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Why COVID-19 hits some people harder than others

12/05/2020

With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases now topping 4 million globally, the urgency to develop a vaccine has never been greater. Now something that’s been witnessed throughout this pandemic is the way COVID-19 seems to hit some people harder than others. Whether a COVID-19 patient is hospitalized and requires more serious medical interventions, like ventilation, often depends on several risk factors. Age In the United States, 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths have occurred in patients aged 65 and older. The reason for this is thought to be because elderly individuals have more chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. Diabetes A recent meta-analysis of 13 separate studies found that people with diabetes were nearly 3.7 times more likely to have a critical case of COVID-19 or to die from the disease than patients without any underlying health conditions. Heart disease and hypertension The American Heart Association says people with cardiovascular issues, including heart disease and hypertension, generally tend to suffer worse COVID-19 complications than those with no pre-existing conditions. Smoking A study from China found that 12.3% of current smokers were admitted to an ICU, were placed on a ventilator or died. This compares to 4.7% of non-smokers. Obesity Being obese has been linked to an increased severity of COVID-19 in younger patients. Furthermore, a separate study from China – which has not yet been peer-reviewed – found that obese individuals were more than twice as likely to develop severe pneumonia as compared with patients who were normal weight.  

Why COVID-19 poses a greater risk to men than women

16/04/2020

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?]

Third-hand smoke can be as dangerous as second-hand smoke

12/03/2020

We often hear about the health risks of second-hand smoke, or passive smoking, but now a new study reveals that third-hand smoke can be dangerous too. Third-hand smoke is the term used to describe tobacco contaminants that stick to walls, carpet, bedding and other surfaces, leading to a room smelling like an ashtray. However, research by Yale University has revealed that third-hand smoke actually clings to a smoker’s body and clothes as well, allowing it to be released into environments where smoking has never occurred. While this might not sound like too big a deal, the worrying revelation from the study is that non-smokers in such environments can be impacted. In fact, the study says chemical exposure in a movie theatre could be the equivalent of being exposed to between one and 10 cigarettes of second-hand smoke by the end of the movie. Speaking about the findings of the research, Drew Gentner, study authord and an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale University, said: “People are substantial carriers of third-hand smoke contaminants to other environments. So, the idea that someone is protected from the potential health effects of cigarette smoke because they're not directly exposed to second-hand smoke is not the case.”

You could live up to 14 years longer by avoiding these 5 bad habits

20/02/2020

A new study has revealed five bad health habits which, if avoided, could help you live significantly longer. While the habits themselves are nothing we haven’t heard before, the findings of the study are important as they highlight just how much of an impact the five factors can have on lifespan. So if you want to live years longer, avoid these five behaviours: smoking, not exercising, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and eating an unhealthy diet. Specifically, the study found that women aged 50 who avoided all five risk factors lived 14 years longer than women who did not. Among men, the difference in lifespan was 12 years. Publishing the study findings in the BMJ, senior author Dr. Frank Hu, who chairs the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “We found that following a healthy lifestyle can substantially extend the years a person lives disease-free.” Importantly, the results held true even after adjusting the data for age, ethnicity, family medical history and other potentially influential factors – emphasising that everyone stands to benefit from avoiding these five unhealthy habits. Finally, the research also revealed that the five habits had a positive impact for people diagnosed with a disease during the study period. For example, individuals who developed cancer lived an additional 23 years if they adopted four of the five healthy practices. In contrast, among those who didn't change, half only survived an additional 11 years. The same patterns were witnessed for both heart disease and diabetes.

Study shows it’s never too late to quit smoking

30/01/2020

Lungs have the ability to repair themselves, but only if a person stops smoking, new research suggests. It had previously been thought that the mutations that lead to lung cancer were permanent and smokers had already done irreparable damage with their habits. However, the surprise findings, published in the journal Nature, show that some cells escape the damage caused by smoking and can actually help repair the cells around them once a person has quit. This almost magical ability was witnessed by scientists from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and UCL even in people who had smoked a pack a day for 40 years before giving up – highlighting that it’s really never too late to quit. Exactly how certain cells avoid the genetic devastation caused by smoking is unclear, but the researchers said they appeared to “exist in a nuclear bunker”. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Rachel Orritt, from Cancer Research UK, said: “It's a really motivating idea that people who stop smoking might reap the benefits twice over - by preventing more tobacco-related damage to lung cells, and by giving their lungs the chance to balance out some of the existing damage with healthier cells”. It is estimated that of the 47,000 cases of lung cancer in the UK each year, almost three-quarters are caused by smoking.

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

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.

Consuming flavonoids lowers risk of cancer, increases lifespan

20/08/2019

It’s widely accepted that eating more fruits and vegetables is beneficial to a person’s health. But now a new study has firmly and scientifically concluded that eating foods that are rich in flavonoids (like fruits and vegetables) could stave off disease and extend life. According to research by a group of scientists from Edith Cowan University, Australia, people who eat 500mg of flavonoids every day have the lowest risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease-related deaths. So how much do you need to eat to reap these benefits? Well, the scientists say it is important to get the flavonoids from a variety of sources. They say someone can achieve the 500mg of total flavonoids by consuming one cup of tea, one apple, one orange, 100g of blueberries and 100g of broccoli. Interestingly, the study of more than 50,000 adults found that the benefits of consuming 500mg of flavonoids daily were most pronounced in people who smoke and drink more than two alcoholic beverages every day. However, the scientists were quick to point out that consuming flavonoids does not enough to undo the harmful effects of smoking and high alcohol consumption. The study also found that consuming more than 500mg of flavonoids daily was not associated with any additional benefits. The paper appears in the journal Natural Communications.  

Obesity now accounts for more cases of four common cancers than smoking

04/07/2019

A leading UK cancer charity has warned that obesity now causes more cases of four common cancers than smoking. According to Cancer Research UK, bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver cancers are more likely to be caused by being overweight than by smoking tobacco. The warning is particularly concerning as obese people outnumber smokers by two to one in the UK, which means millions of people are at risk of developing any of these cancers simply because they are overweight. Despite the fact that smoking remains the number one preventable cause of cancer in the UK and causes more cases of cancer than being overweight each year (54,300 vs. 22,800), for the four cancers previously mentioned, obesity causes more. However, Cancer Research UK’s latest billboard campaign highlighting the risks associated with being overweight has been accused of fat-shaming. And it’s not the first time the charity has been picked up for this either. Nevertheless, the charity remains adamant that outlining the risks of being overweight when it comes to cancer is an important step. Speaking about the Cancer Research UK warning, the British Medical Association said: “While we are very much aware of the health risks associated with smoking, less effort has been thrown behind tackling obesity, which is now a major cause of cancer.”

Is your diet killing you?

04/04/2019

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.

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

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.

Why being overweight increases your risk of cancer

13/11/2018

We are often told that being overweight increases our risk of cancer. In fact, in the UK, obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, according to Cancer Research UK. But why does being overweight increase a person’s likelihood of developing cancer? A group of scientists say they now know. The team from Trinity College Dublin say the reason overweight people are at greater risk of developing cancer is because a certain cell in the body that’s used to destroy cancer gets clogged with fat and stops working as a result. Publishing their findings in the Nature Immunology journal, the team said they were able to show that the body’s natural cancer-fighting cells get clogged by fat. They are hopeful that new drug treatments can be developed that will reverse the effects and restore the cancer-killing ability of said cells. Until then, though, the best advice remains to stay a healthy weight, stop smoking and cut down on alcohol. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Leo Carlin, from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, said: “Although we know that obesity increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer, we still don't fully understand the mechanisms underlying the link. “This study reveals how fat molecules prevent immune cells from properly positioning their tumour-killing machinery, and provides new avenues to investigate treatments.” [Related reading: Major study finds eating processed meat raises risk of breast cancer]

Smokers told not to go cold turkey when wanting to quit

27/09/2018

A new report from Public Health England (PHE) shows that smokers who take advantage of local support services and stop smoking aids, like e-cigarettes, inhalers and nicotine patches, stand a much greater chance of successfully kicking the habit. Quitting smoking using willpower alone, often referred to as ‘going cold turkey,’ only works for a small number of people who try it, with just 4% remaining smoke-free after 12 months. Nevertheless, of the six in 10 smokers in England who want to quit, the majority try to do so using the cold turkey method. But by turning to a combination of local support services and nicotine replacement therapies, smokers could witness much better success, according to PHE. In fact, PHE says that 51% of smokers who utilised local support services successfully quit and this figure rose to 63% for those who incorporated an e-cigarette or similar into their efforts. To further boost the stop smoking drive in England, PHE has created the Stoptober campaign. In addition to increasing awareness about the most effective ways to quit smoking, the campaign also has its own free online personal quit plan. This plan provides personalised stop smoking advice based on a smoker’s answers to three quick questions. There’s even an official Stoptober app to help smokers stay on track and get stop smoking advice while on the go. The Stoptober campaign centres on three really good reasons to kick the smoking habit: feel healthier, save money and protect your family – can’t really argue with that!

Obesity set to overtake smoking as number one preventable cause of cancer in UK women, charity warns

25/09/2018

By 2043, obesity will surpass smoking to be the biggest preventable cause of cancer in UK women. That’s one of the shocking new predictions to come out of a report by Cancer Research UK. At present, around 7% of cancers in women are linked to being overweight and obese, while 12% are said to be caused by smoking. But as the number of individuals who smoke continues to fall and obesity rates continue to rise, the UK cancer charity believes that gap will completely disappear over the next 25 years (assuming current trends continue). In fact, by 2035, the percentage of cancers caused by smoking and by carrying excess weight will almost be equal (25,000 cancer cases each year related to smoking vs. 23,000 related to being overweight). However, after just another eight years (by 2043), being overweight and obese is likely to be linked to even more cases of cancer in women than smoking. Interestingly, the cancer charity says that obesity will not overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer in men until some time later. The reason for this, though, is simply because more men than women smoke. While obesity is more prevalent among men too, it is thought to be a greater catalyst in women for developing cancer. Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK's prevention expert, said the UK government must act now to stem the tide of obesity-related cancers. “That's why we are raising awareness of the link between cancer and obesity and calling for measures to protect children, like a ban on junk food adverts before 9pm and for restrictions on price promotions of 'less healthy' products,” she said. Smoking-related cancers include: acute myeloid leukaemia lung bladder bowel cervical pancreatic stomach Obesity-related cancers include: bowel gall bladder kidney liver breast ovarian thyroid

Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding: new study shows possible child cognitive development impact

07/08/2018

Some new mothers drink alcohol while they are breastfeeding and think nothing of it. But a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests they could be impacting their baby’s cognitive abilities. Specifically, the study found that children who were exposed to alcohol through their mothers’ breast milk didn’t perform as well on reasoning tests at ages 6 and 7 as their peers who weren’t exposed to any alcohol. For the study, researchers analysed data on 5,107 infants from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Mothers were asked about their alcohol and tobacco use while breastfeeding, with the ultimate aim being to see if either affected children’s cognitive development. Not only were the test scores of children exposed to alcohol lower, they were lowest for those whose mothers drank the most. However, the researchers found no link between smoking while breastfeeding and test scores. While the researchers were not able to measure the cognitive reductions in a child once they reached 10 or 11, Louse Gibson, a co-author of the study, said that “doesn’t mean that the child has grown out of it, or that the effects of the mother’s alcohol consumption aren’t there anymore.” [Recommended reading: Bottle feeding is a woman’s right, midwives advised]

Eating nuts regularly could improve a man's sperm quality

05/07/2018

A new study suggests that eating nuts regularly can improve both a man’s sperm count and the quality of the sperm produced. Experts say the finding is significant given that sperm counts across the Western world are in decline, a reality that’s been attributed to pollution, smoking and diet. At present, around one in seven couples have difficulty getting pregnant and figures show that 40-50% of infertility cases are attributable to men. For the study, scientists randomly split 119 healthy men between the ages of 18 and 35 into two groups. One group had 60 grams (2oz) of nuts added to their normal diet each day, while the other continued to eat as they always had done. The group that had the nuts added to their diet were found to have improved sperm – 14% greater count, 4% better vitality, 6% better motility (movement) and 1% better morphology (shape and size) – all of which are considered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be measures of  sperm quality. Dr Albert Salas-Huetos, from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain, who led the study, said: "Evidence is accumulating in the literature that healthy lifestyle changes such as following a healthy dietary pattern might help conception”. The results of the study were recently presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona.

Marital status should be added to the list of cardiovascular risk factors - study

28/06/2018

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.

A million French smokers quit in a year, study finds

29/05/2018

It seems the slew of anti-smoking measures introduced in France have had a dramatic impact on the number of smokers in the country. According to a study conducted by Public Health France, one million people in France quit smoking in the space of a year, with initiatives such as neutral packaging, higher prices and anti-smoking campaigns being praised for attributing to the decline. In 2017, 26.9% of 18- to 75-year-olds smoked every day, compared to 29.4% a year earlier. This equates to a drop of a million smokers, from 13.2 million to 12.2 million over the period. Such a drop has not been seen in a decade and Public Health France says the results are “historic”. The study also revealed a notable decline in daily smoking habits “among the most disadvantaged”, including low-income earners and the unemployed for the first time since the year 2000. French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn welcomed the decline in smoking among those on low incomes, saying that "tobacco is a trajectory of inequality, it weighs particularly on the most disadvantaged and it gets worse". Buzyn plans to raise the price of a pack of cigarettes from around €8 today to €10 by 2020. [Related reading: Cleaning products as bad as 20-a-day cigarette habit for women – study]

Belief in fake cancer causes 'rife', study warns

01/05/2018

A new study has revealed that many people in England are unsure about cancer risk factors and often incorrectly identify fake cancer causes. The survey of 1,330 people found that drinking from plastic bottles and using microwave ovens are two of the fake cancer causes people often cite. The good news is that 88% of people surveyed correctly identified smoking as a major cancer risk factor, while 80% picked passive smoking and 60% said sunburn were also causes of cancer - all of which have been proven. According to Cancer Research UK, smoking, overexposure to UV radiation and being overweight are the biggest preventable causes of cancer. In fact, the charity says that about four in 10 cases of cancer could be prevented with lifestyle changes and people need the right information to help them "separate the wheat from the chaff". Researchers from University College London and the University of Leeds conducted the survey and discovered that more than 40% of participants wrongly thought that stress and food additives caused cancer. Dr Samuel Smith from the University of Leeds said: "It's worrying to see so many people endorse risk factors for which there is no convincing evidence. "Compared to past research, it appears the number of people believing in unproven causes of cancer has increased since the start of the century, which could be a result of changes to how we access news and information through the internet and social media." Clare Hyde, from Cancer Research UK, said: "There is no guarantee against getting cancer - but by knowing the biggest risk factors we can stack the odds in our favour to help reduce our individual risk of the disease, rather than wasting time worrying about fake news."

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.

UK millennials on course to be 'fattest generation', says leading cancer charity

27/02/2018

By the time they reach middle age, seven in 10 UK millennials (people born between the early 1980s and mid-90s) will be too fat, health experts say. In fact, millennials are on course to be the fattest generation ever since records began. In comparison, only about half of the so-called “baby boomer” generation (those born just after the Second World War) were fat at middle age. It’s a worrying revelation, especially as being fat as an adult is linked to an increased risk of developing 13 different types of cancer, according to Cancer Research UK who conducted the research. The charity said only 15% of the UK population are aware that being fat puts them at increased risk of breast, bowel and kidney cancer. Even more sobering is the fact Britain is now the most obese country in Western Europe and its obesity rates are rising faster than any other developed nation. In 1993, obesity prevalence was 15%, but that figure had almost doubled risen to 27% in 2015. Professor Linda Bauld from Cancer Research UK said: "Extra body fat doesn't just sit there; it sends messages around the body that can cause damage to cells. "This damage can build up over time and increase the risk of cancer in the same way that damage from smoking causes cancer.”

Cleaning products as bad as 20-a-day cigarette habit for women – study

20/02/2018

Using cleaning products regularly can be as bad for your lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day, a new study has found. Tracking people with an average age of 34 over a 20-year period, scientists at Norway’s University of Bergen found that women who regularly used cleaning products had lung function decline equivalent to those who smoked 20 cigarettes a day. For the study, the researchers measured the lung function of participants by testing the amount of air they were able to forcibly breathe out. They then examined the results alongside surveys answered by the study participants. They found that women who regularly used cleaning products had noticeably decreased lung capacities, as well as increased rates of asthma. Prof Cecile Svanes, who led the team from Bergen, said: "We feared that such chemicals, by steadily causing a little damage to the airways day after day, year after year, might accelerate the rate of lung function decline that occurs with age". So what should you be using instead of cleaning products? According to the scientists, microfiber cloths and water should be “enough for most purposes”, while keeping your home ventilated and using liquid cleaners, not sprays, could also help lessen the impact of cleaning products.

Just one cigarette a day increases heart disease and stroke risk, study finds

30/01/2018

Just one cigarette a day can increase a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke, a study has found, dispelling the myth that cutting back, not quitting altogether, can eliminate health issues. The study found that just one cigarette a day can increase a person’s chances of heart disease by about 50% and chances of a stroke by 30% than people who have never smoked. The bottom line is that there is no safe level of smoking when it comes to heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease, not cancer, remains the greatest mortality risk for smokers, accounting for approximately 48% of smoking-related premature deaths. And while the number of people who smoke in the UK has been falling, the percentage of people smoking one to five cigarettes a day has been steadily rising, researchers said. However, cutting down on cigarettes is always a good start and people who do so are more likely to quit in the long-run. Prof Allan Hackshaw from the UCL Cancer Institute at University College London, who led the study, said: "There's been a trend in quite a few countries for heavy smokers to cut down, thinking that's perfectly fine, which is the case for things like cancer. "But for these two common disorders, which they're probably more likely to get than cancer, it's not the case. They've got to stop completely." For the study, the researchers at UCL analysed data from 141 separate smoking-related studies and published their findings in the BMJ.

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."

One in 10 men aged 50 have the heart of a 60-year-old

05/09/2017

A study by Public Health England looking at the heart health of the nation has found that thousands of men face early death at the hands of a heart attack or stroke. In fact, according to the analysis of 1.2 million people, one in 10 British men has a heart age that’s a decade older than their actual age. Heart disease is the main cause of death among men and the second among women. Public Health England says that 7,400 people will die from heart disease or stroke this month alone. However, most of these deaths are preventable and Public Health England says that just a few small lifestyle changes can have a positive impact. One of the suggestions made was for over 50s to get their blood pressure regularly checked as high blood pressure can be an early sign of a potentially life-threatening condition. Public Health England’s head of cardiovascular disease, Jamie Waterall, urged people not to only start considering their heart health later in life. "Addressing our risk of heart disease and stroke should not be left until we are older", he said. How to improve your heart health: Give up smoking Get active Manage your weight Eat more fibre Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day Cut down on saturated fat Cut down on salt Drink less alcohol

Scientists find that smoking when pregnant harms the livers of unborn babies

30/05/2017

Smoking when pregnant has long been frowned upon, but now a new study has revealed how cigarettes can damage the developing liver cells of unborn babies. The team of scientists, led by the University of Edinburgh, found that the deadly cocktail of chemicals found in cigarettes is particularly harmful to developing liver cells. Furthermore, they discovered that cigarette chemicals affect male and female foetuses differently, with male tissue showing liver scarring and female tissue showing more damage to cell metabolism. Using embryonic stem cells, the team developed a way of testing how maternal smoking affects liver tissue. They used pluripotent stem cells - cells that have the ability to transform into other cell types - to build foetal liver tissue. They then exposed said tissue to the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes – in particular, the specific substances known to circulate in foetuses when mothers smoke. Dr David Hay from the University of Edinburgh's centre for regenerative medicine, said: "Cigarette smoke is known to have damaging effects on the foetus, yet we lack appropriate tools to study this in a very detailed way. "This new approach means that we now have sources of renewable tissue that will enable us to understand the cellular effect of cigarettes on the unborn foetus."

How waist size can predict cancer risk

25/05/2017

Men with waists over 40 inches and women with waists over 35 inches are at greater risk of certain cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes. That’s the message to come out of a study by scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is an arm of the World Health Organisation. According to Dr Heinz Freisling, the lead author of the study published in the British Journal of Cancer, a person’s waist measurement is as good at predicting cancer risk as their body mass index (BMI). His advice is for people to know their waistlines. “You only need to put a tape measure around your belly button. This is easy to do and can give a person an indication of whether their risk for specific cancers is increased or not – for instance pancreas or liver cancer which are known to be related to increased body fatness or obesity,” he said. Being overweight or obese is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and is linked to 13 types of cancer, including bowel, breast and pancreas. The study combined data from about 43,000 participants who had been followed for an average of 12 years and more than 1,600 people were diagnosed with an obesity-related cancer.

People with non-O blood at greater risk of heart attack

04/05/2017

People with non-O blood could be at greater risk of stroke and heart attack, research suggests. Scientists say it's because A, B and AB blood contains higher levels of a blood-clotting protein. The research, which was presented at the 4th World Congress on Acute Heart Failure, analysed studies involving 1.3m people. It found that people 15 in 1,000 people with non-O blood suffered a heart attack, compared to 14 in 1,000 people with O blood. While these figures don't sound that startling at first, when applied to a whole population the numbers become more important. It is hoped that the findings will help doctors better identify who is at risk of developing heart disease. However, Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the findings would not have a large impact on the current advice issued by the charity. "Most of a person's risk estimation is determined by age, genetics (family history and ethnicity) and other modifiable risk factors including diet, weight, level of physical activity, smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. "People with a non-O blood group type - AO, BO and AB - need to take the same steps as anyone wanting to reduce their CVD risk." So regardless of your blood type, the advice remains the same: improve your diet, weight, level of physical activity and don't smoke. In addition, manage blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes too. There's nothing you can do about your blood group, but you can make positive lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Smoking causes one in 10 deaths globally, study reveals

11/04/2017

In 2015 alone, 6.4 million deaths worldwide were attributed to smoking, according to a major new study, the results of which were published in The Lancet medical journal. Even more eye-opening is the fact that half of those deaths occurred in just four countries - China, India, USA, and Russia. The study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in the US found a staggering one in 10 deaths globally is caused by smoking, despite decades of tobacco control policies in many countries. Furthermore, mortality rates could rise even more as tobacco companies aggressively target new, emerging markets. Interestingly, the number of people that smoked daily in 2015 was one billion (one in four men and one in 20 women), which is actually a reduction from the one in three men and one in 12 women who did in 1990. However, population growth has meant there were actually more people smoking in 2015 than 1990. "Despite more than half a century of unequivocal evidence of the harmful effects of tobacco on health, today, one in every four men in the world is a daily smoker," said senior author Dr Emmanuela Gakidou. "Smoking remains the second largest risk factor for early death and disability, and so to further reduce its impact we must intensify tobacco control to further reduce smoking prevalence and attributable burden."

Cooking rice the wrong way could be endangering your health

15/02/2017

By simply cooking rice the wrong way, millions of people worldwide could be endangering their lives, scientists believe. That's because rice contains traces of the poison arsenic, which stems from industrial toxins and pesticides that can remain in the soil it grows in for decades. In fact, rice contains about 10-20 times more arsenic than other cereal crops because of the way it is grown in flooded paddies. Fortunately, the way people cook rice can have a dramatic effect on the amount of arsenic that finds its way into their bodies. Chronic arsenic exposure has been linked with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and developmental problems, which is why the new research is so alarming. For the BBC TV programme “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor,” Prof Andy Meharg, from Queens University Belfast, tested how three different ways of cooking rice affected the levels of arsenic in it afterwards. In the first method, he used a ratio of two parts water to one part rice. This is the method many people use and sees the water “steamed out” during cooking. It's also the method that resulted in the most arsenic remaining in the rice. In the second method, he used five parts water to one part rice and washed off the excess water. The levels of arsenic almost halved with this method. In the third and final method, he soaked the rice overnight before cooking it. This resulted in the levels of arsenic being reduced by a whopping 80%. "The only thing I can really equate it to is smoking," said Professor Meharg. "If you take one or two cigarettes per day, your risks are going to be a lot less than if you're smoking 30 or 40 cigarettes a day. It's dose-dependent - the more you eat, the higher your risk is."

One hour of 'brisk exercise' can offset risks associated with sitting

02/08/2016

One hour of "brisk exercise" each day can offset the risk of early death for people who are desk-bound in their working lives, according to scientists. The study of physical activity - the results of which were published in The Lancet - analysed data from more than one million people to see how being inactive affects people's health. Watching TV was found to be worse than sitting at a desk. This is because of the associated habits that go with it, like snacking. However, even people who sit at a desk for eight hours a day because of their jobs can compensate by undertaking an hour of physical activity. In fact, the research found that desk-bound workers who were physically active had a significantly lower risk of death than people who weren't physically active and only sat for a few hours. At present, NHS guidelines recommend people do at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. The new research suggests that is insufficient for many. Being inactive has long been linked to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, and accounts for around 5.3 million deaths globally each year. For comparison, smoking accounts for around 5.1 million. Prof Ulf Ekelund, Lead author of the study, from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences and Cambridge University, said that people don't even need to do sport or go the gym to exercise. "It’s OK doing some brisk walking, maybe in the morning, during lunchtime, after dinner in the evening. You can split it up over the day, but you need to do at least one hour," he said.

Men at greater risk of cardiac arrest, says new study

05/07/2016

A new study has found that men are much more likely to suffer a cardiac arrest than women. In fact, around one in nine men will have their heart stop suddenly before the age of 70, compared to around one in 30 women. The study researchers said that by the age of 45, men have almost an 11% lifetime risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Women of the same age have just a 3% risk. According to Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, chair of preventive medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago, approximately 450,000 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest each year, and most never have any of the usual symptoms associated with a heart problem. He explained that because heart disease tends to develop earlier in men than in women, more serious screening for risk factors in the male population needs to be undertaken. Smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes are all major cardiac arrest risk factors. "Know your numbers, especially your blood pressure, but also know your cholesterol or whether you have diabetes," said Dr. Lloyd-Jones. "At 50, men should also have a baseline electrocardiogram, which might reveal heart problems," he added. For the study, Dr. Lloyd-Jones and his colleagues analysed data on more than 5,200 men and women between the ages of 28 and 62 who took part in the long-running Framingham Heart Study.

Study: American heart attack victims now younger and fatter

29/03/2016

A new study has revealed that heart attack victims in the United States are becoming younger and fatter. Over the past two decades alone, the average age of people suffering the deadliest heart attacks has fallen from 64 to 60, and obesity has been implicated in 40% of the most severe, according to researchers at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio. In addition, heart attack sufferers nowadays are more likely to be smokers and people with high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), compared to 20 years ago. It's a reality that is raising alarm bells. "Lifestyle changes to reduce weight, eat right, exercise and quit smoking are critical for prevention of heart attack," said senior researcher Dr. Samir Kapadia, an an interventional cardiologist in the Cleveland Clinic Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Kapadia added that the responsibility for making these lifestyle changes should be shared between the patient and their medical doctor, and the issue discussed at routine checkups. The study focused on analysing heart disease risk factors among more than 3,900 patients; all of whom had been treated for an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). One of the most severe types of heart attack, STEMIs often result in disability or death and occur when the heart's main artery is completely blocked by plaque. The results of the study are scheduled to be presented on April 4 at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting in Chicago.

Study: Cold turkey best way to quit smoking

17/03/2016

Mention the words 'cold turkey' to anyone who's trying to give up smoking and they'll likely tell you that a gradual approach, which includes nicotine patches, gum and/or mouth spray, is the best way to go. But a new study has now added support to the camp that believes quitting smoking is more successful if you stop altogether (cold turkey) and don't try doing it gradually over a period of time. For the research, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation, 700 long-term heavy smokers in England - who wanted to kick the habit - were split into two groups. Half were told to pick a day when they would give up smoking entirely and the other half were told to quit smoking gradually. The researchers found that after six months, the 15.5% of the gradual-cessation group had managed to abstain from cigarettes, compared to 22% of the cold turkey group. Lead researcher Dr Nicola Lindson-Hawley, from Oxford University, said: "The difference in quit attempts seemed to arise because people struggled to cut down. It provided them with an extra thing to do, which may have put them off quitting altogether." Advice from the NHS says that people who want to give up smoking should pick a convenient date to quit and stick to it. Furthermore, the NHS says that sticking to the "not a drag" rule can also really help.

Cervical Health Awareness Month

27/01/2016

The United States Congress designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month, which is why we have decided to do a short piece on the disease. According to American Cancer Society research, cervical cancer used to be the number one cause of cancer death in the United States for women. However, thanks to increased awareness and regular screening campaigns, the number of deaths from cervical cancer has dropped by more than 50% over the past 30 years. But despite all the good work that’s been done so far to combat the disease, some 12,900 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed in the US alone last year and over 4,000 women died because of the disease, which suggests that there is possibly more that could still be done to tackle this particular form of cancer. Cervical cancer is most common in women under the age of 50, yet very rarely occurs in women under the age of 20. Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) cause almost all cases of cervical cancer and 40% of these HPVs can be transmitted during sexual intercourse. Two specific types – HPV-16 and HPV-18 – are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases globally. Other risks factors for cervical cancer include: having a family history of the disease; a weakened immune system; long-term mental stress; and smoking. Taking contraceptive pills has also been found to increase a woman’s risk of cervical cancer. The importance of regular cervical cancer screening is highlighted by the fact that the disease presents very few symptoms in its early stages. Only when it becomes invasive do more noticeable symptoms start to occur, such as abnormal bleeding between periods and after sexual intercourse; heavy or prolonged periods; unusual vaginal discharge; and/or pain during sex. Official guidance from the US Preventative Services Task Force (UPSTF) says that women aged between 21 and 65 years old should undergo a Pap test every three years. So if you’re a woman you haven’t had a Pap test within the last three years, you should make an appointment with your appropriate medical physician as soon as possible.       Photo via: http://www.cancerbox.org/cervical-cancer

Study finds most cancers caused by environmental factors, not bad luck

18/12/2015

Is whether you’ll get cancer predominantly determined by bad luck, or do environmental factors play a significant part also? That’s the question that a new study by a team of researchers from the Stony Brook Cancer Centre in New York, the results of which were published in the journal Nature, set out to answer. The team used four approaches to conclude that only 10-30% of cancers are simply down to “luck” and that environmental factors have an overwhelming affect. Cancer is caused by one of the body’s own stem cells going rogue and dividing out of control. This can be caused by natural factors, but the team discovered that extrinsic factors, such as smoking and being exposed to UV radiation, play a bigger part than many people think. Experts have said that the team’s analysis is “pretty convincing” and highlights the relative importance of extrinsic factors. Talking about the findings of the study, Dr Emma Smith, from Cancer Research UK, said: "While healthy habits like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol are not a guarantee against cancer, they do dramatically reduce the risk of developing the disease." While a person who smokes is not necessarily guaranteed to get cancer, by doing so they are stacking the odds against them. An element of chance will always be involved, but people can reduce their own risk by eliminating some of these extrinsic factors from their lives.      

Being Unhappy or Stressed Does Not Cause Ill Health, Mortality

11/12/2015

People have long thought that being unhappy could be bad for your health – especially your heart – but a new decade-long study has revealed that previous research may have confused cause and effect. The study, which was led by Dr. Bette Liu of the University of South Wales in Australia and published in The Lancet, found that unhappiness is not a direct cause of ill health and increased mortality. Known as the UK’s Million Women Study, the research team analysed 719, 671 women who had a median age of 59 to discover whether happiness detrimental changes in stress hormones or the immune system resulted in a higher risk of death. One of the research team’s conclusions was that previous studies had failed to deal with reverse causality, in other words, that people who are ill tend to not be happy. For the research, female participants were asked to regularly rate their health, stress levels and happiness. The bottom line was that whether people were “never”, “usually” or “mostly” happy had no bearing on their odds of dying during the course of the study. Dr Liu said: "Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn't make you ill. "We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality, even in a 10-year study of a million women." The research did find, however, that light smokers were twice as likely to die during the study period and regular smokers three times. Reinforcing the reality that smoking is seriously bad for your health. Unhappiness, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily seem to be.  

WHO: Processed Meats Do Cause Cancer

27/10/2015

People have talked about the possible negative effects of processed meat for a long time and numerous studies linking high consumption of red and processed meats with higher risk of colorectal cancer have even influenced public health recommendations in some countries. But now a report compiled on behalf of the World Health Organisation by a working group of 22 experts from 10 countries around the world has concluded that there is an association with eating processed meats and colorectal cancer risks. The findings, published recently in The Lancet Oncology, said that 50g of processed meat a day, which is equivalent to less than two slices of bacon, increased a person’s chances of developing colorectal cancer by 18%. Furthermore, the study said that red meats were “probably carcinogenic, but there was limited evidence to comment further. However, despite these findings, the WHO also emphasised that there are still health benefits associated with eating meat. Cancer Research UK’s advice is that people should cut down on their consumption of red and processed meats, rather than give them up completely. In fact, the organisation said that the occasional bacon sandwich would do little harm. Processed meat is meat that has had its shelf life extended or its taste changed by means of smoking, curing, or adding preservatives or salt. Bacon, sausages, hotdogs, corned beef, salami, ham, beef jerky and other canned meats are all considered “processed”. Chemicals used during the processing of the meats are thought to be carcinogenic catalysts, as is high-temperature cooking such as on a barbecue. Dr Kurt Straif from the WHO said: “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.”    

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