Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Magazine article] Reducing Lifestyle Diseases Means Changing Our Environment

 

From the 5 February 2015 Scientific American article

How and why our bodies are poorly suited to modern environments—and the adverse health consequences that result—is a subject of increasing study. A new book The Story of the Human Body by Daniel Lieberman, chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, chronicles major biological and cultural transitions that, over the course of millions of years, transformed apes living and mating in the African forests to modern humans browsing Facebook and eating Big Macs across the planet.

“The end product of all that evolution,” he writes, “is that we are big-brained, moderately fat bipeds who reproduce relatively rapidly but take a long time to mature.”

But over the last several hundred generations, it has been culture—a set of knowledge, values and behaviors—not natural selection, that has been the more powerful force determining how we live, eat and interact. For most of our evolutionary history, we were hunter-gatherers who lived at very low population densities, moved frequently and walked up to 10 miles a day in search of food and water. Our bodies evolved primarily for and in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

….

 

Read the entire article here

 

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] A simple intervention can make your brain more receptive to health advice

From the 2 February 2015 University of Pennsylvania press release

 

Emily Falk, Ph.D.

A new discovery shows how a simple intervention—self-affirmation – can open our brains to accept advice that is hard to hear.

“Self-affirmation involves reflecting on core values,” explained Emily Falk, the study’s lead author and director of the Communication Neuroscience Laboratory at University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. Has your doctor ever told you to get more exercise?  Has your spouse ever suggested you eat healthier? Even though the advice comes from good intentions, most people feel defensive when confronted with suggestions that point out their weaknesses. Reflecting on values that bring us meaning can help people see otherwise threatening messages as valuable and self-relevant. “Our work shows that when people are affirmed, their brains process subsequent messages differently.”

Past studies have shown that brain activity in VMPFC during health messages can predict behavior change better than individuals’ own intentions, and this study sheds new light on why.  VMPFC is the brain region most commonly activated when participants think about themselves and when they ascribe value to ideas. The new results show that opening the brain in this way is a key pathway to behavior change.  “Understanding the brain opens the door to new health interventions that target this same pathway,” Falk noted.

“We were particularly interested in using self-affirmation to help people become more active because sedentary behavior is one of the biggest health threats faced by both Americans and people around the world,” said Falk.  Overly sedentary lifestyles are becoming a big problem; in some regions nearly 85 percent of an adult population leads an inactive lifestyle. This can cause multiple health problems, including poor heart health, diabetes, and cancer, just to name three. Increasing activity even small amount can have an important impact on both mental and physical health.

….

Psychologists have used self-affirmation as a technique to improve outcomes ranging from health behaviors in high risk patients to increasing academic performance in at risk youth, suggesting that the findings may be applicable across a wide range of interventions.  “Our findings highlight that something as simple as reflecting on core values can fundamentally change the way our brains respond to the kinds of messages we encounter every day,” Falk noted.  “Over time, that makes the potential impact huge.”

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Sitting for long periods increases risk of disease and early death, regardless of exercise — ScienceDaily

Sitting for long periods increases risk of disease and early death, regardless of exercise — ScienceDaily.

Excerpts from the 19 January 2015 article

Source:
University Health Network (UHN)
Summary:
The amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise, according to a review study.
The amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise.
Credit: © elen31 / Fotolia

The amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise, according to a review study published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“More than one half of an average person’s day is spent being sedentary — sitting, watching television, or working at a computer,” said Dr. David Alter, Senior Scientist, Toronto Rehab, University Health Network (UHN), and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. “Our study finds that despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease.”

……

The authors found the negative effects of sitting time on health, however, are more pronounced among those who do little or no exercise than among those who participate in higher amounts of exercise.

……

“Avoiding sedentary time and getting regular exercise are both important for improving your health and survival,” said Dr. Alter. “It is not good enough to exercise for 30 minutes a day and be sedentary for 23 and half hours.”

In the interim, Dr. Alter underlines strategies people can use to reduce sitting time. The target is to decrease sedentary time by two to three hours in a 12-hour day.

…..

January 21, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Obesity: Not just what you eat

Obesity: Not just what you eat.

Tel Aviv University research shows fat mass in cells expands with disuse

Over 35 percent of American adults and 17 percent of American children are considered obese, according to the latest survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even certain types of cancer, obesity places a major burden on the health care system and economy. It’s usually treated through a combination of diet, nutrition, exercise, and other techniques.

To understand how obesity develops, Prof. Amit Gefen, Dr. Natan Shaked and Ms. Naama Shoham of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, together with Prof. Dafna Benayahu of TAU’s Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, used state-of-the-art technology to analyze the accumulation of fat in the body at the cellular level. According to their findings, nutrition is not the only factor driving obesity. The mechanics of “cellular expansion” plays a primary role in fat production, they discovered.

By exposing the mechanics of fat production at a cellular level, the researchers offer insight into the development of obesity. And with a better understanding of the process, the team is now creating a platform to develop new therapies and technologies to prevent or even reverse fat gain. The research was published this week in the Biophysical Journal.

Getting to the bottom of obesity

“Two years ago, Dafna and I were awarded a grant from the Israel Science Foundation to investigate how mechanical forces increase the fat content within fat cells. We wanted to find out why a sedentary lifestyle results in obesity, other than making time to eat more hamburgers,” said Prof. Gefen. “We found that fat cells exposed to sustained, chronic pressure — such as what happens to the buttocks when you’re sitting down — experienced accelerated growth of lipid droplets, which are molecules that carry fats.

“Contrary to muscle and bone tissue, which get mechanically weaker with disuse, fat depots in fat cells expanded when they experienced sustained loading by as much as 50%. This was a substantial discovery.”

The researchers discovered that, once it accumulated lipid droplets, the structure of a cell and its mechanics changed dramatically. Using a cutting-edge atomic force microscope and other microscopy technologies, they were able to observe the material composition of the transforming fat cell, which became stiffer as it expanded. This stiffness alters the environment of surrounding cells by physically deforming them, pushing them to change their own shape and composition.

“When they gain mass and change their composition, expanding cells deform neighboring cells, forcing them to differentiate and expand,” said Prof. Gefen. “This proves that you’re not just what you eat. You’re also what you feel — and what you’re feeling is the pressure of increased weight and the sustained loading in the tissues of the buttocks of the couch potato.”

The more you know …

“If we understand the etiology of getting fatter, of how cells in fat tissues synthesize nutritional components under a given mechanical loading environment, then we can think about different practical solutions to obesity,” Prof. Gefen says. “If you can learn to control the mechanical environment of cells, you can then determine how to modulate the fat cells to produce less fat.”

The team hopes that its observations can serve as a point of departure for further research into the changing cellular environment and different stimulations that lead to increased fat production.

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March 28, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] All work and no play… Could too much sitting at work be affecting your health?

From the 11 October 2013 post at Cardiac Exercise Research Group  – The K.G. Jebsen Center for Exercise in Medicine’s blog about exercise and cardiac health

There remains little doubt that lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle represent key health problems in today’s modern society. A quick search on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) website and you’ll find that physical inactivity ranks 4th in the global leading risk factors for mortality, with many countries around the world demonstrating a trend for women to be less active than men. While health organisations around the world are making a concerted effort to encourage the general public to incorporate exercise into their leisure and free time, this may not be the only period of our day that is dominated by sedentary behavior. Work forms one of the largest segments of sedentary time for employed individuals, and current trends have shifted parts of the working population into less active, ‘sitting’ jobs.

But what does this mean for our long-term health? One study, published last month in PLoS ONE, aimed to answer this question by assessing the impact of occupational sitting on the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality from a large number of British men and women. Stamatakis and colleagues gathered data from identical health surveys conducted in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2004. Subjects (5380 women, 5788 men) were classified based on whether the majority of time in their job was spent walking, standing or sitting. Subjects were further categorized on levels of physical activity during free time, alcohol intake, smoking, socioeconomic status, and whether they had cardiovascular disease or cancer at the time of the survey. The mortality rate (number of deaths) was then monitored over a 13 year follow-up period.

Tired businessman sleeping on chair in office with his legs on tThe major findings reported by this study were that standing/walking occupations carried a lower risk of mortality from either all-causes or cancer, in women but not men. When the researchers further compared groups based on free-time physical activity levels, they found that in both men and women, high levels of free-time physical activity coupled with a standing/walking occupation was associated with a lower risk of cancer and all-cause mortality versus low free-time activity coupled with sitting occupation. At first glance, it could be easy to take the results at face value, but there are limitations to the study design which the authors themselves highlight: Much of the data is self-reported, which may introduce bias, especially when it comes to levels of physical activity during free-time. In addition, there was no information available on how long individuals had been in their current jobs, nor was there any data for people switching jobs during the 13 year follow-up, which may have eventually placed them into a different category. The findings are also surprising given that a similar study published earlier in the year, found that even moderate free-time exercise was enough to reduce the risk of both cardiovascular and all-cause mortality, regardless of levels of physical activity in work.

The issue still seems unresolved, and it has also been discussed here on the blog earlier. Current exercise recommendations from the Norwegian Directorate of Health suggest daily physical activity levels should be at least 30 min, a total 3.5 hours per week, which has been shown in a number of studies to confer significant benefits to health and an overall decrease in mortality rates. However, a busy lifestyle, coupled with raising a family may make this target difficult to reach during our leisure time, making activity levels at work a significant factor in overall health. Everything is better than nothing, and maintaining a physically active lifestyle outside of work hours will contribute significantly to achieve the health benefits of exercise. However, if you’re still worried and have been sat at your desk for the last few hours, when you reach the end of this sentence, why not stand up and take a walk?

Allen Kelly, post doc at CERG.

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

NINIH-funded study examines use of mobile technology to improve diet and activity behavior

From the May National Institutes of Health (NIH) press release

A new study, supported in part by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health, suggests that a combination of mobile technology and remote coaching holds promise in encouraging healthier eating and physical activity behavior in adults. The study focused on the best way to change multiple health behaviors.

The study results will appear Monday, May 28, in the Archives of Internal Medicine, with an accompanying commentary authored by William Riley, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and program director for the NHLBI.

Scientists from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, along with colleagues from other institutions, studied 204 overweight and obese adults. Prior to enrollment, participants had a diet high in saturated fat and low in fruits and vegetables. They also engaged in little daily physical activity and had high amounts of sedentary leisure time.

Each participant was assigned to one of four groups:

  • Increase fruit and vegetable intake and increase time in moderate/vigorous physical activity
  • Increase fruit and vegetable intake and reduce time in sedentary leisure activities
  • Decrease fat intake and increase time in moderate/vigorous physical activity
  • Decrease fat intake and decrease time in sedentary leisure activities

All participants received mobile devices and were trained on entering information about their daily activities and eating patterns. Coaches studied the data received and then phoned or emailed participants to encourage and support healthy changes during the three-week study. Participants were also asked to continue to track and submit their data over a 20-week follow-up period. Financial incentives for reaching study goals during the study and continuing participation during the follow-up period were offered.

All four groups showed improvements in reaching the assigned health goals, with the most striking results occurring in the group asked to increase fruit and vegetable intake and reduce sedentary leisure activities. The researchers found after 20 weeks of follow up that this group’s average daily servings of fruits and vegetables increased from 1.2 to 2.9; their average minutes per day of sedentary leisure activity dropped from 219.2 to 125.7; and the percentage of saturated fat in their daily calories went from 12 to 9.9.

In his commentary, Riley noted that the use of mobile technology to improve cardiovascular health is worth further study of the effects on health outcomes and costs. Mobile technology offers the chance to deliver key health messages without waiting for intermittent visits with health care providers, he said.

June 4, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , | Leave a comment

Just Making Two Lifestyle Changes Spurs Big And Lasting Results

English: Half a dozen home-made cookies. Ingre...

English: Half a dozen home-made cookies. Ingredients: butter, flour, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, soda, salt, and chocolate chips. Français : Demie-douzaine de cookies fait-maison. Ingrédients: beurre, farine, sucre en poudre, œufs, vanille, soda, sel et grain de chocolat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 30 May 2012 article at Medical News Today

Simply ejecting your rear from the couch means your hand will spend less time digging into a bag of chocolate chip cookies.

That is the simple but profound finding of a new Northwestern Medicine study, which reports simply changing one bad habit has a domino effect on others. Knock down your sedentary leisure time and you’ll reduce junk food and saturated fats because you’re no longer glued to the TV and noshing. It’s a two-for-one benefit because the behaviors are closely related.

The study also found the most effective way to rehab a delinquent lifestyle requires two key behavior changes: cutting time spent in front of a TV or computer screen and eating more fruits and vegetables. …

June 1, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is your office chair killing you? – The Globe and Mail

 

English: An office chair that can swivel and b...

Image via Wikipedia

Is your office chair killing you? – The Globe and Mail.

Excerpt from the article

…For decades, hundreds if not thousands of studies have examined the relationship between our activity levels and our health. Only recently have researchers turned their attention to the consequences of sitting at a desk all day and lying on the couch all evening.

 

“We’re talking extensively and producing public health messages about what we don’t do. And we don’t talk at all about what we do do: We don’t move very much, but we do sit idle,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, director of healthy active living and obesity research at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute.

The average person now spends 9.3 hours a day sitting. People who sit for six or more hours per day are 40 per cent more likely to die within 15 years compared to someone who sits less than three hours a day, even if they exercise. Obese people sit 2½ hours more each day than people of normal weight, according to data compiled by Medical Billing and Coding, a U.S.-based organization….

December 11, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Workplace Health | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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