Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Is Supplement A Must For Us?

Do we need supplement when we reach the age of 40?

I am sure many of us must have hovered around the decision whether we should take supplement to boost our health, especially when peers around us have started their intakes.

Perhaps I can share with you about the advice I have from a friend who is a doctor. He told me that for a healthy adult, a well-balanced diet is sufficient to provide the necessary dietary requirements, regardless of age. This does not mean that we cannot take supplements because supplements can be useful if taken appropriately.

However, you should do some home works to find out the nature and benefit of supplement you intend to take. He further cited some common examples to illustrate his arguments. For example, research has shown that gingko biloba can improve mental function and memory while ginseng is useful in alleviating fatigue. Omega-3 fish oil may be effective in reducing one's risk of getting heart disease. When one has osteoarthritis, a condition caused by wearing of joint cartilage after many years of exertion and movement, he or she might consider taking glucosamine sulphate. Saw palmetto may be useful for improving symptoms of mild benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH).

One important thing to note is that people should never treat supplements as a substitute for a healthy diet. In order to have proper nutrition, one should also include other important components, such as fiber and essential fatty acids.

It is evident that some supplements may interact with other medications or may affect existing medical conditions. Therefore, it is essential for people who are taking medications to first check with their doctors or pharmacist to ascertain which supplements are suitable for them.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fat Boys More Likely To Have Heart Disease Than Fat Girls!

No one will deny that obesity will have a higher chance of developing heart disease. This conclusion is not limited to adult only: obese teens can develop heart disease as well just like the adults. Nevertheless, are you aware that there is a gender difference for fat teens towards developing coronary heart disease?

Let us take a look of a study in Denmark of 280,000 people born between 1930 and 1976. The finding, conducted by the researchers from The Institute of Preventive Medicine in Copenhagen, suggested that fat boys are far more likely to get heart disease as adults than fat girls are. The risk is higher if boys are obese at the age of 13 than if they were obese at age 7 but had slimmed down.

What the study discovered was that a 13-year-old boy of average height who is 11.2kg heavier than the norm has a 33 per cent higher risk of getting coronary heart disease when he grows up.

An accompanying commentary by Associate Professor David Ludwig of Harvard Medical School also predicts that childhood obesity would shorten lives in the United States by 2 to 5 years by mid-century. This is an effect equal to that of all cancers combined.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Some People Are Prone To Be Obese From Birth!

Being a risk factor for heart disease, obesity is frequently associated with unhealthy lifestyle and diet, but a new study could have probably changed this perception.

A new animal study, conducted by the University of Southern California, Los Angeles and released on February 5, 2008 in the February issue of Cell Metabolism, revealed that obesity might be hard-wired into the brain from birth, and this will make some people to be more prone to put on weight than others do.

It seems that appetite and obesity are built into the brain. In the study, obese rats had faulty brain wiring that impaired their response to the hunger-suppressing hormone leptin. Leptin plays an imperative role in fat metabolism. Produced by fat tissue, it acts as a signal to the brain about the body's energy status. Although its role in weight regulation is still unclear, it is understood that the brain calibrates the need for food intake based in part on leptin levels.

Previous research had shown that the brains of obesity-prone rats were insensitive to these leptin signals, so the researchers looked for brain abnormalities that could explain this. They found defects in the brain circuits that relay leptin signals throughout the hypothalamus, which is the brain's central switchboard for regulating conditions in the body.

According to the researchers, the neurodevelopmental differences in these animals can be seen as early as the first week. The results show that obesity can be wired into the brain from early life. Exercising and eating right might improve the rats’ condition, but the findings suggest that the propensity to gain weight cannot be reversed.

If we replicate the findings in humans, then people should be careful about those one-size-fits-all approach weight management and weight loss, especially those individuals who are genetically predisposed to obesity because of the way their brains are configured.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Expose To Sun To Get Your Needed Vitamin D!

Why is vitamin D so important to us? According to a new 5-year study, published in January 2008 in the journal Circulation, vitamin D may not only offer protection against serious illnesses, including strokes and heart failure, but also play a vital role in supporting bone strength.

A substantial amount of vitamin D required by our body is derived from exposure to sun. However, most of us are not getting enough. In fact, only about 10 percent of us are getting ideal levels of vitamin D.

It seems that sunlight is good for us! Should we therefore take as many sunbaths as we can? The answer is no! This will likely to disappoint many sun-worshippers.

Even when you are out of vitamin D, you need not immerse yourself in the sunlight over long period. For most people, short exposures are probably enough. Some researchers have suggested that a fair-skinned adult wearing a T-shirt and trousers needs to spend only 5 to 10 minutes in the middle sun to top up their levels of vitamin D.

Exposing to sun over long period will not give more vitamin D because once enough vitamin D has been produced, the rest will be converted into inactive substances. In addition, lounging around in the UV rays will raise your chance of developing skin cancer. Although one study showed that sunscreen could reduce vitamin D production, it was not enough to cause a deficiency. Therefore, you may want to use sunscreen when exposing in the sunlight.

Studies have shown that if there is a shortage of strong sun during rainy seasons, one can soak it up on sunny days and the vitamin D will be stored in the fatty tissue.

Nevertheless, if you are very concerned about skin cancer, darker skin, or if you are pregnant, elderly, you could always choose the other alternative by taking vitamin D supplement in the morning.

Remember this, you should not wear whole-body coverings or spend most of the time indoors as all these things may just increase your risk of vitamin D deficiency. Insufficient vitamin D may lower your protection against heart disease and many other medical disorders.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Is CCR Better Than CPR For Heart Attack Emergency?

When one has heart attack (cardiac arrest), his or her chance of survival depends on whether there is qualified personnel around to help revive the heart.

So how many methods can we used to revive the heart in case of emergency? The answer is 2: cardio-cerebral resuscitation (CCR) and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

However, there were debate over which was the most effective. Heart specialists are supporting CCR while emergency doctors are in favor of CPR.

CCR involves administering 100 rapid chest pounds a minute without any mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, whereas CPR involves giving mouth-to-mouth, followed by 30 chest compressions.

Based on a 2006 study at the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Centre in the United States, the survival rates following cardiac arrest went up 300 per cent when CCR was applied. The report also found that in the absence of mouth-to-mouth contact, chances of a passer-by attempting the technique on a stranger are in fact higher.

As the main life-saving technique taught outside the hospital, CPR can also be used to save those who stop breathing during an asthma attack, drug overdose, choking incident or drowning.

According to health experts, continuous pounding of CCR keeps blood moving through the body. The consensus is that pounding the chest continuously for the initial 2 minutes would be okay, but anything longer than that would be risky. It is important then to get air into the lungs, and this requires pulmonary resuscitation.

A consultant cardiologist did save life for two men on two separate occasions: one at airport and the other at a rally. What he used was CCR, a technique that he has advocated.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why Green Tea Should Be On Your Daily Beverage List?

Green tea is one of my favorite drinks. Almost every evening after dinner, I will have a cup of green tea. I cannot recall when I started this habit, but I still remember when I had the first cup of green tea, I did not like its taste.

Green tea has been famous for its rich antioxidant properties because it contains compounds such as catechins. It may help reduce free radical damage that is often associated with certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

When comparing to other beverages such as coffee, green tea is more beneficial as it contains 6 times less caffeine and is virtually calorie-free.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Arizona found that caffeine-free green tea increased the production of detoxification enzymes known as glutathione S-transferase (GST) in the body. These enzymes are important in helping the body defend against toxic and cancer-causing compounds found in a person's genetic make-up and in the environment.

The researchers studied 42 healthy individuals who took 4 capsules of green tea extract every morning for a month. GST levels in the participants who had begun the study with the lowest levels of GST increased by 80 per cent, while participants who had low or moderate levels of GST initially experienced a slight increase in GST levels.

Despite of the many benefits that green tea has, you should take green tea in moderation. Different kinds of green tea has different tea catechin content, thus it is not easy to ascertain the optimal amount daily consumption. Catechin content may also depend on factors such as where the leaves are grown, how they are processed and prepared. On average, each cup of green tea contains between 50 and 100mg of catechins.

In addition, not everyone can drink green tea in large amounts. When we consumed green tea with food, the absorption of iron can significantly be reduced from the food. Therefore, those who are anaemic should avoid drinking too much of it. People with a heart condition should also check with their doctor before starting a green tea diet.

Antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin E, phytochemicals such as catechins, carotenoids and antioxidant enzymes (GST) work in synergy in the body. As such, it is important for people to have a well-balanced diet that includes at least 2 servings each of fruit and vegetables to ensure optimal antioxidant protection.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pedometer Might Just Help Lower Your Blood Pressure!

When we grow older, many medical disorders may just approach you whether we want them or not. High blood pressure is just one of them. Once it is developed, we might require medication to reduce the blood pressure. If we do not manage hypertension appropriately, it might just develop into other diseases like stroke and heart disease.

A paper, published by Stanford University in California on November 20, 2007 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported that people who use a pedometer to measure how far they walk lose more weight, exercise more and have lower blood pressure than those who do not.

The study was the first to review most previously published research on pedometer use. It is not clear that whether those who use the devices are more motivated or just benefit from the use of the device, or both. Many pedometer-related programs recommend users to set daily goals for themselves. A commonly goal suggested is 10,000 steps or about 8 km.

Researchers actually reviewed 26 earlier studies covering 2,767 people, with an average age of 49. What they found was that users who used pedometer took more than 2,000 extra steps a day, comparing with those who did not use the devices. They also found that having a goal of reaching a certain number of steps was a significant factor.

People who wore the devices on the hip also lost weight as measured by BMI (body mass index) and their systolic blood pressure was significantly reduced. Systolic blood pressure is the top number in the blood pressure readings that indicates maximum pressure of a contracting heart.

As indicated in the report, the use of these small inexpensive pedometers could significantly increase people’s physical activity and help improve some key health outcomes over the short term. However, whether these results are durable over the long term remains unknown. This may suggest it is necessary to carry out long-term study in order to have a better picture on how this may benefit.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kids Don't Like Healthy Foods, Do You Agree?

If I say nowadays teens do not love vegetables or other healthy foods, I bet many of you will hardly disagree. Reason is simple, healthy foods are simply not yummy to them.

The youngsters just eat whatever they like. The types of food they enjoy most are fast foods, and unarguably, these are usually unhealthy. Either they know very little about what they should eat and what they should not or they simply find these irrelevant to them. That is why so many youngsters become overweight or even obese. The childhood obesity has already become a global epidemic that cause headache for the respective governments.

Adopting unhealthy diet will make these obese kids become victims of many chronic diseases. Heart disease is only one of the many medical disorders they may have to face when they grow up. However, when one is young, it is extremely difficult to talk to them about things that they do not really anticipate. When I was young, I could not listen and agree to advices given by my parents or seniors.

This is understandable because at that time, I just could not visualize exactly the scenario that they tried to depict for me. Surely many of you would have the same experience as mine. Therefore, it is necessary to instil the correct dieting habits to teens from the outset. Perhaps parents should first adopt healthy lifestyle and become role model for their children.

I know a family that seldom dines out. The mother cooks almost every single meal at home and the father and children make effort to come back for almost every single meal. Occasionally, when they dine out, they will simply reject salty or oily foods even they are very delicious. In other words, healthy diet has become part of their life and their subconscious mind tells what they should eat and what they should not.

The following video news titled 'tips to keep kids hale and hearty', posted at The Straits Times reveals the general attitudes towards food for teens in Singapore and what the Health Promotion Board (HPB) in Singapore do to help cultivate the correct mindset about food for youngsters in Singapore.

Enjoy watching!

Tips to keep kids hale and hearty

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Who Was the World's First Permanent Artificial Heart Patient?

Do you know who was the world's first permanent artificial heart patient? I did not know until the other day when I surfed the net, I asw an article titled: Obituary: Peter Houghton Obituaries Guardian Unlimited.

Peter Houghton, a Briton who had a severe heart failure, was the world's first patient to be implanted with a Jarvik 2000 heart pump at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, England, by Professor Stephen Westaby, on 20 June 2000. 3 years earlier, he had suffered a heart attack triggered by influenza. His heart function had since then deteriorated to 10% of normal and he could barely walk.

Manufactured by New York-based Jarvik Heart Inc., Jarvik 2000 was a thumb-sized pump powered by a cable which ran through his neck and out from behind his ear. A wire ran to a controller and a battery worn on his belt.

At the age of 69, Peter died on November 25, 2007 at Birmingham's Selly Oak Hospital because of multiple organ malfunctions. According to his neighbor and friend, Peter was a great guy who lived the last 7 years to the full. Peter was a clinical psychologist at the Middlesex hospital London during most of his working life.

It was expected that Peter would have a few weeks to live when he had the operation to implant the battery-powered pump. But he actually lived for 7 years, breaking the previous world duration record on 11 August 2004 at 1,513 days.

He devoted much of his extra life to charity work and became chairman of the Heart Failure Foundation. Peter travelled to America together with his friend and did a tour around the heart centers. He travelled thousands of miles for charity works until his heart began to deteriorate a year ago. According to his friend, he would have lasted longer if he had not been so active.

Read more about the transplant at:
Peter Houghton - How it Began

Friday, February 01, 2008

Britain Finally Ban Advertisements on Junk Food!

The ban by the British government on advertisements to under-16s comes in force on the 1st day of 2008. The aim of this measure is of course to promote healthy eating and counter growing childhood obesity.

The new rule is an extension of the measure already in place for under-10s. In addition to curb television commercials for food and drink products with high fat, salt and sugar content, the new measures will specifically ban commercials for junk food and drink around all programs of particular appeal to children under the age of 16.

Official data shows that half of the Britons will be obese in 25 years if current trends are not halted. Furthermore, 86 percent of men will be overweight in 15 years and 70 percent of women in 20 years.

Nevertheless, the new measure does not satisfy some campaigners who feel that a total ban on junk food advertisements should be implemented instead in order to get the full effect. They believe that it is necessary to take urgent action right now to help people, especially children, stay away from the less healthy, less happy and shorter life that obesity leads to. It is known that obesity will bring many health issues including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure to the body.

A new 100-million-pound program has also been launched in October last year by British Prime Minister with an aim to increasing the number of hours of physical education in schools from 2 to 5 per week.

While it is too early to see how this new ruling can really help stop the obesity epidemic, the new measure initiated by Britain indicates that they have realized the seriousness of the epidemic.

Perhaps other countries, for the sake of their younger generation, should follow suit before it is too late!