Monday, February 25, 2013

Job Strain Is Another Risk Factor For Heart Disease!

There are numerous risk factors, including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excessive alcohol drinking, overweight, sedentary lifestyle and smoking, that might lead to heart disease. Recently, researchers from University College of London and various institutions in Europe further confirmed that job strain could be another risk factor for heart disease.
In a paper published online on September 14, 2102 in the journal ‘The Lancet’, the researchers reported that job strain is associated with a small, but consistent, higher risk of getting a first coronary heart disease (CHD) event such as heart attack. Workers under job stress were 23 percent more likely to get a heart attack than their stress-free counterparts. The risk, however, was found to be much smaller than smoking or a sedentary lifestyle.
The aim of the study was to find out the link between job strain and heart disease risk of workers. Job strain, as defined in the study, is a combination of a demanding job with little freedom to decide how work should be done. Such combination was found by previous study to raise psychological stress.
Results of 13 large studies (3 studies each in Denmark and Finland, 2 each in the Netherlands and Sweden, and one each in Belgium, Britain and France) conducted between 1985 and 2006 in 7 European countries were used to perform a meta-analysis. All the studies adopted similar approach: participants who had no CHD were first interviewed and their health conditions were then monitored for an average of 7.5 years.
A total of 194,473 participants with mean age of 42.3 years were involved, and half of them were women. Dependent on the study, between 12 and 22 percent of participants had job strain. During the monitoring period, 2,358 heart attacks, either fatal or otherwise, were recorded.
The risk of getting heart attack for participants with job strain were 23 percent higher than those with job strain, even after taking into account of conventional risk factors such as age, sex, smoking, alcohol, body mass index (BMI), socio-economic factors and physical activity.
There is no doubt that the findings were significant, and the work-related health issues in Europe will definitely increase as a result of the job insecurity driven by the economic crisis.
While measure to prevent stress in the workplace might possibly reduce heart disease risk, such measure could be less effective than efforts to tackle smoking and physical inactivity, where the risk of CHD is more than 10 and nearly 4 times greater respectively.

Monday, February 18, 2013

How Can Testosterone Therapy Help Heart Failure Patients?

When a male grows older, his testosterone level gradually declines. The aim of using testosterone therapy is to increase the muscle mass, sharpen memory and concentration, boost libido and improve energy level.

But testosterone supplements might also be able to improve the quality of life for heart failure patients, according to a group of Canadian and American researchers. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is incapable of pumping enough blood to the rest of the body. Their findings were published on April 17, 2012 in the journal ‘Circulation Heart Failure’.

Researchers from University of British Columbia, University of Alberta and Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston analyzed data from 4 previous studies in which patients were randomly assigned to receive either testosterone therapy or a placebo for a period of 12 to 52 weeks. Testosterone patches and injections were used to improve the breathing and exercise abilities of participants.

Among a total of 198 participants whose average age was 67, 84 percent were men. These participants were taking standard medical treatments for heart failure. Some of these participants had symptoms even after receiving standard therapies, and physically they could not walk, as far as or as much as, they could when they were healthy.

During a 6-minute walking test, participants who took testosterone therapy walked an average of 177 feet (54 meters) more than those who took placebo. For participants taking testosterone therapy, there was also an increase in VO2 max, which is the amount of oxygen used per minute of exercise. VO2 max is a general indicator of a person’s fitness level. Meanwhile, there were no adverse effects found on the heart.

According to researchers, testosterone did not affect the heart itself. Instead, it might target the peripheral tissues such as the skeletal muscles. The hormone has been shown to widen blood vessels, allowing more blood to reach peripheral tissues. It might also raise the levels of hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that transport oxygen.

While the majority of the participants were males, the results could also apply to women through much smaller doses of testosterone.

It seems that testosterone is a promising therapy, but it is not advisable to use testosterone therapies right away just based on their results. Researchers revealed that there was a small increase in levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) among men who took testosterone therapy in the study. High PSA levels indicate that there is a risk of prostate cancer. Previous studies did find a link between high doses of testosterone and increase cases of prostate cancer.

Hence, larger studies are required to confirm the findings and find out the best method of delivery and the appropriate doses, but more importantly, the long-term effects of testosterone therapy, especially their effect on prostate cancer.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Another Way To Tackle Weight Gain!

When people gain weight, most of them would start worrying and find ways to stop the trend. This is because once the weight gain are large enough for them to become overweight or obese, the likelihood of developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke and Type-2 diabetes, would be much higher than those of normal healthy weight.

Besides conventional methods of losing weight, there is another way to help people lose weight. A study published online on November 11, 2011 in the ‘Journal of Consumer Research’ found that choosing the right size and color of the bowls and plates could help people eat less.

According to researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology and Cornell University, the bigger the dinnerware, the bigger the portion people will consume. People who use larger plates could end up serving 9 percent to 31 percent more than they actually would.

Research showed that since 1900, average size of dinner plates has increased by almost 23 percent. Eating only 50 more calories a day could raise the weight by 5 pound each year.

225 students participated in the study and were asked to pour a specified amount of tomato soup into 1 of 7 different sized bowls. Out of the 7 bowls, 3 were smaller, 3 were larger and 1 was the control bowl. Observations showed that less than the target serving size of soup was served into the smaller bowls and more was served into the larger bowls.

It was found in the follow-up experiments that even with education, awareness or practice, the bowl bias was nearly impossible to eliminate. People tended to over-serve in larger bowls up to 31 percent more than normal.

Such phenomenon might be explained by Delboeuf illusion, which is an optical illusion of relative size perception. People are likely to believe size of a circle is much smaller when surrounded by a large circle. When people place food onto a small plate, the serving size looks relatively larger than it is. This would lead people to underserve.

However, reduction of bowl bias is possible through changing color of tablecloth or plate. On average, people would reduce serving by 21 percent when color of plate was changed, and by 10 percent when color of tablecloth was changed.

In the presence of the perception biases, researchers concluded that the best solution is to replace larger dinnerware by smaller ones or contrast ones.