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Category: General Health (page 1 of 6)

Increased Physical Activity May Protect Against Cognitive Decline and Ward Off Alzheimer’s Onset

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have found that higher levels of daily physical activity may protect against cognitive decline and brain tissue loss in adults who are believed to be at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The best results were found among the research participants who took more than 8,900 steps per day.

Traci Pedersen, writing in PsychCentral:

“One of the most striking findings from our study was that greater physical activity not only appeared to have positive effects on slowing cognitive decline, but also on slowing the rate of brain tissue loss over time in normal people who had high levels of amyloid plaque in the brain,” said Jasmeer Chhatwal, M.D., Ph.D. of the MGH Department of Neurology, and corresponding author of the study.

The results suggest that physical activity might reduce b-amyloid (Ab)-related cortical thinning and preserve gray matter structure in regions of the brain that have been associated with episodic memory loss and Alzheimer’s-related neurodegeneration.

The underlying processes of Alzheimer’s disease can begin decades before clinical symptoms appear and is characterized by early accumulation of b-amyloid protein.

The new study is among the first to demonstrate the protective effects of physical activity and vascular risk management in the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, while there is an opportunity to intervene prior to the onset of substantial neuronal loss and clinical impairment.

“Because there are currently no disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, there is a critical need to identify potential risk-altering factors that might delay progression of the disease,” Chhatwal said.

The new research published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

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Spending as Little as 2 Hours a Week in Nature Can Lead to Better Health and Wellbeing

India Economic Times

People who spend at least 120 minutes a week with nature are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological well-being than those who do not visit nature at all during an average week, said the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“It’s well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and well-being but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough,” said lead researcher Mat White of the University of Exeter Medical School in Britain.

“The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just two miles of home so even visiting local urban green spaces seems to be a good thing,” White said.

And

“There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and well-being, including getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family,” said study co-author Terry Hartig of Uppsala University in Sweden.

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A Sense of Purpose Could Prolong Your Life

Ephrat Livni writing for Quartz:

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health analyzed data from nearly 7,000 individuals over 50 years old and concluded that “stronger purpose in life was associated with decreased mortality.” They believe that “purposeful living may have health benefits.”

The new research relied on data from individuals who enrolled in the American Health and Retirement Study (HRS)—longterm research that looks at a cross-section of subjects over time. The original research measured participants’ psychological well-being in 2006, their physical health and, subsequently, causes of death by 2010. The new analysis found that those whose psychological questionnaires reflected a lack of purpose were more likely to die than those who had “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals.”

In fact, people without a purpose were more than twice as likely to die than those with an aim and goals. Purpose proved to be more indicative of longevity than gender, race, or education levels, and more important for decreasing risk of death than drinking, smoking, or exercising regularly.

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Flavonoids may be the key to the health benefits of drinking black and green tea

From the Harvard Heart Letter:

“Tea is a good source of compounds known as catechins and epicatechins, which are thought to be responsible for tea’s beneficial health effects,” says Dr. Howard Sesso, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. These compounds belong to a group of plant chemicals called flavonoids. Research suggests that flavonoids help quell inflammation, and that in turn may reduce plaque buildup inside arteries. Green tea has slightly higher amounts of these chemicals than black tea. Both black and green teas also contain modest amounts of caffeine, ranging from about 20 to 45 milligrams per 8-ounce cup. That’s roughly half the amount of caffeine in the same amount of coffee.

Short-term studies have shown that drinking tea may improve vascular reactivity—a measure of how well your blood vessels respond to physical or emotional stress. There’s also evidence that drinking either black or green tea may lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels. Blood pressure may also dip slightly in people who drink tea, but results from these studies have been mixed.

Several large, population-based studies show that people who regularly drink black or green tea may be less likely to have heart attacks and strokes. However, people who drink tea tend to be different from people who don’t drink tea. “We can’t quite disentangle whether it’s their tea drinking or something else those people are doing that lowers their risk of cardiovascular disease,” explains Dr. Sesso. “Some experts believe that tea may have cardiovascular benefits, but it’s not considered a slam-dunk proposition.”

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Obesity rate among adults

According to the OECD (Organisation for EconomicCo-operation and Development), these are the latest adult obesity numbers available:

  • 🇺🇸 USA: 38.2%
  • 🇲🇽 Mexico: 32.4%
  • 🇳🇿 New Zealand: 30.7%
  • 🇦🇺 Australia: 27.9%
  • 🇬🇧 UK: 26.9%
  • 🇿🇦 South Africa: 26.5%
  • 🇨🇦 Canada: 25.8%
  • 🇩🇪 Germany: 23.6%
  • 🇹🇷 Turkey: 22.3%
  • 🇧🇷 Brazil: 20.8%
  • 🇫🇷 France: 15.3%
  • 🇸🇪 Sweden: 12.3%
  • 🇳🇴 Norway: 12%
  • 🇨🇭 Switzerland: 10.3%
  • 🇮🇹 Italy: 9.8%
  • 🇨🇳 China: 7.0%
  • 🇰🇷 South Korea: 5.3%
  • 🇮🇳 India: 5.0%
  • 🇯🇵Japan: 3.7%

More information is available here.

Who lives alone in Canada and how does that impact their health and wellbeing?

Questions continue to be raised about the possible impacts of living alone on the prevalence of social isolation and loneliness in society.

Statistics Canada has released a study that looked at the Canadian population living alone, using data from both the Census of Population and the General Social Survey on Family. Here’s some of what they found.

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Doctors are saying gut health is as important as heart heath

Increasingly researchers are finding that your intestines not only digest food, but may also regulate mood, emotion, and play a central role in your body’s response to disease.

What you eat feeds every single cell in your body.

Sushrut Jangi, The Boston Globe:

Avoid processed deli meats and red meat while feeding the dense jungle of bacteria in the colon with fibers, fruits, and vegetables. Siegel says unhealthy and sedentary lifestyles rife with fast foods and processed meats are contributing to the rise in colon cancer among young people. A lot of people go to the deli and buy very expensive turkey breast and think they are eating healthy, Siegel says. Shifting away from the standard Western diet to the Mediterranean diet — composed primarily of plant-based foods, olive oil, fish, and mixed nuts — supports both gut health and a healthy heart. Sprinkling food with curcumin — the activated ingredient in turmeric — may dampen inflammation. Routine exercise staves off obesity, which does wonders for the gastrointestinal tract and reduces cancer risk. While particular diets are effective in treating specific gut conditions, consult with a gastroenterologist or nutritionist before pursuing anything radical.

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Canadian doctors warn about the dangers of Dsuvia, an even more potent opioid

Canadian doctors specializing in pain management warn that Dsuvia, the pill form of sufentanil — an opioid five to 10 times more potent than fentanyl that was recently approved in the United States — could do more harm than good.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has drawn fire since it gave the go-ahead to Dsuvia — a pill containing sufentanil that is placed under a patient’s tongue — as an alternative to administering the powerful narcotic intravenously during or after surgery.

Critics say having sufentanil available as a pill will open it up for abuse, worsening an already devastating opioid crisis in the U.S.

And

A big driver in the FDA’s decision to approve the drug was the U.S. Department of Defence, Gottlieb said, which wants sufentanil in a pill format to treat wounded soldiers on battlefields where setting up an IV might not be easy.

Read more at the CBC

Related: The making of an opioid epidemic – The Guardian

Superfoods are a marketing ploy

Regardless of who issues them, guidelines for health promotion and disease prevention universally recommend diets that are largely plant-based, meaning those that include plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts. The U.S. dietary guidelines also recommend foods in the “protein” category. Grains, beans, and nuts are good sources of protein, but the guidelines use “protein” to mean low-fat dairy, lean meats, and fish. Recommended eating patterns include all these foods, relatively unprocessed, but with minimal addition of salt and sugars. Such patterns provide nutrients and energy in proportions that meet physiological needs but also minimize the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases. One more definition: “Patterns” refer to diets as a whole, not to single foods. No one food makes a diet healthful. The healthiest diets include a wide variety of foods in each of the recommended categories in amounts that balance calories.

In their largely unprocessed forms, foods from the earth, trees, or animals are healthful by definition. So why, you might ask, would the producers of foods such as cranberries, pears, avocados, or walnuts fund research aimed at proving that these particular foods—rather than fruits, vegetables, or nuts in general—have special health benefits? Marketing, of course. Every food producer wants to expand sales. Health claims sell.

More at The Atlantic

Scottish doctors are issuing prescriptions for hiking and birdwatching

Doctors in the Shetland Islands have started issuing prescriptions for beach walks, hiking, and birdwatching to help treat chronic and debilitating illnesses. Doctors on the island have been authorized by the health authority to issue “nature prescriptions” to patients to help treat mental illness, diabetes, heart disease, stress, and other conditions.

The health authority, NHS Shetland, is not suggesting that nature prescriptions will replace conventional medicines, but to supplemented usual treatments.

More at The Guardian

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