Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stay Away From Sedentary Lifestyle!

Obesity epidemic is a serious problem facing many nations around the world including developing countries. When a person starts putting on weight, the likelihood that many medical disorders such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, stroke and even cancer would come to this person becomes higher.

While there are many reasons that can cause a person to become overweight or even obese, there is a general consensus among health experts that sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet are mainly responsible for the epidemic. Many people love spending most of their time in front of TV or computer instead of performing physical activity. They also like to eat tasty food that is usually fried and full of unhealthy fats.

According to a new finding revealed on March 14, 2012 at a conference by the American Heart Association (AHA) in San Diego, California, spending long hours of TV watching without much physical activity can amplify a genetic disposition to obesity. The researchers, however, also pointed out that the effect could be reduced in half if these people could just walk briskly and briefly each day.

Researchers from Harvard school of Public Health and Harvard Medical School in Boston directly looked at the effect of the TV watching on BMI (body mass index) of individuals with a genetic predisposition to obesity.

They collected data on physical activity and TV watching from 7,740 female and 4,564 male participants 2 years prior to assessing their BMI. The data was taken from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

The study indicated that on average, Americans watch TV for about 4 to 6 hours each day. The results also showed that the genetic effect on BMI was seen as more serious in people who spent 40 hours a week watching television than those who spent an hour or less. Fortunately, a one-hour daily walk could actually cut the genetic influence towards obesity, measured by differences in BMI by half.

The BMI is used to measure whether a person is overweight or obese. It is calculated by dividing the weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters. People with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Are Parents’ Future Heart Disease Determined By Their Kid’s Health?

Children’s health condition could predict whether their parents would develop heart disease. This is what a new study has revealed!

Researchers from Jewish Hospital of Cincinnati reported on January 12, 2012 in the ‘Journal of Pediatrics’ that a 12-year-old child's weight, bad cholesterol or LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level and blood pressure could help predict the chances of his or her parent developing heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes over the next 30 years.

Such risk factors as bad cholesterol level, triglycerides and high blood pressure would identify families where parents were at higher risk. In the United States, it is estimated that about 15 to 20 out of every 300 children might have high bad cholesterol level, which is believed to be linked to diet and lifestyle.

852 school students with an average age of 12 took part in the study. Their cholesterol level, blood pressure, triglycerides and weight were measured. 26 years later, they were re-assessed, together with their parents, who were then 66 years old, on average.

It was found that by the end of the study, a parent from 47 percent of the families had suffered a heart attack, stroke or required a procedure to clear blocked heart arteries, while a parent from 37 percent of the families had developed diabetes.

Overall, the findings showed that when the children had had high blood pressure at the age of 12, their parents were about twice as likely to suffer heart disease or stroke at the age of 60 or younger. Meanwhile, when the kids had had high levels of LDL or triglycerides, parents would have higher rick of getting cardiovascular disease at any age. The parents’ chances of getting diabetes or high blood pressure would also double if their children were overweight.

In another study conducted earlier by the same researchers, children’s health conditions were found to be able to predict their own risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure by their late 30s.

The health authorities have already been aware of the seriousness. In November 2011, the United States Institute of Health suggested children should get their cholesterol checked between the ages of 9 and 11, and again between the ages of 17 and 21. Such recommendation was also endorsed by the ‘American Academy of Pediatrics’.

This somehow deviated from the traditional approach: screening cholesterol only in those at-risk children, for example, those with diabetes or a family history of early heart disease. Some health experts express their doubts on the new approach as they argue that there is so far no concrete evidence to suggest for such costly mass screening.

Friday, May 18, 2012

How Many Lives Were Saved By Anti-Smoking Efforts?

In the United States, a total of 20.6 percent of the population currently smokes, including nearly 4 million youths.

Smoking can sabotage the health of not only the smokers themselves but also people around them by second-hand smoke. Diseases that can be caused by smoking include lung cancer, hypertension (high blood pressure) and stroke, heart disease and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Every year, 5.4 million people are killed worldwide because of smoking. It accounts for 1 in 10 adult deaths worldwide. It is believed that the number of people die of smoking-caused disease can be reduced, if smokers can kick the habit as early as possible.

A paper, appeared on March 24, 2012 in the ‘Journal of the National Cancer Institute’ on March 24, 2012, reported that anti-smoking measures like higher taxes on cigarettes, limits on selling to kids, and campaigns to educate people on the dangers of smoking could have saved more than 800,000 lives.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Yale School of Public Health and other universities and institutes that formed the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET) consortium.  

Being funded by the National Cancer Institute, the study used various mathematical models, including one developed at Yale, to analyze trends in smoking and quantify the impact of various anti-smoking measures. Detailed cigarette smoking histories were recreated and significant events, like the Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of smoking, were factored in.

The surgeon General’s 1964 report was the first to warn of the harmful effects of cigarettes. If everyone had quitted smoking after that report, 2.5 million lung cancer deaths could have been spared, according to researchers.

Of course, since this did not actually happen, there were more than 2 million deaths among men from lung cancer and more than a million women from 1975 to 2000.

With the help of mathematical model by Yale, researchers managed to calculate smoking rate and found that the gradual reduction in smoking over the period between 1975 and 2000 resulted approximately 824,000 fewer lung cancer deaths, 603,000 of which were among men. Models used by other teams yielded similar results, showing anti-smoking measures prevented about 33 percent of potentially avoidable lung cancer deaths.

The findings showed the effect of the anti-smoking measures. It is hoped that increased efforts should be exerted in further lowering the cost in life from smoking.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Does It Matter Which Arm Is Used For Measuring Blood Pressure?

When a person visits a doctor to find out if he or she has hypertension (high blood pressure), the doctor would probably measure the blood pressure in both arms. If blood pressure is higher on one arm, the doctor will very likely use the blood pressure reading from that arm to monitor the blood pressure on subsequent visits.

But according to a study by researchers from the University of Exeter, doctors should measure blood pressure on both arms every time for their hypertensive patients because this could help identify the likelihood of heart disease or even death. The findings were published on January 30, 2012 in the British medical journal ‘The Lancet’.

After reviewing 28 studies with data on the differences in systolic blood pressure between arms, they concluded that a difference of 15 mm of mercury or more was associated with an higher risk of the narrowing and hardening of the arteries that supply blood to the legs and feet.

It was also linked to pre-existing cerebrovascular disease, which is a group of brain dysfunctions related to disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain. Cerebrovascular disease can lead to a number of disorders including stroke or dementia.

Most of the cases can hardly be detected but double-arm checks should help reveal those patients who are at risk. Both-arm blood pressure checks should therefore be adopted as the standard practice. Especially patients who are monitoring their blood pressure at home should pay attention to the difference and should immediately inform or seek help from their doctors if the difference exceeds 15 mmHg.

As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), a person is said to have high blood pressure when the readings are 140/90 mmHg or more. The first number is systolic reading that measures maximum heart pressure, while the second number is diastolic reading that measures pressure when the heart is in a resting phase. High blood pressure can be the cause of many other diseases including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and dementia.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Why Less White Rice Should Be Consumed?

I should cut down the consumption of white rice! That was the message I heard from my late father who was diagnosed with diabetes in his 40s. But he did not tell me why. Perhaps he thought I was too young to understand at that time. Anyway, I bore that message in my mind for all these years.

In a paper published on March 15, 2012 in the ‘British Medical Journal’ (BMJ), researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health reported that they found a link between higher consumption of rice and Type-2 diabetes.

The findings were the results of an analysis of 4 previously published studies, carried out in China, Japan, Australia and the United States. By following 350,000 people over a timescale from 4 to 22 years, researchers found that more than 13,000 people were found to develop Type-2 diabetes.

In the studies carried out in China and Japan, those who ate most rice were 55 percent more likely to develop the disease than those who ate least. The difference was, however, only 12 percent in the United States and Australia. Participants in the 2 Asian countries ate 3 or 4 servings of rice a day on average, compared to just 1 or 2 servings a week in the Western countries.

As the research was a meta-analysis of 4 original studies, the researchers admitted that they could not be 100 percent sure on what they had found, and their research did have some limitations, including lack of full details about what the volunteers ate in addition to rice.

Nevertheless, they did see a consistency across all these studies and there was biological plausibility highlighting the link between white rice consumption and Type-2 diabetes. Therefore, they suggested carrying out further study to gather more trial data in order to confirm their observations. Meanwhile, obesity and lack of exercise are also cited as the cause for Type-2 diabetes.

Being the most common form of diabetes, Type-2 diabetes is a disease in which high levels of sugar presented in the bloodstream either there is insufficient insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. When sugar builds up in the bloodstream instead of going into cells, it can lead to complications, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, eye complications, and kidney disease.