Tag Archives: Research

Less than 3%

There are really only a few basic habits we know should help keep people healthy: eating well, exercising, avoiding smoking, and keeping body fat in check.

Turns out a shockingly tiny number — just 2.7 percent — of Americans actually manage all four habits, according to a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The research, led by Paul Loprinzi of the University of Mississippi, used data about the lifestyles of nearly 5,000 US adults from the 2003 to 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. (That’s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s biggest national health survey.)

The researchers zeroed in on information about exercise (whether people got 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity weekly based on accelerometer data) and smoking status (measured by blood levels of cotinine, a biomarker for tobacco exposure). As for eating habits, the researchers looked at self-reported 24-hour recall data about diet and used the Healthy Eating Index score (an indicator of diet quality that takes into account how many fruits and vegetables people eat, as well as meat, beans, oil, saturated fat, alcohol, and sodium). To evaluate physical fitness, they also looked at body fat percentage.

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The researchers also looked at how these behaviors corresponded with biomarkers related to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, including cholesterol and fasting glucose.

The findings were stark.

Only about 38 percent of Americans surveyed had a healthy diet, just 10 percent had a normal body fat level, and fewer than half (47 percent) were sufficiently active. On the upside: 70 percent of adults reported themselves as nonsmokers. But overall, fewer than 3 percent of Americans managed all four healthy lifestyle behaviors. Eleven percent had none.

Generally, the researchers also found, people who had three or four of these behaviors had better biomarker measures compared with those who managed none.

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This new research should be a reminder of how difficult behavior change is, and how addressing society’s obesity challenge is going to take more than simply telling people to eat better and exercise more.

From VOX, read post here

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October is National Spinal Health Month

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October is National Spinal Health Month

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October is National Spinal Health Month

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Porridge for your Health

Oats have long been considered a superfood, staving off illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

But now a review by Harvard University has found that whole grains also appear to prevent early death and lower the chance of dying from cancer.

A meta-analysis of 12 studies involving nearly 800,000 people found that eating 70 grams of whole grains a day – the equivalent of a large bowl of porridge – lowers the risk of all-cause death by 22% and death from cancer by 20%. It also reduces the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 20%.

Scientists believe that whole grains help lower cholesterol and help regulate blood sugar, as well as making people feel full for longer, preventing them from snacking on unhealthy foods. The same effect could be gained from eating bran, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, or a mix of grains.

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Whole grains, where the bran and germ remain, contain 25% more protein than refined grains, such as those used to make white flour, pasta and white rice.

Previous studies have shown that whole grains can boost bone mineral density, lower blood pressure, promote healthy gut bacteria and reduce the risk of diabetes.

One particular fibre found only in oats – called beta-glucan – has been found to lower cholesterol which can help to protect against heart disease.

Whole grains are recommended in many dietary guidelines because they contain high levels of nutrients such as zinc, copper, manganese, iron and thiamine. They are also believed to boost levels of antioxidants, which combat free-radicals linked to cancer.

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Eating more whole grains is a simple change we can make to improve our diet and help lower our risk of heart and circulatory disease. Choosing brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, wholemeal or granary bread instead of white and swapping to whole-grain breakfast cereals such as porridge are all simple ways to help us up our fibre and whole-grain intake.”

From Irish Independent, click here for article.

Scientists say they already know how to reduce cancer deaths by half

Scientists say they already know how to reduce cancer deaths by half

No treatment required.

In fact, it wouldn’t take any drugs at all. All we need to do is get people to follow the recommendations that doctors have been making for decades: don’t smoke, drink moderately, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly.

At least, that’s the message from a new study that looked at the lifestyles of more than 100,000 doctors and nurses in the US.

This study made it clear right up front – lifestyle alone is never going to stop all cancers. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, the disease strikes totally at random, and it can happen to even the healthiest of people.

But the new study serves as a reminder that while we often focus all our money and effort on new treatments, there are already proven ways to reduce people’s risk of developing cancer.

“Even while we’re making new discoveries, that shouldn’t stop us from acting on the knowledge we already do have.”

So is the prevention issue really that cut and dry?

While the occasional study might find something random, the reality is that the vast majority of research is on the same page when it comes to risk factors for cancer – cigarettes, too much alcohol, obesity, and a lack of exercise are all bad.

Fitness and diet infographic

Fitness and diet infographic

(And that’s not to mention sun exposure, because this specific study only looked at carcinoma – which are most cancers except brain and skin cancers.)

To figure out just how much of a risk living an ‘unhealthy’ lifestyle really is, Mingyang Song and Edward Giovannucci from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at data on taken from a range of long-term studies on doctors and nurses in the US.

After looking at cancer rates, they found that up to 80 percent of lung cancer could be put down to lifestyle, as well as more than one-fifth of colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and kidney cancer cases.

When they applied those rates to the rest of the US population, they found that between 41 and 63 percent of cancer cases could be preventable, as well as 59 to 67 percent of cancer deaths.

That’s a pretty huge if you consider the fact that despite countless promising new treatments, we’re still no closer to a ‘cure’ for cancer – the more we learn about the disease, the more complex we realise it is.

“These findings reinforce the predominant importance of lifestyle factors in determining cancer risk,” the researchers write in JAMA Oncology. “Therefore, primary prevention should remain a priority for cancer control.”

From Science Alert.  Click here for full article.

How Exercise Keep Us Young

4/18/2017: New York Times, see article here.

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Active older people resemble much younger people physiologically, according to a new study of the effects of exercise on aging. The findings suggest that many of our expectations about the inevitability of physical decline with advancing years may be incorrect and that how we age is, to a large degree, up to us. Aging remains a surprisingly mysterious process. A wealth of past scientific research has shown that many bodily and cellular processes change in undesirable ways as we grow older. But science has not been able to establish definitively whether such changes result primarily from the passage of time — in which case they are inevitable for anyone with birthdays — or result at least in part from lifestyle, meaning that they are mutable. This conundrum is particularly true in terms of inactivity. Older people tend to be quite sedentary nowadays, and being sedentary affects health, making it difficult to separate the effects of not moving from those of getting older.

In the new study, which was published this week in The Journal of Physiology, scientists at King’s College London and the University of Birmingham in England decided to use a different approach. They removed inactivity as a factor in their study of aging by looking at the health of older people who move quite a bit.  “We wanted to understand what happens to the functioning of our bodies as we get older if we take the best­case scenario,” said Stephen Harridge, senior author of the study and director of the Centre of Human and Aerospace Physiological Sciences at King’s College London. To accomplish that goal, the scientists recruited 85 men and 41 women aged between 55 and 79 who bicycle regularly. The volunteers were all serious recreational riders but not competitive athletes. The men had to be able to ride at least 62 miles in six and a half hours and the women 37 miles in five and a half hours, benchmarks typical of a high degree of fitness in older people. The scientists then ran each volunteer through a large array of physical and cognitive tests. The scientists determined each cyclist’s endurance capacity, muscular mass and strength, pedaling power, metabolic health, balance, memory function, bone density and reflexes. They also had the volunteers complete the so-called Timed Up and Go test, during which someone stands up from a chair without using his or her arms, briskly walks about 10 feet, turns, walks back and sits down again.

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The researchers compared the results of cyclists in the study against each other and also against standard benchmarks of supposedly normal aging. If a particular test’s numbers were similar among the cyclists of all ages, the researchers considered, then that measure would seem to be more dependent on activity than on age. As it turned out, the cyclists did not show their age. On almost all measures, their physical functioning remained fairly stable across the decades and was much closer to that of young adults than of people their age. As a group, even the oldest cyclists had younger people’s levels of balance, reflexes, metabolic health and memory ability. And their Timed Up and Go results were exemplary. Many older people require at least 7 seconds to complete the task, with those requiring 9 or 10 seconds considered to be on the cusp of frailty, Dr. Harridge said. But even the oldest cyclists in this study averaged barely 5 seconds for the walk, which is “well within the norm reported for healthy young adults,” the study authors write.

Some aspects of aging did, however, prove to be ineluctable. The oldest cyclists had less muscular power and mass than those in their 50s and early 60s and considerably lower overall aerobic capacities. Age does seem to reduce our endurance and strength to some extent, Dr. Harridge said, even if we exercise. But even so, both of those measures were higher among the oldest cyclists than would be considered average among people aged 70 or above. All in all, the numbers suggest that aging is simply different in the active. “If you gave this dataset to a clinician and asked him to predict the age” of one of the cyclists based on his or her test results, Dr. Harridge said, “it would be impossible.” On paper, they all look young. Of course, this study is based on a single snapshot of an unusual group of older adults, Dr. Harridge said. He and his colleagues plan to retest their volunteers in five and 10 years, which will provide better information about the ongoing effects of exercise on aging. But even in advance of those results, said Dr. Harridge, himself almost 50 and an avid cyclist, this study shows that “being physically active makes your body function on the inside more like a young person’s.”

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It’s good for every body!

A version of this article appears in print on 01/13/2015, on page D4 of the NewYork edition with the headline: A Prescription for Youth. © 2017 The New York Times Company