Today’s Headlines: Exercising Can Help Lower Risk of Heart Disease, How to Undo the Damage of a Sedentary Lifestyle, and What May Be Causing Your Gluten Sensitivity

Exercising for two and a half hours per week may decrease your risk of heart disease. Women under the age of 50 can lower their risk by about 25 percent if they maintain an active lifestyle. “Regardless of body weight, women who reported doing moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking had lower risk of heart disease than those with little or no exercise. Overall, women who spent a total of 2.5 hours per week being moderately active were about 25 percent less likely to be diagnosed with coronary heart disease than those who were not active at all. Though apparent benefits were seen even in overweight and obese women, researchers found the greatest benefit among normal-weight women. Those who were active for 2.5 hours a week had half the heart disease risk of obese, inactive women.” The intensity of the exercise did not seem to matter; only the amount – researchers agreed that any exercise, whether light, moderate, or vigorous, could help the heart if done on a regular basis. (Fox)

There may be a way to undo the damage caused by sitting too much. A sedentary lifestyle has been associated with an increased risk of health problems and a lower life expectancy in many different studies. “It comes down to fitting in an hour of walking or other physical activity a day. It doesn’t have to be a super-intense fitness routine to offer benefits, say the authors of a new study…The increased risk of death linked with sitting for eight hours a day was eliminated for people who were physically active for at least one hour a day. What’s more, the eight-hour-a-day sitters who exercised had a significantly lower risk of death compared to people who sat for fewer hours a day but weren’t active, the authors found.” If you sit for a majority of the day at your job, make sure to add an hour of exercise into your day to improve your overall health. (CBS)

The reason people are sensitive to gluten may have been discovered. A new study from Columbia University, in conjunction with the University of Bologna, has found a possible cause for gluten sensitivity. “The team…found that patients who experience various gastrointestinal symptoms in response to wheat ingestion may be suffering from a body-wide inflammatory immune reaction not seen in patients with celiac disease. The inflammation, researchers said, is due to a weakened gut, and the condition is referred to as non-celiac gluten or wheat sensitivity (NCWS). Symptoms of NCWS include intestinal problems, as well as fatigue, cognitive difficulties, or mood disturbances. The study did not extend to those with celiac disease, a more serious condition involving gluten, but the researchers are hoping that further studies will help them find more answers involving both issues. (Fox)

4 Ways to Have a Healthy Morning

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Every morning, before I head into my office, check in at the hospital, or arrive at the studio to tape The Dr. Oz Show, there are a few habits and rituals I try to follow that help me kick off my days with my best foot forward. Even if I can’t get to them all I find that incorporating at least one or two of these can set the day forward in a healthy, positive motion. Here’s what keeps me going past that mid-morning slump and how you can adapt these easy strategies for yourself.

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Today’s Headlines: How Exercise Can Help Your Knees, The Computer Training That May Lower Your Risk For Dementia, and Why You May Not Need a Yearly Body Scan

Physical therapy may be just as effective as surgery for your knees. A small clinical trial from Denmark and Norway found that physical therapy can alleviate pain and help those with degenerative meniscal tears save money by avoiding surgery. “Out of 140 adults with degenerative meniscal tears, half received arthroscopic surgery and were given exercises to perform at home; the other half were prescribed 12 weeks of supervised exercise sessions, two to three times a week. Three months later, the second group actually scored higher on tests of thigh muscle strength than the surgery group. After two years, improvement in both groups was equal: The participants reported similar progression in terms of pain, ability to play sports and participate in recreation, and knee-related quality of life.” Researchers recommended trying alternative therapies and only resorting to surgery if pain becomes a persistent problem. (Time)

Decrease your risk of dementia through brain training. New research has found that certain activities can delay the onset of dementia. “For those who got the commercially available brain-training exercises, the cumulative risk of developing cognitive decline or dementia over 10 years was 33% lower than for participants who got no training at all…Compared to study participants who got no training at all, recruits who went through more than 10 of the computerized brain-training sessions were 48% less likely over 10 years to experience dementia or cognitive decline.” The computer game used, called Double Decision, is available for purchase: “The game exercises an individual’s ability to detect, remember and respond to cues that appear and disappear quickly in varying locations on a computer screen.” (LA Times)

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force said that yearly body scans for skin cancer are unnecessary. The task force claimed that there was not enough evidence to outweigh the potential danger from these screenings. “Grossman [vice chairman of the task force] stressed that the statement doesn’t apply to people who have skin lesions or any other kind of suspicious growths or to those with an increased risk of cancer or a family history of the disease. But unnecessary screening could lead to overtreatment, including unneeded biopsies with unwanted side effects, he noted. And while it seems ‘intuitive’ that full-body exams would result in cancer being caught early, Grossman said the research suggests that some doctors are much more adept than others at finding lesions.” While more research needs to be done on how effective the screenings are and who should be getting them, everyone should protect their skin from the sun by wearing sunglasses, sunscreen, and protective clothing. (Washington Post)

Today’s Headlines: Why Government-Subsidized Food May Not Be the Best Food, The Chemicals Being Removed From Wal-Mart Products, and New Regions Discovered in the Brain

The U.S. government’s agricultural subsidies encourage the production of unhealthy foods. Crops like corn and wheat and foods like meat are often turned into sweeteners, refined carbs, and processed meats, which are usually inexpensive but less nutritious. This impacts public health as a whole. “CDC researchers found that, of the 10,000 adults surveyed, those who had the highest consumption of federally subsidized foods had a 37 percent higher risk of obesity, the New York Times reported. This group was also more likely to have abdominal fat, abnormal cholesterol, and high levels of blood sugar.” The CDC is hoping that this information, in addition to past research, will encourage a change in the way subsidies are approved and distributed. (Fox)

Wal-Mart announced that eight chemicals will be removed from their products. Many of these harmful chemicals have been found in Wal-Mart’s cleaning, beauty, and personal products. “The chemicals Wal-Mart wants to remove include butylparaben, used as a preservative in cosmetics, and triclosan, used in clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys. Triclosan is also used in toothpaste, but Wal-Mart said it would not press for its removal because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulators have deemed it safe for this use.” This announcement comes as a way to uphold Wal-Mart’s 2013 promise to be more transparent about the products being sold in their stores. (Reuters)

97 “territories” in the brain have been discovered. Researchers have released a new map of the brain identifying areas that didn’t exist before. “The new map identifies 180 areas for each hemisphere, including 97 new territories along with 83 previously known regions. Each area has been defined based on the fact that they are “similar within themselves, but different from their neighbors,” explained Glasser [a neuroscience doctoral student]. Each has a unique microstructural architecture (including thickness of the cortex), plus a unique pattern of activity and connectivity with other brain areas…The newly identified areas mainly reside in regions of higher cognitive function… A dozen distinct cortical areas, for instance, have been identified within the area known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning, working memory and abstract thinking, among other functions.” These discoveries allow scientists and doctors to learn more about the brain which can help improve diagnoses and operations. (CNN)

Stay Cool This Summer Without an AC

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With temperatures reaching into the high 90s and triple digits across the country this week, I want to discuss how you can cool down safely in a heat wave without an air conditioner. Although cooling centers and air conditioners are great options for everyone, sometimes things might not work out as planned and your AC might break down, the store or cooling center might be closed, or there’s a regional blackout. When this kind of situation arises, remember to stay hydrated and give these cooling tips a try.

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Dietary Fats: The Shift in Expert Recommendations

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Written by Russ Barton, MS, CNS, CISSN, Senior Nutrition Scientist at USANA

Sponsored by USANA Health Sciences

Science has come a long way since the simplistic admonition in the 1980s for Americans to eat less fat.

It has taken nearly 30 years to officially reverse some recommendations about cholesterol and fat intake, even with relatively strong evidence that the recommendations were not based on current scientific evidence. Also, contrary to our thought process in the 1980s, it isn’t as simple as “saturated fats are bad” and “unsaturated fats are good.”

It was that exact overly simplistic thinking that resulted in the near extinction of tropical oils from the food supply and the explosion of hydrogenated vegetable oils (think trans-fat). The truth of the matter is that not all polyunsaturated fats are healthy, nor are all saturated fats unhealthy. Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: 10 Risk Factors of a Stroke, How a Vaginal Ring Can Protect Against HIV, and an Announcement From the CDC About Gonorrhea

Researchers have found that there are 10 common conditions that could be warning signs for a stroke. While not all factors can be cured or prevented, researchers believe that knowing about them and monitoring them could prevent nine out of 10 strokes. “To estimate each risk factor’s effect on stroke risk, study authors calculated each one’s population attributable risk (PAR), a measurement used to determine how eliminating an individual risk factor could impact an overall disease burden. Study authors found that the PAR was about 48 percent for hypertension— making it the biggest risk factor for stroke— about 36 percent for physical inactivity, about 23 percent for poor diet, 19 percent for obesity, 12 percent for smoking, 9 percent for heart causes, 4 percent for diabetes, 6 percent for alcohol intake, 6 percent for stress, and 27 percent for lipids.” If you have any of these health issues, you may want to talk to your doctor about stroke risk to ensure you are taking any proper precautions. (Fox)

A study released on Monday stated that a vaginal ring can protect against HIV. While the risk of contracting HIV varies from woman to woman, the silicone ring may help decrease the risk in all women who use it. “The vaginal ring releases a drug called dapirivine, which can help stop the virus from infecting cells…On average, women’s risk of catching the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was cut by 56 percent, the team found. Women who used it the most — mostly older women — reduced the risk by at least 75 percent.” The ring was designed as a discreet tool to help women protect themselves from sexually-transmitted infections. (NBC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the resistance of the drug used to fight gonorrhea has increased by 400%. Gonorrhea, a sexually-transmitted disease, is relatively common in the U.S. and the number of new infections is rising. “Health officials warn that gonorrhea is growing increasingly resistant to the antibiotic azithromycin—which, when used in conjunction with the antibiotic ceftriaxone, treats the sexually transmitted disease. It is the only treatment left.” The CDC still recommends doctors treat gonorrhea patients with the same regimen but is calling for new treatments to be developed. (Time)

Today’s Headlines: The Connection Between Soda and Cancer, Why Being Overweight Can Decrease Your Life Span, and an Update on the Zika Virus

A new study suggests that drinking soda could increase your risk for developing cancer in your gallbladder or liver. These cancers have been observed to affect those with a higher BMI and increased blood sugar levels, both of which can be caused by drinking soda in excess. “To explore this possibility, researchers analyzed survey data on the eating and drinking habits of more than 70,000 adults then followed them for more than 13 years on average to see whether cancers got diagnosed.”

“Only about 150 people developed biliary tract or gallbladder cancers during the study period. But compared with people who avoided sugar-sweetened drinks altogether, individuals who consumed two or more juice drinks or sodas, including artificially sweetened sodas, a day had more than twice the risk of developing gallbladder tumors and 79 percent higher odds of getting biliary tract cancer, the study found.” The study was preliminary and does not prove that soda and cancer are definitely linked, but the researchers would like to continue to look into their hypothesis. (NBC)

Researchers are now adding being overweight, not just obese, to the list of risk factors that could cause premature death. New evidence shows that just a “slight increase in BMI” may cause issues later in life. “According to the report, people with BMI readings above the recommended range who were considered overweight showed an 11% increased risk of dying early, defined as death before age 70, compared to people who maintained their recommended BMI. For people with BMI between 30 and 35, the first category for obesity, the risk of premature death increased to 45%, and for those with the highest level of obesity, or BMI of 40 or more, the risk nearly tripled.” The study was done in 32 different countries and collected data from four million people so the researchers are very confident in their results and believe that doctors should continue to emphasize the importance of being a healthy weight. (Time)

Zika may be over with in the next two to three years. While Zika is a global health concern right now, scientists expect that it will die out after a couple years due to developing immunity. “The researchers, whose work is published in the journal Science, estimated that infections from the mosquito-borne virus will become so widespread in affected countries that populations will develop what is called “herd immunity.” This occurs when a high percentage of a population has become immune to an infection either through developing natural immunity or through vaccination, making a wider outbreak less likely.That would prevent further transmission of the Zika virus for at least a decade, with only smaller, intermittent outbreaks, they said.” There is currently no vaccine for Zika, however the virus seems “unable to infect the same person twice.” (Reuters)