Leave Your House To Live Longer


Just stepping out of your house every day can help seniors live longer.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, older adults who leave their homes every day lived longer irrespective of their medical conditions and functional capabilities, compared with seniors who mostly remained indoors. The study covered 3,375 adults aged 70 to 90 years.

Based on how often they left their homes each week, the participants were divided into three groups: daily (6 or 7 days in a week), often (two to five times per week), and rarely (less than once per week). Mortality rates were lowest among those who went out daily and highest among those who rarely left the house. The link between leaving the house and longevity remained even after accounting for the participants’ social and functional status and medical conditions including chronic pain, vision or hearing impairment, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and kidney disease.

“What is interesting is that the improved survival associated with getting out of the house frequently was also observed among people with low levels of physical activity, and even those with impaired mobility. Resilient individuals remain engaged, irrespective of their physical limitations,” said the lead author.

Getting out of the house frequently keeps older adults engaged with the outside world which may explain the protective benefits.

Read Aloud To Remember

We are more likely to remember something if we read it out loud, according to a study published in Memory. Reading out loud involves the dual action of speaking and hearing oneself (The production effect) which helps to get words into long term memory. Ninety-five participants tried to remember written information in four different ways: read silently, listen to someone else read, listen to a recording of themselves reading, and read aloud in real time. The participants retained more information when they read it aloud.

“This study confirms that learning and memory benefit from active involvement. When we add an active measure or a production element to a word, that word becomes more distinct in long-term memory, and hence more memorable,” the study author added. Previous research from the team had shown that writing and typing words enhanced memory retention.

Did You Know

Women are up to three times more likely to die during the year following a heart attack than men, mostly because they are less likely to receive the recommended treatments such as bypass surgery, stents and statins.

Journal of the American Heart Association

Hysterectomy Tied to Long Term Health Issues

Women who undergo hysterectomy have a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and other metabolic conditions, even if they don’t have their ovaries removed. While removing ovaries is known to increase health risks, the current study suggests that hysterectomy alone has long-term health risks, especially in women who have the surgery before 35.

For the US study published in Menopause, the researchers compared data for 2,094 women who underwent a hysterectomy with ovarian conservation for benign disease and age matched set of women who did not have the procedure.

Over a median follow up of 21.9 years, women who had the procedure had a 13 per cent higher risk of high blood pressure; a 14 per cent higher risk in lipid abnormalities; 18 per cent higher risk of obesity and 33 per cent greater risk of heart disease compared with women who did not have the surgery.

Younger women had an especially greater risk. Women younger than 35 had a 4.6-fold increased risk of congestive heart failure and a 2.5-fold increased risk of coronary artery disease. “Hysterectomy is the second most common gynaecologic surgery, and most are done for benign reasons, because most physicians believe that this surgery has minimal long-term risks. With the results of this study, we encourage people to consider nonsurgical alternative therapies for fibroids, endometriosis and prolapse, which are leading causes of hysterectomy,” the lead researcher suggested.

Short Treatment Relieves Chronic Back Pain

A 10-minute minimally invasive image guided pulsed radio frequency treatment could be the answer to chronic low back pain. According to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, more than 80 per cent of the people who received the treatment were pain free after one year.

Low back pain affects at least 80 per cent of the people at some point in their lifetime. About 20 per cent of them go on to develop chronic low back pain.

A major cause of low back pain is compressed and herniated disk, in which the rubbery cushion between vertebrae impinges on and irritates nearby nerves causing inflammation and pain. The study was based on 80 patients who suffered low back pain due to a herniated disk that failed to respond to standard treatments including exercise and medication. Using CT imaging, a needle is guided to the location of the herniated disc and nerve root. A probe that is inserted through the needle tip delivers pulsed radio frequency energy to the area for ten minutes.

“The results have been extraordinary. Patients have been relieved of pain and resumed their normal activities within a day.”

Eighty-one per cent of the patients who received the treatment were pain free one year later. Ninety per cent were able to avoid surgical treatment and six patients required a second pulsed radio frequency session. No side effects were reported. “There's a big gap between conservative treatments for disc compression and herniation and surgical repair, which can lead to infection, bleeding and a long recovery period. Evolving technologies like image-guided treatment may help a substantial number of patients avoid surgery,” the lead researcher noted.

Boost Baby’s Brain Power

Eating food rich in choline during pregnancy can boost your baby’s brain power and provide lasting cognitive benefits, according to a study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Choline rich foods include egg yolk, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and cruciferous vegetables. Most pregnant women do not consume the recommended 450 milligrams per day. Twenty-six pregnant women entering their third trimester were randomly divided into two groups. All the participants consumed exactly the same diet. Intake of all nutrients was tightly controlled. Half the women received 480 mg/day of choline and the other half received 930 mg/day.

Since all the nutrients were provided in equal amounts, the researchers were able to say with confidence that any differences in the infants’ cognitive skills resulted from their choline intake. The infants’ information processing speed and visuospatial memory were tested at four, seven, ten and 13 months, a measure of IQ in childhood.

While all the children showed some cognitive benefits, information processing speeds were significantly faster in kids whose mothers consumed 930 mg/day compared to kids whose mothers took 480 mg/day.

“A prudent approach would be to increase dietary choline intake by consuming more animal source foods during pregnancy—egg yolk, lean red meat, fish and poultry. For women who restrict animal-sourced food, consuming a choline supplement that provides choline at a level comparable to 450 mg/day may be needed,” the study author recommended.

Apple and Tomato To The Rescue

A diet rich in apples and tomatoes can help slow the decline of lung functionality among ex-smokers, as per a study published in the European Respiratory Journal.

Certain components found in these foods may help repair lungs damaged by smoking.

The researchers assessed diet and lung function of more than 650 adults in 2002, and again ten years later. Adults who ate an average of more than two tomatoes or more than three portions of fresh fruit a day, especially apples, had a slower decline in lung function compared to those who ate less than one tomato or less than one portion of fruit a day. However, the respiratory benefits were not restricted just to ex-smokers.

“This study shows that diet might help repair lung damage in people who have stopped smoking. It also suggests that a diet rich in fruits can slow down the lung’s natural ageing process even if you have never smoked,” said the study’s lead author.

Lung function usually starts to decline at around 30, depending on the general and specific health of individuals. Poor lung function can increase the risk of death from all diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and lung cancer. “The findings support the need for dietary recommendations, especially for people at risk of developing respiratory diseases such as COPD.”

Prenatal Vitamins Linked to Lower Autism Risk

The risk of autism spectrum disorder is lower in kids whose mothers took folic acid and multivitamin supplements before and during pregnancy. Women are already prescribed folic acid during pregnancy to prevent birth defects of the spinal cord and the brain. For the study published in JAMA Psychiatry, 45,300 Israeli children born between 2003-2007 were observed up to 2015.

The overall risk of autism was low—572 (1.3 per cent) received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

Women who took the supplements before pregnancy were 61 per cent less likely to have a child with autism, compared to those who didn't take the supplements.

Taking supplements during pregnancy was also linked to a 73 per cent reduced risk of an autism diagnosis. “Reduced risk of autism in offspring is a consideration for public health policy that may be realised by extended use of folic acid and multivitamin supplements during pregnancy,” the study concluded.

Heal Your Heart with Exercise

All is not lost for people who have spent their adult life as couch potatoes. Middle-aged people can reverse their risk of heart failure associated with years of sedentary lifestyle by starting to exercise, according to a study in the journal Circulation.

Fifty-three healthy but sedentary adults, between 45 to 64, were divided into two groups: one group received two years of exercise training, including high- and moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for four or more days a week and the control group participated in yoga, balance training and weight training three times a week, for two years.

At the end of the study, those in the exercise group saw an 18 per cent improvement in their maximum oxygen intake during exercise and a more than 25 per cent improvement in elasticity of the left ventricular muscle of the heart, both markers of a healthier heart. The control group did not see any such improvement.

A sedentary lifestyle can cause the heart muscle to shrink and stiffen, increasing the risk of heart failure. “The key to a healthier heart in middle age is the right dose of exercise, at the right time in life. Exercising only two or three times a week didn’t do much to protect the heart against ageing. We found what we believe to be the optimal dose of the right kind of exercise, which is four to five times a week, and the ‘sweet spot’ in time, when the heart risk from a lifetime of sedentary behaviour can be improved—which is late-middle age. The result was a reversal of decades of a sedentary lifestyle on the heart for most of the study participants,” the study author added.

Did You Know

The Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet—with its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and avoidance of foods that are processed, packaged or high in saturated fats—tied for the best diet rankings for 2018.

U.S News & World Report

Cancer Risk High Among Night Shift Workers

Women who work night shifts long term have a greater risk for a number of cancers, especially skin, breast and lung cancers. Working night shifts disrupt our circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates the body's physiological processes, and is already linked to many adverse health outcomes including heart disease, obesity and some types of cancer. For the study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers reviewed 61 studies including 3,909,152 participants from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America, and more than 114,000 cancer cases.

Women who worked night shifts had a 19 per cent greater risk of cancer compared with women who did not work night shifts. Looking at specific types of cancer, the researchers found long term night shift was associated with a 41 per cent greater risk of skin cancer, 32 per cent greater risk of breast cancer and 18 per cent greater risk of gastrointestinal cancer. Every five years of night shift work was associated with a 3.3 per cent increase in breast cancer risk. Further analysis of female nurses alone, found that night shift work was associated with a 58 per cent higher risk of breast cancer, a 35 per cent greater risk of gastrointestinal cancer and a 28 per cent higher risk of lung cancer.

However, the link between night shift work and greater breast cancer risk was only seen in women who lived in North America or Europe. “Our study indicates that night-shift work serves as a risk factor for common cancers in women. These results might help establish and implement effective measures to protect female night-shifters. Long-term night-shift workers should have regular physical examinations and cancer screenings,” the study author noted.

Just One Cigarette

Can you become a daily smoker after trying just one cigarette? Apparently so.

According to a study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, over two thirds of people who try one cigarette get hooked on to the habit and go on to become daily smokers, at least temporarily. The data comes from eight surveys including 2,16,314 people. Of about 60.3 per cent of the respondents who said they tried a cigarette at least once, 68.9 per cent progressed to daily smoking.

“This is the first time that the remarkable hold that cigarettes can establish after a single experience has been documented from such a large set of data. In the development of any addictive behaviour, the move from experimentation to daily practice is an important landmark, as it implies that a recreational activity is turning into a compulsive need,” said the lead researcher. The high conversion rate from ‘first time smoker’ to ‘daily smoker’ underscores the importance of prioritising efforts to prevent cigarette experimentation in the first place, especially among adolescents.

Beware of Hot Flashes

Treatment of certain cancers such as breast and prostate involve reducing the level of sex hormones either through surgical removal of the ovaries or testes, or though the administration of certain drugs. Cancer patients who go through hormone therapy may suffer from severe hot flashes similar to what women who go through menopause experience. According to a patient information page available online in JAMA Oncology, management of hot flashes include both prevention and treatment.

Dr Arjun Gupta, the author of the paper urges patients to inform their physician if they experience hot flashes because cancer itself, infection, or other medications can also cause sweating, which may be mistaken for hot flashes.

Keeping a symptom diary will be helpful in identifying triggers or patterns of hot flashes, and avoiding them. If eating spicy food or taking a hot bath is a trigger, try to avoid them. Lifestyle changes can also be helpful. Avoid excessive caffeine, smoking, and alcohol. Maintain a cool environment during the day and while sleeping use cotton clothing and sheets. Take cool showers and use a fan or air conditioner. Relaxing techniques such as yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises can also be helpful. If lifestyle changes are not effective, non-hormonal antidepressant medications, such as venlafaxine or citalopram; clonidine, gabapentin, or oxybutynin are available.

Did You Know

Giving vitamin C with tuberculosis drugs could kill more bacteria and shorten the current treatment time, by reducing the time it takes by the drugs to eradicate the pathogen. Patients usually have to take TB drugs for six months.

Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy

Facial Exercises Help You Look Younger

Want to look younger? Not seeing results with expensive creams and serums? Try facial yoga. According to a study published in JAMA Dermatology, exercising your facial muscles for 30 minutes daily, or every other day, can improve your appearance and reduce visible signs of ageing. Twenty-seven middle aged women between 40 to 65 years had two face-to-face, 90-minute sessions where they were taught 32 facial exercises. They continued to do the exercises for 20 weeks; doing them daily for 30 minutes for the first eight weeks, and 30 minutes every other day for the next 12 weeks.

Two dermatologists rated their before facial exercise photographs and those taken at eight weeks and 20 weeks using a standardised facial ageing scale (Merz-Carruthers Facial Ageing Photoscales). The dermatologists guessed each participant’s age and rated 19 specific features of the face. They noticed significant increase in the upper cheek and lower cheek fullness. Additionally, the estimated average age also went down. Before the exercise it was 50.8 years, which dropped to 49.6 years at eight weeks and to 48.1 years at 20 weeks.

“That’s almost a three-year decrease in age appearance over a 20-week period,” the study author said. The participants also reported noticeable improvements and were highly satisfied with the results. “The exercises enlarge and strengthen the facial muscles, so the face becomes firmer and more toned and shaped. Individuals now have a low-cost, non-toxic way for looking younger or to augment other cosmetic or anti-ageing treatments they may be seeking.” Facial exercises that are most effective include those that involve puckering and squeezing the cheeks. Movements that were used in the study include the cheek lifter: open mouth and form an O. Position upper lip over teeth, smile to lift cheek muscles up, and put fingers lightly on top part of cheeks. Release cheek muscles to lower them, then lift back up. Repeat by lowering and lifting the cheeks. The second movement is the happy cheeks sculpting: purse lips together and smile without showing teeth, forcing cheek muscles up. Place fingers on corners of the mouth, and slide them up to the top of the cheeks. Hold for 20 seconds.