Posts Tagged ‘Exercise’

UK’s five big killers

Five big killers – heart disease, stroke, cancer, lung and liver disease – account for more than 150,000 deaths a year among under-75s in England alone and the Department of Health estimates 30,000 of these are entirely avoidable.UK's five big killersCoronary Heart Disease is the biggest killer, causing almost 74,000 deaths each year in the UK- that’s about 200 people dying every day.

More than a quarter of the deaths occur in people who are younger than 75 and experts say the majority are preventable.

Smoking, being overweight and having high blood pressure are all risk factors.

About one in three adults in England and Scotland have high blood pressure and nearly half of them are not receiving treatment for the condition, says the British Heart Foundation.

Between April 2011 and March 2012 only 2% of those eligible in England actually had a health check. Out of nearly 16 million people eligible, about 425,000 were offered a check and 211,000 took up the offer.

England has one of the highest rates of asthma prevalence in the world. Figures from GP registers in 2008 suggested that about 6% of the English population has asthma.

And more than three million people in England are living with COPD. This lung disease kills about 23,000 people a year in the UK.

The most important cause of COPD is smoking, but about 15% of cases are work-related, triggered by exposure to fumes, chemicals and dusts at work.

Premature deaths from COPD in the UK was almost twice as high as the European average in 2008 and premature mortality for asthma was more than 1.5 times higher.

The disease is one of the most common causes of emergency admission to hospital and is expensive in terms of acute hospital care. It costs nearly 10 times more to treat severe COPD than the mild disease.

Strokes are the third leading cause of death in England each year and the leading cause of disability. More than 150,000 people have a stroke every year in the UK but, according to The Stroke Association, up to 10,000 of these could be prevented if more people were aware of the symptoms and sought out emergency treatment.

Symptoms can include facial weakness, speech problems and pins and needles down one side of the body.

The Health Secretary Mr Jeremy Hunt says a major challenge is getting all parts of the country to meet the performance levels of the best.

For example, if all patients suffering from a mini stroke (transient ischaemic attack or TIA) were treated as rapidly as those treated in the top 25% of hospitals, 540 strokes would be avoided each year, which in turn would save the NHS £4.5m a year.

Cancer has now become so common that today one in 30 people living in the UK either has cancer or is in remission. By 2030 it is estimated that three million people in England will have had some form of cancer.

The good news is that cancer survival rates are now improving in the UK.

More men are now surviving prostate and bowel cancer and women with breast cancer have a better outlook than ever before. But the UK still lags behind other European countries in terms of cancer survival.

Cancer Research UK says part of the problem is unhealthy lifestyles. It is estimated that about a third of cancers are caused by smoking, diet, alcohol and obesity.

And many cancers are detected too late. Although there are national screening programmes for certain cancers, like breast and cervical, public awareness of symptoms and the need to seek help early is still too low.

Another issue is access to treatment. Waiting times to see a doctor for speedy diagnosis and treatment have come down. But the provision of certain types of cancer investigations and treatments across the UK is variable and some groups of society, like the very old, can miss out.

Lastly, the Chief Medical Officer of England, Prof Dame Sally Davies, highlighted liver disease as an issue in her annual report.

It is the only major cause of mortality and morbidity that is on the increase in England while it is decreasing among European peers.

Between 2000 and 2009, deaths from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in the under 65s in England increased by about 20% while they fell by the same amount in most EU countries. And all three major causes of liver disease – obesity, undiagnosed infection, and, increasingly, harmful drinking – are preventable.

More than a third of men and over a quarter of women regularly exceed the government recommended level of alcohol intake – three to four units of alcohol a day for men and two to three units for women.

The government in England is currently considering whether to set a minimum unit price for alcohol to deter problem drinking and cut alcohol-related illness.

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Olympian lifespan is possible for all

The longevity lifespan that Olympians enjoy is within the reach of everyone, doctors say.Olympian lifespan is possible for allResearch Survival of the fittest: retrospective cohort study of the longevity of Olympic medallists in the modern era published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggests athletes live 2.8 years longer on average than the average lifespan.

The research indicated those who took part in non-contact sports such as cycling, rowing and tennis enjoyed the longest life of all.

But the general population could have a similar “survival advantage” by doing a little more exercise, experts said.

The conclusion by two public health professors came after they reviewed two studies of Olympic athletes published by the BMJ website.

The studies looked at the lifespan and health of 25,000 athletes who competed in Games dating back to 1896.

Those taking part in contact sports such as boxing had the least advantage, while cyclists and rowers enjoyed the best health.

But the researchers also found those who played lower intensity sports such as golf enjoyed a boost.

Possible explanations put forward for the finding included genetic and lifestyle factors and the wealth and status that comes with sporting success.

The recommended level of physical activity for adults is 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week.

Studies suggest people who manage that amount or more live for up to several years longer than those that do not.

Writing for the BMJ website, the professors said: “Although the evidence points to a small survival effect of being an Olympian, careful reflection suggests that similar health benefits and longevity could be achieved by all of us through regular physical activity.

“We could and should all award ourselves that personal gold medal.”

But they said governments were still not doing enough to promote the benefits of physical activity, calling it a “public health failure”.

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Exercise could repair heart damage

Vigorous daily exercise could repair damage caused by a heart attack, a new study has suggested.Exercise could repair heart damageResearchers found for the first time that regular and strenuous exercise can make dormant stem cells in the heart spring into life, leading to the development of new heart muscle.

Scientists had already discovered that stem cells could be coaxed into producing new tissue through injections of chemicals known as growth factors, but the new study is the first to suggest that a simple exercise programme has a similar effect.

The findings suggest that damage from heart disease or failure could be at least partially repaired through 30 minutes of running or cycling a day, at enough intensity to work up a sweat.

An early-stage study on healthy rats showed that an equivalent amount of exercise resulted in more than 60 per cent of heart stem cells, which are usually dormant in adults, becoming active.

After just two weeks of exercise the mice had a seven per cent increase in the number of cardiomyocites, the “beating” cells in heart tissue, researchers reported in the European Heart Journal.

The team from Liverpool John Moores University said they would now study the effects on mice which had suffered heart attacks to determine whether it could have an even greater benefit.

Dr Georgina Ellison, who led the study, said: “The exercise is increasing the growth factors which are activating the stem cells to go on and repair the heart, and this is the first time that this potential has been shown.

“We hope it might be even more effective in damaged hearts because you have got more reason to replace the large amount of cells that are lost.”

Although some patients with severe heart damage may not be capable of intensive exercise, Dr Ellison said a significant number would easily be able to jog or cycle for 30 minutes a day without risking their health.

“In a normal cardiac rehabilitation programme patients do undertake exercise, but what we are saying is maybe to be more effective it needs to be carried out at a higher intensity, in order to activate the resident stem cells,” she said.

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Exercising in your 70s may stop brain shrinkage

Exercising in your 70s may stop your brain from shrinking and showing the signs of ageing linked to dementia, say experts from Edinburgh University.Exercising in your 70s may stop brain shrinkageBrain scans of 638 people past the age of retirement showed those who were most physically active had less brain shrinkage over a three-year period.

Exercise did not have to be strenuous – going for a walk several times a week sufficed. But giving the mind a workout by doing a tricky crossword had little impact.

The study found no real brain-size benefit from mentally challenging activities, such as reading a book, or other pastimes such as socialising with friends and family.

When the researchers examined the brain’s white matter – the wiring that transmits messages round the brain – they found that the people over the age of 70 who were more physically active had fewer damaged areas than those who did little exercise.

And they had more grey matter – the parts of the brain where the messages originate.

Experts already know that our brains tend to shrink as we age and that this shrinkage is linked to poorer memory and thinking and previous studies have shown that exercise helps reduce the risk of dementia and can slow down its onset.

But scientists are still baffled about why this is.

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, delivering oxygen and nutrients to brain cells, which may be important.

Or it may be that as people’s brains shrink, they become less inclined to exercise.

Regardless of why, experts say the findings are good news because exercise is an easy thing to do to boost health.

Prof James Goodwin, head of research at Age UK, the charity that provided the funding for the research, said: “This research re-emphasises that it really is never too late to benefit from exercise, so whether it’s a brisk walk to the shops, gardening or competing in a fun run it is crucial that, those of us who can, get active as we grow older.”

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Antioxidant rich diet cuts heart attack risk

Eating lots of antioxidant rich fruit and vegetables does appear to cut the chance of having a heart attack according to research.Antioxidant rich diet cuts heart attack riskSwedish researchers estimate that eating a diet high in antioxidants – mainly derived from fruit and veg – could cut the chance of a heart attack by a quarter.

They believe that different antioxidant compounds could work together to protect the body in a much more powerful way than taking single large doses can achieve.

Specifically, the researchers found that older women ate seven fruit and vegetable portions a day, were between 20 and 29 per cent less likely to have a heart attack over a decade, than those who ate just 2.4.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances which mop up molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS), better known as ‘free radicals’.

These prompt inflammation, can damage cells, and have been implicated for triggering cancer and heart disease.

The researchers assessed antioxidant intake by looking at the diets of 30,000 Swedish women aged 49 to 83 at the start of the study.

Those with the highest antioxidant intake were 20 per cent less likely to have suffered a heart attack than those with the lowest intake, after statistically adjusting for a host of factors like differences in age, weight, and whether they smoked or exercised.

Women who ate a lot of fruit and vegetables also tended to eat less saturated fat. When the researchers adjusted for intake of fats, the difference in heart attack rates rose to 29 per cent. The study did not look at overall mortality.

Dr Alicja Wolk from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, who was the lead researcher, said their research contrasted with tests of single antioxidant supplements, which have largely failed to find evidence that they cut heart attacks or mortality rates.

Pamela Hannley, managing editor of the American Journal of Medicine, where the report is published, said: “Although weight-loss diets abound, the few which emphasize increasing intake of fruits and vegetables actually may be on the right track.”

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Intensive two minute exercise as good as a 90 minute run

Short bursts of exercise lasting just 150 seconds could help protect against heart disease as much as a 90 minute run or longer but less strenuous workouts, according to new research.Intensive two minute exercise as good as a 90 minute runEvidence from a study of men aged 18 to 35 indicated brief but intense exercise was more effective at reducing blood fat levels, which can linger in the body after eating and begin the process of clogging up arteries.

In an experiment led by researcher Stuart Gray, a group of men was asked to sprint, cycle or walk for half an hour.

Those who exercised at peak levels for 30 seconds before resting for four minutes and repeating, saw the fat in their blood drop faster than those who walked at a brisk pace in line with Government guidelines.

The results showed walking cut fat by 11 per cent, compared with not doing any exercise, while short periods of exercise helped reduce fat by 33 per cent – the same effect as a 90 minute run.

Dr Gray, of Aberdeen University, told the British Science Festival that two minute workouts may be more effective in causing the liver to process more fat from the blood before storing it or burning it off.

He said that, while the high intensity training “won’t necessarily” improve strength, it does boost endurance.

He added that the short duration of the exercise was ‘highly important as time is often cited as the main barrier to taking part in exercise.”

However, he said exercising for brief period between resting meant the whole workout took 20 minutes and had to be done regularly.

Dr Gray said: “Although moderate intensity, longer sessions of exercise can help protect the body against cardiovascular disease, the findings of our study showed that higher-intensity shorter intervals of exercise might be a more effective method to improve health and reduce the time commitment to exercise.”

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Fish oil may double benefits of exercise for elderly

Eating a portion of oily fish such as salmon or mackerel three times a week could help to protect the muscles from deterioration in old age by doubling the benefits of exercise, experts claim.Fish oil may double benefits of exercise for elderlyAfter our mid thirties our body’s ability to build muscle through exercise alone begins to diminish, meaning it is difficult for older people to resist muscle wastage

A combination of regular doses of fish oil and gym exercises improved the muscular strength of a group of women in their late sixties by 20 per cent in a new study.

A control group who took part in the twice-weekly, 30-minute exercise sessions but did not take fish oil increased their muscle power by only 11 per cent.

Over the course of the 12-week study, those who took the fish oils also made noticeably larger improvements in tests of their balance, walking speed and time taken to get up from a chair.

Speaking at the British Science Festival, researchers from Aberdeen University said the difference could be down to the effects of DHA and EPA, types of Omega 3 fatty acid found in fish oil that have anti-inflammatory properties.

As a normal part of ageing, muscle size reduces by between 0.5 per cent and two per cent a year in older people, a condition known as sarcopenia.

After our mid-thirties our body’s ability to build muscle through exercise alone begins to diminish, meaning it is difficult for older people to resist muscle wastage.

Researchers said the fish oils could work by combating the low-level inflammation that is typical in older people and hampers the ability of the muscles to build power and mass.

Dr Stuart Gray said: “We’re trying to make older muscle adapt like younger muscle, and that’s where we think fish oil can come in.”

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Overweight men need to become match fit if they want to be fathers

Overweight men have been warned they need to become ‘match fit’ if they want to be fathers, as a fertility study claims too much attention has been focused on mothers’ weight.Overweight men need to become match fit if they want to be fathersScientists studying the impact obesity has on pregnancy are urging men to get ‘in shape’ before conceiving to assist with foetal development.

While the health risks surrounding obesity and pregnancy have largely been centred on overweight mothers, the onus is now on men to lose weight.

Less efficient sperm results in smaller foetuses, poor pregnancy success and reduced placental development.

The discovery was made by reproductive experts from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

World Health Organisation figures show that a staggering 48 per cent of adult males are overweight or obese – making the findings even more of a worry.

The research was conducted by Professor David Gardner, Dr Natalie Hannan and PhD student Natalie Binder.

Prof Gardner, Head of the Department of Zoology, said: “A lot of men don’t understand they need to be healthy before conceiving. Sperm needs to be ‘match fit’ for the games of life and creating life is the biggest thing that we can do.”

The study used IVF to determine the effects of paternal obesity on embryo implantation into the womb and foetal development.

PhD candidate Natalie Binder generated embryos from both normal weight and obese male mice.

She said: “We found development was delayed in the foetuses produced from obese fathers.  Furthermore, placental weight and development was significantly less for embryos derived from the sperm of obese males.

These findings indicate that paternal obesity not only negatively affects embryo development, but also impacts on the successful implantation into the womb.

“This then results in a small placenta which impairs fetal growth and development with long term consequences for the health of the offspring. Our study provides more information about the impact of obesity in men and their ability to start a family and the need to shed kilos in preparation to conceive.”

The findings were presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2012.

From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/Overweight-men-warned-they-need-to-become-match-fit-if-they-want-to-be-fathers

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Spare tyre triples risk of heart attack

People who carry a small “spare tyre” around their waist but are otherwise a healthy weight are at triple the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke. Spare tyre triples risk of heart attackMen and women who are not overweight but store most of their fat around their waist are at greater risk of heart disease or stroke than even the clinically obese.

This could be because those who are overweight or obese have more weight on their thighs and hips which helps offset the problem, researchers said.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic in the United States examined the health records of 12,785 people with an average age of 44, over a 14-year period.

They recorded patients’ body mass index (BMI) – their ratio of weight relative to height – as well as their waist-to-hip ratio, which signifies how much of their weight they store on their belly.

During the study, 2,562 of the patients died, including 1,138 as a result of a cardiovascular problem such as heart disease or stroke.

The findings suggest that people with a normal BMI but a high waist-to-hip ratio were 2.75 times more likely to die from a cardiovascular condition than people who were normal on both scales.

Even people who were clinically obese and had a high proportion of fat stored around their middle had only 2.34 times the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke compared with the healthiest group.

Speaking at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual congress in Munich, Dr Karine Sahakyan said having a normal BMI “should not reassure them that their risk for heart disease is low”.

“Where their fat is distributed on their body can mean a lot even if their body weight is within normal limits,” she said.

Fat which accumulates between the organs in the abdomen, and causes the waistline to expand, is made of a different type of cell to that which accumulates around the legs and thighs.

Cells in belly fat release chemicals which raise insulin resistance and are thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.

People who are overweight and obese have more muscle mass and store some of their fat on their legs and hips, which Dr Sahakyan said was “actually protective”.

Slimmer people are more likely to carry extra weight on the waist, she said.

Patients with a high waist-to-hip ratio can offset their risk by exercising more and sticking to a healthy diet.

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Unhealthy lifestyle responsible for half of cancers

Almost half of cancers are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle that could be avoided by quitting smoking, losing weight, exercising and drinking less alcohol, the most comprehensive study of its kind has found.Unhealthy lifestyle responsible for half of cancersAround 134,000 cancers each year are the result of a poor lifestyle, Cancer Research UK has found.

In the most wide reaching study yet conducted into the issue, it was found that 14 different lifestyle factors ranging from smoking, to lack of exercise, eating too much salt, not having babies, drinking too much and being overweight contributed to four in every ten cancers diagnosed in the UK.

The findings expose the myth that developing cancer is ‘bad luck’ or down to your genes, the researchers said.

Previous studies had suggested around 80,000 cancers a year could be prevented but they did not take into account occupational exposures to things like asbestos, infections that can cause cancer and sunburn as the latest research has.

In a complex set of research studies, scientists calculated how many cancers and of what type could be attributed to each of the 14 lifestyle factors.

The findings were published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Smoking was the biggest factor, causing nearly one in five of all cancers.

But Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said most people would not know that a quarter of all breast cancer cases could be prevented along with half of colorectal cancers.

He added: “Leading a healthy lifestyle doesn’t guarantee that someone will not get cancer but doing so will significantly stack the odds in your favour.”

Dr Kumar said tackling unhealthy lifestyle factors linked to cancer would also reduce the risk of a host of other killer diseases such as heart disease, respiratory problems, kidney disease and others.

Professor Max Parkin, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist based at Queen Mary, University of London, and study author, said: “Many people believe cancer is down to fate or ‘in the genes’ and that it is the luck of the draw whether they get it.

“Looking at all the evidence, it’s clear that around 40 per cent of all cancers are caused by things we mostly have the power to change.

“We didn’t expect to find that eating fruit and vegetables would prove to be so important in protecting men against cancer. And among women we didn’t expect being overweight to have a greater effect than alcohol.”

The study found that alcohol was responsible for 6.4 per cent of breast cancers and almost one in ten liver cancers.

Three quarters of stomach cancers could be avoided, mostly by not smoking, eating too much salt and consuming more fruit and vegetables.

Red meat consumption led to 2.7 per cent of cancers, almost 8,500 cases. Obesity was linked to more than five per cent of cancers or almost 18000 cases, including a third of womb cancers.

Lack of breastfeeding was linked to 3.1 per cent of breast cancers and 17 per cent of ovarian cancers.

The study did not examine how many cancer deaths would be prevented with a healthier lifestyle.

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