Sunday, December 30, 2007

Can Heart Be Protected By Food Rich In Copper?

Do ailing hearts need copper? Yes, this is the finding of a animal study conducted by the University of Louisville Medical Center in the United States and published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

The researchers fed two groups of mice with foods rich in copper. Group A was fed three times more than the usual recommended dietary intake of copper, while Group B was given a normal dosage. Then, a condition of cardiac hypertrophy was triggered and developed into heart disease in all the mice. Heart failure followed after eight weeks in Group B.

Surprisingly, the hearts of the mice in Group A returned to their normal size despite the cardiac stimulation, after their dietary copper dosage was increased.

Cardiac hypertrophy occurs when the heart becomes enlarged as a result of disease or high blood pressure. It will cause the muscles to be thickened and so the supply of blood to the heart is obstructed. The researchers concluded that diets high in copper could help such heart muscle conditions. However, whether it will work on human beings will require further controlled human research.

Dietary copper helps maintain bone health, reduces tissue damage caused by free radicals, protects nerves and keeps the thyroid gland functioning normally. The daily recommended dietary copper intake is 900 microgrammes (mcg) with a maximum limit of 10,000 mcg a day for adults. For example, half a cup of roasted cashews contains about 80 mcg of dietary copper while 100 g of cooked oysters contains 200 mcg.

Nevertheless, consuming more than the recommended daily copper intake limit can result in diarrhoea, discolouration of the skin, stomach pain, lack of concentration and depression.

Some cardiologists also against the fact that a single supplement (mineral or vitamin) such as copper can act as a cure-all for ailments of the heart. Whether you believe or not, a well-balanced diet is still the key to a healthy life.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Chronic Diseases Diagnosed: US vs. Europe

When we talk about the social impact of ageing population, we simply cannot avoid the topic of chronic diseases as these two are closely related. Chronic diseases include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. will cause the older population a great deal of their fortune just for the medical expenses.

A new study, conducted by researchers at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and published online on October 1, 2007 by Health Affairs, revealed that Americans over the age of 50 are more likely to be diagnosed with chronic illnesses than their European counterparts.

The findings also indicated that patients in the United States are also more likely to get medical treatment for these costly diseases. This would make US health care 100 to 150 billion dollars (70 to 105 billion Euros) more expensive than in Europe annually.

According to the study, Americans are more susceptible to chronic diseases because of two reasons:
  • Obese Americans are nearly two times more than obese Europeans.
  • There are more current or former cigarette smokers in the US population than in Europe.
The researchers used the 2004 data on the prevalence and treatment of diseases among adults of age 50 and above and compared those in United States and those in the 10 European countries: Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

There are 33.1 percent of older Americans are obese, compared with 17.1 percent of Europeans. For smoking, there are 53 percent of Americans are former or current smokers, compared with 43 percent of Europeans.

In 2004, US healthcare spending for an individual averaged 6,120 dollars, which was about twice that in the Netherlands, Germany and France. If the US could bring its obesity rates in line with Europe's, it could simply save more than 100 billion dollars a year in health care costs.

However, the researchers were not clear about the reasons for the higher disease prevalence in US. It may be due to the fact that Americans are actually sicker than Europeans, or it is possible that more aggressive diagnosis and pre-treatment of chronic diseases in US raises disease prevalence rates.

On the other hand, the researchers believe that more intensive screening has made the rate of diagnosed cancer to be higher (more than double) in the US than that of Europe.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cells That May Repair Heart Attack Damage!

Heart attack is a serious disease that may end up with death instantly if medical assistance is not provided in time. Even if the patients survived, they may have shorter life span. Pass data showed that approximately 15 per cent of heart attack patients may die within two to three years of sudden death due to the development of ventricular arrhythmias. Arrhythmia is an irregularity in the heart's natural rhythm.

A group of scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany reported on Dec 5, 2007 in the journal Nature that transplanting genetically engineered cells into the heart may help protect heart attack survivors from later developing life-threatening heart rhythm problems.

In the study, the scientists transplanted living mouse embryonic heart cells into cardiac tissue of mice with heart attack-like damage, making the animals resistant to later arrhythmias

According to the researchers, a protein known as connexin43 made by these transplanted embryonic heart cells improved electrical connections to other heart cells. As a result, the transplanted heart cells became activated during normal heart contractions. But for ethical reasons, human embryonic heart cells could not be used for transplantation in people. As such, genetically engineered skeletal muscle cells were used to make this protein. By transplanting these cells into the mouse heart, the same restorative result was achieved as with the transplanted embryonic heart cells.

Hopefully, the new approach, with some refinement, could help people who suffer heart attacks in the near future.

Monday, December 24, 2007

How Governments Can Help Combat Chronic Diseases?

In the recent WHO (World Health Organization) meeting held in Singapore during November 2007, ways to improve the prevention and control of chronic diseases were explored.

'It is easier to walk or ride a bicycle if there are green areas and bicycle paths in a city; it is easier to eat healthy food if we have healthy foods to choose from, if they are easy to find, affordable and promoted as desirable.' This was the statement made by Mr Shigeru Omi, WHO's regional director.

In his opinion, he believes that all risk factors for diseases can be drastically reduced by government through legislation, policy and regulation, and by industry through appropriate use of nutrition knowledge, food technology and marketing techniques.

He also stressed that it is cheaper to prevent problems than to treat them, but he admitted that this is a problem that many low and middle income countries face. Nevertheless, some countries were praised for their efforts in getting citizens to live healthier lives.

For example, obesity and traffic accidents are lower in the Netherlands than in many European countries because cycling is popular, both as recreation and transportation. Promotion and commitment to healthy diets had earned praise for Australia and New Zealand. In New Zealand, 'fruits in school' programme was launched in all primary schools in 2005.

In Singapore, the effort in fighting obesity has achieved and sustained reduction in obesity rates over a number of years. The key causes for disability in Singapore were chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, anxiety and depression and cancer. As such, Singapore has launched the nationwide subsidized health screening for people of 50 years old and above for high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and diabetes. Government also allowed people to use 'Medisave' to pay for treatment for chronic ailments. This year will be the first year for the programme and it is expected that some 90,000 patients will draw S$15 million from their Medisave.

In order to help more people have their problems diagnosed early, screening programmes will be stepped up by the government.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

How To Eat Healthily During This Festive Season?

Eggnog, log cakes, turkey, ham and many festive treats will keep popping up in front of you whenever you go during this coming Christmas and New Year.

Most of us just cannot resist 'good and delicious' foods, especially those only available once a year. Too much of these 'good' food will not only make us gain weight, but also lead us to health problems such as heartburn and indigestion. One should not forget the fact that eating rich food over time can increase the risk of weight gain and other diet-related conditions such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease. So, the best is to exercise restraint.

This does not mean that we should totally ignore all these festive foods but instead, we should eat healthily. But, how can we do it?

Here are some useful eating tips suggested by dietitians.

One dietitian suggests having a sugared drink or light snack before going out for meal as this can stave off hungers and prevent overeating. When you are at the buffer table, choose low-fat and low-sugar dishes that include lean meats without the skin, fruit and vegetables. If you must take ham, just have one serving (2 thin slices). Excessive salt intake should be avoided as this may lead to hypertension (high blood pressure).

Indigestion and gastric pains due to overeating are not uncommon problems during the festive period. So eat slowly, and chew your food well and do not forget to use small plates to cut down on the portions of food you consume.

Another dietitian advises people to stop eating several hours before bedtime because lying down too soon after eating increases the likelihood of heartburn. After a heavy meal, one should try restore balance to his or her diet by having smaller meals or light snacks of fruit for the next one of two meals.

If you want to prepare meals at home, then take note of the followings:

  • Steam, grill or boil food instead of frying it.
  • Remove the skin from poultry.
  • Add vegetables to meat dishes.
  • Use less salt and seasoning, and replace with herbs, spices and homemade stock.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How To Get People Exercising?

"You have to exercise in order to stay healthy!"

Have you ever been advised by friends, relatives or doctors? But frankly, how many of you will take this statement seriously and actually exercise regularly?

Now, there is a way to help you exercise on a regular basis!

A study of sedentary adults of age 55 and above revealed that telephone calls, whether from a person or a computer, may help motivate people to get some exercise. The study was published in the journal Health Psychology and was conducted by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

218 healthy but sedentary adults were randomly assigned to one of 3 groups:

Group 1 - received periodic phone calls from a health counsellor to check on their exercise progress.
Group 2 - received similar calls from an automated phone system.
Group 3 - was a 'control' group that was offered weekly health education classes.

Participants in both group 1 and 2 first met with a health educator who helped them devise an exercise plan. They then received phone calls to monitor their progress and to assist them overcome any obstacles to stay active. The automated system used in group 2 was designed to be as 'human-friendly' as possible. Each study participant was called by name, and the system asked questions about exercise progress for participants to respond by phone keypad.

The initial aim of the study was to get people exercising for 150 minutes per week (or 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week). And what the researchers got after one year were:

- people in group 1 managed to exercise an average of 178 minutes per week.
- people in group 2 exercised an average of 157 minutes per week.

The results were very encouraging and suggested that automated phone systems might offer a more cost-efficient way to reach sedentary Americans than systems that rely on human callers. Organizations capable of running such phone-based programs include local colleges, health insurance companies, health clinics, American Heart Association, etc.

If people can have a good habit of exercising at least 150 minutes a week, together with adopting healthy diet, then it will definitely help in preventing heart disease and other related medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol level, etc.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why Can Garlic Benefit Cardiovascular System?

For centuries, garlic has been believed in the field of alternative medicine that it could benefit human beings: from its anti-bacterial and antifungal properties, to its positive effects on the cardiovascular system.

Why garlic has such a valuable health benefits, you may ask? Recently, a group of US researchers figured out the reason behind this: it boosts human body's own production of a compound that relaxes blood vessels, increases blood flow, and prevents blood clots and oxidative damage. The results of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the new research, the key is the chemical messenger (hydrogen sulphide or H2S) that is produced when Allicin and similar biologically active components are metabolized. The messenger is essential at low levels for cellular signing, that appears to relax blood vessels, enhancing blood flow.

In laboratory, the researchers at the University of Alabama first extracted juice from supermarket garlic and added minute amounts of red blood cells. The cells immediately began emitting hydrogen sulphide.

Various experiments also showed that the key chemical reaction took place mainly at the membrane of the red blood cells, although a fraction of H2S was also produced inside the cells. The team also added a section of rat aorta (a heart blood vessel) to a solution containing organic polysulphides and found that the vessel began to relax as it produced H2S.

This perhaps may also explain why many studies showed garlic supplements could prevent the progress of cardiovascular disease, yet some showed that there was no benefit in taking such supplements.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Is Cholesterol Tied To Stroke Or Heart Disease?

A group of researchers reported in the Lancet medical journal that "lower total cholesterol was associated with lower death rates from coronary artery disease (also called ischemic heart disease) among men and women of all ages studied."

Being a leading cause of worldwide death, coronary artery disease is caused by fatty deposits that clog arteries. The deposits build up in the arteries, which supply the heart with blood, will narrow the arteries and reduce the blood flow to the heart. This can lead to heart attack and other conditions.

The researchers' initial aim for their study was to establish whether high cholesterol raises the risk of stroke but what they found at the end of their research was that "lower cholesterol levels were not linked to reduced stroke deaths."

Definitive previous research established that drugs called statins, which lower low density lipoprotein cholesterol (also called LDL or 'bad cholesterol) substantially reduce stroke risk. However, based on the researchers' analysis of 61 previous studies involving almost 900,000 adults, conducted mostly in western Europe and North America, people with lower total blood cholesterol levels had a lower heart disease death rate.

The study tracked on people who aged between 40 and 89, and found that about 34,000 of them died of heart disease and 12,000 died of a stroke. The study, nevertheless, did not separate those died of ischemic stroke (caused by blocked arteries) from haemorrhagic stroke (caused by a burst blood vessel).

Surprisingly, the study could not establish any relationship between total cholesterol levels and risk of stroke death, especially at older ages and among people with higher blood pressures.

The researchers could not really understand what is going on. And they stressed that they need to know more about cholesterol and more about stroke sub-types to find out the reasons behind this. In the meantime, they do not want people already on a statin thinking that they should stop taking the drug because if their cholesterol gets lower, then they are at a higher risk of stroke. That is absolutely not the case.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

How Does Cholesterol Relate To Fats In Food?

Cholesterol is either formed in our bodies by our livers or acquired from foods like eggs, seafood, meats, organ meats and animal products. If we have too much cholesterol in our body (or more precisely, bad cholesterol), we will be at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other diseases.

Then, what are fats? In general, there are 4 types of fats, namely saturated, mono-unsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats.

The unsaturated fats increase our HDL (high density lipoproteins or the 'good' cholesterol) and decrease our LDL (low density lipoproteins or the 'bad' cholesterol). Trans fats do just the opposite: reduce HDL and raise LDL, and saturated fats are known to raise both HDL and LDL.

Mono-unsaturated fats are found in olives; olive oil; canola oil; peanut oil; cashews, almonds, peanuts and most other nuts; avocados, while poly-unsaturated fat is available in corn, soybean, safflower and cottonseed oils; fish.

Saturated fats can be found in foods like animal fat, animal skin, animal products such as butter, and dairy products. Trans fats are formed when vegetable oil goes through a process known as hydrogenation. Therefore, products that have 'partially hydrogenated' or 'hydrogenated' vegetable oil printed in their ingredient list do contain trans fats.

It is not easy to find a meal without fats when we dine out, especially at fast-food outlets. But we must understand one fact: we do need a certain amount of fats for absorption of vitamins as well as other daily functions. Since unsaturated fats are healthier, our meals should comprise most of this kind of fats. On the other hand, we should cut down the amount of saturated fats and trans fats and they should take up only 10 per cent of our daily caloric intake.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Can Psoriasis Lead To Heart Disease?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin ailment characterized by circumscribed red patches covered with white scales. In Singapore, it is estimated that about 1 in 100 people has psoriasis.

The National Skin Centre (NSC) in Singapore treats about 2,300 new psoriasis patients every year. The disease is currently treated as a skin condition using oral medicine or phototherapy. But now, the doctors suspect that psoriasis is associated with metabolic syndrome.

What is metabolic syndrome? Different health organizations may have different definitions for metabolic syndrome. In general, it refers to a cluster of conditions that occur together, including large waistline, hypertension (high blood pressure), raised insulin levels, excess body weight and high cholesterol levels. Any one of the above conditions can lead one to serious diseases like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Therefore, a person with metabolic syndrome could have a even higher risk of getting these diseases.

Psoriasis patients can feel extremely embarrassing and distressing because such disease can lead to isolation from the society. In addition, they still have to worry about the serious disease that may happen upon them.

In order to find out the link between psoriasis and metabolic syndrome, the doctors at NSC will test about 250 psoriasis patients to determine how common metabolic syndrome is among them. The study costs about S$20,000, which is funded by the National Medical Research Council, and will take about 1 year to complete.

If any link is found during the study, then all psoriasis patients will be given a blood test. The doctors do hope that they can give them the most appropriate treatment to cover all grounds instead of treating them basing only on the skin condition.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Women Having Preterm Infants At Higher Risk Of Heart Disease Later In Life!

Women who gave birth to a preterm infant are found to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease after many decades. This was revealed by a study published in the current issue of journal Epidemiology.

A research team from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania examined data on 446 women with a mean age of 80 years, who took part in an aging and health study. The following findings were derived:

  • 6 percent of them had given birth to a preterm infant an average of some 57 years earlier,
  • 9 percent of them had had a term infant weighing less than 2,500 gms,
  • 4 percent of them had had an infant that was both preterm and of low birth weight.

After adjusting factors such as use of heart-protecting statin drugs and age, the researchers found that women who had had a preterm infant were more than twice likely to have cardiovascular disease than those women who had not. For women who delivered infants that were both preterm and of low birth weight, the chance of having cardiovascular disease was greater than threefold.

The researchers admitted that more work is still needed to understand the mechanisms that may create such link. But with such possibility in hand, women with preterm infants were advised to seek early screening and lifestyle changes so as to improve their cardiovascular health.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

US Obese Teens Are Future Victims Of Heart Disease!

By 2035, there will be a double digit increases in cases of heart disease and heart-disease related deaths because of the prevailing high rate of obesity among US teenagers. This was revealed in a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine on December 6, 2007.

The researchers from the University of California at San Francisco and Columbia University Medical Center used computer modelling and projected that up to 37 percent of men and 44 percent of women who will be 35 in the year 2020 will be obese, based on the numbers of teenagers who were overweight in 2000.

In comparison with previous generations, these young adults will have more heart attacks, more chest pain and more premature deaths before the age of 50. By 2035, the number of people with heart disease is estimated to increase by 16 percent over today's levels. That is an additional 100,000 cases. According to projection, the increase in obesity-related heart disease deaths could shoot up by as much as 19 percent.

Based on the data from the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are some 9 million US adolescents are overweight. In fact, the childhood obesity rates have tripled since the 1970s, and studies show that about 80 percent of overweight adolescents become obese adults. We all know that we tend to gain weight as we age, and overweight adolescents will tend to gain more than others later on.

The results are not surprising but the sheer magnitude of the impact of adolescent obesity has definitely made it a public health priority. The findings also suggested that aggressive medical treatment using traditional blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering drugs would only reduce but not eliminate the projected cardiac complications.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Broken Heart Can End One's Life!

Writers love to use "broken heart" to describe some of their characters who fail in their love affairs in romantic novels. But that does not actually mean that the character with a broken heart will actually die of heart disease.

But after you have read the results of a research conducted by University College London on the 9,000 British civil servants, you would probably change your perspective: one is possible to die of a "broken heart".

The study, as reported in the Archive of Internal Medicine, found that stress and anxiety of hostile, angry relationships can actually raise the risk of developing heart disease. The negative intimate relationships could influence a person's heart condition. In other words, the findings showed that coronary heart disease is associated with negative aspects of close relationship.

The selected civil servants were asked to complete questionnaires about negative aspects of their relationships with a spouse or close friend between 1985 and 1988 or between 1989 and 1990. Questions such as whether people had emotional support, a chance to talk with someone about problems or whether they could count on a partner or close friend for something as simple as ride to the grocery store were included in the study.

The entire research spanned over a period of 12 years. It was found that people, who reported that arguments and other types of conflict were common, had a 34 percent greater risk of heart attacks or chest pain.

Many of the researches done before aimed to find out the "protective effect" - more social connections can lead to a healthier life. In comparison, only few studies have actually investigated how close relationships or marriages affect health like the one mentioned here.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Risk of Hypertension For People Exposed To Airplane Noise!

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a risk factor for heart disease and it is commonly linked to high salt intake, high-fat diet, high cholesterol level, obesity, or kidney failure. But if you stay near airport, you may need to monitor your blood pressure regularly because the noise pollution may put you at higher risk of hypertension.

A recent research from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm reported in the medical journal Epidemiology that among more than 2,000 men followed for a decade, those who lived in areas with the greatest noise from a nearby airport had a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

The researchers suspect that for some of these individuals, the constant noise of planes create chronic stress that may interfere with their ability to think, relax or sleep. This could in turn raise their blood pressure.

2,027 men from 4 municipalities surrounding the Stockholm Arlanda airport who were free from high blood pressure at the study's outset were selected for the study. Government air traffic data was used to estimate the aircraft-noise exposure, and the new diagnoses of high blood pressure were tracked by the researchers over a period of 10 years.

20 percent of these men who were exposed to the highest average levels of airplane noise, were found to be 19 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure than their counterparts with lower-level noise exposure. The researchers also considered factors such as men's age, weight, income and exercise habits, but none of these changed the link between aircraft noise and blood pressure.

The researchers is still not 100 percent confident that airplane noise is directly responsible for the higher blood pressure. But, the current study along with past research do show that there is an association between noise exposure and high blood pressure.

Nevertheless, a large European study involving multiple airports is underway and hopefully it may provide a more definitive answer later on.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Explanation On Lifestyle Changes Will Help Reduce Heart Disease Risks!

We all are aware that our existing "unhealthy lifestyle" is the main culprit that bring us diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, stroke, etc. But how many of us will treat this piece of advice seriously and are willing to make a change in our lifestyle right away?

A recent report, published in the US medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine on November 26, 2007, showed that regular explanation by doctors to their patients about the need for lifestyle changes to help reduce heart disease risks do have a noticeable positive impact on reducing the patients' cholesterol level.

The study was carried out at Canada's McGill University in Montreal to examine more than 2,600 patients who are at high risk of a heart attack, including some with diabetes or pre-existing heart problems.

The findings indicated that the existing anti-cholesterol treatments were more successful when patients were regularly advised by their doctors about how to reduce their heart risks with a change to a healthier lifestyle, such as by taking exercise.

For example, an overweight 43-year-old man who smoked, with high cholesterol and hypertension was calculated to have a heart-health level equivalent to that of a 51-year-old, according to the study. But if he followed all the guidelines he gets from his doctors for his treatment, he could reduce this age index to the equivalent of a healthy 42-year-old man.

Perhaps, we should listen more to our doctors from now on if we want to live longer with a healthy heart!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Duration Of Your Sleep Could Determine Your Lifespan!

When we talk about heart disease prevention, we always stress on the importance of healthy diet and regular exercise. But now, we should also watch the number of hours we sleep during the night.

British researchers from the University College London Medical School in London conducted a study on 10,380 participants between 35 and 55 years of age, which found that people who sleep too little or too much could be at higher risk of mortality. The report was published in the United States in the December 1, 2007 issue of "SLEEP", the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC.

A decrease in sleep duration for people sleeping 6, 7 or 8 hours would have a 110 percent higher risk of dying of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, an increase in sleep duration for people who sleep 7 or 8 hours would have a 110 percent higher risk of non-cardiovascular mortality.

The mortality rates were found to be lower for participants who initially slept 5 or 6 hours or less but then extended their hours of sleep. Meanwhile, higher levels of mortality for those participants who slept more than 8 hours a day. For this group of people, sleep restriction should probably be considered.

Based on the findings from the study, sleeping consistently 7 or 8 hours per night is considered optimal for health, in terms of prevention.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Exercise May Reverse The Damage Caused By Heart Failure!

Not many people like to exercise. But whether you like it or not, it should be part of your lifestyle if you want to prevent heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and many other diseases.

Two recent studies, presented on November 7, 2007 at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Florida, revealed that moderate exercise can help heart failure patients reverse some of the muscular damage (a hallmark of the condition).

According to the researchers of the University of Leipzig in Germany, regular exercise could promote the growth of new cells and blood vessels in muscles that may have become weak and shrunken as a result heart failure, a condition that cause the heart's inability to pump enough blood to the body's organs.

During the 6 months of trial, 50 men with an average age of 56 were divided into two groups: 25 men took part in the exercise experiment while 25 men who were taken as "control group" did no exercise. The group with daily exercise had their level of progenitor cells in the muscle tissue sharply raised but the levels of progenitor cells in the men from the "control group" stayed the same.

Progenitor cells make up a pool of immature cells found in skeletal muscle that can divide into various mature cells as needed for muscle repair. Heart failure patients normally have 50 percent fewer of these cells than healthy people.

The number of progenitor cells became almost normal with the help of exercise. The cells started to divide again and they began to differentiate into myocytes (muscle cells). This is exactly what the heart failure patient’s need - replacement of muscle cells.

The second study in men in their 60s with severe heart failure showed that exercise can also help with the damage to blood vessels that occur in patients with the condition. After 12 weeks of exercise training, the tissue samples and blood tests showed significantly higher levels of immature cells that were morphing into endolethial cells. The density of capillaries or tiny blood vessels also increased 17 percent over the course of the trial.

This shows that whether one has moderate or severe heart failure, exercise therapy will certainly help, and the benefits come from both the regeneration of muscle cells and the formation of blood vessels.

The researchers, however, do not sure whether physical activity can also induce similar changes in the heart muscle.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A High-fat Diet Could Not Only Harm Your Heart But Also Affect Your Body Clock!

High-fat diets are definitely bad for your heart. Now, a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism on November 6, 2007 further indicated that they can also upset one's body clock by starting a chain reaction that interferes with many metabolic functions.

Body clock, or sometimes known as circadian rhythms, is the internal mechanisms that schedule periodic bodily functions and activities. The internal 24-hour clock is a feature common to plants, animals and humans. More information about body clock can be found at

The researchers believed that timing and metabolism evolved together and become almost a conjoined system. So, if the balance is disturbed, unfavourable effects may just occur. What they did in the study was to use 2 groups of mice: one on a regular diet while the other on a high-fat, high-calorie diet for 6 weeks.

After 2 weeks, the mice on the high-fat diet with 45 percent of their calories in the form of fat, showed a change in their normal pattern of activity-eating and rest-sleep rhythms. They began to eat during their typical rest or sleep period. The mice on regular diet, however, did not show this behavior at all.

Observations showed that the mice are eating more at regular meals and they actually shift their eating habits so that all excess food intake occurs during their normal rest period.

Besides behavioral changes, it was also found that levels of certain messenger molecules produced by genes that regulate circadian rhythms were depressed in the brain, liver and fat tissues of the mice on the high-fat diet.

As suggested by the study, the functioning of the body's internal 24-hour clock, which regulates our sleep/wake cycle and the timing of hunger pangs, is closely tied to the rhythms of certain metabolic processes. The saturated fat presented in the high-fat diet disrupt the body's clock or circadian rhythms by setting up a vicious circle that throws off the timing of certain metabolic processes thus increasing the risk for obesity and diabetes. This may subsequently increase the risk of heart disease.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Smoking Mothers Could Produce Fat Children!

Smoking women not only raise the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular disease of their babies but also are at nearly 3 times greater risk of producing obese children.

This is result, of a study conducted by Yamanashi University's School of Medicine, revealed at the recent meeting of public health experts in Japan in the middle of October 2007. The survey was done over a period of almost 2 decades to cover some 1,400 women in Japan who gave birth between April 1991 and March 1997. The researchers then collected the data on about 1,000 of their children when their ages reached 9 or 10.

The study showed that the risk of obesity was 2.9 times higher among children whose mothers smoked when they were 3 months pregnant or in earlier stages of pregnancy, as compared with children of non-smoking mothers. This indicates that mothers who smoke during pregnancy, even in early stages can still affect the health of children over a longer period of time.

Nevertheless, the researchers could not find out the exact correlation. They "speculate" that children whose mothers smoked were in shortage of nutrition in the womb. The poorly fed babies in the womb would naturally stock up nutrition after they were born.

While the truth is yet to be found, what matters most for the mothers-to-be is to stop smoking for the sake of their children.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Child's Cardiovascular System May Be At Risk By Secondhand Smoke!

Parents may want to consider giving up their smoking habit as this will harm not only their own bodies but also their children's arteries.

A study, conducted by the Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku in Finland, measured levels of continine in blood of 400 children between the ages of 8 and 11. Continine is a substance that the body produces when it breaks down nicotine in tobacco smoke. The participants were divided into 3 groups: low, high and non-detectable continine groups.

The researchers reported that exposure, even a little, to secondhand smoke at home or in public can actually harm the function of the cardiovascular system of the healthy children. This is because children who were in the high continine group were found to have a significantly lowered endothelial function. As a measure of arterial health, endothelial function is the blood coagulation and platelet adhesion in the blood vessels.

Parental smoking is also associated with an increased occurrence of asthma and respiratory illness in children. Statistics showed that asthmatic children who are exposed to cigarette smoke at home have a 4.5 times greater risk of respiratory-related absence from school, thus affecting their learning.

Besides cardiovascular disease and asthma, cancer, especially of the lung, is another disease that is strongly associated with secondhand smoke.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Smoking Mothers Could Risk Their Babies Of Heart Disease!

Smoking has long been regarded as a risk factor of heart disease. But now, women who smoke and want to have baby may need to think twice because cigarettes may cause heart defects to their babies.

A report presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago revealed that pregnant women who smoke just before pregnant and shortly thereafter may increase the risk of their babies of getting a congenital heart disease by 60 to 80 percent. Exposing to second-hand smoke in the workplace or at home may also raise the women's risk of bearing infants with such defects by 30 percent.

This is the finding provided by a study conducted by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Congenital actually means existing at or dating from birth. Congenital heart disease refers to a kind of problem with the heart's structure and function due to abnormal heart development before birth. Congenital heart disease can cause more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects. Some of these defects may heal over time, others will need treatment. For more information on congenital heart disease, you can want to check out at

The actual causes of most of defects are not known, but scientists believe that genetic susceptibilities and exposure to environmental toxins, such as alcohol, infections, various chemicals and some medications, may be the culprits.

Cigarette smoke contains about 3,000 chemicals and sad to say, their potential to cause heart defects is still unclear till now.

The heart's basic structure develops early in pregnancy. During this period, chemicals or infections may easily interfere with the genetic blueprint resulting in abnormalities. Even if pregnant women stop smoking 6 weeks after conception, the foetus can still be exposed to the chemicals in cigarette smoke. The most common problem caused is
ventricular septal defect, which is a hole between 2 chambers of the heart.

It is estimated that some 2,000 congenital heart defects could be prevented every year if women stopped smoking before they try to become pregnant. Or better still, do not start smoking at all and this could be good not only for you but also to the people around you!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Possibility To Fight Obesity By Drug

The generation of adipocytes (the precursors to fat cells) could be prevented by just suppressing the protein entirely with its beneficial properties being decreased. The protein, known as perixosome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARg), can actually turn on various genes related to obesity in the body.

This is the latest finding presented by the researchers at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) at the recent AACR Centennial Conference on Translational Cancer Medicine on November 7, 2007.

Obesity is a well known risk factor not only for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease but also for prostate, breast and colon cancer. Recent studies have also shown that a protein responsible for generating fat cells can also cause cancer.

The scientists figured out that if they could identify the gene targets of PPARg, they could open up new targets for drug development against a number of diseases, including obesity, diabetes and cancer.

Only a limited number of direct targets for PPARg have been identified so far. A number of new PPARg target genes which are connected to adipogenesis and insulin sensitivity have been identified by the scientists at the GIS. According to them, these direct targets when inhibited, could lead to a dramatic reduction of adipogenic potential.

The oral hypoglycemic drugs currently available can effectively treat Type II diabetes. But it could also cause bad sides effects including heart disease, liver toxicity and weight gain.

If new drugs can be developed to direct specifically those PPARg targets to regulate insulin sensitivity, then it is possible to provide a safer and more efficient therapeutic approach.

The researchers plan to test their data on mice.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Diabetes Are Not For Adults Only!

Diabetes has been regarded as a problem for ageing population in Singapore. But now, as a result of modern lifestyle and diet, the number of pregnant women and children diagnosed as diabetics continues to rise. This really worries the health authorities.

In the National University Hospital (NUH), the number of pregnant women with gestational diabetes has climbed from 13 a month in 2005 to 21 a month in 2006. For 2007, the number of cases was found to be 28 per month.

The problem was partly due to the poor awareness of the issue when most pregnant women tend to eat more and some eventually eat excessively. If they eat more carbohydrates and fried items, instead of proteins and vegetables, their weight will very likely to gain. And weight gain may cause these pregnant women to get diabetes.

Women who have a family history of diabetes, who had a previous baby weighing more than 4 kg, and who weigh 85 kg during the pregnancy are at risk of developing diabetes. The reason behind this is that the birth hormones disturb metabolism needed to clear glucose after meals.

Although 98 percent of pregnant women will return to their normal pre-diabetic state after giving birth, the condition do have some complications like prolonged labour and delivering asymmetrically big babies who may develop neck problems.

This will also make the newborns unhealthy. If the mothers' blood sugar levels are higher, their babies are very likely to have low blood-sugar levels and high insulin levels. This could place them on the list of diabetes, obesity, overweight and hypertension (high blood pressure), and will also increase their chances of developing heart disease.

Diabetes Type 2 used to affect adults. Now, the number of young children suffering from diabetes Type 2 is increasing because of the calorie-rich environment and less physical activities. On the other hand, Type 1 diabetes is the genetic variation affecting someone from childhood. The upward trend corresponds to childhood obesity rates around the world.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Diabetics Are On The Rise In China!

The strong economic growth in China has been seen for the past decade. This, however, has also brought along some serious health problems to the country.

According to a report by Xinhua news agency, there are now more than 40 million people in China have diabetes or a precursor. As a result of growing wealth, most Chinese eat more and exercise less, causing the number of diabetic patients to increase. The 20 million diabetics found in China are obesity-related while the other 20 million people have impaired glucose tolerance or what we call "a per-diabetic condition".

Last year, there are about 60 million people (roughly the population of France) were classified as obese. 12 percent of children in China's big cities are also considered to be overweight. The parents are thus advised to limit their children's intake of fast food, snacks and soft drinks and the time they spend watching TV and playing computer games. Sound familiar?

Either you like it or not, people with health issues such as diabetes and obesity are likely to be candidates of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, etc, if they do not manage their conditions appropriately.

China, once a poor country where its people were struggling for food, is now having health problems similar to that of its so-called capitalist counterparts. With the continual economic growth, more and more people are wealthier. If they are also adopting the similar unhealthy lifestyle, then the number of people with various health problems is likely to increase tremandously. Being the largest nation in the world (in term of its population), the social cost resulting from such health problems will definitely be increasing by many folds and becoming a very heavy burden for China.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Why You Should Take Omega-3?

When we talk about fats, we will normally refer to saturated or trans fats and associate them with bad things that will affect our health, especially heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), overweight, and so on and so forth.

But, not all fats are bad! For example, the fatty acids found in fish, nuts and seeds are good for our hearts. Recently, there is a study even suggests that it can help prevent high blood pressure.

In a multinational study, over 4,000 participants who took a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet had been found to have a decrease in their blood pressure levels.

For those who are not familiar with omega-3 fatty acid, it refers to the polyunsaturated fats found in fish and certain plant oils. It include a combination of beneficial fatty acids like EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These essential acids are not produced by our bodies yet are required by us for growth and brain function.

High blood pressure is a common disease found in people in their middle age though it may also happen to younger persons. It is one of the likely risk factors for heart disease and stroke. It has been known that a diet of excessive salt can raise one's blood pressure levels. Studies have also shown that a small decrease in blood pressure levels (as little as 2 mhg) can reduce deaths from other illnesses by 4 to 6 per cent.

How omega-3 can lower blood pressure is still being studied. Before the full answers are out, what health experts can think of right now is its ability in controlling the salt and water balance in the body, managing blood flow in kidneys and its effects on the heart.

Besides helping to manage blood pressure, omega-3 can also benefit people with other ailments. For example, individuals with cardiovascular disease are advised to have a daily intake of 1 g to 2 g of omega-3, preferably from fish oils. Every 100 g of salmon and sardines contains about 0.9 g and 0.3 to 0.5 g of omega-3 respectively. People with high cholesterol should take 2 g to 4 g because of the heart-friendly fats such as EPA and DHA acids found in omega-3.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Eat More Whole Grains To Prevent Heart Disease

The risk of heart disease can be reduced if people can increase the amount of whole grains in their diets. Yes, researchers have found that whole grain bread, brown rice and a bowl of oats or cracked wheat can help us keep our heart healthy.

After studying dietary patterns of some 150,000 participants from 7 surveys, researchers of the Wake Forest University reported that participants who ate 2.5 servings or more of whole grains a day reduced their risk of heart disease by 21 percent compared with participants who did not include any or had little whole grains in their diet.

Whole grains are known to be low in cholesterol and rich in fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants. 3 main parts can be found in grains, namely the bran (the fiber-rich outer shell), the germ (the nutrient-packed inner layer) and the endosperm (the middle layer).

The fiber found in whole grains helps bind with the bile acids and sterols in the body to pass cholesterol out as waste product. This effectively reduces the amount of dietary cholesterol absorbed by the body, and thus makes it heart-friendly. Furthermore, whole grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates which make us feel full on less. This also means that we will tend to eat less to prevent us from being overweight or obese.

In additional to the above benefits, whole grains also help regulate blood pressure with their potassium and magnesium content. Because of the high amount of fiber, they help prevent constipation too.

Nevertheless, most people do not eat enough whole grains. Instead, they rely heavily on more refined grains such as noodles or white bread. These are made of refined flour containing lesser nutrients and fibers since the bran and germ are removed in the milling process.

From the heart-healthy point of view, we should seriously consider replacing white rice, noodle or white bread with whole-grain varieties and make sure that we have at least 1 serving of whole grains (2 slices of whole-grain bread) a day. Products that list whole grains as its first or second ingredient means that it is high in whole grains and is a good source of it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Some Ideas To Fight Global Childhood Obesity

I came across the following heading:

"Australia offers some ideas to fight globesity in kids."

"Globesity? What does this mean?" I have not seen this word before so naturally I looked up dictionary for answer but in vain. Then, I "googled" and straightaway I got my answer:

"Globesity" is a recent WHO (World Health Organization) term for the global obesity epidemic.

The recent Educating For Health Conference, organised by the Singapore Ministry of Education, provided an opportunity for educationists in the region to look for ideas to beat obesity in children. Australian officials suggested some ways that their government had used to fight obesity in kids, and here are their solutions:

Firstly, school children were asked to participate in compulsory weekly physical education lessons lasting for 2 hours.

Secondly, an active government-funded programme was launched to immerse children in sports or activities after school.

Thirdly, healthy menus were created in school tuckshops.

Fourthly, multimillion-dollar advertising and education campaign targeted at children and their parents were funded.

Nevertheless, they also stressed that effort from government alone is not sufficient to combat childhood obesity successfully. The campaign should also include contribution from individuals, families, and the industries.

In Australia, fast-food giant McDonald's, for instance, had responded to offer more healthy food in its outlets in 18 months by stating the nutritional information on healthier food options. In addition, the chain cut back on advertising during children's television programmes by 40 per cent.

Being the world's fourth fattest nation, lagging behind United States, Britain, and Mexico, Australia acted accordingly to fight obesity among its young. It is known that 3 million people are overweight or obese in Australia: 67 percent are men and 57 percent are women; 1 in 5 children is overweight and 1 in 10 is obese.

The Australian federal, state and territory governments have in fact jointly set up a sum of A$500 million to launch more community-based healthy lifestyle initiatives.

You may be wondering why Australian government is willing to spend such a huge amount of money for such campaign? This is because each year, obesity costs Australia A$3.7 billion in direct costs and A$21 billion in indirect and lost-productivity costs. Overweight or obesity could lead to many diseases including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, etc.

Keeping to a healthy diet and regular exercise are the keys to fight obesity, but this is indeed a very challenging task, judging from the effort and amount of money governments need to offer to their target audiences.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Government Starts Plan To Combat Obesity At Schools

Heart disease prevention is possible if one can adopt heart-healthy lifestyle that combines balanced and healthy diet with regular exercises. And more importantly, one should start this lifestyle when young.

Unfortunately, the majority of the youngsters nowadays are living away and away from the heathy lifestyle that they are supposed to have. Long hours of TV and computer games cause young kids to skip almost all of their physical exercises. Instead of having more fresh vegetables and fish, they choose to have french fries and fast foods like burgers. As such, overweight or obese school children can be spotted easily almost everywhere.

In order to combat the increasing threat of obesity, the British government launched on October 15, 2007 a new programme costing 100 million pounds to encourage greater participation in sports at schools. The campaign aims to increase the number of hours of physical education in schools from 2 to 5 per week.

A government-commissioned research has earlier warned that half of all Britons will be obese in 25 years if nothing is do to change the current trends. Moreover, the report also revealed that 86 percent of men will be overweight in 15 years and 70 percent of women in 20 years.

As a matter of fact, about 2.3 million pounds has already been set aside in the last decade to increase the number of hours of sport in school. Nevertheless, establishing sports facilities alone would not effectively stop the situation from becoming worse. There is no doubt that schools should show leadership but because school kids spend more time at home with their parents, what they do at home matters most. Moreover, it is also agreed that there is more to do for girls so as to encourage them to keep playing sport.

It is evident that parents at home should play their parts by setting role examples for their children, in terms of their living habits. Without their support, it is felt that the effort to stop the epidemic in obesity would greatly be compromised even with the bigger budgets from governments to help kids at schools.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Do You Know How Many Adults Are Clinically Obese Across The World?

More and more people are seeking ways and means to get rid of the extra fats in their bodies, and they do not mind spending bigger portion of their earning just for this. Weight management, therefore, has become a very hot topic nowadays and the business opportunity associated with it is also very attractive.

Why is this so?

Very simple! People understand obesity or overweight will ultimately bring to us many health problems like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc, and more importantly, the escalating healthcare cost can simply wipe off our savings should any of the serious health problems hit us.

A report published early November 2007 in the US Journal of the American Heart Association revealed that about 25 percent of men and women in 63 countries were found to be obese in a study of more than 168,000 people. The research was conducted by France's top medical research institute, and the data was collected in over two half-day periods in each of the 63 countries,

BMI (body-mass index) is used as the benchmark for obesity, and it is defined as one's weight in kilograms divided by the square of one's height in meters. People with a BMI between 18.5 and 25 is considered as healthy. One is considered overweight when the BMI ranges from 25 to 30, and obese when the BMI is equal to or higher than 30..

Out of the 168,159, adults aged between 18 and 80, studied in 2005, 24 percent of men and 27 percent of women were found to be clinically obese. An additional 40 percent of men and 30 percent of women were classified as overweight.

I made a simple calculation based on the findings, and the result is rather shocking:

"between 50 to 66 percent of the world's population is either overweight or obese."

No wonder many health experts believe that mankind is now facing a true epidemic: not in hunger, not in virus, but in obesity.

And not surprisingly, the researchers running this study have again exert pressure on governments urging them to be more aggressive in promoting physical exercise and balanced diets.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fight Against Obesity For Students in US Schools

Out of a population of about 300 million people in US, more than 200 million of them are overweight or obese. And, nearly 13 million children and adolescents are found to be overweight. Some obese children, who are admitted at the hospitals for treatments, weigh as high as 400 to 500 pounds (180 to 225 kgs), and they can barely breathe.

Four culprits of childhood obesity quoted by health experts are:

  • Fast food,
  • Television,
  • Soft drinks, and
  • A sedentary lifestyle

Most of the families do not really make any effort to stop their children from becoming overweight or obese, therefore, the burden to prevent outbread of such epidemic naturally falls on the schools. As we know, overweight or obesity can easily lead to diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) or even heart disease.

The educators and health officials are beginning to make effort to replace greasy fast food with healthy meals in schools. Small by encouraging results are observed.

For example, in Arkansas, measurements of the students' body mass have been taken in their schools for the past three years and the schools have begun sending letters to warn the parents of school-children who are obese. Banning on junk food in cafeterias and soda drinks in vending machines coupled with greater emphasis on sports have reduced the rate of obesity from 20.9 percent in 2004 to 20.6 percent in 2007. Though the reduction is merely marginal, the measures adopted seem to stablize the rate of obesity.

According to another report In Texas (close to EI Paso), a similar health program has in fact brought the percentage of children with weight problems from 25.8 percent in 2002 down to 23.4 percent in 2005.

Nevertheless, schools cannot offer all the solutions because the time spent by American children at school accounts only 19.5 percent of their time, with vacations and weekends being factored in.

As such, some experts think that depending solely on local initiatives to fight the war against obesity is not sufficient. Instead, they urge active involvement of the federal government in a systematic way.

"We won the war on hunger in 1964, we need to win the war on obesity." This was a statement made by one of the health professionals, who also believe the government should forbid advertising of junk food to children.

Personally, I would think that support from the families of these obese kids also plays a very important role if significant results are to be seen. Perhaps, the parents should start doing something for themselves without delay so as to set examples for their overweight children to follow.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Stop Smoking, Lose Weight Or Be Fired?

If you are obese or overweight, you better start losing weight.

If you are a smoker, quit smoking seems to be your only option.

If you are obese and smoker, then you are not only at a higher risk of getting heart disease and other diseases, but also very likely to be fired by your employers.

Is this a joke? Don't believe?

Unfortunately, this is true and this has already happened in the US.

In order to have a better control on the escalating healthcare costs, employers have adopted stricter wellness policies.

According to press reports in the US, companies such as Scotts (gardening) and Weyco (healthcare) have fired employees who tested positive for nicotine. In fact, a policy was instituted by Michigan-based Weyco in 2005 that allow management to lay off employees who smoke, regardless of whether they do it at work or at home. The company subsequently fired 4 employees who either refused to be tested for nicotine or after tests showed they had nicotine in their blood.

Naturally, the implementation of these unpopular policies by the employers are certainly opposed by their employees. Last year, a Massachusetts man actually sued Scotts for firing him for smoking on his own time. He insisted that he was unfairly sacked for "engaging in legal activities away from the workplace."

In a online poll conducted by Harris Interactive early last month (October 07), most Americans were strongly against bosses firing workers who are obese or smoke. Out of 2,267 US adults polled, only a few actually agreed that employers are allowed to fire someone who is unwilling to lose weight (4 percent) or stop smoking (7 percent). Nevertheless, about one-third of poll respondents preferred employers to require staff to attend quit-smoking sessions or weight-loss programs.

Personally, I would not agree with companies firing their employees with health issues without first giving them a chance to modify their health conditions. But those employees who are obese or smokers should now have a pressing reason to cease smoking or reduce weight right away, not only for health reasons but also for bread and butter.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Can Vibration Really Reduce Fat?

Some days ago, I read an interesting health report relating to weight reduction.

"Vibration Can Fend Off Fat"

The heading straightaway strike my attention. Before I started to read the details, I had this thought in my mind:

"Overweight or obesity is a risk factor for heart disease. If the finding is true, then fat people do not need vigorous exercise, medication or even proceeding to reduce their unhealthy and unwanted fats."

It this true? Not really!

When I continue reading, I found that the research was only done on "young mice". Whether it can work for humans will still require further researches to confirm.

According to a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released on October 22, 2007, short bursts of low intensity vibration can prevent stem cells in "young mice" from turning into fat cells. These preliminary findings did suggest that vagorous exercise is not the only means to prevent weight gain, at least in the young.

Mechanical stimulation may stop accumulation of fat by turning immature or progenitor cells into muscle or bone cells rather than fat cells. If this could be replicate in humans, it is possible and will be helpful to prevent childhood obesity, which is now a big headache for many countries.

What the researchers at Stony Brook University in New York state did in the study is to place the mice on a vibrating platform for 15 minutes every day for 15 weeks resulted in almost 30 percent less body fat than a control group of mice that were put on a stationary platform.

"This could be a non-pharmalogical way of controlling susceptibility to obesity in young people." After making the statement, the researchers further clarified that it would not make fat kids skinny but it could somehow control their propensity for getting heavy. By limiting the weight gain in the young may help these kids prevent from getting diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.

Obesity has long been regarded as a metabolic or fat-burning disorder but the study indicated that there may also be a developing element.

The actual physiological impact of vibration is still unclear. What the scientists can assume is that "vibration causes muscles to contract and relax, and this strengthens the muscles and exerts pressure on the bones."

Nevertheless, one should not take the study as an endorsement of some of the vibrating platforms marketed as exercise machines. As the researchers cautioned, the dangerously high levels of vibration may cause lower back pain, percussive injuries to the brain and certain cardiovascular disorders.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Fat-Rich Meal Can Affect The Health Of Your Heart!

In my previous post titled "Do You Want A Healthy Heart? Watch What You Eat!", I mentioned that research had shown that oily food can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The bad cholesterol (LDL or low-density lipoprotein) is responsible for the build-up and blockage in the arteries. But our body also has good cholesterol (HDL, high-density lipoprotein), which is considered as being able to to counteract bad cholesterol (LDL), or even prevent heart disease.

According to recent report published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a study of 14 healthy adults had found that 3 hours after participants were fed a single high-saturated-fat meal, the inner linings of blood vessels in the participants showed a decreased ability to expand. This would therefore affect the blood flow.

It was found that the ability of HDL-cholesterol to prevent inflammation was weakened within 6 hours after the fatty meal. The inflammation is one of the causes that build up the arterial plaque. But on a separate occasion, when participants were fed a meal rich in polyunsaturated fats, the protective quality of HDL-cholesterol in their bodies was actually increased. The number of inflammatory agents were found to be lesser.

In conclusion, when a person consumes a single meal of high saturated fat, his or her normal protective property of HDL is impaired. Conversely, when he or she eats a meal that is high in polyunsaturated fat, the HDL in the body is found to be more protective.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Girl Finally Gets Her New Heart!

I came across a piece of news last month (Oct 2007) learning that a young girl survived with two heart transplants. I then did some research through Internet and here is the information I had gather!

A young Malaysian Chinese girl, Tee Hui Yi, spent more than a year waiting for a heart donor finally fulfils her wish early this month (October 2007). But the operation did not go through smoothly. Her body rejected the first heart donated by a 15-year-old Muslim boy but fortunately, the second transplant using the heart of a 20-year-old Chinese man was successfully.

The 14-year-old girl was diagnosed with heart failure when she was just 2 years old, after a viral infection strike her. In order to keep her alive, she underwent an operation on 29 Sep last year was fitted last year with a mechanical heart. The mechanical heart is a device implanted outside her abdomen and connected to her heart. Because of this, she had to carry a battery weighing 9.8 kilos (about 20 pounds) to power the mechanical heart wherever she goes. The battery can only last for approximately 2 years. It is hope that this device can support her while awaiting for a donor.

A year has passed and yet no suitable donors for heart was found. Her deteriorating condition had really worried the doctors. Needless to say, she definitely felt very depressed. The girl had to make tearful pleas through the media for donors of heart.

"How long more do I have to wait for a heart? I need a donor soon."

This was the question that Hui Yi kept asking over and over again before she was given a chance to change her heart.

After the long wait of one year, she finally received a heart in a 10-hour operation at the National Heart Institute in Malaysia. The donor was an 15-year-old boy who died in a road accident. But, because of rejection, she had to undergo a second transplant 2 days later.

According to a report on 21 October 2007 by Bernama, the Malaysian National News Agency, Hui Yi is showing positive progress and in stable condition after she was taken off the ventilator a few days ago.

As a precaution to protect her from any infection, she was still placed in the Intensive Care Unit. Nevertheless, she could eat soup and porridge, and was fed supplementary nutrients through the tube in her nose.

After the operation, Hui Yi expressed her gratitude to all the people who had helped her for the past. Watch the following short video provided by eMedia:

Let us pray for her speedy discovery so that she can do many of the things that she wanted to do in the past but was not able to.

What happen to this young girl is certainly uncontrollable. But for healthy people like many of us, we should prevent heart disease from the outset. Remember, eat healthily and exercise regularly are still the keys to a heart healthy lifestyle.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Do You Want A Healthy Heart? Watch What You Eat!

Having a healthy heart is important because if something happens to your heart, you will be in great troubles. A fatal heart attack can end one's life almost instantaneously. Besides regular physical activities and exercises, what you eat into your stomach can have different effects on your heart.

Eating very oily foods can stress your heart! Does it sound familiar, but in your heart, do you believe it?

Take a look at a new research conducted at The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio where the researchers have found that a single high-calorie meal is sufficient to strain the arteries of the heart.

People having a meal that is high in saturated fats could lower their ability of HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) to protect against clogged. On the other hand, if a person takes a meal high in polyunsaturated fats, his or her arteries will be protected against a build-up of plaque.

It is already known that saturated fat actually causes formation of plaques in the arterial wall, and these plaques are major cause of heart attack and stroke. The findings of the aforesaid research further explain such mechanism.

An excessive-calorie diet consisting of high amount of total fat and saturated fat will almost guarantee your way to obesity. Why is this so?

Before getting to the answer, let us find out how the food digests in our stomach.

An average meal with a proper serving size of foods including lean meat or fish generally will spend about 2 to 5 hours in the stomach, another 4 to 5 hours in the small intestine and then stay in the large intestine for another 5 to 25 hours.

This chemical process may vary for different kinds of food. Since fat can delay the stomach from emptying, a meal that consists of higher amount of fat can take longer for digestion. If one is lack of exercises or physical activities, the extra fats will be accumulated in the body over time. By now, you should realize why obesity is the definite end result.

Besides heart disease, poor eating habits and high-fat diet can also lead to the risk of contracting other diesease such as cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that one should limit the intake of saturated fats to less than 7 percent of the total daily calories.

Nevertheless, you need not avoid foods that we are enjoying totally. The best way to control the amount of fat, saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet is to eat a variety of foods in moderate amounts.

For example, you can still eat potato chips, which is high in total fat, saturated fat and sodium. Instead of eating a whole bag, you should watch the amount you eat, or simply share among your friends or families. The best approach is to choose a healthier choice such as baked chips. By the way, taking foods high in sodium can lead to a high risk of developing high blood pressure.

Monday, October 29, 2007

More Obese Kids Require Helps From Hospistals In United States!

A study presented at a conference organized by the Obesity Society recently reported that the number of children hospitalized in Untied States was tripled from 1998 to 2004 because of obesity-linked health problems. Sleep apnea, high blood pressure and gall bladder stones are the three most frequent health problems.

In 2002 for the first time ever, more kids were admitted as a result of obesity rather than for inadequate nutrition. Statistically, 40 out of every 10,000 children under 18 were hospitalized in 1998 for health issues linked to obesity compared to 120 cases per 10,000 children in 2004.

Children affected by sleep apnea were among the biggest increases. Their rate of hospitalization actually increased from about 20 cases per 10,000 children in 1998 to 270 per 10,000 in 2004. The number of cases for obese children resulting in high blood pressure climbed from 100 per 10,000 children in 1998 to 200 six years later. The cases related to gall bladder problems were found to be 20 per 10,000 children in 1998 and reached 35 in 2004.

People with simple sleep apnea are simple snorers who snore without excessive daytime tiredness. But people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) snore and have pauses in breathing during sleep with excessive daytime sleepiness. According to research, patients with OSA will have a higher chance (1.6 to 2.3 times) of a heart attack and stroke than normal patients.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, used to be a health problem among older generation, can lead to heart disease if it is not managed properly.

Last but not least, the number of gastric bypass surgeries was found to increase from 500 children under 18 in 1998 to 4,000 in 2004. The said surgeries involve stapling part of the stomach and is considered as the last resort if everything else fails in reducing weight. And they are usually recommended by doctors.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Your Headache Could Be Caused By Heart Disease!

Common treatments do not seem to offer relief to millions of people who have been tortured by migraine. People with migraine will totally agree that it is a very painful and often debilitating part of life.

Besides taking prescribed medications and supplements, some of them have to change their diets, many need to move to different climates, and others even require to avoid certain aromas. They do all these just with one aim: hope to control their headaches, but sad to say that for many sufferers, none of those measures work for them.

Now, there may be a way to help these people get rid of migraine.

In clinical trials conducted worldwide, researchers are closing a passageway through the heart in migraine sufferers and then waiting to see if the headaches go away or get better.

Doctors learnt about such linkage when stroke patients underwent experimental procedures to close the passage. Interestingly, some patients who had suffered from migraines reported that their headaches either disappeared or were greatly reduced after the operation.

The passage through the heart is known as the patent foramen ovale (PFO). It is a small hole that helps fetuses circulate oxygen-rich blood while in the womb. It usually closes after birth, but about 25 per cent of people still have the hole opened in their heart.

When people with the open passage strain, cough or sneeze, the flaps can be forced open, allowing unfiltered, oxygen-poor blood to flow into the rest of the body and brain.

It is obvious that the hole itself does not cause migraines. It is the mixture of oxygen-carrying blood with oxygen-poor blood that may cause inflammation to attack the brain and thus trigger migraines in people already prone to the headaches.

Nevertheless, many migraine sufferers don't have such an opening in their hearts, and likewise, many who have the holes never have migraines. According to the researchers, people with certain types of migraines, especially those with aura (warning signs which resemble blurred vision or flashes of light) are twice as likely to have the opening than people who don't have migraines.

It is difficult to detect PFO, which does not disrupt the heartbeat as other valve defects do, unless specialized tests are employed. However, it can allow small blood clots to pass through and cause strokes. About 50 percent of the strokes suffered by people under 50 are caused by clots passing through the PFO.

In a European trial, 40 per cent of people with the hole repaired reported that their headaches were less frequent or didn't last as long.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Who Are The Fattest People In the World?

Who are the fattest people in the world?

Don't know? Never mind, just read on to find out!

According to a new report by the Trust for America's Health, a non-profit health organisation, the obesity rates have swelled during the last year in 31 American states, with not one state reporting a lower obesity rate.

Two-thirds of American adults are obese or overweight, as revealed In their report titled "F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America".

The rate of adult obesity across the United States increases from 15 per cent between 1978 and 1980 to 32 per cent between 2003 and 2004. For the same period, childhood obesity increased more than three-fold. Some poorer southern states were also affected by the epidemic. For the first time, more than 30 per cent of residents in Mississippi are classified as obese.

The report also pointed out that approximately 25 million children are obese or overweight. It is sad to say that today's children are likely to be the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.

Overweight and obesity are risk factors that can lead to heart disease. Besides health issue, obesity epidemic can also have a negative impact on workforce productivity. When the workforce becomes less healthy and productive, the US economic competitiveness will start feeling the pain. Moreover, bigger portion of the revenue generated from businesses is diverted to obesity-related health care costs.

Health experts cited poor nutrition and physical inactivity as the key reasons for such epidemic. For example, Americans love watching TV programs over long hours and pop into their mouths with junk foods such as cookies, chips, french fries together with fizzy drinks and bears.

New York City has in fact made it mandatory for restaurants to provide detailed nutrition and calorie information to patrons with trans fats banned. It is known that trans fat helps raise so-called bad cholesterol levels and hence increases the risk of heart disease. Food manufacturers and restaurants used to add trans fats to increase the shelf life and flavour of foods.

To prevent from getting into obesity, it is important to have a healthy lifestyle starting from young: regular exercises and healthy diet. Sound simple but when it comes to reality, most people will find it hard to follow.

But do remember one thing, getting off the extra kilos on your body is definitely not an easy task. So it is better not to add the extra kilo from the beginning.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How Is GI Related To Heart Disease?

GI stands for glycemic index, and it is a measure of how fast the sugar in a food raises one’s blood sugar level compared with glucose.

A recent study conducted by the American College of Cardiology Foundation suggested that people should go low on the GI in order to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. The study was carried out on the food intake of over 17,000 people over a period of 5 years. It was found that those who ate large amounts of high GI foods increased their risk of developing heart disease.

GI ranks carbohydrate foods on a scale of 0 to 100, calculated according to the rate at which they break down and convert to glucose in the body. The higher the GI value, the more it raises the body's sugar level when it is digested. A GI value of 70 and above is considered high.

People consuming food of high GI value are prone to weight gain and diabetes This is because meals with high GI (hence high carbohydrates) tend to increase blood sugar levels, suppress good cholesterol and predispose one to obesity and diabetes. All of these are risk factors for heart disease.

The findings from the study also suggested that people taking foods with high GI-value may end up with colon and breast cancers. Nevertheless, more research needs to be done to be certain.

Foods with high GI value breaks down more quickly in the body, thus raising one's blood-glucose levels at a faster rate. Some of the favorite foods prefered by most people ranks high on the GI, for example, white bread (70), doughnuts (76) and cookies (77).

On the other hand, low-GI foods break down more slowly in the body so the blood-sugar levels raise at a steadier pace. People consuming low-GI foods can sustain energy levels for a longer period of time and do not feel hungry easily. This will actually prevent overeating and overweight in the long run. Soy beans (18) and beans (29) are two good examples of low-GI foods.

Researchers at Hammersmith Hospital in the UK have also found that eating 1 additional low-GI item per meal helps lower one's blood-sugar levels.

Paying attention to the type of foods we eat is not enough, we should also gauge the quantity. For example, white rice is the main food for most Asians. If one wants to take extra rice during the meal, then he or she should cut down the amount of dessert he or she intends to eat after the meal. Alternatively, they may consider replacing white rice with wholemeal bread, if they are comfortable with wholemeal bread.

You Have Another Good Reason To Limit Your Meat Intake!

To prevent heart disease, one of the advices that you ought to get from doctors and dietitians is to cut down your intake of saturated fat. This means you should take less meat, a good source of saturated fat.

But now, there is another good reason for you to take less meat:

Save the Earth!

Why is this so?

Research showed that 22 per cent of the earth's total emissions of greenhouse gases come from agriculture. This is almost the same as that comes from industry but is more than that of transport. Livestock production, including transport of livestock and feed, actually accounts for nearly 80 per cent of agricultural emissions, mainly in the form of methane, a heat-trapping gas.

Japanese scientists also reported in July 2007 that 1kg of beef generates an equivalent of 36.4kg of carbon dioxide, more than the equivalent of driving for three hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

I am not sure if you have heard this before and what your reaction is. But for me, I have never heard this and I do feel shocking when I learnt about this.

Wait... There are some more figures to come...

At present, the global average meat consumption is 100 grams per person per day: each person in rich countries consumes 200 g to 250 g per day but every person in poor countries eats only 20 g to 25 g. In other words, the meat consumed by people in poor countries is only 10 percent of that are consumed by people in rich countries.

A research report recently published on 13 September 2007 by The Lancet suggested that people in rich countries should limit their meat intake to the equivalent of 1 hamburger per person per day to help the global environment.

The researchers actually suggested a 10-percent cut (equivalent to 10 g per day) in global meat consumption by 2050 in order to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture and improve the health of rich and poor nations.

Perhaps we should take less meat from now on not only to help ourselves to prevent heart disease and other diseases but also to help the people in the poor countries. More importantly, we can also help the environment for our next generation!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Do You Depend On Coffee To Boost Your Energy?

Do you depend on coffee to boost your energy? Are you drinking more than 4 cups of coffee a day? If yes, then you should pay attention to what have happened not long ago.

Recently, I learnt from newspapers that a 17-year-old English girl was rush to hospital with palpitations and breathing difficulties after she drank 7 double espressos within a few hours.

This rare incident occurred in August 2007. The young girl was helping at her family's sandwich shop. She chose to drink espressos to help her stay aware during her shift.

Isn't this horrifying? How can this happen?

According to doctor's diagnosis, the excessive caffeine contained in the coffee did help energise her initially, but it ended up making her heart beat faster than normal and gave her a fever: the high amount of caffeine had actually sent her body into a mild state of shock.

Like many of you, I am a coffee lover, too. If I don't have a cup of coffee for whatever reason on any single day, I will just have a feeling that something is missing in that day. But I am not addicted to coffee, and I normally limit my consumption to only 1 - 2 cups, occasionally more but definitely not exceeding 4 cups.

Why is that so?

I don't drink coffee to boost my energy, as the English girl and many other people do. In general, the caffeine intake should not exceed 450mg a day, which is equivalent to 4 cups of coffee. This is advice given by most doctors.

Of course, this also depends on the type of beverage one consumes. For instance, one shot of double espresso contains about 150mg of caffeine. So, one should drink not more than 3 cups of espressos per day.

Gender, age, weight, height or smoking habits also plays a part in determining one's sensitivity to caffeine. For example, some people can drink several cups of coffee within an hour without any side effect while others can take not more than 1 cup of coffee per day.

When people want to keep themselves aware, they will usually turn to coffee. Why?

Caffeine can actually stimulate our body's nervous and cardiovascular systems, leading to increased attentiveness, decreased fatigue and an elevated mood. But if one over-depends on coffee regularly and heavily to boost energy, it is likely to create a dependence that leads to increased tolerance to its effects. These people will feel drowsiness, anxiety, headaches, fatigue and irritability if they do not have one cup of coffee for any single day.

Moreover, caffeine also increases the production of stomach acids that will bring on psychiatric disturbances like sleep disorders and anxiety.

People cannot sleep well during the night will in turn affect their daytime functioning. Symptoms such as mood swings, lack of concentration and poor performance at work will surface.

Instead of depending on coffee, having a good night's rest and adequate physical activity at least 30 minutes and three times a week have been shown to help keep energy levels up.

I have also compiled an article about the relationship between coffee and heart disease. If interested, just click the below title:

"The Good and Bad of Coffee"