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"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fiber Can Be Bad, Are You Sure?

"Too much fibre might be harmful in some cases for some people?"

Surprising? I bet you will but you are not alone!

I was quite astonished when I first looked at the above statement because we are always being reminded by doctors or dieticians to take sufficient amount of fiber everyday.

Nevertheless, most people just do not consume enough fiber on a daily basis, according to statistics.

People do not take enough fiber either because they do not like food of high fiber (usually not too nice to eat) or they do not keep track of what they eat: just grab whatever available to them during meal time.

Doctors and dieticians observe that people not taking enough fiber likely end up with constipation. For people with severe constipation, adding more fiber into their diet may actually worsen the condition.

When the colon is already clogged up as a result of constipation, adding more fiber into the body will add to the bulk. Therefore, it is better to consult doctor and get some medication to ease the constipation.

Consuming too much fiber-rich food may also cause other problems such as a feeling of bloatedness. This is because gas is produced when the bacteria in the guts break down soluble fiber. This will cause tummy bloat and wind. Cramps and mal-absorption may also occur if substantial amount of fiber is being added to one's diet suddenly.

But how do we know we are taking excessive fiber?

It is simple, for a person of average height and weight, consuming 4 servings of vegetables instead of 2 is considered excessive. For your information, 1 serving equals to three-quarters of a cup of vegetables.

Besides preventing constipation, fiber also has many other benefits:

  • good for our gut as it helps clear unwanted wastes from our body,
  • helps maintain intestinal health and cholesterol levels,
  • improves one's blood sugar levels as fiber-rich food take a longer time to break down into sugar in the body,
  • boosts immune system,
  • reduces risk of heart disease,
  • soothes inflammation in the body.

A high-fibre diet may help prevent colorectal cancer and also make us feel satiated on less, thus helping to refrain us from overeating.

Fiber can be found in vegetables such as spinach, cauliflower and carrots; fruits such as guava and apples; and wholegrain.

The conclusion is:

The problems mentioned above should never be used as an excuse for us to reduce our fiber intake. We should eat the recommended 2 servings of fruits and 2 servings of vegetables on a daily basis but remember not to take excessively.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Prevention is Better than Cure!

For the last six months or so mainly, I have not posted anything here mainly because of time constraints.

Recently, I saw an article on newspapers discussing about healthcare. The heading reads something like this:

"Prevention is Better than Cure"
Instead of costly treatment, greater attention should be given to prevention of illness"

According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the world spent a total of US$4 trillion ($6.1 trillion) on healthcare last year (2006), of which 54 per cent was contributed by North Americans. With global demographic changes, it is estimated by World Health Organization (WHO) to reach US$10 trillion in 2020.

Whether you like it or not, HEALTHCARE is poised to be a key growth engine in the global economy. While this will no doubt create tremendous wealth for healthcare companies, it also means that the burden on governments and individuals will become much heavier.

Worst still, the impending ageing global population will see a tripling of people older than 60 years old, from 600 million to two billion by 2045 globally. WHO's predicts that healthcare expenditure should explode by 2015 with bulk of the spending on costly surgeries and treatments.

Besides heart disease, other sicknesses accompanying ageing population also include diabetes, hypertension, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke, etc.

Health experts believe that concentrating on prevention, on early diagnostics, and on remote patient management will enable us to build healthcare systems that are high quality, patient-centred and financially sustainable.

While finding means to increase funding to meet growing healthcare needs, government should also search for innovative ways to stretch the healthcare dollar.

For individuals, the best solution to counter the escalating healthcare cost is to concentrate on prevention at younger ages instead of dealing with treatment later on.

Is this feasible? Yes, it is possible.

In order to prevent from developing from heart disease or any other diseases, you should adopt a healthy lifestyle starting from young: healthy diet with regular exercise, plus taking some relevant supplements when necessary.

If you are able to do all these, you can greatly reduce the chance of, but unfortunately cannot be guarantee to be free from getting into diseases at older ages. This is because family health history also play an important part in your body's health condition.