Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Are There Any Good Fats in Our Body?

Too many fats accumulated in our body are bad for our health. This is because too many fats could lead to overweight or even obesity. More importantly, many medical complications like diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, etc. could be developed because of overweight or obesity.

Scientists have known that fat that buries in the abdomen (known as visceral fat) can raise a person's risk of diabetes and heart disease, but people with fat deposits in the buttocks and hips, are less prone to these disorders.

In finding out why fat located in different parts of the body have different risks of metabolic disease such as diabetes, researchers from the United States have found a surprising result: a type of fat that accumulates around the hips and bottom may actually offer some protection against diabetes.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston announced on May 6, 2008 in the journal Cell Metabolism that subcutaneous fat, or fat that collects under the skin helped improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar.

A series of experiments were conducted on mice where the researchers transplanted subcutaneous fat from donor ice into the bellies and under the skin of mice. Those mice getting subcutaneous fat transplanted into their bellies started to slim down after several weeks, even though no changes in their diet or activity levels was made. Their blood sugar and insulin levels were also improved compared to those mice, which underwent a sham procedure.

This no doubt is an important finding, as it not only states that not all fats are bad but also highlights a special aspect of fat that would require further research.

The researchers are working hard to find the substance produced in subcutaneous fat that offer the benefit. Once these substances are found, they hope to convert them into drugs or use them as guides to help develop drugs.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Should Women Pick Natural Hormone to Avoid Heart Attack?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or in Britain, Hormone therapy (HT), is a system of medical treatment for women with symptoms of menopause. It employs one or more of a group of medications designed to boost artificially hormone levels. The main types of hormones involved are estrogen, progesterone, progestin, and sometimes testosterone.

According to a study, more and more Australian women are running away from HRT and using untested alternatives like herbs and so-called natural hormones to tackle their problems with the menopause. The finding of the study was published in the journal Climacteric in April 2009.

Nevertheless, the researchers who carried out the study warned that such natural alternatives were in fact unproven for safety and efficacy and more importantly, not approved by national health authorities.

953 women of age above 40 were interviewed by the researchers in 2008 to find out what they used for replacing their loss of hormones. Results obtained were compared with the data collected in health surveys carried out in 8 similar studies conducted between 1991 and 2004.

There was a sharp drop in both overall prevalence and length of use of conventional HRT from 2003. According to the researchers, this was due to the announcement in 2002 of a study that appeared to link HRT to a higher risk of breast cancer, heart attack and stroke.

However, they also indicated that though recent studies did endorse the benefits of HRT and revise downwards the possible risks on heart attack etc., women did not seem to go back to HRT.

The study found that 15.8 percent of women above the age of 50 were using HRT in 2004, down from 22 percent in 2000, and uses on HRT further dropped to 11.8 percent in 2008. On the other hand, use of alternative hormonal therapies was rare in 2004 but the number had risen to 4 percent in 2008.

To most health experts, HRT is still the best way to treat menopausal symptoms for most women. It is unfortunately that women who need help for their menopause are turning to some unproven and possibly unsafe alternatives because of scares. Women are therefore urged to contact their doctor before starting any treatments for menopausal symptoms.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Can Medication Errors Be Reduced?

Have you ever heard about or read reports on people ended up tragically because of wrong medications or inappropriate drugs being prescribed? Would this sound an alarm to you?

In the United States, the medication errors could cost as much as US$177 billion a year because of many unnoticed commonplace errors made by the untrained pharmacists. Such errors could ultimately cause adverse health reactions to the patients.

After studying the effect of a program that trained pharmacists to prevent drug-related errors, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggested that pharmacists spending extra time talking to patients with heart disease about the medications and finding medication errors could significantly reduce mistakes. Their findings were published on April 27, 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

There were 800 patients with heart failure or hypertension (high blood pressure) participated in one of the 2 clinical trials.

One group of patients was assigned with pharmacists who had been trained to brief patients on the proper use of their drugs, to monitor them and to communicate with their doctors to spot errors, whereas the pharmacists for the other group of patients were of no special training. 210 medication errors or harmful side effects were found among the patients.

The most common errors included prescribing patients with a medication that should be avoided in elderly patients, drugs for vaginal yeast infections in women taking antibiotics or prescriptions for multiple products containing the painkiller acetaminophen.

When comparing with the control group, patients getting their medications from the trained pharmacists had a 35 percent lower risk of adverse drug reactions and a 37 percent lower risk of medication errors.

According to the researchers, pharmacists trained at finding medication errors and explaining proper use of medications to patients with complex health conditions could save a 50,000-patient practice about US$600,000 in annual charges.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Obesity Cannot Be Blamed for Bad Health?

Obesity or overweight has long been linked to medical disorders like diabetes that could eventually lead to heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, or kidney disease. Evidence also showed that certain types of cancer are associated with weight gain.

The evidence linking obesity to diabetes and cardiovascular disease is very strong and it is known that Type-2 diabetes seldom occurs in people who are not obese or overweight.

Based on the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), a person who has a body mass index (BMI) of above 25 is considered overweight and those with BMI exceeding 30 are obese. BMI is defined as weight in kilos divided by the square of height in meters.

However, not all health experts agree on the arguments mentioned above. Instead, a minority of health experts, who are termed as the obesity contrarians, argue that there is no data proving why being fat would be dangerous. To them, being obese is not as severe a threat as is thought. They felt that the obesity epidemic has been absolutely been exaggerated.

A political science professor even claimed that there is no good causal connection between obesity and bad health. According to his opinion, blaming obesity for diabetes and heart attacks is like blaming lung cancer on bad health rather than on smoking. He explained that since other factors such as diet, exercise or genetic predispositions towards diseases are harder to measure than weight.

Other skeptics also criticize the over-projection on the rise in obesity. For example, the British government warns that nearly half of the Britain’s population will be obese by 2050. The skeptics believe that these projections are not based on good evidence because those who are obese are often lumped together with those who are overweight. To them, people, who are overweight, may be perfectly healthy.

It is true that people, who are thin, can get diabetes, hypertension, stroke and even heart disease while people, who are fat, are apparently healthy. Nevertheless, until health experts could derive sound evidence to prove that obesity is definitely bad for health, there will still be some obesity contrarians out there to advocate otherwise.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Can Calories Reduction Lead to Weight Loss?

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 66 percent of adults in Untied States are overweight and of those, 32 percent are obese.

People are aware of the fact that overweight or obese could increase the chance of developing medical disorders like diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and even heart disease. Scientists also link obesity to certain types of cancer. Recently, several death cases of H1N1 also involved victims who were overweight. As such, overweight or obese people should try their utmost to lose weight.

A study, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that eating heart-healthy, low-calorie foods and exercising is the key to losing weight regardless of levels of carbohydrates, fat or protein. The findings were published on February 27, 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

811 volunteers participated in the NIH study. 38 percent of them were men and 62 percent were women, who aged between 30 and 70, and either overweight or obese. The study examined the diets that have been popular in the United States in recent years.

The so-called "Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies (POUNDS LOST) study found similar weight loss after 6 months and 2 years among participants assigned to 4 diets that were different in the proportions of carbohydrates, fat or protein.

Diets used were low or high in total fat (20 or 40 percent of calories) with average or high protein (15 or 25 percent of calories). Carbohydrate content ranged from 35 to 65 percent of calories. All these diets employed the same calorie reduction goals and were heart-healthy with low in saturated fat and cholesterol while high in dietary fiber.

Participants lost an average 13 pounds (5.9 kilos) at 6 months and maintained a pound (4-kilo) loss at 2 years.

This new research advocated that as long as people follow a heart-healthy, reduced calorie diet, there is more than one nutritional approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. In fact, people who are required to lose weight are provided with flexibility to choose one that they feel most comfortable and most likely to sustain. In other words, the one approach that is most suited to their personal preferences and health needs..

Friday, July 10, 2009

Have People Strived Hard to Lower Their Bad Cholesterol?

When people’s bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is high, they actually have a much higher risk of developing high blood pressure, stroke and even heart disease. As such, it is advisable for them to lower their LDL level.

A recent study by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco showed that over the last decade, the number of patients who have lowered their LDL to the recommended level has nearly doubled in 9 countries, namely Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and the United States.

Published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation on June 22, 2009, the findings revealed that patients in the United States, Brazil, France and South Korea had accepted a combination of medical treatment and lifestyle changes to improve their bad cholesterol.

In the study, close to 10,000 people with an average age of 62 were surveyed. The number of patients, who had successfully reached their target LDL level, was found to rise from 38 percent to 73 percent over the last 10 years.

On the other hand, only 30 percent of the high-risk patients, who have existing coronary artery disease or risk factors such as obesity, diabetes or smoking, had successfully reached their target LDL of 70mg per deciliter or less.

Although there is still some room for improvement, particularly in very high-risk patients, the results did indicate that LDL-lowering therapy has been applied much more successfully than it had been a decade ago.

The target LDL level in the United States depends on how many risk factors are present in the patient.

For patients without coronary artery disease, diabetes, or other cardiovascular risk factors, the ideal LDL is 160 mg/dL or less. People without either coronary artery disease or diabetes but with at least 2 other risk factors should keep their LDL level to less than 130 mg/dL

Patients who have cardiovascular diseases or diabetes should keep their bad cholesterol level no higher than 100 mg/dL, and should try to maintain a level lower than 70 mg/dL if they also have other risk factors.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Can Exercise Alone Prevent Heart Disease for Overweight?

When one is overweight or obese, the risk of developing many health problems also raises. These include diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, heart disease, etc. Some health experts even link certain types of cancer to obesity.

Research shows that fat cells produce chemicals that can speed up hardening of the arteries and increase inflammation thus harming blood vessels. Meanwhile, physical activity can make for healthier blood vessels and reduce the risk of blood clots.

However, researchers from Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that exercise would not reduce the risk of heart disease for those who are overweight or obese unless they slim down too. The findings, which were published on April 28, 2008 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, argued that even high quantities of physical activity are highly impossible to reverse the risk of coronary heart disease in overweight or obese women unless they also lose weight.

Basing on information from a study of nearly 39,000 women that began in 1992, the study traced a number of health issues. In the study, 34 percent of the women were physically activity based on government guidelines, 31 percent were overweight and 18 percent were obese.

The researchers found that 948 women were diagnosed with heart disease. Those active women with normal weight had the lowest risk but those with normal weight and not active at all had a slightly higher risk of developing heart disease. The risk rises for those active women who were either overweight or obese. People with the highest risk of getting heart disease are those who were overweight or obese and physically inactive.

In conclusion, the researchers stressed that it is important to counseling all women to participate in increasing amounts of regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight in order to lower the risk of coronary heart disease.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

How Sleep Duration Affected Blood Pressure?

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults normally need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. However, the sleep duration of many adults is far less than the recommended.

In fact, several studies have reported the negative health consequences of short sleep duration. Studies have shown lack of sleep would raise rates of obesity, depression and high blood pressure in children, and it would increase the risk of falls for older adults. For the middle-aged persons, lack of sleep would increase the risk of infections, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

It is widely believed that high blood pressure, if not treated in time with medications, could cause stroke and eventually lead to partial or total disability. Some serious cases could even result in death. In the meantime, one should not forget that high blood pressure has long been regarded as a known risk factor of heart disease.

A paper published on June 8, 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine by researchers from the University of Chicago revealed that middle-aged adults who sleep too little are more likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure).

The new study is believed to be among the first to directly measure sleep duration for middle-aged adults. The findings showed that a person who misses an average of 1 hour of sleep over a period of 5 years would raise the risk of getting high blood pressure by 37 percent. Meanwhile, the study also suggested that poor sleep might well explain in part why black men have higher blood pressure risks.

In the study, 578 adults with an average age of 40 were examined. The researchers took blood pressure readings and measured sleep duration for each of these adults. It was noted that only 1 percent slept 8 hours or more.

On average, the volunteers slept only 6 hours. For those who slept less, chances they would develop high blood pressure over 5 years would be much higher. The result also showed that every hour of lost sleep raised the risk. Meanwhile, the researchers found that men, and particularly black men, had much shorter sleep duration than white women in the study, who were least likely to develop high blood pressure.