Health News – Cancer, Heart Health and Sleep

A woman asleep in bed
Sleep Yourself Thin!

There have been a few interesting stories relating to fitness, weight loss and general health in the last week. Here is out round-up.

Walking Wards Off Cancer – U.S. National Cancer Institute

The U.S. National Cancer Institute published the findings of a new study which examined the relationship of exercise and longevity. The study found that those who remain physically active after the age of 40 are likely to live 2 to 7 years longer. Even those who are overweight are healthier.

“If you don’t currently do any physical activity, doing just a few minutes of physical activity a day can result in a notable increase in life expectancy.” – Steven Moore, National Cancer Institute.

This is similar to the research that Michael Mosley presented on the BBC earlier in the year which showed that short and intensive workouts reduced risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. However, it seems now that the exercise does not have to be intensive to be beneficial. Walking is good. In fact, walking for 450 minutes a week (averaging just over 1 hour a day) added 4 1/2 years to the average lifespan.

This study has been described as being of “profound importance” by Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center.

Regular exercise makes us healthier. We knew that already, but it is always nice when science backs it up.

  • Reference: NIH study finds leisure-time physical activity extends life expectancy as much as 4.5 years. NCI Press Release.

Heart Health is Skin Deep

New research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012 has shown that when people show noticeable signs of ageing on the surface, the health risks associated with ageing, in particular heart disease, are also raised.

10,885 people 40 years or over were studied during the Copenhagen Heart Study. Of these 7,537 people had a receding hairline, 3,938 had crown top baldness, 3,405 had earlobe crease, and 678 had fatty deposits around the eye. A follow-up 35 years later revealed that 3,401 people had developed heart disease and 1,708 had a heart attack.

There appear to be 5 main visual indicators of poorer heart health:

  1. Grey hair
  2. More defined wrinkles
  3. Extent of hair loss / baldness
  4. Earlobe creases
  5. Yellow fatty deposits around eyelid

Those who develop 3 or 4 of these conditions had a 57% greater risk of developing a heart attack and a 39% increased risk of heart disease. The fatty deposits were especially useful in highlighting risk as they are formed by a build up of cholesterol and can indicate a chronic cholesterol problem.

Research into skin health has shown that wrinkles and blemishes develop as a result of slow decay of DNA which determines healthy growth. A healthy lifestyle and diet prolongs healthy skin, especially a diet high in anti-oxidants and nutrient rich foods (and skin creams, if you believe the manufacturers claims). It is really only logical that the same damage to DNA could be happening to the cell walls of internal organs, and while the degradation of skin is almost entirely cosmetic (it still functions as well as younger, healthier skin) the same cannot be said for degeneration of the cells that make up vital organs.

  • Reference: Telltale visible signs of aging may predict heart disease. November 06, 2012. American Heart Association.

Lose Weight To Sleep Soundly

If you suffer from insomnia or poor quality sleep, then losing weight may be the solution. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that sleep quality improved when people lose weight. The method of weight loss made no difference, i.e. both those who lost weight by dieting and those who lost weight through exercise and diet combined experienced improved sleep.

“We found that improvement in sleep quality was significantly associated with overall weight loss, especially belly fat,” Kerry Stewart – Senior researcher.

The study examined 77 overweight people who were suffering from either type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. After 6 months the subjects had lost on average 15 pounds and 15% of their stomach fat. All slept better at the end of the study.

Interestingly, this study showed that both diet alone and diet combined with exercise can help you to lose weight – although of the 77 people are started on the study, only 55 completed it. 28% of those who started failed to complete the 6 month weight loss plan.

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