Showing posts with label heart disease. Show all posts
Showing posts with label heart disease. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Can a Five Minute Run Improve Your Health? Yes!

Like many Americans, you may have started the new year by making a commitment to improve your health or reduce your weight. Yet you found the task overwhelming, or just didn’t know where to start. If that's the case, there's good news - a recent study has found the perfect motivation to release yourself from a sedentary lifestyle. It turns out that you can make big improvements to your health with surprisingly little effort.

Previous research has shown that certain types of high intensity physical workouts can have significant health benefits. But high intensity exercise is, well, intense! It takes a high level of determination and commitment to push yourself to the limit several days a week. But now, scientists say that even a low intensity running workout can improve your health and reduce your risk of heart disease in just 5-10 minutes of daily effort.

The researchers in this 2014 study examined the effects of running on all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risks. The research involved data collection from more than 55,000 adults of all ages, with a mean age of 44 years.

Their conclusion is that running just 5 to 10 minutes a day at a reasonably slow speed (under 6 miles/hour) can markedly reduce your risk of death from all causes, particularly cardiovascular disease.

To gather this data, researchers from several colleges and institutions used a massive database containing decades of information about the health of both men and women who had gotten clinic check-ups and had completed a questionnaire that surveyed them about their exercise habits. Participants were asked questions about if, how often, and how fast they ran.

The researchers then compared the death records of the participants and found that those who identified themselves as runners were about 30% less likely to have died from any cause compared to non-runners, and were 45% less likely to have died from heart disease.

An interesting discovery from the statistics is the fact that the benefits did not vary much among the runners, no matter their weekly running duration or speed. So, if you enjoy running fast, far, or frequently, go for it - but if your goal is longevity or heart health, you don't need to. Those who ran as little as 5-10 minutes daily and at a comfortable pace (slower than 10 minutes/mile) did just about as well by these health measurements.

The researchers also found that the mortality risk for runners was lower than for walkers and others who chose less physical activities than running, meaning that even light running is better for your health than walking.

With evidence that even small amounts of daily running provides substantial and attainable benefits, researchers hope that many sedentary people will be motivated to begin and continue running. If you're looking for a way to get healthy, but don't think you have the time

NOTE: Before you lace up those running shoes and head out the door, make sure you consult with your doctor, especially if you have any known medical issues, or have never previously undertaken any vigorous exercise program.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Study Shows Intermittent Fasting Brings Big Health Benefits

Fasting on a given number of consecutive or alternate days – a practice known as “intermittent fasting” – is all the rage, mostly because of weight loss claims. But is it good for you?

Recent scientific evidence suggests that these fasting diets may do much more good for us than just aiding weight loss; intermittent fasting may boost health and prevent several diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and Alzheimer's.

Recently, it's been hailed as a path to weight loss and improved cardiovascular risk. Now, a team led by James Brown from Aston University has evaluated the various approaches to intermittent fasting in scientific literature. They searched specifically for advantages and limitations in treating obesity and type 2 diabetes using fasting diets.

What is intermittent fasting and how does it work?

When we fast, our bodies modify how they select which fuel to burn. Studies have found that this results in improving our metabolism and reducing oxidative stress.

For people with obesity, few drugs are available to aid in healthy weight loss, and gastric surgery is a relatively rare and expensive alternative. Dietary changes remain the most common intervention used for obese people.

Fasting is known to help, but former treatments were based on intermittent starving. Today’s intermittent fasting regimes are easier to stick to, and are proven to help melt away excess pounds.

Scientists have known since the 1940s that intermittent fasting helps us lose weight, and can cut the incidence of diabetes in lab animals. Recent studies have also confirmed that restricting calorie intake could possibly reverse type 2 diabetes in some people.

The basic format of intermittent fasting is to alternate days eating ‘normally’ with days when calorie consumption is restricted. This can either be done on alternating days, or where two days each week are designated as “fasting days.”

Results of intermittent fasting in studies

These types of intermittent fasting have been shown in trial studies to be as effective or more effective than counting calories every day to lose weight.

Evidence from clinical trials shows many potential health benefits of intermittent fasting, including:
  • Limiting inflammation
  • Improving levels of sugars and fats in circulation
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Improving pancreatic function
  • Reducing the fatty deposits associated with insulin resistance

Intermittent fasting and heart health

In animal models, scientists have shown that intermittent fasting has some cardiovascular benefits that appear similar to exercising, such as improving blood pressure and heart rate, and lowering cholesterol.

Fasting also appears to aid those with ischemic heart disease. Fasting may even protect the heart by raising levels of adiponectin, a protein that has several important roles in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and vascular biology.

Intermittent fasting and weight loss

Based on these findings, researchers believe that intermittent fasting might achieve much of the same benefits as bariatric surgery, but without the costs, restrictions, and risks associated with surgery.

According to the study’s lead author, James Brown, “Whether intermittent fasting can be used as a tool to prevent diabetes in those individuals at high risk, or to prevent progression in those recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes remains a tantalizing notion, and we are currently in preparation for clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of this form of lifestyle intervention in various patient groups.”

Intermittent fasting is an increasingly popular diet plan that hit the headlines in the run up to Christmas 2012 after the release of a book on the subject. Proponents claim that in addition to weight loss, the diet can lead to longer life and protection against disease, particularly conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Can Low Income Mean Low Health?

It has been said that money does not bring happiness, “but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery,” quipped writer-comedian Spike Mulligan. Recent research shows he may be right:
  • One recent study showed that rates of child maltreatment worsened as the recent Great Recession deepened and wallets deflated.
  • Researchers say that the less income your family had when you were growing up, the more likely you are to have health problems as an adult.
A 2013 research study, performed at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), showed an apparent connection between the length of the human cell’s telomeres (the protective cap-like protein complexes at the end of our chromosomes) and the socioeconomic condition of children and teens – that being raised in a lower socioeconomic state can result in shorter telomeres as adults, which, in turn, can eventually increase susceptibility to colds and other illnesses in middle-aged adults.

You can read more about telomeres and their effect on health and longevity here. The short story is this; telomere length is a “biomarker” of aging. That is, they shorten as we get older. And as they shorten, they lose their ability to function well.

Having shorter telomeres is connected to the early onset of many illnesses, including heart disease and cancer in older adults. As this 2013 study shows, the shortening of your telomeres also increases your susceptibility to acute infectious disease in young to midlife adults.

In other words, the common cold is more common to those who grew up in a lower socioeconomic state.

In the study, researchers measured the telomere lengths of white blood cells from 152 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55.

To gauge childhood and current socioeconomic status, the participants were asked to report whether they currently owned their home and whether their parents owned the family home when they were between the ages of 1 and 18.

The participants were then exposed to a rhinovirus, which causes the common cold. They were then quarantined for five days to see if they actually developed an upper respiratory infection.  Some did, and some didn’t.

The results showed that those participants who reported growing up with a lower socioeconomic status — indicated by fewer years that their parents were homeowners — had shorter-than-average telomere length, and were more likely to get sick.

  • Telomere length decreased by 5 percent for each year the participants' parents did not own a home.
  • Parental homeownership in both early childhood and adolescence were both associated with adult telomere length.
  • Participants with lower childhood socioeconomic status were more likely to become infected by the cold virus. Specifically, for each year their parents did not own a home during their childhood years up to age 18, the participants' odds of developing a cold increased by 9 percent.
The collective results of the study provide a compelling case to suggests a biological connection between our childhood experiences and our adult health.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Eggs–Good for You or Bad for You? Get the Facts!

Some recent research contradicts long held assumptions that eggs are not good for you. Are eggs the new health food or the shortcut to elevated cholesterol and heart disease?

Why we were told for years that eggs are bad for you

In the latter part of the 20th century, scientists and health experts told us that eggs were bad for us because their yolks contain lots of dietary cholesterol and, therefore, will elevate our cholesterol level if we eat them.
The assumption held firm for decades, convincing generations that eating eggs could elevate our cholesterol levels to dangerous levels, and specifically elevate the LDLs — low-density lipoproteins. If true, then eggs could  definitely put our arteries at risk and increase the likelihood of ending up with heart disease.
But was that a correct assumption?

The new research on eggs and health

Here’s one of the facts that threw the risk theory into a tailspin; eggs are a big part of the Japanese diet, with some estimates showing that they eat on average nearly one a day per person. And yet, why then do the Japanese have lower cholesterol and lower heart disease rates than we have here in the U.S.? The leading theory today is that the standard Japanese diet is lower in saturated fat that the standard American diet. 
In other words, the eggs are not to blame for our relatively higher cholesterol and heart disease problems.
More on what the research on eggs and health shows:
  • One study showed that, if there is health risk in egg consumption, it's for those who are already at risk for heart disease.
  • This study and this one showed that a diet with up to an egg a day does not increase your risk of heart disease.
  • As this report highlights, the risk with egg consumption has more to do with how we generally eat eggs.  For example, do you eat scrambled eggs all by themselves, or with cheese and sausages and a side of home fries and buttered white toast? Most of the foods we pair our eggs with are high in saturated fat and calories.  Thus, the meal as a whole raises bad cholesterol levels far more than the eggs themselves could ever do.
What about research that doesn’t line up with the rest of the data? In some cases, the quality of the data is in question. Such is the case in a 2012 Canadian study that described the heart health risk of eggs as being almost as bad as smoking; experts looking at the study were quick to point out the study’s myriad flaws.

The health benefits of eggs

Most modern research shows that the health benefits of eggs far outweigh the risks for most people:
  • The egg is a top-notch dietary source for Vitamin D – one of the few in fact. Vitamin D benefits your bones and teeth, improves calcium absorption.
  • Eggs are a low-calorie food, averaging less than 80 calories each, while its protein content makes it satisfying.
  • The eggs is a whole food, containing complete nutrients that you’d be hard pressed to get from any other food source.
  • Eggs are an excellent and natural source of protein, with a good combination of amino acids, which makes the eggs’ protein easy to absorb and assimilate into the body.
  • Have you heard of choline? Choline is essential for fetal brain development and is also believed to be valuable in adult brain health too.  The egg yolk provides you with lots of choline!
  • Eggs also contain two important phytochemicals – lutein and zeaxanthin – that are excellent for eye health, preventing diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Looking for a natural source of the vitamin B12? The egg’s got it! Or what about riboflavin, also known as B2, which helps produce energy in cells? you’ll find that in both egg whites and egg yolks.

Risks of eggs in your diet

While the best science suggests that eggs have a lot more benefits than risks for most of, heed these cautions:
  • The research mostly confirms that an egg a day is safe, but do not assume that a 3-egg omelet daily would be safe.  Egg yolks still contain cholesterol and will make minute influences in your cholesterol level, so three could be problematic.
  • If you have a history of problems with your total and LDL cholesterol levels, health experts advise restraint in consuming egg yolks.
  • If you have diabetes, egg yolks are also best used minimally, as this study confirmed.
  • Safe handling and storage is important. check out the CDC’s article on how to reduce your risk of salmonella from eggs.
And a final thought on eggs and your health: Pay a little extra for free-range eggs if you want a much healthier egg, according to a Mother Earth News egg testing project. It showed that free-range eggs are far more nutritious than commercially raised eggs, containing less cholesterol and saturated fat while delivering more vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, beta carotene.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Inactivity – It's a Killer

New Research Names lack of exercise as Mortality Risk Raiser For Older Women.

The verdict, according to recent research: Get moving or risk coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and early death.

As reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the new study, focused on older women, showed that a sedentary lifestyle – spending too much of the day lying down or sitting – increased the risk of heart disease and death.

Researchers studied the five-year lifestyle and mortality statistics of more than 92,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 years of age, data that included an assessment of how many sedentary hours each woman spent daily.

Some of the key findings from the study:
  • Of the women researched, the average amount of daily inactivity was 8.5 hours.
  • Researchers concluded that women who remain sedentary for a cumulative 11 hours a day or more were at the greatest risk.
  • The highest amount of sedentary time was reported by women who were White, smoked, have a college degree, and have a higher body mass index, or BMI: a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
  • Women who were more sedentary were more likely to have reported falling within the past year.
  • Not surprisingly, the women who reported higher degrees of daily inactivity also tended to have higher rates of fair to poor health.
Researchers were quick to point out that these statistics, though gathered from older women, apply to people of both sexes and all ages. What surely is no surprise to most or all adults in this day and age is the fact that exercise is good for us and that inactivity is not good for us.  But these new statistics should serve as a warning siren to the risks of inadequate physical activity.  If you have any doubt, take note of this supporting data:
  • The US Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General reported scientific evidence in 1996 that linked regular physical activity to improved cardiovascular health.
  • According to the online journal BMJ, sitting too long (three or more hours/day) results in a reduction in life expectancy.
  • As reported in this article by Frank Claps, M. ED., CSCS, those who exercise regularly have a decreased risk of having hypertension and a lowered mortality potential.
  • Statistics from the American Heart Association indicate that a quarter million deaths each year in the United States can be attributed to a lack of regular physical activity.
  • A 2014 report from UT Southwestern Medical Center confirms that that sedentary behavior can lower cardiorespiratory fitness levels.
To reduce health risks and increase your chances for a long and healthy life, health professionals assert that any regular improvement in levels of exercise can show benefits.  Here are super-easy tips to help you start making positive health improvements through modest physical activity:
  • If you work at a desk, set an egg timer to ding every half hour or so, and use that ding as a reminder to stand up, even briefly, and take a short walk through your workplace hallways.
  • Likewise, if you are at home watching TV, keep an egg timer by your chair, set to remind you to get up and move about every half hour or hour.
  • Make a shared commitment with one or two friends to meet a couple of times a week to go for walks together. Start slow – perhaps just around the block – and eventually increase your distance or the amount of time you plan to walk together.
  • Try to incorporate moderate weightlifting into your day. This can be as simple as keeping handy a couple of one-gallon water jugs, which you can start working with at just a quarter full, eventually increasing the volume of water. Doing simple arm curls or lifting from the shoulders can help you retain muscle mass while burning calories.
  • If you work on the second or third floor at your office, consider regularly taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
One note: Even though the American Heart Association states that about nine out of 10 heart attacks occur while in a resting state – not during physical activity as many assume to be the case – there can be risks inherent to any increase in exercise, depending on your current health. So, before undertaking any new exercise program, first get the thumbs-up from your physician.

Have you made positive changes in reducing the amount of inactive time you spend daily? How did you make those changes? Please share your tips and success stories using our comments field below.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Is There Danger in Your Diet Soda?

heart disease
Diet sodas raise risks for strokes and
heart attacks.
Is diet soda bad for you? Study after study adds more evidence that the most common diet sodas – those sweetened with aspartame – may be less safe than you think. In spite of this, weight-conscious, soda-loving Americans continue to consume tons (an estimated 5,250 tons!) of aspartame annually. Nearly 90 percent of that aspartame is specifically from diet sodas. So, how bad is it really?  Let’s look at the evidence.
  • A 2006 study reported in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health NCBI (The National Center for Biotechnology Information) identified carcinogenic effects of aspartame administered to rats.
  • A 2007 study revealed that even low doses of aspartame increases cancer risk.
  • A 2011 study that followed 2,500 study participants for nine years showed a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks, for those who drank diet soda each day.
  • A study published in early 2012 indicates that aspartame can cause brain damage by leaving traces of methanol in the blood.
  • A study published in late 2012 has linked aspartame to a heightened risk of Lymphoma and Leukemia.This study is gaining particular attention due to its substantial scope, being based on a 22-year data collection period.
risk factors
Sparkling water or with fresh fruit
garnish is a refreshing, healthy alternative to
diet soda.
Can we at least have faith in the assumption that drinking a soda sweetened with aspartame instead of sugar will help us control weight gain or lose weight? No, according to a 2011 study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. This study, which followed 474 diet soda drinkers for 10 years, found that their waists grew 70 percent more than the waists of non-diet-soda drinkers. Since an increase in weight increases the risk factor for heart disease and many other health problems, such as, cancer and diabetes, it certainly seems that we are better of drinking the sugar-sweetened sodas. 

So, in short, other than the risk factors that aspartame-sweetened drinks may make you fat and may lead to cancer, brain damage, strokes, and heart disease, it’s not a problem to enjoy your daily dose of diet soda. If you still can.

Weight Gain and Diet Soda

If aspartame is this bad for you, then why do we continue our love affair with diet sodas? Do we enjoy a tall glass of cardiovascular risk factor increase? Of course not  But there are a couple of key reasons for diet soda’s popularity:
  • Let’s start with the obvious – how refreshing it is to enjoy the throat-cooling tickle of a carbonated drink, especially when it’s sweetened with our favorite flavors! 
  • Second, Americans are consumed with physical appearance, wanting the perfect physique, like the ones we see on TV every day. This explains why the diet and weight loss industry is one of the biggest and fastest growing businesses; we all want to lose weight.
Combine those two factors and you get the diet soda – the way we can cut out the calories from sugar while still enjoying the taste experience of a fizzy, flavorful soda. Unfortunately, nearly all diet soft drinks on the market today are sweetened with aspartame.

Does this mean we need to give up completely on carbonated drinks to avoid the dangerous side effects? Nearly all health experts say the same thing – that we would be better off drinking a glass of water instead of soda. But since you already know that, let’s assume that you want what I want – to continue enjoying the pleasing taste of sodas, and yet do so without the sugars and without the dangers of aspartame. The good news is, you do have options.  For example:
heart disease
Add fresh lime, kiwi or other fruit to your
home made carbonated beverages.
  • Check out the ingredients of the diet carbonated beverages available at your local health food store or health food grocery. The diet sodas they carry often include those that are sweetened with alternative sweeteners that have not shown the same level of risks as aspartame-sweetened sodas, such as stevia, coconut palm sugar, sucralose, or sugar alcohols. 
  • Consider making your own sodas. This allows you to control both how and how much the beverage is sweetened. Soda maker machines are becoming increasingly popular for this reason. They can be purchased at many major retailers and online. 
  • Experiment with reducing your sweet-flavored assumptions about sodas by allowing yourself something more fanciful than plain water and yet tastier than water and healthy for you. My favorite recipe: Buy ordinary soda water (unflavored sparking water) and add lemon or lime juice to taste. You still get that delightful, ice-cold throat tingle, but virtually no calories. 
Are soda maker machines safe to use? Or is the soda just as bad as diet soda from the store? The big advantage of the machine is that you control the answer to that question, as it’s up to you what diet soda ingredients you allow to go in there. Just be advised that one of the above studies also linked the caramel coloring used in most typical cola recipes to vascular issues as well. And there are plenty of other ingredients you can add that reduce the health of the beverage, such as caffeine, the choice of artificial sweeteners, sodium, and phosphoric acid. But at least with a soda machine and your own recipe, you know exactly what’s in there. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer