Friday, March 25, 2011

Why You Should Take It Easy?

Many management experts believe personality plays an important role in career advancement. For one to excel, he or she has to be confrontational, especially competitive and even aggressive. However, if you belong to this class of people, perhaps, you should take it easy from now onwards.

This is because a study by researchers from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) found that these types of people are at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Their findings were published on August 16, 2010 in ‘Hypertension’, Journal Of The American Heart Association (AHA).

5,614 residents, aged between 14 and 94 (on average 42), of 4 villages in the Italian Mediterranean island of Sardinia were examined. 58 percent of the residents were female.

The participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire that was a modified version of the NEO, a popular five-factor personality assessment questionnaire. People who marked themselves as aggressive on the questionnaire were at a higher risk to suffer from thickening of the neck arteries than those who were marked as affable or accommodating.

3 years later, those who scored higher on antagonism, especially those who were manipulative and expressed anger quickly, continued to have thickening of their artery walls. And for people who were the most antagonistic, the chance that they would get thicker arteries were about 40 percent higher.

Ultrasound technology (non-invasive ultrasonography) was utilized to measure arterial wall thickening, which is a sign of ageing that could predict future cardiovascular disease. It is known as intima-mediat thickness (IMT), a predictor for heart attack and stroke. The measurements taken in the study were on participants’ IMTs of the carotid artery, which supplies most of the blood to the brain, were measured.

According to the researchers, people who had high score on antagonism tend to be distrustful, skeptical and at the extreme arrogant, cynical, express anger quickly, manipulative, and self-centered, while people who are agreeable tend to be trusting, straightforward and care for others.

The new finding undoubtedly supports the fact that negative psychological factors do have a great impact on a person’s health as much as lifestyle and smoking.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vitamin-B Therapy Benefit Diabetics?

Studies have shown that high doses of Vitamin-B do aid heart disease prevention. Meanwhile, many researchers also believed Vitamin-B therapy using folic acid, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 could reduce diabetic kidney damage because Vitamin-B can help lower blood levels of homocysteine.

Homocysteine is an amino acid that induces clotting in the blood and damages the lining of arteries. It is also a strong risk factor for stroke and heart attack. Diabetics are known to have higher homocysteine levels, on average, than people without diabetes.

But, the findings of researchers from the University of Western Ontario and the Robarts Research Institute in London, Ontario seem to be quite different.

In their paper published in the April 28 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), they reported that patients with diabetic nephropathy might suffer rapid deterioration of their kidneys, if they were treated by high doses of Vitamin-B. They also pointed out that diabetics in addition to kidney function loss were affected by higher rates of heart attack and stroke than those who took a placebo.

Diabetic nephropathy is kidney disease or damage that is caused by a complication of diabetes. It affects the network of tiny blood vessels in the glomerulus, a structure in the kidney made of capillary blood vessels to filter blood.

To see whether Vitamin-B therapy would slow down the progression of diabetic nephropathy and prevent vascular events, the researchers conducted a clinical research in 238 patients with Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes. The placebo-controlled trial was conducted at 5 university medical centers in Canada between May 2001 and July 2007.

Patients were divided into 2 groups: one group received single tablet of Vitamin-B with folic acid (2.5 mg/d), Vitamin B6 (25 mg/d) and Vitamin B12 (1 mg/d) while the other group were prescribed with matching placebo.

After following the patients for an average period of 31.9 months, researchers found that those with Vitamin-B therapy had a faster reduction rate of kidney function, as compared with those who were on placebo treatment. In addition, those patients with diabetic nephropathy additionally had a higher rate of heart attack and stroke than patients who received placebo.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why You Should Not Avoid Chocolate?

Chocolate is a raw or processed food produced from cocoa beans (also known as cacao beans or simply cacao or cocoa), and it is something that is liked by many people especially children.

Studies conducted earlier had shown cocoa-based products might lower blood pressure or improve blood flow. Scientists had also found that chocolate could reduce the rate of death linked to heart disease in healthy older men and post-menopausal women.

In a paper appeared in the September 2009’s issue of the ‘Journal of Internal Medicine’, researchers from of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston demonstrated that eating chocolate can help reduce the rate of mortality of heart attack.

According to them, it is the antioxidants in cocoa that are providing the life-saving benefit. Antioxidants have been known to protect against free radicals, which could damage cells when they accumulate in the body over time. Free radicals are believed to be partly responsible for heart disease, cancer and ageing process.

1,169 non-diabetic men and women, aged between 45 and 70 years old and situated in Stockholm during the early 1990, were tracked from the time they were hospitalized with their first-ever heart attack. Before leaving the hospital, all the men and women were asked on what they ate over the previous year, including quantity of chocolate they consumed regularly.

3 months after discharge, the participants underwent a health examination, and after that, they were monitored for 8 years. The rate of fatal heart attack was found to be correlated inversely with the amount of chocolate consumed.

Those heart attack survivors who ate chocolate 2 or more times a week, their risk of dying from heart disease could be reduced by about 3 fold, compared with those never touch chocolate. Smaller quantities of consumption would offer less protection, but are still better than none.

The results, even after taking into account of other factors like alcohol consumption, obesity and smoking that might affect the outcome, held true for men and women and across all the age groups.

Undoubtedly, the new findings would support the growing evidence that chocolate is a rich source of beneficial bioactive compounds.

But does this mean that people should start eating a lot of chocolate, especially those cocoa-rich sweets?

Frankly, this is not advisable! Sugar rich products would contribute to overweight, which can also bring along many serious medical disorders. So the best is to consume chocolate in small quantities, and if possible, eat unsweetened chocolate!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why Mango Should Be In Your Diet List?

Who wants to be overweight? If this question is asked, it is quite sure that no one would raise the hand and say yes. The reason is simple. Overweight and obesity would bring along many undesired medical disorders including heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), stroke and Type-2 diabetes.

Overweight people, with a few exceptions, would try every means to lose the extra weight they have. They will either adopt weight management program that incorporates exercise and diet or take some products that could help lose weight.

Among the many weight-loss products available, researchers from Cameroon's University of Yaounde found a product, originated from West Africa, which could help overweight or obese people lose weight and stabilize cholesterol levels. It is a fruit called irvingia gabonensis, also known as African mango. Their findings were published on March 25, 2009 in ‘Lipids in Health and Disease’.

In the study, a test group of 102 overweight adults was given either extracts of the fruit or a placebo 2 times a day over a period of 10 weeks. The individuals’ diet and levels of activity were not changed.

At the end of 10 weeks, people who consumed fruit extract had a significant weight loss, a total of 12.5 kilos (or 28 pounds), while those who were in the placebo group showed no change in their weight. Participants taking the extract also had reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol and nominal improvements in their blood sugar levels.

According to the researchers, the fruit extract helps bodies become more sensitive to lepitin, which is a hormone excreted by the body to control fat storage, especially in the midsection. As many overweight or obese people are resistant to lepitin, the fruit extract helps their bodies to overcome such resistance thus resulting in weight loss.

While some side effects like excess gas, sleep problems and headaches were reported among some participants in the fruit extract group, such side effects were also reported similarly in rate among participants in the placebo group.

Though scientists have suspected that Africa mango has the ability to help trim excess weight, this was the very first clinical study showing its true effects. It is hoped that the new findings would inspire some larger clinical studies to be implemented to further confirm the benefits derived.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A New Risk Factor for High Cholesterol!

Bad cholesterol refers low-density lipoprotein, or LDL. A person with high LDL is at high risk of developing heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and stroke.

High fat diet and lack of physical activity could be 2 of the common causes for getting high LDL. But United States researchers from West Virginia University recently found that chemicals used to make non-stick coatings on cookware and to waterproof fabrics might increase cholesterol levels in children. Their findings appeared on September 6, 2010 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

In the study, children with highest levels of these chemicals in their blood had higher levels of total cholesterol and LDL, compared with children with lower readings.

The 2 chemicals studied were perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS). They enter into people through air and occupational exposure, breast milk, cord blood, drinking water, dust, food packaging, and microwave popcorn.

Studies in animals had suggested that perfluoroalkyl acid, which is a known neurotoxin, could affect the liver ad so result in changes in cholesterol levels. Perfluoroalkyl acid could interfere with brain development, which leaves its mark on later behavioral functions such as cognitive performance.

The cholesterol levels in blood samples, taken from more than 12,000 children in the mid-Ohio River who had PFOA in their drinking water, were examined. These children and teens had more PFOA in their bodies than the national average, and a PFOS concentration about the same as the national average.

After analyzing the data, it was found that children and teens with the highest PFOA concentration had total cholesterol levels that were 4.6 points higher and LDL levels that were 3.8 points higher than those with the lowest PFOA levels.

Nevertheless, the researchers admitted that their findings only indicated there is a link between the compounds and higher cholesterol. They suggested more studies should be carried out to prove chemical exposure was the cause.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

How Fast Can Stroke Cause Brain Damage?

A stroke, sometimes also known as brain attack, occurs when there is an interruption of blood supply to any part of the brain because of blockage or burst in one of the blood vessels in the brain. If the brain cannot get blood and oxygen, the brain cells could die and permanent damage would be caused within a relatively short period.

Stroke is one of the top killer s in the developed countries. In Canada, stroke ranks the fourth leading cause of death, affecting as many as 50,000 people and killing 16,000 every year. Risk factors for stroke include alcoholism, diabetes, high cholesterol, overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, smoking and stress.

So how fast can stroke damage the brain?

Common public perception believes that all strokes can be medically treated within 3 hours, but scientists from the University of British Columbia in this Western Canadian city reported otherwise. Their study, which was funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, found that stroke could cause brain damage within 3 minutes.

Generally, stroke can be categorized into 2 types: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are those caused by interruption of the blood supply, while hemorrhagic strokes are those that result from rupture of a blood vessel or an abnormal vascular structure.

About 80 percent of stroke patients suffer ischemic stroke, which can usually be treated by clot-busting medications, provided if they could be admitted to the hospital within 3 hours. In reality, not every stroke patient is a candidate for clot-busting drugs.

Based on the results obtained from animal experiments performed, the scientists declared that brain could be damaged within 3 minutes. Such 3-minute window does not give people sufficient time to even call for help.

Preventive measures, therefore, are urgently required to tackle structural changes that happen very early on. People just need to manage risk factors and change their lifestyle to prevent getting a stroke, instead of relying on treatment when stroke strikes them.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Should Obese Be Called Fat?

Obesity epidemic has been a worldwide issue not only in developed and wealthy countries but also among many developing countries. For example, the United Kingdom (UK) has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe, with the level steadily increased over the last 10 years. According to the Department of Health in UK, almost 25 percent of adults and 14 percent of children were classified as obese in 2008.

An obese is a highly possible victim of many chronic diseases including Type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), heart cholesterol, heart disease, atherosclerosis, stroke and certain types of cancer.

Authorities and health community have utilized all ways and means to curb the growing obesity epidemic. Recently, a government official in Europe has even suggested to call people who are obese as “fat” to motivate them to lose weight. The reason quoted by this official is that calling an obese “fat” could encourage this person to take personal responsibility for his or her lifestyles.

Most doctors and health workers tend not to use the word “fat” as they feel this will stigmatize people who are overweight or obese. However, this official believes that people will only start paying attention when they are called “fat”, and not “obese”. Patients will start doing losing weight only when they have true information about themselves.

Some doctors agreed with the official as they felt doctors need to be honest with their patients rather than telling them what they love to hear. To some doctors, the term “obese” seems to medicalize the state, and makes it a third person issue. Sometimes, for the sake of patients, doctors just need to be more brutal and honest.

Nevertheless, there were objection from other medical professionals against what the official advocated. They felt that people just do not want to be offensive. Calling a person “fat” will more likely to disgrace and harm that person. They also pointed out that obesity is something that happens to people rather than something they are. As such, they suggested using the term “obesity” to encourage patients to think about the condition in a different way.

While the approach might be different, the aim is still the same: to encourage the patient to lose weight so that he or she can be healthy. The best approach, perhaps, still depends on the relationship the doctor has with the patient and the doctor should make their judgment on a patient-by-patient basis.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Can Smoking Relieve Stress?

Numerous studies have shown that smoking and secondhand smoke are linked to many medical disorders including cancer, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and stroke. So quitting smoking would certainly be beneficial to both smokers and people around them.

Interestingly, many smokers have claimed that lighting up a cigarette can actually help them reduce the stress they have. This is probably a fairly good reason for millions of smokers to light up their cigarettes again even after quitting.

But studies have found otherwise. In reality, smoking has the entirely different effect. Instead of reduced, the long-term stress levels will be raised among smokers. In fact, smokers can have their stress relieved only when they quit smoking.

In a paper published on June 7, 2010 in the journal “Addiction”, researchers from the London School of Medicine and Dentistry found that smokers who stopped lighting up cigarettes had a significant larger reduction in perceived stress.

A total of 469 people, who attempted to quit smoking after being hospitalized for heart disease, were examined. At the outset, the participants had similar stress levels and about 85 percent of these people generally believed that smoking helped them cope with the stress they had.

After a year, 41 percent of the participants managed to quit smoking completely and their perceived stress levels were reduced by about 20 percent, whereas patients who continue smoking showed little change in their perceived stress levels.

Obviously, the findings supported the theory that smoking can actually contribute to stress among some people. But why do smokers still think that lighting up a cigarette could help them relieve stress?

According to researchers, when smokers are refrained from smoking, they tend to feel more and more edgy, irritable and uncomfortable as the period lengthens. A cigarette would more or less help them get through the stressful state. This is probably the main reason smokers think that smoking help them reduce stress.

Therefore, smoking can relieve stress is actually a myth, at least in the long term.