Monday, August 26, 2013

Prevent Heart Disease For Diabetics With Soccer Training

People with Type-2 diabetes are more likely to develop hypertension and heart disease, and situation worsens with physical inactivity. So diabetics are always advised to exercise regularly, in addition to adopting a health diet. For some serious cases, medications are prescribed to prevent possible medical complications.

A recent study, which was published on May 10, 2013 in journal ‘Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise’, reported that soccer training can improve heart function, reduce blood pressure and elevate exercise capacity in patients with Type-2 diabetes. Soccer training can also reduce the need for medication.

Funded by the Nordea-fonden, the study was conducted by a group of researchers from the Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health at the University of Copenhagen, Gentofte Hospital, Herlev Hospital, and Aarhus University in Denmark and University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

The study involved 21 male Type-2 diabetics with an average age of 50 years without history of cardiovascular disease. 12 of the participants were asked to participate in a soccer-training group that trained one hour, twice a week. The remaining 9 participants were assigned to a control group with no change in lifestyle.

Examinations including comprehensive transthoracic echocardiography, measurements of blood pressure, maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) and intermittent endurance capacity were performed before and after 12 and 24 weeks.

It was found that soccer training significantly improved flexibility of the heart and the cardiac muscle tissue was able to work 29 percent faster. This means that the heart had become 10 years younger after 3 months of training. This is certainly good news as many Type-2 diabetics have less flexible heart muscles that will increase the risk of heart failure. The heart’s contraction phase was better and the capacity of the heart to shorten was improved by 23 percent. Such result had not been reported with other types of physical activity.

The researchers also found that the blood pressure was greatly reduced. At the onset of the study, 60 percent of the participants had extremely high blood pressure and had been prescribed one or more pressure reducing medications. Soccer training cut the systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 8 mmHg. These effects are similar to those achieved by taking high blood pressure medications, thus significantly reducing the need for medication.

In addition, the study also showed that the participants' maximal oxygen uptake was raised by 12 percent and their intermittent exercise capacity was elevated by 42 percent. This would certainly lower the risk of other illnesses associated with Type-2 diabetes.

While soccer training has a great potential to help diabetics because of its ability to improve cardiac function, increase exercise capacity and lower blood pressure, it might not be suitable for diabetics of all ages.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Act Swiftly To Minimize Damage For Stroke Patients!

Being the third leading cause of death in the United States, stroke is a leading culprit of serious, long-term disability in adults. Each year, about 600,000 new strokes are reported in the United States.

A stroke, sometimes also called a brain attack, occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. The brain cells in the affected area begin to die because they stop getting oxygen and nutrients they need to function.

Fortunately, treatments are available that can greatly reduce the damage caused by a stroke. But symptoms of a stroke must first be recognized. Such symptoms include numbness or feeling weak in the face, arm or leg, having trouble speaking or understanding, unexplained dizziness, and blurred or poor vision in one or both eyes.

Patients who suffer an ischemic stroke can be treated with a drug called t-PA that dissolves blood clots obstructing blood flow to the brain. But treatment must be done within 3 hours, and the patient must also be sent to hospital within 60 minutes in order to be evaluated and receive treatment. The earlier the clot is resolved, the more brain cells can be saved.

A 5-year study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) reported that some stroke patients who received t-PA (tissue plasminogen activator) within 3 hours of the start of stroke symptoms were at least 30 percent more likely to recover with little or no disability after 3 months.

Meanwhile, regular exercise can also help stroke patients as it triggers healing in the brain. According to the findings announced at the Canadian Stroke Congress in 2012, regular exercise within 6 months of suffering a stroke can improve memory, language, thinking and judgment problems by almost 50 percent.

Nevertheless, doing something to prevent a stroke before it occurs is better than trying to save the brain later on when getting one.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) has been known to be the strongest risk factor for stroke. But blood pressure can be controlled by regular exercise.

Exercising regularly makes the heart stronger. This decreases the force exerted on the arteries, and so blood pressure would not be raised. Regular exercise can also help a person maintain a healthy weight that can help control blood pressure, too.

Besides hypertension, heart disease, smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol are also some of the risk factors. So if one smokes, quit smoking immediately. If one has heart disease, diabetes or high cholesterol, getting and keeping them control is important because this will greatly lower the risk of getting a stroke.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Can Healthy Habits Counter Stress?

While stress can be positive, it becomes negative when it continues without relief until a condition called distress occurs. Distress can cause physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and sleeping problems.

Stress can also lead to or worsen certain symptoms or diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, skin conditions, depression and anxiety. It is estimated that 43 percent of all adults suffer stress related health ailments.

A paper published on May 13, 2013 in the ‘Canadian Medical Association Journal’ by researchers from the University College London and other institutions reported that job strain was linked to a 25 percent higher chance of getting a heart attack or dying of heart problems. But the risks could be cut by 50 percent among people, either stressed or otherwise, who maintained a healthy lifestyle comparing to those who drank, smoked or were obese. Job stress was defined in the study as having a lot of demands at work with little control.

Though people have been encouraged to reduce work stress for heart disease prevention, this is sometimes unrealistic for certain group of people. As such, researchers were eager to find out whether adopting an otherwise healthy lifestyle would reduce heart disease risk among those with job strain.

Using data gathered from 7 European studies that surveyed 107,200 people about their general lifestyle habits that included how much strain they were under at work, the researchers found that about 1 in 6 initially reported being under job strain. None of these participants had heart disease at the start of the study.

Over the next 7 years, on average, there were about 1,100 heart attacks or deaths from heart disease. Over a decade, it was found that 12 cases per 1,000 generally healthy people without job strain and 31 per 1,000 people with job strain and multiple lifestyle risks like rarely exercising or having more than 3 or 4 alcoholic drinks a day.

Analysis also showed that approximately 4 percent of all heart attacks and deaths from heart disease could be due to job strain and about 26 percent to drinking, smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity.

Nevertheless, the new study might underestimate the link between job strain and heart disease. Furthermore, other types of job stress that may influence heart risks, like having low social support and job insecurity, were not taken into account.

The new study also did not prove that pressure at work causes heart problems, though the results are in tandem with past studies that suggested chronic stress, including from job strain, could have negative health effects.

Meanwhile, the American Heart Association (AHA) also advise people with stress to adopt positive healthy habits that include performing daily physical activity, giving up bad habits, getting enough sleep and trying not to worry.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Why Risk Of Stroke Declined In Singapore?

In Singapore, the risk of getting a stroke for all age groups has been reduced each year. According to The Ministry of Health (MOH), the rate of strokes per 100,000 people has lowered from 175 in 2007 to 158 in 2011. The number of deaths from stroke has also dropped from 39 in 2007 to 34 per 100,000 people in 2011. All the figures were after adjusting for an older population.

Stroke is, however, still the fourth leading cause of death that accounts for 9 percent of total mortality in Singapore. People who are most at risk are those are elderly, smokers, hypertensive (high blood pressure), and those who have high cholesterol and diabetes.

A study on 240 acute ischemic stroke patients at the National University Hospital (NUH), Singapore found that hypertension was the most prevalent risk factor (75 percent), followed by high cholesterol (57 percent), atrial fibrillation (35 percent), diabetes mellitus (29 percent) and smoking (26 percent). The findings can be found in March 2013’s issue of JAMA (The Journal Of The American Medical Association) Neurology.

Fortunately, besides the number of smoking, diabetes and obesity that have increased, the number of Singapore residents aged between 18 and 69 years old with hypertension and high cholesterol has declined since 1998.

32.5 percent of Singapore residents had hypertension and 28.2 percent had high cholesterol in 1998 but the 2010’s National Health Survey showed that only 23.5 percent had hypertension and 17.4 percent had high cholesterol.

Being the strongest risk factor for stroke, hypertension puts a person at about 4 times higher risk of developing a stroke than a non-hypertensive person. But if the condition can be well controlled with lifestyle modifications and medication, the risk of getting a stroke could be cut by 40 to 50 percent.

There are 2 types of stroke, namely ischemic and hemorrhagic. 80 percent of all strokes here belong to ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel to the brain is blocked, usually by a blood clot. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, causing bleeding in or around the brain. This type of stroke, though fewer in number, results in more deaths than ischemic strokes.

The declining death rate in Singapore could be due to better hospital care and stroke treatment, and more importantly, people can take better care of themselves. Meanwhile, better preventive treatment with medications to reduce high cholesterol and hypertension do help lower the rate at which Singaporeans are getting strokes.

While primary prevention is very important, preventing further strokes cannot be overlooked too. The risk for a stroke patient to get another stroke is 10 percent in the first year following a stroke, with the risk highest in the first month.