Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Skin cancer risk: The dangers of ultraviolet radiation


The dangers of ultraviolet radiation exposure, which most often comes from the sun, are well-known. Speaking at The Physiological Society's Extreme Environmental Physiology conference next week, W. Larry Kenney, Penn State University, will discuss how broad its effects can be, from premature aging to cancer, and how this can be influenced by different skin tones and the use of sunscreen.
Athletes ranging from hikers, to tennis and runners exceed the recommended ultraviolet exposure limit by up to eight-fold during the summer and autumn months. While regular physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of most cancers, skin cancer is an exception. For malignant skin cancer, those in the 90th percentile for physical activity have an increased risk of cancer than those in the 10th percentile. Sun protection in these groups is especially important as multiple studies demonstrate an elevated risk of skin cancer for those who regularly participate in outdoor sports or exercise.
The ultraviolet radiation spectrum is categorized by wavelength as UV-A (320-400 nm), UV-B (290-320 nm), and UV-C (200-290 nm) and the biological effects vary per type. UV-A constitutes around 95% of ultraviolet radiation that reaches the earth's surface, with the remainder being UV-B. In the skin, UV-A is able to reach the skin's blood circulation but most of UV-B is absorbed in the outer layers of the skin (called the epidermis and upper dermis) due to its shorter wavelengths.
Skin pigmentation is another factor that affects our response to sun exposure. UV radiation affects the body's ability to create two important substances, vitamin D and folate, which contribute to both a health pregnancy and early childhood development. It helps vitamin D be synthesised, whereas it causes folate to break down.
There is a theory that suggests that early human populations, living in equatorial Africa, evolved skin pigmentation to protect themselves from folate degradation. This theory also says that depigmentation then occurred as humans moved away from the equator to allow for higher levels of vitamin D synthesis.
Commenting on his talk, Professor Kenney said:
"Sun protection in athletes is especially important as multiple studies demonstrate an elevated risk of skin cancer for those who regularly participate in outdoor sports or exercise. Surprisingly, fewer than 25% of surveyed athletes reported regular use of sunscreen, so there is clearly more awareness-raising that needs to be done."

Once or twice weekly daytime nap linked to lower heart attack/stroke risk


But no such association found for greater frequency or duration of naps



A daytime nap taken once or twice a week may lower the risk of having a heart attack/stroke, finds research published online in the journal Heart. But no such association emerged for either greater frequency or duration of naps.
The impact of napping on heart health has been hotly contested. Many of the published studies on the topic have failed to consider napping frequency, or focused purely on cardiovascular disease deaths, or compared regular nappers with those not opting for a mini siesta, say the researchers.
In a bid to try and address these issues, they looked at the association between napping frequency and average nap duration and the risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease 'events,' such as heart attack, stroke, or heart failure, among 3462 randomly selected residents of Lausanne, Switzerland.
Each participant was aged between 35 and 75, when recruited between 2003 and 2006 to the CoLaus study. This has been looking at the factors behind the development of cardiovascular disease.
Participants' first check-up took place between 2009 and 2012, when information on their sleep and nap patterns in the previous week was collected, and their health was then subsequently monitored for an average of 5 years.
Over half (58%, 2014) of the participants said they didn't nap during the previous week; around one in five (19%, 667) said they took one to two naps; around one in 10 (12%, 411) said they took three to five; while a similar proportion (11%, 370) said they took six to seven.
Frequent nappers (3-7 naps a week) tended to be older, male, smokers, weigh more, and to sleep for longer at night than those who said they didn't nap during the day.
And they reported more daytime sleepiness and more severe obstructive sleep apnea -- a condition in which the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing.
During the monitoring period, there were 155 fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease 'events'.
Occasional napping, once to twice weekly, was associated with an almost halving in attack/stroke/heart failure risk (48%) compared with those who didn't nap at all.
This association held true after taking account of potentially influential factors, such as age, and nighttime sleep duration, as well as other cardiovascular disease risks, such as high blood pressure/cholesterol.
And it didn't change after factoring in excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and regularly sleeping for at least 6 hours a night. Only older age (65+) and severe sleep apnea affected it.
But the 67% heightened cardiovascular risk initially observed for frequent nappers virtually disappeared after taking account of potentially influential factors. And no associations with cardiovascular disease 'events' were found for nap length (from 5 minutes to 1 hour plus).
This is an observational study, and as such, can't establish cause, added to which the information on nap and sleep patterns relied on personal recall. But nap frequency may help to explain the differing conclusions reached by researchers about the impact of napping on heart health, suggest the study authors.
In a linked editorial, Drs Yue Leng and Kristine Yaffe, of the University of California at San Francisco, USA, point out that research in this area is hampered by the absence of a gold standard for defining and measuring naps, making it "premature to conclude on the appropriateness of napping for maintaining optimal heart health."
But they add: "While the exact physiological pathways linking daytime napping to [cardiovascular disease] risk is not clear, [this research] contributes to the ongoing debate on the health implications of napping, and suggests that it might not only be the duration, but also the frequency that matters."
And they conclude: "The study of napping is a challenging but also a promising field with potentially significant public health implications. While there remain more questions than answers, it is time to start unveiling the power of naps for a supercharged heart."

Monday, September 9, 2019

Fatty foods necessary for vitamin E absorption, but not right away



A fresh look at how to best determine dietary guidelines for vitamin E has produced a surprising new finding: Though the vitamin is fat soluble, you don't have to consume fat along with it for the body to absorb it.
"I think that's remarkable," said the study's corresponding author, Maret Traber of Oregon State University, a leading authority on vitamin E who's been researching the micronutrient for three decades. "We used to think you had to eat vitamin E and fat simultaneously. What our study shows is that you can wait 12 hours without eating anything, then eat a fat-containing meal and vitamin E gets absorbed."
The study was published today in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Vitamin E, known scientifically as alpha-tocopherol, has many biologic roles, one of which is to serve as an antioxidant, said Traber, a professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and Ava Helen Pauling Professor at Oregon State's Linus Pauling Institute.
Federal dietary guidelines call for 15 milligrams of vitamin E daily (by comparison, 65-90 milligrams of vitamin C are recommended). The new research could play a role in future vitamin E guidelines.
Vitamin E in human diets is most often provided by oils, such as olive oil. Many of the highest levels are in foods not routinely considered dietary staples, such as almonds, sunflower seeds and avocados.
"There's increasingly clear evidence that vitamin E is associated with brain protection, and now we're starting to better understand some of the underlying mechanisms," Traber said.
In this latest study, Traber and collaborators used a novel technique involving deuterium-labeled vitamin E, administered both orally and intravenously, to study fractional vitamin E absorption in a group of non-obese, non-diabetic women ages 18-40 with normal blood pressure.
Fractional absorption means just what you would think - the fraction of the dose absorbed by the body rather than metabolized and excreted. Fractional absorption dictates how much of something, in this case vitamin E, a person needs to take to maintain the correct level in his or her body.
Deuterium, the vitamin E marker in this study, is an isotope of hydrogen with double the atomic mass of the regular version; deuterium has both a proton and a neutron, compared to just a proton for normal hydrogen, and is a common tracer in investigations of biochemical reactions.
Study subjects at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center were given both oral and IV vitamin E and drank a liquid meal containing either 40% fat or no fat. Researchers then used a combination of tightly controlled dietary intakes to determine the roles fat and fasting played in vitamin E absorption.
"What this study says is, vitamin E gets taken up into the intestinal cell and sits there and waits for the next meal to come along," Traber said. "It's in a fat droplet, sitting there, waiting to be picked up, like a cargo container, and loaded onto a chylomicron truck."
Chylomicrons are lipoprotein particles that transport dietary lipids - fats - around the body through the blood plasma.
The IV portion of the study, used in conjunction with the oral dosing to calculate fractional absorption, also yielded remarkable findings, Traber said.
"We injected the vitamin E in a lipid emulsion and expected it would take some time to disappear from the plasma and them come slowly back into circulation, but it was gone within 10 minutes," Traber said. "High-density lipoproteins quickly acquired the vitamin E, and the chylomicrons quickly disappeared from circulation into the liver.
"The IV vitamin E we put into the body over three days, almost none of it came out again, like 2% of the dose," she added. "No one had ever seen that before - normally you absorb about half of what you consume. That vitamin E that's staying in the body, we don't know where it goes, and finding that out is important for studying how much vitamin E you need to eat every day."
Vitamin E is a group of eight compounds - four tocopherols and four tocotrienols, distinguished by their chemical structure. Alpha-tocopherol is what vitamin E commonly refers to and is found in supplements and the European diet; gamma-tocopherol is the type of vitamin E most commonly found in the American diet.
"Plants make eight different forms of vitamin E and you absorb them all, but the liver only puts alpha-tocopherol back into the bloodstream," Traber said. "All of the other forms are metabolized and excreted. That tells us the body is working very hard to get all the nutrients it can and will sort out what the toxins are later. That's really exciting, because it explains why the liver needs an alpha-tocopherol transfer protein but the intestine does not."

Use of antibiotics in preemies has lasting, potentially harmful effects


Nearly all premature babies receive antibiotics in their first weeks of life to ward off or treat potentially deadly bacterial infections. Such drugs are lifesavers, but they also cause long-lasting collateral damage to the developing microbial communities in the babies' intestinal tracts, according to research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
A year and a half after babies leave the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the consequences of early antibiotic exposure remain, the study showed. Compared to healthy full-term babies in the study who had not received antibiotics, preemies' microbiomes contained more bacteria associated with disease, fewer species linked to good health, and more bacteria with the ability to withstand antibiotics.
The findings, published Sept. 9 in Nature Microbiology, suggest that antibiotic use in preemies should be carefully tailored to minimize disruptions to the gut microbiome - and that doing so might reduce the risk of health problems later in life.
"The type of microbes most likely to survive antibiotic treatment are not the ones we typically associate with a healthy gut," said senior author Gautam Dantas, PhD, a professor of pathology and immunology, of molecular microbiology, and of biomedical engineering. "The makeup of your gut microbiome is pretty much set by age 3, and then it stays pretty stable. So if unhealthy microbes get a foothold early in life, they could stick around for a very long time. One or two rounds of antibiotics in the first couple weeks of life might still matter when you're 40."
Healthy gut microbiomes have been linked to reduced risk of a variety of immune and metabolic disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, obesity and diabetes. Researchers already knew that antibiotics disrupt the intestinal microbial community in children and adults in ways that can be harmful. What they didn't know was how long the disruptions last.
To find out whether preemies' microbiomes recover over time, Dantas and colleagues - including first author Andrew Gasparrini, PhD, who was a graduate student at the time the study was conducted, and co-authors Phillip I. Tarr, MD, the Melvin E. Carnahan Professor of Pediatrics, and Barbara Warner, MD, director of the Division of Newborn Medicine - analyzed 437 fecal samples collected from 58 infants, ages birth to 21 months. Forty-one of the infants were born around 2 ½ months premature, and the remainder were born at full term.
All of the preemies had been treated with antibiotics in the NICU. Nine had received just one course, and the other 32 each had been given an average of eight courses and spent about half their time in the NICU on antibiotics. None of the full-term babies had received antibiotics.
The researchers discovered that preemies who had been heavily treated with antibiotics carried significantly more drug-resistant bacteria in their gut microbiomes at 21 months of age than preemies who had received just one course of antibiotics, or full-term infants who had not received antibiotics. The presence of drug-resistant bacteria did not necessarily cause any immediate problems for the babies because most gut bacteria are harmless - as long as they stay in the gut. But gut microbes sometimes escape the intestine and travel to the bloodstream, urinary tract or other parts of the body. When they do, drug resistance can make the resulting infections very difficult to treat.
Moreover, by culturing bacteria from fecal samples taken eight to 10 months apart, the researchers discovered that the drug-resistant strains present in older babies were the same ones that had established themselves early on.
"They weren't just similar bugs, they were the same bugs, as best we could tell," Dantas said. "We had cleared an opening for these early invaders with antibiotics, and once they got in, they were not going to let anybody push them out. And while we didn't show that these specific bugs had caused disease in our kids, these are exactly the kind of bacteria that cause urinary tract and bloodstream infections and other problems. So you have a situation where potentially pathogenic microbes are getting established early in life and sticking around."
Further studies showed that all of the babies developed diverse microbiomes by 21 months of age - a good sign since lack of microbial diversity is associated with immune and metabolic disorders in children and adults. But heavily treated preemies developed diverse microbiomes more slowly than lightly treated preemies and full-term infants. Further, the makeup of the gut microbial communities differed, with heavily treated premature infants having fewer healthy groups of bacteria such as Bifidobacteriaceae and more unhealthy kinds such as Proteobacteria.
The findings already have led Warner, who takes care of premature infants in the NICU at St. Louis Children's Hospital, and her fellow neonatalogists to scale down their use of antibiotics.
"We're no longer saying, 'Let's just start them on antibiotics because it's better to be safe than sorry,'" Warner said. "Now we know there's a risk of selecting for organisms that can persist and create health risks later in childhood and in life. So we're being much more judicious about initiating antibiotic use, and when we do start babies on antibiotics, we take them off as soon as the bacteria are cleared. We still have to use antibiotics - there's no question that they save lives - but we've been able to reduce antibiotic use significantly with no increase in adverse outcomes for the children."

Women's deep belly fat more strongly linked to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases


A comprehensive study from Uppsala University, with over 325,000 participants, shows that deep belly fat is a major contributing risk factor for developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The study also shows that deep belly fat is a larger risk factor in women compared to men. Moreover, the scientists investigated how our genes affect the accumulation of fat and present a new, simpler method to estimate the amount of deep belly fat.
Visceral fat - fat stored around the organs in the belly and around the intestines - is known to be associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In the new study, published in Nature Medicine, the scientists took it one step further and showed, using genetic data, that there is an actual causal relationship between visceral fat and increased risk of diabetes, heart attack, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.
The scientists developed a method to more easily estimate visceral fat content. The method is not only useful for research purposes, but may also be useful in health care.
"To measure the amount of visceral fat, advanced and costly diagnostic imaging techniques are required. We have developed a simple method which instead estimates an individual's amount of deep belly fat from other parameters, more easily measured than the visceral fat itself, and the method can therefore be used in most clinics," says Dr. Torgny Karlsson, statistician at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Uppsala University, and one of the leading researchers of the study.
The method also enabled the researchers to study the effects of visceral fat on a much larger scale than before.
"We were surprised that visceral fat was more strongly linked to risk of disease in women compared to men," says one of the co-authors, Dr. Åsa Johansson, associate professor of molecular epidemiology at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.
"Adding an extra kilogram of visceral fat can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes more than seven times in women, while the same amount of fat accumulation only increases the risk a little more than two times in men," says Dr. Johansson.
The scientists also found that the risk of disease increases most rapidly in people with small or moderate amounts of deep belly fat, but that it does not increase nearly as much if a person with large amounts of fat in the abdomen puts on additional fat.
"Nonlinear effects like this are very interesting to study and may help us to understand the biology behind the link between visceral fat and disease," says Dr. Karlsson.
The scientists also examined millions of positions in the genome to identify genes that affect the amount of visceral fat, and found more than two hundred different genes. Among these, there was a large proportion of genes that are linked to our behaviour, which suggests that the main contributor to abdominal obesity is, after all, that we eat too much and exercise too little. However, there are individual differences in how the fat is distributed in the body, and a person who appears not to be overweight may still have accumulated a harmful amount of visceral fat.
"The findings of this study may enable us to simplify measurements of visceral fat, and thus more easily identify people at high risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Karlsson.

World's largest evidence review: Nutritional supplements for mental health



We've all heard that 'food is good for your mood'. Now a new study into mental health and nutrient supplementation has taken a leap forward by establishing the gold standard for which nutrients are proven to assist in the management of a range of mental health disorders.
As well as an established relationship between poor diet and mental illness, there is now a vast body of research examining the benefit of nutrient supplementation in people with mental disorders.
To unpack this research, an international team of scientists led by Sydney's NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University examined the 'best of the best' available evidence. The aim was to provide a clear overview of the benefit of specific nutrient supplements - including dosage, target symptoms, safety and tolerability - across different mental disorders.
The world's largest review (a meta-synthesis) of top-tier evidence, published online today in World Psychiatry, examined 33 meta-analyses of randomised control trials (RCTs) and data from 10,951 people with mental health disorders including depression, stress and anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, schizophrenia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Although the majority of nutritional supplements assessed did not significantly improve mental health, the researchers found strong evidence that certain supplements are an effective additional treatment for some mental disorders, supportive of conventional treatment.
All nutrient supplements were found to be safe when recommended dosages and prescriptive instructions were adhered to and there was no evidence of serious adverse effects or contraindications with psychiatric medications.
Summary of results:
  • The strongest evidence was found for omega-3 supplements (a polyunsaturated fatty acid) as an add-on treatment for major depression - reducing symptoms of depression beyond the effects of antidepressants alone.
  • There was some evidence to suggest that omega-3 supplements may also have small benefits for ADHD.
  • There was emerging evidence for the amino acid N-acetylcysteine as a useful adjunctive treatment in mood disorders and schizophrenia.
  • Special types of folate supplements may be effective as add-on treatments for major depression and schizophrenia, however folic acid was ineffective.
  • There was no strong evidence for omega-3 for schizophrenia or other mental health conditions.
  • There is currently a lack of compelling evidence supporting the use of vitamins (such as E, C, or D) and minerals (zinc and magnesium) for any mental disorder.
Lead author of the study, Dr Joseph Firth, Senior Research Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University and Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Manchester said the findings should be used to produce more evidence-based guidance on the usage of nutrient-based treatments for various mental health conditions.
"While there has been a longstanding interest in the use of nutrient supplements in the treatment of mental illness, the topic is often quite polarising, and surrounded by either over-hyped claims or undue cynicism," Dr Firth said.
"In this most recent research, we have brought together the data from dozens and dozens of clinical trials conducted all over the world, in over 10,000 individuals treated for mental illness.
"This mass of data has allowed us to investigate the benefits and safety of various different nutrients for mental health conditions - on a larger scale than what has ever been possible before."
Senior author on the study, NICM Health Research Institute's Professor Jerome Sarris said as the role of nutrition in mental health is becoming increasingly acknowledged, it was vital that an evidence-based approach be adopted.
"Future research should aim to determine which individuals might benefit most from evidence-based supplements and to better understand the underlying mechanisms so we can adopt a targeted approach to supplement use in mental health treatment." Professor Sarris said.
"The role of the gut microbiome in mental health is a rapidly emerging field of research, however more research is needed into the role of 'psychobiotics' in mental health treatment."

Friday, September 6, 2019

More time spent standing helps combat effects of sedentary lifestyle


A study conducted by researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) recommends spending more time standing to increase energy expenditure and combat the negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle. The research has also quantified exactly how many extra calories we burn when we remain standing: 45 kilocalories more, per six-hour period, than when lying or sitting.
One of the applications of the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, could be the use of adjustable-height tables that enable people to work standing up--already a very common practice in the Nordic countries--and thus combat the negative effects of a sedentary working environment. These tables can be fully adjusted to suit the height of the user, depending on whether they want to sit or stand while working.
Francisco J. Amaro- Gahete, PhD Biomedicine student at the UGR's International School for Postgraduate Studies and member of the Department of Physiology, is the main author of the article. He notes: "We Spaniards spend between 8 and 10 hours sitting or lying down each day, not counting the hours we are asleep. Therefore, if we take steps to combat a sedentary lifestyle by making small lifestyle changes, such as spending more time standing, this could reduce the risk of developing diseases such as obesity or Type 2 diabetes."
In the published article, researchers describe how one effective way to address the effects of a sedentary lifestyle is to reduce the amount of time we spend sitting or lying down, and encourage us to stand more often. The article also presents the findings of the study regarding the energy expenditure for each of these three positions.
Two kinds of people: Energy savers and energy spenders
The scientists used a sample comprising 53 young adults, who were classified into two types, "savers" and "spenders" of energy, depending on the amount of energy expenditure they consumed when switching from sitting or lying to standing.
"Savers consume very little energy in their activities and, therefore, the difference between sitting/lying or standing is practically nil for them. But energy spenders burn approximately 10% more energy when they switch from sitting or lying to standing," explains Amaro.
So what makes a person spend more or less energy? This is a question that researchers are still trying to answer, as it is related, for example, to the issue of why some people lose weight so easily and others find it so difficult.
The factor that appears to have the greatest effect is muscle mass. "People with more muscle mass expend more energy than people with less muscle mass," observes the UGR researcher.
In light of the results, the authors recommend spending more time standing in the office as a good strategy to use up more energy and thus avoid storing it as fat.
"It is really important to change your position," comments Jonatan Ruiz, another of the authors of the article. "If a person were to get up, take 10 steps, and sit down again, it appears that the effects of a sedentary lifestyle would be greatly reduced. Therefore, we must educate our school-age children and young people, as well as teachers, about the importance of avoiding spending long periods of time sitting down to considerably reduce the negative consequences of a sedentary lifestyle such as excess weight and obesity, or the risk of developing cardiovascular disease."

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Hot yoga classes lowered blood pressure


Taking hot yoga classes lowered blood pressure in a small study of adults with elevated or stage 1 hypertension, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.
While there is evidence of regular, room-temperature yoga's positive effect on blood pressure, little is known about hot yoga's potential impact on blood pressure, according to the study researchers.
"The findings are very preliminary at this point, yet they're somewhat promising in terms of unveiling another unique way to lower blood pressure in adults without the use of medications," said Stacy Hunter, Ph.D., study author and assistant professor and lab director of the cardiovascular physiology lab at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. "Hot yoga is gaining popularity, and we're even seeing other styles of yoga, like Vinyasa and power yoga, being offered in heated studios."
Hot yoga is a modern practice, typically offered in a hot, humid atmosphere, with room temperatures around 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Some believe the practice of hot yoga replicates the heat and humidity of India, where yoga originated, while others look at the excessive sweating as a way to rid the body of impurities.
Hunter and colleagues recruited 10 men and women, between ages 20 and 65 years. Participants had either elevated blood pressure (systolic blood pressure between 120 mmHg to 129 mmHg and diastolic pressure less than 80 mmHg) or stage 1 hypertension (130 mmHg to 139 mmHg systolic and 80 mmHg to 89 mmHg diastolic pressure.) These adults were not taking any type of blood pressure medication and had been sedentary -- meaning they had not engaged in a regular physical fitness routine -- for at least six months before the study.
Researchers randomly assigned five participants to take 12 weeks of three-times-weekly hour-long hot yoga classes and they assigned the other five to a control group of no yoga classes. They compared average blood pressures of the two groups after the 12 weeks. The researchers looked at average 24-hour blood pressure readings, as well as perceived stress and vascular function of participants in both groups.
At 12 weeks, they found:
Systolic blood pressure dropped from an average 126 mmHg at the study's start to 121 mmHg after 12 weeks of hot yoga. Average diastolic pressure also decreased from 82 mmHg to 79 mmHg in the hot yoga group.
Average blood pressure did not change among the five adults in the control group, those who did not take hot yoga classes.
Perceived stress levels fell among those in the hot yoga group but not in the non-yoga group.
While waking systolic and diastolic pressures fell in the hot yoga group, blood pressure readings taken during sleep did not change.
There were no changes in vascular function in either group.
"The results of our study start the conversation that hot yoga could be feasible and effective in terms of reducing blood pressure without medication," Hunter said. "However, larger studies need to be done before we can say with confidence that hot yoga has a positive impact on blood pressure."
Taking safety precautions is important, according to Hunter. Adults taking hot yoga classes should be hydrated when they arrive, drink water throughout the class, dress appropriately, not overdo it and be aware of signs and symptoms of heat illness. Always talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen to know what it is best for you.

High blood pressure accelerates cognitive decline


High blood pressure appears to accelerate cognitive decline among middle-aged and older adults and treating high blood pressure may slow down the process, according to a preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.
The findings are important because high blood pressure and cognitive decline are two of the most common conditions associated with aging, and more people are living longer worldwide.
According to the American Heart Association's 2017 Hypertension Guidelines, high blood pressure is a global health threat, affecting approximately 80 million U.S. adults and one billion people globally. Moreover, the relationship between brain health and high blood pressure is a growing interest as researchers examine how elevated blood pressure affects the brain's blood vessels, which in turn, may impact memory, language and thinking skills.
In this observational study, researchers from Columbia University analyzed data collected on nearly 11,000 adults from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) between 2011-2015, to assess how high blood pressure and its treatment may influence cognitive decline. High blood pressure was defined as having a systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or higher and a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or higher, and/or taking antihypertensive medications. (Note: The American Heart Association guidelines define high blood pressure as 130 mmHg or higher or a diastolic reading of 80 mmHg or higher.)
Researchers in China interviewed study participants at home about their high blood pressure treatment, education level and noted if they lived in a rural or urban environment. They were also asked to perform cognitive tests, such as immediately recalling words as part of a memory quiz.
Among the study's findings:
Overall cognition scores declined over the four-year study;
Participants ages 55 and older who had high blood pressure showed a more rapid rate of cognitive decline compared with participants who were being treated for high blood pressure and those who did not have high blood pressure; and
The rate of cognitive decline was similar between those receiving high blood pressure treatment and those who did not have high blood pressure.
The study did not evaluate why or how high blood pressure treatments may have contributed to slower cognitive decline or if some treatments were more effective than others.
"We think efforts should be made to expand high blood pressure screenings, especially for at-risk populations, because so many people are not aware that they have high blood pressure that should be treated," said presenting study author Shumin Rui, a biostatistician at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University in New York. "This study focused on middle-aged and older adults in China, however, we believe our results could apply to populations elsewhere as well. We need to better understand how high blood pressure treatments may protect against cognitive decline and look at how high blood pressure and cognitive decline are occurring together."

Eating mushrooms may help lower prostate cancer risk


A new study published in the International Journal of Cancer found an inverse relationship between mushroom consumption and the development of prostate cancer among middle-aged and elderly Japanese men, suggesting that regular mushroom intake might help to prevent prostate cancer.

A total of 36,499 men, aged 40 to 79 years who participated in the Miyagi Cohort Study in 1990 and in the Ohsaki Cohort Study in 1994 were followed for a median of 13.2 years. During follow-up, 3.3% of participants developed prostate cancer. Compared with mushroom consumption of less than once per week, consumption once or twice a week was associated with an 8% lower risk of prostate cancer and consumption three or more times per week was associated with a 17% lower risk.

"Since information on mushroom species was not collected, it is difficult to know which specific mushroom(s) contributed to our findings. Also, the mechanism of the beneficial effects of mushrooms on prostate cancer remains uncertain," said lead author Shu Zhang, PhD, of the Tohoku University School of Public Health, in Japan.

Coffee may protect against gallstones


Drinking more coffee may help reduce the risk of developing gallstones, according to a new study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.
Among 104,493 individuals, those who drank more than six cups of coffee per day had a 23% lower risk of developing symptomatic gallstones compared with individuals who did not drink coffee. Drinking one extra cup of coffee per day was associated with 3% lower risk. Also, individuals with certain genetic variants that have been linked to increased coffee consumption had a lower risk of gallstones.
Although the study only uncovered correlations, the authors highlighted several mechanisms by which coffee consumption might help prevent gallstones from forming.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

New study confirms the long-term benefits of a low-fat diet



A team led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has identified several women's health benefits from a low-fat diet. The findings, published in the September issue of the Journal of Nutrition, found a low-fat diet commensurate with an increase in fruit, vegetable and grain servings reduced death following breast cancer, slowed diabetes progression and prevented coronary heart disease.
Dr. Ross Prentice, member of the Cancer Prevention and Biostatistics programs at Fred Hutch and his colleagues in the Women's Health Initiative originally launched the Dietary Modification Trial in 1993. The study involved nearly 49,000 postmenopausal women across the U.S. to test whether a low-fat dietary pattern would reduce the risk of breast and colorectal cancers and coronary heart disease. After nearly nine years of dietary change, they found that the low-fat diet did not significantly impact outcomes for these conditions. However, after longer-term follow-up of nearly 20 years, researchers found significant benefits, derived from modest dietary changes emerged and persisted including:
  • A 15-35% reduction in deaths from all-causes following breast cancer
  • A 13-25% reduction in insulin-dependent diabetes
  • A 15-30% reduction in coronary heart disease among 23,000 women without baseline hypertension or prior cardiovascular disease
"The WHI's Dietary Modification Trial has provided women with nutrition and disease prevention insights for some years," Prentice said. "The latest results support the role of nutrition in overall health, and indicate that low-fat diets rich in fruits, vegetables and grains have health benefits without any observed adverse effects."
Unlike other studies examining the link between diet, cancer and other diseases, WHI investigators designed the study as a long-term, randomized controlled clinical trial to limit bias and establish causal conclusions. Participants made intentional dietary changes resulting from learned integrated concepts about nutrition and behavior, taught by trained nutritionists during the first year and reinforced quarterly for nearly a decade.
"The sheer number of new diets and nutrition trends can be overwhelming to people who simply want to know, 'What should I be eating?'" said Dr. Garnet Anderson, a co-author of the study and senior vice president and director of Fred Hutch's Public Health Sciences Division. She also serves as principal investigator of the Fred Hutch-based WHI Clinical Coordinating Center. "While there are many diets that provide short-term benefits like weight loss, this study scientifically validates the long-term health effects of a low-fat diet."

Poor oral health linked to cognitive decline, perceived stress


Oral health is an essential part of psychological well-being and overall health in older adults. Poor oral health is associated with decreased quality of life, depression, hypertension, and cognitive decline. Two Rutgers studies, co-authored by Darina Petrovsky, Bei Wu, and Weiyu Mao, and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, explored the relationship between poor oral health and cognitive decline and the effects of perceived stress and social support on dry mouth among older Chinese Americans.
Researchers interviewed more than 2,700 Chinese Americans aged 60 and older and found that nearly 50 percent of study participants reported experiencing tooth symptoms, 25.5 percent reported dry mouth. In the first study, those who reported tooth symptoms experienced declines in cognition and episodic memory, often precursors to dementia. In the second study, the researchers found that stress increased symptoms of dry mouth, leading to poorer overall oral health.
"Racial and ethnic minorities are particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of poor oral health," said XinQi Dong, director of Rutgers University's Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research. "Minorities have less access to preventive dental care that is further exacerbated by language barriers and low socioeconomic status. Older Chinese Americans are at particular risk for experiencing oral health symptoms due to lack of dental insurance or not visiting a dental clinic regularly."
According to Dong, the increasing oral health disease burdens among older Chinese immigrants point to the need for investigations of psychosocial factors due to the current emphasis on physical diseases and health behaviors in oral health.
"Efforts must be made to increase social support to alleviate stress and the resulting dry mouth issues reported by our study participants," Dong continued. "These efforts can help preserve older adults' health and well-being and limit cognitive decline."
Key findings:
  • 47.8 percent of older Chinese Americans reported having teeth symptoms; participants who reported teeth symptoms at baseline experienced their global cognition and episodic memory decline
  • 18.9 percent of older Chinese Americans reported gum symptoms.
  • 15.6 percent of older Chinese Americans reported teeth and gum symptoms.
  • 25.5 percent of older Chinese Americans reported dry mouth.
  • More perceived stress was associated with higher odds of dry mouth.
"These studies demonstrate the importance of examining immigrant oral health outcomes later in life to understand the specific type of outcomes of different cultural groups," said Dong. "The studies further serve as a call to action for policymakers to develop programs aimed at improving oral health preventative and dental care services in this high-risk population. Darina Petrovsky, first author, added, "Examining current oral health practices among older Chinese Americans is crucial for developing culturally-tailored interventions to promote oral health and ultimately mitigate cognitive decline."
"Poor oral health is a top concern among older Chinese Americans. In our study, the prevalence rate of dry mouth is followed by diabetes and heart disease. Our findings demonstrate the importance of studying the linkage between stress and dry mouth in this vulnerable population." said author Weiyu Mao, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, University of Nevada, Reno.
"Support from family and friends could be protective against dry mouth symptoms in relation to stress; however, the potential overload of such support could be detrimental to oral health outcomes among older Chinese Americans." Mao continued. "Intervention strategies need to expand beyond the common risk factors, such as health conditions and health behaviors, and account for the psychosocial determinants, including stress and social support, to better promote oral health and reduce oral health disparities in this population."
"Our research raises critical awareness for dental and healthcare providers of the role of perceived stress in dry mouth symptoms," added Dong. "Working collaboratively, dental, and healthcare providers can better identify oral health symptoms as risk factors of cognitive decline in this fast-growing vulnerable population. The primary focus should include promoting optimal oral health and improving the quality of life."

 

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Sedentary lifestyle for 20 years linked to doubled mortality risk compared to being active

 Two decades of a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a two times risk of premature death compared to being physically active, according to results from the HUNT study presented today at ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology. (1) Study author Dr Trine Moholdt of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway said: "Our findings imply that to get the maximum health benefits of physical activity in terms of protection against premature all-cause and cardiovascular death, you need to continue being physically active. You can also reduce your risk by taking up physical activity later in life, even if you have not been active before."
The aim of this study was to assess how changes in physical activity over 22 years were related to subsequent death from all causes and from cardiovascular disease. Most studies investigating the relationship between physical activity and longevity have asked participants about their level of physical activity only once, and then followed them for several years. But physical activity is a behaviour that changes in many people, so it is important to investigate how such changes over time relate to the risk of death in the future.
The HUNT study invited all residents of Norway aged 20 and older to participate in 1984-1986, 1995-1997, and 2006-2008. At all three time points, individuals were asked about their frequency and duration of leisure time physical activity. The current study used the data from the first and third surveys.
A total of 23,146 men and women were included in the analysis. Physical activity was categorised as inactive, moderate (less than two hours a week), and high (two or more hours per week). Participants were divided into groups according to their activity levels at each survey.
Physical activity data were linked to information on deaths until the end of 2013 using the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry. The risk of death in each physical activity group was compared to the reference group (those who reported a high level of exercise during both surveys). The analyses were adjusted for factors known to influence prognosis such as body mass index, age, sex, smoking, education level, and blood pressure.
Compared to the reference group, people who were inactive in both 1984-1986 and 2006-2008 had a 2-fold higher likelihood of all-cause death and 2.7-fold greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Those with moderate activity at both time points had 60% and 90% raised risks of all-cause and cardiovascular deaths, respectively, compared to the reference group.
Dr Moholdt noted that there are clear recommendations about the amount of exercise adults should do to optimise their health, which are 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity. (2)
But she added: "An important point to make here is that physical activity levels even below the advised levels will give health benefits. Physical fitness is more important than the amount of exercise. Clinicians should individualise their advice and help people do even smaller amounts of activity that will improve fitness - this includes all types of exercise that make you breathe heavily."
"Do activities you like and get more movement into your everyday life," she continued. "For example, walk to the shops instead of driving, get off the metro a stop early, and use stairs instead of the lift. I recommend everyone to get out of breath at least a couple of times each week."
As for those who changed categories between surveys, people who went from inactive to highly active had a mortality risk that was between those who were continually active or continually sedentary. In contrast, those who went from highly active to inactive had a similar risk of dying as those who were inactive at both surveys.
"Our data indicate that you can compensate for a previously inactive lifestyle and the sooner you get active, the sooner you will see positive results," said Dr Moholdt. "My advice is to establish good exercise habits as early in life as possible. The health benefits extend beyond protection against premature death to effects in the body's organs and on cognitive function. Physical activity helps us live longer and better lives."

Eating nuts linked with lower risk of fatal heart attack and stroke


Eating nuts at least twice a week is associated with a 17% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to research presented today at ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology. (1)
"Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fat and contain little saturated fat," said study author Dr Noushin Mohammadifard of Isfahan Cardiovascular Research Institute, Iran. "They also have protein, minerals, vitamins, fibre, phytosterols, and polyphenols which benefit heart health. European and US studies have related nuts with cardiovascular protection but there is limited evidence from the Eastern Mediterranean Region."
This study examined the association between nut consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death in the Iranian population. A total of 5,432 adults aged 35 and older with no history of cardiovascular disease were randomly selected from urban and rural areas of the Isfahan, Arak and Najafabad counties. Intake of nuts including walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, and seeds was assessed in 2001 with a validated food frequency questionnaire.
Participants or family members were interviewed every two years until 2013 for the occurrence of cardiovascular events and death. The specific outcomes investigated were coronary heart disease, stroke, total cardiovascular disease, death from any cause, and death from cardiovascular disease.
During a median 12-year follow-up, there were 751 cardiovascular events (594 coronary heart disease and 157 stroke), 179 cardiovascular deaths, and 458 all-cause deaths.
Eating nuts two or more times per week was associated with a 17% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality compared to consuming nuts once every two weeks. The connection was robust even after adjusting for factors that could influence the relationship such as age, sex, education, smoking, and physical activity. Nut intake was inversely associated with the other outcomes but lost significance after adjustment.
ESC guidelines list 30 grams of unsalted nuts per day as one of the characteristics of a healthy diet, while noting that the energy density of nuts is high.(2)
"Raw fresh nuts are the healthiest," added Dr Mohammadifard. "Nuts should be fresh because unsaturated fats can become oxidised in stale nuts, making them harmful. You can tell if nuts are rancid by their paint-like smell and bitter or sour taste."

Aspirin should not be recommended for healthy people over 70


Low-dose aspirin does not prolong disability-free survival of healthy people over 70, even in those at the highest risk of cardiovascular disease. The late breaking results of the ASPREE trial are presented today at ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology.(1)
On behalf of the ASPREE Investigators, Professor Christopher Reid of Curtin University, Perth, Australia said: "An ever-increasing number of people reach the age of 70 without overt cardiovascular disease (CVD). This analysis suggests that improved risk prediction methods are needed to identify those who could benefit from daily low-dose aspirin."
European guidelines on the prevention of CVD do not recommend aspirin for individuals free from CVD due to the increased risk of major bleeding.(2) This advice was subsequently supported by results in moderate risk patients (ARRIVE),(3) diabetic patients (ASCEND),(4) and in people over 70 (ASPREE) which demonstrated that modest reductions in CVD risk were outweighed by the increased bleeding hazard.(5)
The primary finding from the ASPREE randomised trial was that in people aged 70 years or over with no known CVD, there was no effect of 100 mg of daily aspirin on the composite primary endpoint of disability-free survival (defined as those not reaching a primary endpoint of dementia or persistent physical disability or death).(6) The primary endpoint was chosen to reflect the reasons for prescribing a preventive drug in an otherwise healthy elderly population.
This analysis examined whether the results for the primary endpoint of disability-free survival might vary by the baseline level of CVD risk. Analyses were also conducted for the secondary endpoints of all-cause mortality, major haemorrhage, and prevention of CVD (defined as fatal coronary heart disease, nonfatal myocardial infarction, fatal or nonfatal stroke, or hospitalisation for heart failure).
The investigators calculated ten-year CVD risk probabilities at baseline for the 19,114 ASPREE participants using the Framingham score (up to 75 years) and the atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) pooled cohort risk equations (up to 79 years) and divided them into thirds. As there are no CVD risk scores available beyond the age ranges specified in the equations, they also classified participants according to the presence of 0 to 1, 2 to 3, or more than 3 CVD risk factors. Overall rates of disability-free survival, mortality, major bleeding and CVD were examined for each risk group and outcomes were compared for those treated with aspirin or placebo.
For participants in the lowest third of CVD risk, by both Framingham and ASCVD scores, there was no disability-free survival or cardiovascular benefit from aspirin. This group also had the highest likelihood of bleeding.
In contrast, those in the highest third of CVD risk, by both Framingham and ASCVD scores, had significantly lower CVD event rates on aspirin with similar rates of bleeding. Hazard ratios for CVD reduction with aspirin version placebo were 0.72 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.54-0.95) for the group classified as high risk by the Framingham score and 0.75 (95% CI 0.58-0.97) for those defined as high risk by the ASCVD equations.
However, this reduction in CVD did not translate to a significantly improved disability-free survival. Hazard ratios for disability-free survival with aspirin versus placebo were 0.86 (95% CI 0.62-1.20) for the group designated high risk by the Framingham score and 0.89 (95% CI 0.62-1.28) for those considered high risk by the ASCVD equations.
Prof Reid said: "The findings emphasise that the risk-benefit trade-off for aspirin use in healthy older men and women varies across levels of cardiovascular risk. It also indicates that the reduction in CVD events in the highest risk groups using current stratification methods does not identify individuals in whom this advantage translates into longer disability-free survival."
New ways to identify groups at increased CVD risk, beyond the use of conventional risk factors and current prediction models, will be investigated in the ASPREE longitudinal follow-up study. Genetic and biomarker information will be included from the ASPREE biobank.
Prof Reid concluded: "Based on the results of the main ASPREE trial, daily low-dose aspirin cannot be recommended in healthy people over 70 - even in those at the greatest CVD risk. Today's analysis indicates that more refined methods are needed to pinpoint a subgroup who might gain from preventive therapy."

Sleeping too much -- or too little -- boosts heart attack risk


Even if you are a non-smoker who exercises and has no genetic predisposition to cardiovascular disease, skimping on sleep - or getting too much of it - can boost your risk of heart attack, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study of nearly a half-million people.
The research, published Sept. 2 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, also found that for those at high genetic risk for heart attack, sleeping between 6 and 9 hours nightly can offset that risk.
"This provides some of the strongest proof yet that sleep duration is a key factor when it comes to heart health, and this holds true for everyone," said senior author Celine Vetter, an assistant professor of Integrative Physiology.
For the study, Vetter and co-authors at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Manchester analyzed the genetic information, self-reported sleep habits and medical records of 461,000 UK Biobank participants age 40 to 69 who had never had a heart attack, then followed them for seven years.
Compared to those who slept 6 to 9 hours per night, those who slept fewer than six hours were 20 percent more likely to have a heart attack during the study period. Those who slept more than nine hours were 34 percent more likely.
When the researchers looked only at people with a genetic predisposition to heart disease, they found that sleeping between six and nine hours nightly cut their risk of having a heart attack by 18 percent.
"It's kind of a hopeful message, that regardless of what your inherited risk for heart attack is, sleeping a healthy amount may cut that risk just like eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and other lifestyle approaches can," said lead author Iyas Daghlas, a medical student at Harvard.
Previous research has long suggested an association between sleep and heart health, but because those studies were observational - looking at different groups to see who develops disease - it's been difficult to determine whether poor sleep causes heart problems or vice-versa.
Many factors can influence both heart health and sleep, making it even more difficult to determine cause and effect.
For the new study, the researchers used the massive UK Biobank dataset and combined observational and genetic research to ask the question in a different way.
After taking into account 30 other factors - including body composition, physical activity, socioeconomic status and mental health - they found that sleep duration, in and of itself, influenced heart attack risk independently of these other factors.
The farther people fell outside the 6 to 9-hour range, the more their risk increased. For instance, people who slept five hours per night had a 52 percent higher risk of heart attack than those who slept 7 to 8, while those who slept 10 hours nightly were twice as likely to have one.
Using a method called Mendelian randomization, the researchers then looked at participant's genetic profiles to determine whether those who were genetically predisposed to short sleep were more likely to have heart attacks. Twenty-seven genetic variants have been associated with short sleep.
They saw similar patterns emerge and found that genetically influenced short sleep duration was a risk factor for heart attack.
"This gives us even more confidence that there is a causal relationship here - that it is sleep duration, not something else, influencing heart health," Vetter said.
The study did not explore the mechanism by which short or long sleep may boost heart attack risk, but previous studies have pointed to a few explanations. Sleeping too little can impact the lining of the arteries, or endothelium, impact bone marrow development of inflammatory cells, but also lead to poor dietary choices and ill-timed eating (which can in turn impact weight and, thus, heart health). Sleeping too much may also boost inflammation in the body, which is also associated with cardiovascular disease.
The authors hope the study will increase awareness about sleep's heart-health benefits among physicians, public health agencies and the public.
"Just as working out and eating healthy can reduce your risk of heart disease, sleep can too," said Vetter.

Heart attack and stroke be prevented with sustained drop in cholesterol and blood pressure




Modest and sustained decreases in blood pressure and cholesterol levels reduces the lifetime risk of developing fatal heart and circulatory diseases, such as heart attack and stroke, according to research part-funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
The findings are being presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress in Paris and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Researchers have found that a long-term reduction of 1 mmol/L low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or 'bad' cholesterol, in the blood with a 10 mmHg reduction in blood pressure led to an 80 per cent lower lifetime risk of developing heart and circulatory disease.
This combination also reduced the risk of death from these conditions by 67 per cent.
The team found that even small reductions can provide health benefits. A decrease of 0.3 mmol/L LDL cholesterol in the blood and 3 mmHg lower blood pressure was associated with a 50 per cent lower lifetime risk of heart and circulatory disease.
Scientists have previously found that lowering both blood pressure and the amount of 'bad' cholesterol in the blood are two ways which can prevent the onset of heart and circulatory disease. However, the risk, which accumulates over time, has not been quantified before.
In this study, Professor Brian Ference and his team studied 438,952 participants in the UK Biobank, who had a total of 24,980 major coronary events - defined as the first occurrence of non-fatal heart attack, ischaemic stroke or death due to coronary heart disease. They used an approach called Mendelian randomisation, which uses naturally occurring genetic differences to randomly divide the participants into groups, mimicking the effects of running a clinical trial.
People with genes associated with lower blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol and a combination of both were put into different groups, and compared against those without these genetic associations. Differences in blood LDL cholesterol and systolic blood pressure (the highest level that blood pressure reaches when the heart contracts), along with the number of cardiovascular events was compared between groups.
Professor Brian Ference now hopes that these findings can bring about change in the healthcare of people at greater risk of developing heart and circulation complications, and improved guidance for those requiring lifestyle changes.
Professor Brian A Ference, lead researcher of the study at University of Cambridge, said:
"Heart and circulatory diseases steal the lives of 168,000 people each year in the UK, which is just greater than the population of the city of Cambridge. It's vital we do everything possible to help prevent people developing these life-threating conditions.
"Even small reductions in both 'bad' cholesterol and blood pressure for sustained periods of time can pay very big health dividends, and dramatically reduce the lifetime risk of developing heart and circulatory disease."
"We now plan to take the results from this study to create a lifetime cardiovascular risk calculator and to support the development of new prevention guidelines."
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation said:
"This research again demonstrates that high blood pressure and raised cholesterol are key risk factors for heart attacks and strokes. But how many of us know our numbers for these, or have made sustained efforts to lower them? Hopefully, the findings reported today that the risk could be reduced by as much as 80 per cent, can act as a motivator for long-term change.
"Millions of people are living with untreated high blood pressure or raised cholesterol, both of which can be lowered with lifestyle changes and medication. Huge numbers of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented simply by getting to know your numbers and taking your health into your own hands.
"Simple devices are now available for measuring blood pressure. Also, everyone between the ages of 40-74 is eligible for a free NHS health check, which assesses your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases, and includes cholesterol and a blood pressure reading. It's important that we all take advantage of this."

Protein shakes may not be the answer for post-gym muscle pain


Protein shakes have long been touted as a gym bag essential, consumed by gym-goers in an effort to boost muscle recovery and minimise post-workout muscle soreness, but they may not be the most effective way to relieve aching muscles, according to a new study.
Sports scientists at the University of Lincoln, UK, found that neither whey-protein based shakes nor milk-based formulas enhanced the rate of muscle recovery following resistance training when compared to a carbohydrate only drink. The study is the first to compare the effectiveness of the two different protein formulas.
The blind experiment involved 30 male participants, all of whom had at least a year's resistance training experience. Researchers divided participants into three groups with each group consuming either a whey hydrolysate based drink, a milk based drink or a flavoured dextrose (carbohydrate) drink following a prescribed intensive resistance training session.
Re-testing took place after a 24 and 48-hour period following the resistance training session. Researchers asked participants to rate their levels of muscle soreness on a visual scale from 'no muscle soreness' (0) through to 'muscle soreness as bad as it could be' (200). Participants also completed a series of strength and power assessments to test their muscle function.
Results showed a significant rise in the levels of muscle soreness across the three groups 24 hours and 48 hours after the initial resistance training session, with ratings for all groups rising to over 90, significantly higher than the groups baseline ratings, which ranged from 19-26. Results also showed reductions in muscle power and function. The findings suggest there was no difference in recovery response between the different formulas and no additional benefit of protein consumption on muscle recovery.
Lead author Dr Thomas Gee, Programme Leader of BSc Strength and Conditioning in Sport at the University of Lincoln, said: "While proteins and carbohydrates are essential for the effective repair of muscle fibres following intensive strength training, our research suggests that varying the form of protein immediately following training does not strongly influence the recovery response or reduce muscle pain.
"We would hypothesise that well balanced daily nutrition practices would influence recovery from delayed onset muscle soreness to a greater extent."