Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

Dna Study Provides Insight Into How To Live Longer

Every year spent in education adds an average of 11 months to people’s lifespan, say scientists.

The researchers say a person loses two months for every kilogram overweight they are – and seven years for smoking a packet of cigarettes a day.

Unusually, the Edinburgh university team found their answers by analysing differences in people’s genetic code or DNA.

Ultimately they think it will reveal new ways of helping us to live longer.

The group used the genetic code of more than 600,000 people who are taking part in a natural, yet massive, experiment.

Clearer picture

If someone smokes, drinks, dropped out of school and is overweight, it can be difficult to identify the impact of one specific unhealthy behaviour.

Instead, the researchers turned to the natural experiment.

Some people carry mutations in their DNA that increase appetite or make them more likely to put on weight, so researchers were able to compare those programmed to eat more with those who were not – irrespective of their wider lifestyles.

Dr Peter Joshi, from the university’s Usher Institute, said: “It doesn’t mess up the analysis. You can look directly at the effect of weight, in isolation, on lifespan.”

Similar sets of mutations have been linked to how long people spend in education and the enjoyment they get from smoking or drinking.

The research team also found specific mutations in human DNA that alter lifespan, reported in the journal Nature Communications.

  • Mutations in a gene (a set of instructions in DNA) that is involved in running the immune system could add seven months of life on average
  • People with a mutation that increased levels of bad cholesterol knocked eight months off life expectancy
  • A rare mutation in a gene – APOE – linked to dementia reduced lifespans by 11 months
  • And one that made smoking more appealing cut lives by five months

Dr Joshi says these genetic variants are the “tip of the iceberg”. He says around 20% of the variation in lifespans may be inherited, but only 1% of such mutations have yet been found.

However, he said that while genetics does influence lifespan, “you’ve got even more influence” through the choices you make.

Dr Joshi told the BBC: “We hope to discover novel genes affecting lifespan to give us new information about ageing and construct therapeutic interventions for ageing.”

There are also some disease mutations that clearly affect life expectancy, and to devastating effect, such as the Huntington’s gene. People with Huntington’s often die in their 20s.

However, in order to follow people until the end of their lives, many of the people studied were born before 1940.

Prof David Melzer, from the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “An extra year of education then may have been much more important than it is now.”

 

By James Gallagher    Health and science reporter, BBC News website    13 October 2017
source: www.bbc.com
Advertisements


Leave a comment

Living In A Greener Neighbourhood Could Lower Your Risk Of Death: Study

Not just parks but also streetside trees and lawns could have health benefits, study suggests

Trees stretching their canopies over city streets and grass tickling the sidewalk near your home are more than just pretty, they could actually be helping you live longer, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick used census and tax data to track 1.3 million non-immigrant Canadian adults living in the 30 biggest cities across the country, from Victoria to St. John’s, over 11 years starting in 2001. They measured the amount of greenery from trees, shrubs, grass and other plants within 250 metres (about two blocks) of the study subjects’ homes, using postal codes and satellite data. And they found that as the amount of greenery increased, people’s risk of death decreased “significantly” from natural causes.

“There was a lot bigger effect than I think any of us had been expecting,” said Dan Crouse, a health geographer and lead author of the study published this week in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.

‘Really, just having trees around where people are living is really important.’
– Dan Crouse, University of New Brunswick

Using NASA’s Aqua satellite, the greenery was measured on a scale of 0 to 1. (Zero represented bare ground; 1 was complete coverage by dark green leafy plants.) The study found that each 0.15-point increase in greenness near the subjects’ homes was associated with an eight to 12 per cent decrease in the risk of death.

Crouse said the link between greenness and lower death rates remained even after researchers accounted for the effects of air pollution.

While previous studies have shown that exposure to green space and parks can improve mental health and in some cases physical health, the researchers say this is the first big study to show a clear link between green surroundings and a lower risk of death.

It also suggests that green spaces don’t have to be actual parks in order to have health benefits.

“What we’re able to show with this study is really just having trees around where people are living is really important,” Crouse said.

The study found that the positive effect of green surroundings was greater for people in middle age than in other age groups.

The effect was also greater among those with higher incomes and more education, and among men compared to women. The researchers aren’t sure why.

The study also couldn’t tell what kind of greenery was being measured, although trees gave a higher score than grass. Nor could it explain why exposure to greenery had that kind of effect — researchers didn’t know how much access people had to the green spaces or whether they were getting more exercise in greener areas, for example.

View of nature

But Crouse said there are benefits to living near green spaces such as golf courses even for people who don’t use them.

“That space is still representing an absence of traffic congestion, an absence of the noise and pollution from cars. It’s going to have a real cooling effect in an urban area,” he said. “Just having a view of nature from your window … can be restorative. There’s a lot of ways that the greenness could be benefiting your health.”

Dr. Gillian Booth is a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital who recently found that people who live in more walkable city neighbourhoods have lower rates of diabetes and obesity. She says the design of Crouse’s study looks sound, and she has used similar techniques in her own work.

She added that the results make her wonder what it is about green surroundings that are lowering death rates, and what threshold of greenness is needed to get those health benefits.

“Where do you draw the line and say there’s insufficient green space? And how much should you invest in it?” she said. “I think this is really exciting work in that it raises these types of questions.”

The study, she added, highlights that the way we design our communities can have a profound influence on residents’ health: “The potential reach is huge in terms of the number of people who could be benefiting from these health effects.”

By Emily Chung, Science and Technology Writer CBC News       Oct 12, 2017
source: www.cbc.ca


Leave a comment

Physical Activity Helps People Worldwide

Boosting physical activity a simple, low-cost global strategy to reduce deaths globally

Each step we take reduces the overall risk of premature death, a global study reaffirms.

Researchers estimate about one in 12 deaths worldwide would be prevented if everyone exercised at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

In Thursday’s issue of The Lancet, researchers in 17 countries reported their findings after asking more than 130,000 participants aged 35 to 70 to fill in questionnaires. They were asked about physical activity during leisure time, work, doing household activities and  getting to and from work and errands.

None of the participants had heart disease when the PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiologic) study began.

A global study shows you don’t need to hit the gym to get physical activity.

  • Move it! Too much standing is bad, study finds
  • Why this specific form of exercise helps keep muscle cells young

‘Get out of your comfort zone:’ Interval training benefits extend to aging

“Over that seven years either preventing or reducing risk for premature death it’s around 25 per cent reduction, and so that would be death from any cause,” said the study’s lead author Prof. Scott Lear of Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Health Sciences in Vancouver.

“And for heart disease, things like heart attack or stroke, it was around 20 to 25 per cent reduction comparing those people who were the most physically active to the least physically active.”

During that time, there were 5,334 deaths, including 1,294 from cardiovascular disease.

“As countries have become more economically prosperous, we’ve what I’d call engineered activity out of our life,” Lear said. “There’s a lot of people who think the only way to get physical activity is by putting out money and going to a gym but that’s not the case.”

The study’s authors called increasing physical activity a simple, widely applicable, low-cost global strategy to reduce deaths and cardiovascular disease in middle age.

The study included:

  • Three high-income countries (Canada — Vancouver, Hamilton, Ottawa and Quebec City; Sweden, United Arab Emirates).
  • Seven upper-middle-income countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Poland, Turkey, Malaysia, South Africa).
  • Three lower-middle-income countries (China, Colombia, Iran).
  • Four low-income-countries (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe).

The World Health Organization recommends that adults aged 18 to 64 years to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, as well as muscle strengthening exercises at least two days a week.

Nearly three in four in Canada did not meet the guideline and almost a fifth of others in the study didn’t.

Almost half worldwide were highly active, clocking 750 minutes a week.

The study shows benefits beyond cardiovascular survival, said Dr. David Alter, a cardiologist and senior scientist at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

Exercise pill prescribed

“The fitter we are, the more easily oxygen is consumed by our tissues and organs and the less the heart and lungs have to work to compensate to push that blood through, to push that oxygen through,” said Alter, who was not involved in the research.

Alter calls exercise a medicine or pill with similar dose and effect as pharmaceuticals.

“I was struck by the consistency in how important that exercise pill was for health and survival.”

Other studies show the intensity of exercise, in terms of working up a sweat and getting the heart rate up, does matter for survival, he said.

Doing less intense types of activity, such as climbing stairs, walking a few blocks at a brisk pace, or sweeping instead of vacuuming, all count too. Just do it for longer, Alter advises.

He tells patients and the public to count their activity in three categories:

  • Steps, for instance measured with a pedometer.
  • Exercise time that works up a sweat.
  • Sedentary time spent sitting.

Since the study was observational in nature, no cause-and-effect relationships can be drawn. Participants also reported their own activity levels, which is often overestimated.

The study was funded by Population Health Research Institute, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Ontario SPOR Support Unit, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-Aventis, Boehringer Ingelheim, Servier, GSK, Novartis, King Pharma, and national and local organizations in participating countries.

With files from CBC’s Amina Zafar     CBC News      Posted: Sep 21, 2017
source: www.cbc.ca


4 Comments

9 Secrets Of The World’s Longest Living People

What is the secret to longevity, and why do some people attain it while others don’t? Is it sheer luck, or are there some key factors at play here? Are we all born with the same potential to live a long and healthy life or is that determined solely by genetics?

Interestingly, it seems as though people living in specific regions of the world tend to live longer than those living elsewhere. So, what is it about these specific regions that offer people a chance to live a full life? This was the question that National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner wanted to answer.

Through his research, Buettner identified five geographic locations where people have been observed to live the longest. He has identified these regions as “Blue Zones,” and found that even though these zones differ widely geographically, the diets and lifestyles of their residents share much in common.

You don’t have to live in one of these areas to ensure longevity, however, and if you are looking to live a long and healthy life then you may want to consider the following observations.
str
What Are the Most Effective Ways to Achieve Longevity?

In Western society, the idea of growing older is not necessarily celebrated or anticipated. It is actually often feared, as we associate old age with chronic pain and disease. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and with some awareness and vision, we too can have a long and purposeful life despite our geographical location.

In the following video, Dan Buettner reveals what he has discovered are the secrets to longevity and the habits and traits shared by those who live the longest. Some of them might shock you, but as Buettner says, “If you ask the average American what the optimal formula for longevity is, they probably couldn’t tell you.” This is a pretty telling statement — many of us are simply unaware of the key lifestyle factors that contribute to health and vitality.

Here are the nine things we can take away from this presentation.

1. Slow Down and Deal With Stress

Common amongst those living in blue zones was effectively dealing with stress when it arises, and in many cases living lifestyles that do not cause a lot of excess stress in the first place. Taking time to slow things down and enjoy life was a common theme throughout Buettner’s studies.

2. Have a Purpose

Having a reason to get out of bed every day, especially for seniors, was essential. Simply put, finding something to do on a regular basis keeps us happy and helps us live longer.

3. Eat Less

Buettner observed the eating habits of various cultures in these regions, and all ate sparingly. The eating habits of the Okinawans specifically demonstrated an aversion to excess. They know that the feeling of fullness comes after the meal is completed so, rather than stuffing themselves until they feel full, they stop eating before they feel full, knowing the feeling will come after. They also eat off small plates and prepare small portions.

4. Eat a Variety of Foods and Lots of Plants 

Common among all Blue Zones was the amount and variety of plant-based foods that were being consumed. Having a diet consisting of predominantly plant-based foods proves to be a key factor in longevity regardless of your geographical location.

5. Be Social

In America, elderly people are often put into care homes and lead very lonely and isolated lives. Something all of the Blue Zones have in common is a strong sense of community that includes the older people. Instead of shunned and forgotten, older people are celebrated and included.

6. Have Faith

A large percentage of those living in Blue Zones had faith. They believed in a higher purpose for life, be it religious or spiritual.

7. Drink in Moderation or Not At All

It seems this one was a bit of a toss up. People either enjoyed a glass of wine or two daily or didn’t drink at all. In either case, Buettner did not see people drinking to excess.

8. Move Naturally

People who live in Blue Zones tend to move a lot throughout the day, but they aren’t making a point to do it — it just comes naturally. Their daily activities include gardening, walking, and spending time outdoors.

9. Put Loved Ones First

People in Blue Zones tend to stay close to their family members. Parents and grandparents play a big role in the lives of their children and they stay connected and close by, remaining an integral part of each other’s lives.

 

ALANNA KETLERMAY 18, 2017


Leave a comment

Fun Fact Friday

  • Some studies suggest that eye contact must be made for about 8.2 seconds for that “Love At First Sight” feeling to occur.

  • People who generally walk fast tend to live longer.

  • Avocados, raspberries, almonds, broccoli, spinach, salmon are among the healthiest foods on the planet.

  • Telling the truth when tempted to lie can significantly improve your health.

 

~ Happy Friday!~


Leave a comment

High Carb – Not Fat – Intake Linked To Greater Early Death Risk: Study

A large Canadian study is challenging conventional wisdom that says a low-fat diet is optimal for cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of premature death.

The McMaster University study of more than 135,000 people in 18 countries found that eating a moderate amount of all types of fat is linked to a reduced risk of early mortality compared to the much-touted low-fat diet — while consuming a high-carbohydrate diet is associated with an increased risk of dying early.

“Contrary to popular belief, increased consumption of dietary fats is associated with a lower risk of death,” said lead author Mahshid Dehghan, a nutrition epidemiologist at the Hamilton university’s Population Health and Research Institute.

“Those with a high-fat intake, about 30 per cent of energy intake, had a 23 per cent lower risk of mortality and an 18 per cent lower risk of stroke, compared to the low-intake group, which had 11 per cent energy from fat,” Dehghan said from Barcelona, where she presented the findings Tuesday to the European Society of Cardiology Congress.

“The association with lower mortality was also seen with all major types of fat, by which I mean saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.”

Saturated fat is found in meat and dairy products, while monounsaturated fat is contained in nuts, avocados, and vegetable and olive oils. Polyunsaturated fat is found in walnuts, sunflower and flax seeds, fish, corn, soybean and safflower oils.

Current global guidelines recommend that 50 to 65 per cent of daily calories come from carbohydrates, and less than 10 per cent from saturated fats. But Dehghan said that advice is mostly based on evidence from studies in North America and Europe.

Cardiovascular disease is a global epidemic, with 80 per cent of the burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries. Diet is a key modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, experts say.

Dehghan said the healthiest diet would be made up of 50 to 55 per cent carbohydrates and 35 per cent total fat, including both saturated and unsaturated types.

“We found no evidence that below 10 per cent of energy from saturated fat is beneficial — and going below seven per cent is even harmful,” she said, adding that a diet containing 10 to 13 per cent of energy from saturated fat was found to be beneficial.

A diet that provides more than 60 per cent of energy from carbohydrates — one common among populations in China and South Asia — was associated with a 28 per cent higher risk of premature death, researchers found.

“The message of our study is moderation as opposed to very low or very high intake in consumption of both fats and carbohydrates.”
“We’re not advocating an extreme diet,” agreed co-author Andrew Mente. “We’re not saying that people should go on a low-carb, very high-fat diet because we didn’t find any benefit with a very low-carb diet either.

“There’s a sweet spot for carbohydrates, which is about 55 per cent of energy intake.”

The PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) study was published Tuesday in The Lancet. In a linked commentary in the journal, Drs. Christopher Ramsden and Anthony Domenichiello of the U.S. National Institute on Aging called the research “an impressive undertaking that will contribute to public health for years to come.”
“The relationships between diet, cardiovascular disease and death are topics of major public health importance…. Initial PURE findings challenge conventional diet-disease tenets that are largely based on observational associations in European and North American populations, adding to the uncertainty about what constitutes a healthy diet. This uncertainty is likely to prevail until well-designed randomized controlled trials are done.”

Mente, also a nutrition epidemiologist at the Population Health and Research Institute, was lead author of a second analysis from the PURE study presented Tuesday at the cardiology meeting.

That paper — one of three from PURE published in The Lancet — found that eating three to four servings of fruit, vegetables and legumes per day reduces the risk of premature death.

“And consuming higher amounts, pretty much you have the same level of risk,” Mente said from Barcelona. “There’s no added benefit with consuming more than four servings.
“This is important because existing guidelines recommend that people consume at least five servings per day, which is less affordable in the poorer countries because fruits and vegetables — particularly fruits — are more expensive as a proportion of people’s incomes.”

Lower-income Canadians may also be unable to afford the five to 10 daily servings of fruits and vegetables recommended in the country’s Food Guide.

“So what our study shows is you can achieve maximum benefit through fruits and vegetables and legumes, and it’s also affordable at the same time.”

Mente said the study also showed raw vegetables appear to confer greater health benefits than those that are cooked because of a loss of nutrients from being exposed to heat.

With the federal government in the process of revamping Canada’s Food Guide, the research could be a timely addition to consultations on what Canadians should be eating, Mente suggested.

“We would hope that independent thinkers perhaps reconsider the guidelines and look at our data, and perhaps rather than putting limits on total fat and saturated fat, perhaps we should be putting limits on the amount of carbohydrates that people consume.”

SHERYL UBELACKER     TORONTO    THE CANADIAN PRESS    AUGUST 29, 2017


3 Comments

Loneliness Even Unhealthier Than Obesity

Loneliness Even Unhealthier Than Obesity, Should Be A Public Health Priority: Psychologist

Loneliness should be a major public health concern, according to an American psychologist.

Loneliness is a major health risk, like obesity or smoking, and public health programs should address it in the same way, says a psychologist.

New research by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, found that social isolation contributes as strongly to mortality as does smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

“This is something that we should all be taking seriously for our health,” she said.

Holt-Lunstad’s research, presented at a conference of the American Psychological Association, analyzed studies on mortality risk to find out how feelings of social isolation and loneliness compared to other risk factors. She found that it has a greater effect than obesity or exercise.

Having few social connections is associated with various health effects, she said, such as cardiovascular problems, immune response, cognitive decline, and cellular aging, she said. But having other people around helps in other ways too: people are more likely to take their medication, to exercise, and to visit the doctor with encouragement from others.

“Our relationships help provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life. And that can translate to better self-care as well as less risk-taking,” said Holt-Lunstad.

Isolation

It’s an important message at a time when more Canadians than ever are living alone – one of the risk factors examined by Holt-Lunstad in her research.

Census data shows that 28.2 per cent of Canadian adults lived alone in 2016 – the highest proportion since Confederation. And, for the first time, this was the most common household type in the country.

This is partly due to Canada’s aging population, according to Statistics Canada, though more than one-in-10 Canadians under 60 also lives alone.

But everyone can feel the effects of loneliness, said Holt-Lunstad.

“We tend to assume that this is an issue that may be specific to older adults or the elderly, and while of course, that population is important to consider, it’s not isolated to that group,” she said.
“When we look across the data, this affects both men and women. We don’t see any effect in terms of it being stronger in older age and in fact, we have some evidence to suggest that it may be stronger in those under 65.”

 

Until the age of 60, men are more likely than women to live by themselves. This reverses after 60, likely due to men’s lower average life span, meaning there are lots of widowed women. More than half of women over 85 are living alone, according to census data.

A recent survey of seniors by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons found that more than 16 per cent of respondents reported lacking companionship. Fourteen per cent said they have nobody to talk to.

And another survey by the Vancouver Foundation in 2012 found that 25 per cent of residents of that city said they were alone more often than they would like to be.

Public health programs

Holt-Lunstad would like to see information about the effects of loneliness be included in public health programs in the same way information about the dangers of smoking or obesity is.

“I’ve heard people say things like, ‘You can’t put good relationships in the water.’ Or, ‘We can’t legislate that like we may be able to do with a Clean Air Act,’” she said. While that’s true, she believes people should prioritize their relationships in the same way that many have started to do with regular exercise.

“If we approach it as we can all be working on nurturing and fostering our own relationships, this may have a much broader population-wide impact.”

She also believes that research about the health impacts of loneliness should be included in medical training so that doctors can screen their patients for social isolation and provide information when needed. Kids should also learn about relationships the same way that they learn about nutrition, as a way to prevent future problems.

Holt-Lunstad’s research will be published next month in the journal The American Psychologist.


By Leslie Young   National Online Journalist, Investigative       Global News