice-dean for the faculty of life sciences and medicine at King's College London, said: "I think that's a very important take-home message for those of us who may have a doom and gloom view there's nothing we can do about it. Yes there is, we can start by getting off the couch to have a more active lifestyle."

More exercise could be the key to quitting smoking

02/01/2018

It’s January 2 and for many people that means it’s time to start thinking about those New Year’s resolutions. The inevitable over-indulgence during the festive period will have triggered many of us to consider eating more healthily and exercising more this year, while others will be looking to give up smoking. The problem is that nicotine is a very addictive drug and many people struggle to give up cigarettes easily. But new research shows how exercising may reduce tobacco withdrawal symptoms. So, if you’re planning to try and quit, exercise could be the answer. Irritability, trouble sleeping and even depression are all withdrawal symptoms associated with giving up smoking. However, it’s been shown that exercise can reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. In fact, some older studies have discovered that even 10 minutes of exercise can immediately reduce the effects of tobacco cravings. A team from St George's, University of London, led by Dr. Alexis Bailey, a senior lecturer in neuropharmacology, found that mice addicted to nicotine who undertook two or 24 hours a day wheel running displayed a significant reduction of withdrawal symptom severity compared with the sedentary group. Furthermore, in the group of mice that exercised, researchers were able to see an increase in the activity of alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine, a type of nicotine brain receptor. Most startling of all was the fact just two hours of exercise daily had as much effect on relieving the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal as exercising continuously for 24 hours. SO, if you really want to crack your smoking habit and give up this year, maybe more exercise could be the key to your success.

Indulgent grandparents could be damaging their grandchildren's health

16/11/2017

It’s natural for grandparents to dote on their grandchildren and give them sweet treats whenever they see them. But new research suggests this and other influences could have a negative impact on their grandchildren’s health. For the research, the team from the University of Glasgow analysed 56 different studies which included data from 18 countries, including the UK, US, China and Japan. They focused on the influence of grandparents who were significant in their grandchildren’s lives, but who weren’t necessarily primary caregivers. Three areas of influence were considered: diet and weight, physical activity and smoking. When it came to their grandchildren’s diet and weight, grandparents were found to have an adverse impact, with many studies highlighting how they feed their grandchildren high-sugar or high-fat foods - often in the guise of a treat. The researchers also found that grandchildren were perceived to get too little exercise while under the supervision of their grandparents. However, this did depend on whether the grandparents were physically active themselves or not. Furthermore, smoking around grandchildren became an area of conflict between parents and grandparents, with the latter often smoking while their grandchildren were present, even though they had been asked not to. Talking about the findings of the study, lead researcher Dr Stephanie Chambers said: "While the results of this review are clear that behaviour such as exposure to smoking and regularly treating children increases cancer risks as children grow into adulthood, it is also clear from the evidence that these risks are unintentional. "Given that many parents now rely on grandparents for care, the mixed messages about health that children might be getting is perhaps an important discussion that needs to be had."

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?

Over-65s not doing enough strength training, finds study

05/10/2017

It’s a natural reaction to want to lend a helping hand when you see an older individual carrying something that looks heavy. And while it’s absolutely the right gesture and something many of us will continue do without thinking, research suggests that strength exercises are actually highly beneficial for older people. According to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), nearly a quarter of over-65s don’t do any strength exercises. As a result, they are putting themselves at risk of falls and other forms of ill health. Simple, yet important tasks, like gardening, vacuuming and carrying the shopping can help older people live healthier, longer lives. Current NHS guidelines advise that people should do at least two strengthening sessions per week. However, a survey carried out on behalf of the CSP found that nearly a quarter of over-65s are doing none whatsoever. Almost one in five people said they didn't know how to strength train, while a similar number said they simply didn't want to. Prof Karen Middleton, chief executive of the CSP, says that not everyone has to become weaker and frailer as they get older. "Research shows getting stronger brings a whole host of health benefits so it is incredibly important that people don't overlook strengthening when being active." So the next time you offer to carry an older person’s shopping and they insist that they’d rather do it themselves, remember, you could be helping them live a longer and healthier life.

Even one hour of exercise per week could prevent depression

03/10/2017

Depression affects around 6.7% of US adults every year. On a global level, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 300 million people are currently living with the disorder. When it comes to treatment, medication, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy or a combination of these approaches is usually used. But new research adds weight to the argument for regular exercise as a depression treatment. Australia-based non-profit group Black Dog Institute conducted an analysis of data collected from 33,908 Norwegian adults who were followed over an 11-year period. Publishing their results in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the team, led by Prof. Samuel Harvey from the Black Dog Institute, found that not only does a little exercise bring substantial benefits, but a lack of exercise actually contributes to depression. Individuals who didn’t undertake any physical activity were found to be 44% more likely to develop depression than those who did just 1 or 2 hours per week. As a result, the authors concluded that approximately 12% of depression cases could have been prevented if the individual did at least 1 hour of exercise per week. "We've known for some time that exercise has a role to play in treating symptoms of depression, but this is the first time we have been able to quantify the preventive potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression,” said Prof. Harvey.

Just 60 seconds of jogging per day could boost women's bone health

20/07/2017

While many people think that getting fit involves hours spent in the gym each week, a new study suggests just one minute of jogging each day is enough to boost women’s bone health. Researchers found women who performed “high-intensity, weight-bearing activity” 60 to 120 seconds a day had 4% better bone health than those who didn’t. Furthermore, those that did slightly more exercise benefitted exponentially. For example, women who did more than two minutes had 6% better bone health. The researchers said that a slow jog for post-menopausal women and a medium-paced run for pre-menopausal women was enough to provide health boosts. Publishing their findings in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Leicester, both in the United Kingdom, said there was a clear link between exercise and bone health. For their study, the researchers used data obtained from wrist monitors worn by more than 2,500 women for a week. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bone to become weak and brittle. While bone tissue is constantly broken down and replaced in healthy people, new bone production does not keep pace with the removal of old bone in individuals with osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that there are around 54 million people living with osteoporosis and low bone mass in the United States alone.

Vaccine that lowers cholesterol could prevent heart disease

20/06/2017

A vaccine that helps lower cholesterol will now be trialled on humans following successful studies in mice. Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna will now test the safety of their experimental treatment – which stops fatty deposits clogging the arteries – on 72 volunteers. If the trials are successful, the vaccine would offer an alternative for people who currently take pills on a daily basis to reduce their risk of angina, stroke and heart attack. Writing about their cholesterol-lowering vaccine in the European Heart Journal, Dr Guenther Staffler and colleagues from The Netherlands Organisation of Applied Scientific Research say it will take many more years of tests before it is known whether the treatment is safe and effective in humans. In studies of mice, the treatment cut low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by as much as 50% over 12 months and appeared to stop the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries. Regardless of whether the vaccine becomes available in the future, the researchers were keen to stress that it should not be seen as an excuse for people to avoid exercise and eat lots of high-fat food. Nevertheless, the treatment could be useful for individuals who have high cholesterol due to an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia.

Risk of chronic disease increases with just 14 days of physical inactivity

23/05/2017

While the association between a lack of exercise and an increased risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease, is well-established, new research shows that just 14 days of physical inactivity can increase a person's risk of such conditions. A study by the University of Liverpool found that young, healthy adults who switched from moderate-to-vigorous activity and then to near-sedentary behaviour for just 14 days experienced metabolic changes that could raise their risk of chronic disease and even premature death. Presenting their findings at the European Congress on Obesity 2017 in Portugal, Study leader Dr. Dan Cuthbertson and colleagues said that reducing physical activity for just 14 days led to a loss of skeletal muscle mass in the participants. However, the reduction of physical activity for 14 days also led to an increase in total body fat. Furthermore, said body fat was most likely to accumulate centrally, which the team notes is a significant risk factor for chronic disease. Current guidelines recommend that adults aged 18-64 undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity every week. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that fewer than 50% of adults meet these exercise recommendations. Are you doing enough exercise each week? Even just small lifestyle changes can make a big difference when it comes to your risk of chronic disease.

More than 20 million Brits 'physically inactive', study reveals

04/04/2017

More than 20 million people in Britain are physically inactive and increasing their risk of heart disease, according to a new report by the British Heart Foundation. The charity has warned that the lack of exercise by such a large proportion of the British population is costing the NHS a staggering £1.2bn each year. Women are 36% more likely than men to be physically inactive, which the report defines as not meeting the UK government's guidelines for physical activity - 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity and strength exercises on two or more days a week. However, despite the report finding that 11.8 million women were physically inactive compared with 8.3 million men, it is actually men who sit down for longer (78 days a year compared to 74 for women). Furthermore, inactivity levels differ by region. For example, 47% (2.7 million) of people living in the North West of England were found to be inactive, whereas people in the South East had the lowest rate at 34%. Over five million deaths across the world each year are attributed to physical inactivity, making it one of the top 10 leading causes of death. In the UK, physical inactivity contributes to almost one in 10 premature deaths from coronary heart disease each year, as well as one in six deaths from any cause. Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour in the UK remain stubbornly high, and, combined, these two risk factors present a substantial threat to our cardiovascular health and risk of early death.

New drug could help one in five breast cancers

16/03/2017

A new type of breast cancer treatment could help up to 10,000 women in the UK, according to scientists. Historically, biological therapies have been used to help fight rare, inherited genetic errors which can lead to cancer, such as the BRCA one actress Angelina Jolie carries. However, a new study has found that such therapies could also help women diagnosed with breast cancer who do not have these genetic errors. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute study suggests that such therapies could be effective in one in five breast cancers (20%). For comparison, the number of women who develop cancer and have faulty BRCA genes is 1 to 5%. For the study, the researchers analysed the genetic make-up of breast cancer in 560 different patients. They found that a significant proportion had "mutational signatures" that were very similar to faulty BRCA. Therefore, given the close similarities, these cancers could also potentially be treated with biological therapies. Clinical trials are now being called for to confirm the researchers' theory. Baroness Delyth Morgan, from Breast Cancer Now, said the initial results were "a revelation". "We hope it could now lead to a watershed moment for the use of mutational signatures in treating the disease," she said. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, avoiding cigarettes, limiting alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight can all help to reduce a woman's lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

People are getting fatter, but fewer than ever are trying to lose weight - study

09/03/2017

Despite the fact the number of people who are overweight or obese has risen over the past 30 years, fewer people are actually attempting to shed weight, according to a new study, the findings of which were published in JAMA. Around two thirds of the adult population in the United States are obese or overweight, putting them at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. However, new research has found that even though there has been a significant rise in the number of people who are overweight or obese since the 1980s, the percentage of U.S. adults who are trying to lose weight has fallen. For their research, study co-author Dr. Jian Zhang and her colleagues from the Georgia Southern University, analysed the data of 27,350 U.S. adults aged between 20 and 59 years. The analyses revealed that the rates of overweight and obesity increased by 13%, from 53% in 1988-1994 to 66% in 2009-2014. Furthermore, the researchers also found that the percentage of people who attempted to lose weight over the same period actually dropped by 7%, from 56% in 1988-1994 to 49% in 2009-2014. At present, people are deemed to be overweight or obese depending on their body mass index (BMI). A BMI of 25 to under 30 is considered overweight, while a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese. A healthy diet and regular physical activity are proven to help curb weight gain, which is why we should all make a conscientious effort to watch what we eat and exercise more. [Recommended read: BMI Wrongly Labelling People Unhealthy, Finds New Research]

Weekend Exercise Alone Provides 'Significant Health Benefits'

12/01/2017

People who cram all their recommended weekly exercise into one or two sessions at the weekend can realise important health benefits, a study suggests. Furthermore, just being active, without undertaking the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity every week, is still enough to reduce the risk of premature death by a third. Researchers from Loughborough University and the University of Sydney analysed the survey responses of around 64,000 adults aged over 40 in England and Scotland focusing on the amount of time they spent doing exercise and their general health over an 18-year period. They found that no matter how many times people exercised in a week, as long as they met the recommended guidelines the health benefits were the same. The findings of the study are particularly good news for people with busy lives who simply do not have enough time during the week to exercise. These particular individuals often squeeze all of their physical activity into the weekends, leading to them becoming known as "weekend warriors". In fact, these so-called "weekend warriors" were found to lower their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 41% and cancer by 18%, compared with people who were inactive. Commenting on the findings of the study, Justin Varney, national lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England (PHE), said: "The maximum health benefits are achieved from 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. "However, every little counts and just 10 minutes of physical activity will provide health benefits."

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.

Exercise Could Cancel the Harm Associated with a Week's Overeating

08/11/2016

Christmas is just around the corner and for many people that means gorging themselves on all manner of delicious food and drinks. But all that festive feasting can play havoc with people's waistlines, which is why so many individuals make dieting one of their New Year's resolutions. However, the effects of overeating might not be as disastrous for a person's health as we may think, as long as people keep exercising. That's the findings of research presented at the American Physiological Society (APS) Integrative Biology of Exercise VII meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. For their study, researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, wanted to find out what would happen to people's fatty tissue if they continued to exercise while undertaking a week-long food blowout. The researchers got study participants to consume 30% more calories over the course of a week than they would usually. The participants also exercised for at least two and a half hours spread over at least 6 days of the week. What the study team found was that the participants' fatty tissue showed no signs of inflammation and no change was witnessed in their glucose tolerance or chemical breakdown of fat. In people who do not exercise, the markers of inflammation in fat tissue would normally increase after a week of overeating.

Study Finds Bariatric Surgery Decrease Gout Risk

13/10/2016

A study in Sweden has found that obese individuals who underwent bariatric surgery had a 34% less likelihood of developing gout - a condition that is often associated with and aggravated by being overweight. For the study, researchers analysed two groups of individuals: one which had undergone bariatric surgery and one which had followed intensive lifestyle modifications, including advice on food choices, energy intake and exercise. They found that over 26 years of follow-ups, there were 138 new cases of gout in the group that had undergone the surgery and 201 new cases in the matched, non-surgery group. Interestingly, the patients in the surgery group had higher body mass indexes; larger waist circumferences; and worse glucose and cholesterol levels. Speaking about their findings, the team, which was headed up by Lena M.S. Carlsson, MD, of the University of Gothenburg, said: "The beneficial effects of bariatric surgery are not limited to weight loss, but they extend to improvement in metabolic parameters and to lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer." Other studies have previously suggested that bariatric surgery can lead to lower serum uric acid levels, which are the primary cause of gout.

Study Finds No Proof that Fitness Trackers Promote Weight Loss

22/09/2016

The results of a two-year long study by the University of Pittsburgh published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggest that fitness trackers, such as devices that count how many steps people have taken, do not appear to improve the chances of losing weight. For the study, researchers tracked the weight loss progress of some 500 overweight individuals who were asked to diet and do more exercise. Half of the volunteers were given a fitness tracker to help them keep tabs on their progress throughout, while the other half weren't. At the end of the study, the group without the fitness trackers had lost more weight than their gadget-wielding counterparts. The study authors say that while people should not ditch their fitness trackers altogether in the first instance, they should also not put as much faith in them as they do for weight loss. However, device manufacturers say that their own research suggests fitness trackers can aid weight loss when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise. They also say that their technology has moved on since the University of Pittsburgh study was conducted. Nevertheless, Lead researcher Dr John Jakicic said that he did not think this would alter the findings of the study, even though he acknowledged that the technology had moved on. "What these devices tell us and how we use the information has not changed," he said.

Laughter Boosts Seniors' Motivation to Exercise

20/09/2016

Researchers have found that laughter may really be the best medicine when it comes to a person's health in later life. And, according to the study led by Georgia State University, when laughter is combined with moderate exercise, not only is the mental health of older individuals improved, but also their motivation to undertake physical activity. Prior to their research, lead author Celeste Greene, from Georgia State, and colleagues noted that many seniors are reluctant to carry out physical activity because they lack motivation due mainly to the fact they don't find exercise enjoyable. That's why Greene's team set out to investigate whether combining laughter with physical activity would increase the amount of enjoyment older people get while exercising, thus increasing the likelihood of them doing more and reaping the associated health benefits. For older people, regular physical activity can improve heart health; reduce the risk of diabetes; aid weight control; improve bone health; and maintain and boost muscle strength. Greene and her team created LaughActive, a unique laughter-based exercise programme, which combines moderate-intensity physical activity with simulated laughter techniques. The research team enrolled 27 older adults in the LaughActive programme, who were all required to attend two 45-minute sessions every week for a period of 6 weeks. What they found at the end of the 6-week programme was that 96.2% of participants said that laughter was an enjoyable addition to physical activity and boosted their motivation to take part. In addition, the programme was associated with significant improvements in the mental health and aerobic endurance of the participants.

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