Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Fish Should Be On Your Diet List?

Fish, like salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna, that high in omega-3 fatty acid is good for the heart because omega-3 fatty acid could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Perhaps this is why American Heart Association (AHA) advice people to eat at least 2 servings of fish a week.

Despite concerns on the impact of increased exposure to mercury in fish, Swedish researchers from Umea University in Sweden argued in their paper published in November 2010 in ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’ that the benefits of consuming fish still outweigh the harmful effects of mercury. However, they also advised people to avoid eating fish high in mercury, which include perch, shark, swordfish and halibut.

More than 900 Swedish men and women took part in a study that required them to answer questionnaires about the amount of fish in their diet. Their mercury and selenium levels in red blood cells were analyzed.

While the mercury levels were generally low for Scandinavians, participants who had higher mercury level in their red blood did not have a higher risk of cardiac problems. It is possible that the protective nutrients in fish offset any harmful effect of mercury at these low levels of mercury, as explained by the researchers.

Meanwhile, the researchers admitted that relying on the participants’ memories on the amount of fish consumed could have drawbacks as this could have an impact on the results obtained. They also highlighted one finding from their study: participants who had elevated traces of selenium in their red blood cells appeared to have higher risk of sudden cardiac death.

Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential to good health but only small amounts are needed. It appears to act as an antioxidant that can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Nevertheless, previous findings on effect of selenium on heart were mixed. Several studies suggested risk of heart disease and stroke might be reduced by about 40 percent by an added 100 mg per day of dietary selenium. On the other hand, a study by researchers from University of Warwick found that total cholesterol levels increased by 8 percent with an increase of 10 percent in LDL (so called bad cholesterol) in participants having more than 1.2 mol/L of selenium in their blood, leading to increase in risk of cardiovascular disease.

As such, the Swedish researchers felt that the health effect of selenium should further be probed.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weight Loss Could Help Ward Off Diabetes!

Insulin resistance sometimes combined with absolute insulin deficiency cause Type-2 diabetes to develop. Insulin resistance is a condition in which cells cannot use insulin properly. Type-1 and gestational diabetes are the other two main types of diabetes.

Of the many risk factors identified for Type-2 diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits are somewhat associated with weight gain. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, family history and genetics, and increased age can also raise the likelihood of getting Type-2 diabetes.

A study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that Type-2 diabetes could possibly be reversed if obese diabetics go for a weight-loss surgery. Their findings published on August 16, 2010 in the medical journal, ‘Archives of Surgery’ indicated that 75 percent of obese diabetics who had undergone weight-loss surgery (bariatric surgery) could actually stop taking diabetes medications within 6 months of their operation.

Researchers carried out one of the few studies examining how surgery can affect health cost in Type-2 diabetics by analyzing insurance claims data from 2,235 patients who underwent bariatric surgery during a 4-year period.

The results showed that among the diabetic patients who had bariatric surgery, only one quarter were still taking diabetes drugs 6 months later. In fact, the number kept falling: 12 months after the surgery, less than 20 percent of patients were taking medications and 24 months after surgery, only 15 percent were still been prescribed with medications.

It has long been known that diabetes and obesity can rarely be reversed once they are developed. This is definitely good news for obese Type-2 diabetics since the need for chronic medications can be eliminated and the overall medical cost could be reduced too. More importantly, this can greatly reduce the risk of developing heart considering the fact that diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease.

Nevertheless, it seems that bariatric surgery would be the only solution that most of the obese diabetics can opt for in order to substantially reverse both obesity and Type-2 diabetes, at least for the time being until experts can find a successful non-surgical methods.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

If You Quit Smoking, Others Will Just Follow!

Smoking is not a desirable habit since it will not only put smokers but also place non-smokers through second smoke at higher risk of getting many diseases including cancer, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and stroke. That is why many countries around the world including China have banned smoking in the public areas.

The influence among the social network could, however, also help smokers give up smoking immediately.

According to a paper published in the May 22, 2008 edition of the ‘New England Journal of Medicine’, if a person quit smoking, then this person’s spouse, best friends, colleagues and even the surrounding people who are not known very well to this person will just follow suit.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School analyzed relationships among some 12,000 people over 3 decades and found that a steady decrease in smoking over that period occurred in clusters. So if there is a change in the zeitgeist of this social network, the whole group of people who are connected but who might not know each other all quit together.

Zeitgeist means the spirit of the times or the spirit of the age. It is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual within a specific group, along with the general ambiance, morals, socio-cultural direction, and mood associated with an era.

Researchers reconstructed the social networks of 12,067 individuals during a period between 1971 and 2003, recording major life changes such as marriage, death and divorce.

All the study participants also listed contact information for close friends, work colleagues and neighbors. Interestingly, many of those friends and colleagues had also joined the study. This enabled the researchers to observe a total of 53,228 families, social or professional relationships. Their findings showed that people quit smoking in clusters.

Over the 30-year period, the average size of each particular cluster of smokers within the entire network remains about the same but there are fewer and fewer of these clusters left as time goes on.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Is There A Link Between Migraine and Stroke?

Migraine is a fairly common type of headache, which might occur with symptoms like nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light. For many victims of migraine, a shocking pain is felt only on one side of their heads.

There is no cure for migraine but medications could help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine. With the appropriate drugs together with self-help remedies and lifestyle changes, migraine can greatly be relieved.

Nevertheless, people with migraine should be more careful because they will face additional medical disorders, based on the findings published in 2010 in the ‘American Journal of Medicine’.

After analyzing the results of 21 International studies previously conducted between 1975 and 2007 involving more than 622,000 adults with and without migraine, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore found that people with migraine are about twice as likely as people without migraine to develop ischemic stroke (a common stroke that is caused by blood clot in the brain). Most of the studies also took into account factors that might link migraine to stroke risk. These factors include age, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking habits and weight.

It is unclear whether the migraine itself would directly lead to stroke for some people, but one thing is sure: pain does involve constriction, and then swelling, of brain blood vessels. So researchers suspect that people with migraine might have dysfunction in the blood vessels throughout the body that might explain the higher risk of stroke and heart attack.

While researchers believe that a common process is likely to contribute to both migraine and stroke risk, they are not sure whether treating and preventing migraine could reduce the people’s risk of cardiovascular events (include heart disease and stroke). As such, suffers of migraine are warned to pay great attention in controlling any modifiable risk factors, such as high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes, for stroke.

Meanwhile, researchers also clarified that while migraine are associated with a higher risk of stroke, the absolute risk remains fairly low to any one person.