Friday, February 24, 2012

Sleep Enough To Prevent Weight Gain!

People become overweight or obese because of many reasons. For instance, they might eat too much foods rich in saturated fats or they consume more calories than their bodies require. Most importantly, they do not have enough physical activities.

Once a person becomes overweight or obese, he or she is at a higher risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, stroke and Type-2 diabetes.

As revealed by previous studies, lack of sleep can also lead to weight gain. Inadequate sleep could raise the hormone ghrelin that signals when to eat, and reduce hormone leptin that tells to stop eating. People who do not have enough sleep have less leptin and more ghrelin. Such imbalance of hormones can drive people to keep on eating.

On June 13, 2011, researchers from Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass reported at a meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Minneapolis, Minn that people suffering from sleep deprivation are likely to be attracted to high calorie foods because these foods provide a sudden but not sustainable burst of energy.

In a paper that was published in the ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’ in May 2011, researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden found that sleep deprivation could slow down metabolism causing the body to use less energy. The European study showed that lack of sleep not only cause weight gain but also slow the rate at which calories are burnt.

The explanation is that a one night of sleep deprivation could acutely reduce energy expenditure in healthy men, which suggests that sleep can regulate daytime energy expenditure in humans. The researchers therefore argued that getting plenty of sleep might prevent weight gain.

In the study, 14 male university students went through a series of sleep conditions, namely curtailed sleep, no sleep, and normal sleep, over several days. Measurements were recorded for the changes in how much they ate, their blood sugar, hormone levels and indicators of their metabolic rate.

Analysis indicated that even a single night of sleep deprivation slowed metabolism the next morning, reducing energy expenditure for tasks like breathing and digestion by 5 to 20 percent, compared with the morning after a good night's sleep. The young men also had higher morning levels of blood sugar, appetite-regulating hormones such as ghrelin, and stress hormones such as cortisol after sleep disruption.

To help people get more sleep, experts’ advice is to try to go to bed an hour earlier each night, limit caffeine and alcohol, and try to exercise 5 to 6 hours before bed.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How Can Mothers’ Work Status Be Linked To Childhood Obesity?

Childhood obesity epidemic has long been a headache for most countries around the world. Obese children are likely to be fat as they become adults and they are therefore facing a higher risk of developing Type-2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke and heart disease.

Many factors can lead to childhood obesity, and one of them is mothers’ work status. Researchers from Melbourne's Murdoch Children’s Research Institute together with the University of New England and the Australian National University carried out a study to find out whether the childhood obesity epidemic was linked to mothers' increased participation in the workforce. They published their findings on March 3, 2010 in the ‘Journal of Social Science and Medicine’.

The researchers examined the weight and lifestyle of some 2,500 children when they were 4 or 5 and again when they were 6 or 7. They revealed in their report that between 18 and 20 percent of children were either obese or overweight.

According to the findings, mothers who work part-time were more likely to have healthier children than those who worked full-time or who were not working at all. These children watched less television, ate fewer snacks and were more physically active. On the other hand, mothers with full-time jobs might not have enough time to encourage physically active play or prepare home-cooked meals.

Nevertheless, the researchers cautioned public that the findings might oversimplify actual situation. For example, stay-at-home mothers might be difficult to juggle family time when there is more than one young child at home.

While the study indicated that work status indirectly contributed to children’s lifestyle, some health experts argued that these things are controllable. Whether the mothers are working, they could still control how much television their child watches and what types of snacks they can eat. Others quoted parental distress, postpartum depression and lack of social support as variable that could account for children having less-healthy lifestyles.

Friday, February 10, 2012

More Pregnant Women Are Having Strokes!

It is unlikely that women would have stroke during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. However, researchers from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia have spotted a big jump in such events over the past 12 years.

The findings, which were published on July 28, 2011 in ‘Stroke’ (Journal of the American Heart Association), showed that there was a total of 4,085 pregnancy related stroke hospitalizations in the United States during the period between 1994 and 1995, and that number rose 54 percent to 6,293 between 2006 and 2007. The data used in the study came from a large national database of 5 to 8 million discharges from 1,000 hospitals.

Some increase was expected, but the figures found in the findings indeed surprised the researchers. Overall incidence is still low as latest data indicated that just three-quarters of a percent of women in America had a stroke during pregnancy or within 3 months of giving birth.

One factor could be responsible for the rise is that more women are overweight when they become pregnant, which can raise the likelihood of complications from diabetes and high blood pressure. Nevertheless, it was wished that more research should be designed and carried out to find the cause of the rise.

Stroke risk is usually low for a relatively healthy person. As pregnancy by itself is a risk factor for stroke and more pregnant women already have some kind of risk factor for stroke like obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes or congenital heart disease, the overall risk will simply be doubled.

It was also observed that doctors do not have enough guidance on the best medication for pregnant women, especially for those with an increased risk for stroke. This is because norms on clinical studies usually exclude pregnant women in clinical trials as most drugs pose a hazard to the unborn fetus.

The researchers suggested developing a comprehensive, multidisciplinary plan that would enable doctors and patients to follow guidelines that could accurately monitor and provide care before, after and during childbirth.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Can Heart Attack Damage Be Repaired?

Heart attack is a common name for myocardial infarction (MI) or acute myocardial infarction (AMI). When a person has a heart attack, some heart cells will die because of interruption of blood supply to a part of his or her heart. If a heart attack victim is not dealt with immediately, he or she might end up with death. That is why it is the leading cause for death for men and women worldwide.

Even if the victim is lucky enough to survive the heart attack, the damage to the heart muscle can never be repaired. He or she could have complications such as blood clots, heart failure, heart rupture, heart valve damage, irregular heartbeats and inflammation of the heart.

Good news is that doctors might be able to help the human heart repair itself in the near future. Researchers the Institute of Child Health in London had discovered cells in the hearts of mice that can make new muscle after a heart attack, and found a way to reactivate these cells that help build the heart in an embryo but generally go dormant in adulthood.

The findings, which were published on June 9, 2011 in the journal ‘Nature’, suggested that it might be possible to develop a drug for patients who are at risk of heart attack to keep those dormant cells ready in case of a heart attack.

In the study, researchers found that if the cells, which are found in the outer layer of the mouse heart, were injected with a particular substance and the animals were given a heart attack, the cells migrated to the injury part and made new muscle. The heart worked better as shown by several indicators found. Nevertheless, it was not clear if that was due to the new muscle or other known effects of the injected substance.

While it is generally agreed that very little in the cardiac world has translated from mice to man, some cardiac experts believe the new study would stir the field of heart regeneration studies that would eventually generate some positive findings to benefit people with heart disease.