Adding yoga to regular exercise may boost heart health


ADDING YOGA TO YOUR regular exercise can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease. For the three-month pilot study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, researchers recruited 60 adults diagnosed with high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome (a combination of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity) for an exercise training programme.

The participants were divided into two groups: in addition to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five times a week, one group performed 15 minutes of structured yoga while the other group did stretching exercise.

Blood pressure, heart rate and other cardiovascular disease risk factors were assessed at the start and end of the study. Both groups had reductions in resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial blood pressure and heart rate at the end of three months. But systolic blood pressure was reduced by 10 mmHg with yoga vs 4 mmHg with stretching. The yoga approach also reduced resting heart rate and improved 10-year cardiovascular risk.

“This study provides evidence for an additional non-pharmacologic therapy option for cardiovascular risk reduction and blood pressure control in patients with high blood pressure,” noted the study.

NSAIDs/ steroids worsen knee arthritis

NONSTEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS (NSAIDs) and corticosteroid knee injections are commonly prescribed for knee osteoarthritis pain and inflammation. But according to a study presented at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, common anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin may actually worsen the condition.

Researchers compared 277 patients with knee arthritis who took NSAIDs regularly for at least a year with 793 patients not treated with the drugs. All the participants had knee MRI scans done at the start of the study and then four years later. Taking NSAIDs did not slow progression of the disease. In fact, joint inflammation and cartilage quality had worsened for patients who had been taking NSAIDs compared with patients not taking the drugs, after four years.

"The use of NSAIDs for their anti-inflammatory function has been frequently propagated in patients with osteoarthritis in recent years and should be revisited, since a positive impact on joint inflammation could not be demonstrated," the study cautioned.

Two other studies presented at the same meeting showed that while corticosteroid injections did provide temporary symptomatic pain relief for knee osteoarthritis, the injections were associated with significant progression of the condition. Both studies compared the efficacy of corticosteroids injections with hyaluronic acid injections which are also used in patients with knee arthritis.

While both drugs provided symptomatic pain relief, MRI scans and X-rays showed that only hyaluronic acid slowed progression of knee osteoarthritis and alleviated long-term effects, two years post-injection. Corticosteroid knee injections, on the other hand, were associated with significant progression of osteoarthritis in the knee, specifically in the lateral meniscus, lateral cartilage and medial cartilage.

Did You Know?

Faking a smile can improve our mood and make us feel happier

Nature Human Behavior

Acupuncture may ease back pain during pregnancy

A STUDY PUBLISHED in BMJ Open suggests that acupuncture may significantly relieve lower back and pelvic pain experienced by up to 90 per cent of women during pregnancy. Chinese researchers reviewed 10 randomised controlled trials that compared acupuncture with other treatments in 1,040 healthy women who were, on average, 17 to 30 weeks into their pregnancy and had lower back and/or pelvic pain.

The trials were conducted in the US, Sweden, the UK, Spain and Brazil. Seven of the trials described body acupuncture and the other three ear lobe acupuncture. Acupuncture significantly relieved pain and improved quality of life in women with lower back/pelvic pain during pregnancy when compared with other or no interventions. Additionally, acupuncture was safe and there were no observable severe adverse effects on the newborns.

Expectant moms reported minor side effects such as pain, soreness and bleeding at the needle site and drowsiness. But most of them viewed it favourably and were willing to repeat it, if necessary.

The researchers conclude that acupuncture could be a viable option for pregnant women because it would be preferable to drugs because of their potential side effects for mother and baby.

Pausing breast cancer treatment for pregnancy

BREAST CANCER PATIENTS who paused hormone therapy to have children did not have an increased risk of recurrence and most were able to conceive and deliver healthy babies.

While breast cancer is most commonly diagnosed in post-menopausal women, about 5 per cent of new cases each year are diagnosed in women aged 40 or younger. Of these patients, 40 to 60 per cent are concerned about their potential loss of fertility and ability to have children. Young patients with early-stage hormone receptor-positive breast cancer are often treated with endocrine therapy or anti-oestrogen therapy that lower oestrogen levels or block oestrogen receptors.

To find out if pausing endocrine therapy to pursue pregnancy would increase the risk of recurrence, researchers recruited 518 women aged 42 or younger who wished to become pregnant. They opted to pause the treatment for about two years to try to get pregnant. The women had completed between 18 and 30 months of adjuvant endocrine therapy before pausing the treatment.

Of this group, 44 participants had experienced a recurrence of breast cancer during a median follow-up of 41 months, The three-year recurrence rate of 8.9 per cent was similar to a 9.2 per cent rate among a control group of patients who continued their treatment. Among the 518 women, 368 (74 per cent) had at least one pregnancy and 317 (63.8 per cent) had at least one live birth.

Overall, 365 babies were born. The rates of conception and childbirth were similar to or higher than rates seen in the general public.

Green Mediterranean diet better at reducing visceral fat

GREEN MEDITERRANEAN diet can reduce twice as much visceral fat as traditional Mediterranean diet, according to an Israeli study published in BMC Medicine.

Visceral adipose tissue is a type of fat that accumulates around internal organs and is much more dangerous than fat around the waist. It produces hormones and other toxins that have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, dementia and premature death.

The study included 294 participants who were randomly assigned to one of three diets: traditional Mediterranean diet, green Mediterranean diet or a regular, healthy diet, for 18 months.

A traditional Mediterranean diet includes olive oil, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and a minimal amount of red and processed meat. A green Mediterranean diet is similar to a traditional one but is further enriched with polyphenols. Participants on that diet also consumed 28 grams of walnuts (about seven), three to four cups of green tea and 100 grams of duckweed green shake daily and reduced red meat intake.

While both Mediterranean diet groups achieved similar moderate weight and waist circumference loss, the green Mediterranean group lost double the visceral fat, independent of age, sex, waist circumference or weight loss. The green Mediterranean diet reduced visceral fat by 14 per cent, the Mediterranean diet by 7 per cent and the non-Mediterranean healthy diet by 4.5 per cent.

“We learned from the results of our experiment that the quality of food is no less important than the number of calories consumed and the goal today is to understand the mechanisms of various nutrients, for example, positive ones such as the polyphenols and negative ones such as empty carbohydrates and processed red meat, on the pace of fat cell differentiation and their aggregation in the viscera," the study said.

US FDA approves new vitiligo treatment

THE US FOOD AND DRUG Administration has approved topical cream ruxolitinib for the treatment of vitiligo in people aged 12 and older.

Vitiligo is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes depigmentation of the skin. The approval was based on data from two phase 3 clinical trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of ruxolitinib. The trials included 674 patients, aged 12 and older, who had nonsegmental vitiligo with depigmentation involving 10 per cent or less of total body-surface area.

Patients were randomly assigned to treatment with 1.5 per cent ruxolitinib cream or placebo cream twice daily for 24 weeks, followed by another 28 weeks of treatment with ruxolitinib for all participants.

At the end of 24 weeks, 30 per cent of ruxolitinib patients had at least 75 per cent improvement in the facial Vitiligo Area Scoring Index, compared with 10 per cent of placebo patients. At week 52, about 50 per cent of ruxolitinib treated patients showed improvement. The most common side effects included application site acne, itching and redness; common cold, headache, urinary tract infection and fever.

Ruxolitinib, which belongs to a class of drugs known as Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, is the first and only FDA-approved treatment that can restore pigment in vitiligo patients. It is applied twice daily to affected areas. Satisfactory results may require treatment for more than 24 weeks. The findings of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Did You Know?

The use of hearing aids and cochlear implants by people with hearing loss was associated with a 19 per cent reduced risk of subsequent cognitive decline and a 3 per cent improvement in cognitive test scores

JAMA Neurology

Is intermittent fasting healthy?

INTERMITTENT FASTING, or eating during a brief period in a day, is a widely popular dietary trend. But new research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that skipping meals, fasting and eating meals too closely together may be associated with increased risk of mortality.

US researchers analysed data from more than 24,011 adults, aged 40 and above, who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2014. About 40 per cent of the participants ate fewer than three meals a day. Eating only one meal per day was associated with increased all-cause and cardiovascular disease compared with eating three meals per day.

Skipping breakfast increased the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and missing lunch or dinner increased the risk of premature death from all causes. Among those who eat three meals daily, eating meals closer than 4.5 hours apart was associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality.

Skipping meals usually means eating more at one time which can aggravate blood sugar regulation and lead to metabolic issues. This could also explain why a shorter meal interval can increase mortality risk, as a shorter time between meals would result in a larger energy load in the given period. “The results support the role of eating at least three meals per day and a waiting time of 4.5 hours or more between two daytime meals in relation to better cardiovascular health,” the study concluded.

Did You Know?

Worldwide, there has been more than a 50 per cent decline in sperm count over the past 46 years, which, if not mitigated, could threaten the survival of humanity. Sperm concentration and total sperm count are declining at a rate of over 1 per cent each year

Human Reproduction Update

Quit smoking by age 35 to reverse risks

CIGARETTE SMOKING is a known risk factor for premature mortality, especially from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and cancer. Does quitting reverse this risk and do they vary by race, ethnicity and gender?

To find out, researchers used data from 5,51,388 US adults, average age 48.9 years. During an average follow-up of 11 years, 74,870 people died. Among people who were current or former smokers, about 44 per cent of the deaths from any cause, 52.2 per cent of cancer deaths, 34.7 per cent of heart disease deaths and 86.9 per cent deaths from lower respiratory diseases were attributable to smoking.

Current smokers were more than twice as likely to die from any cause during the study period compared with never smokers, irrespective of race, ethnicity or sex. However, quitting smoking at any age reduced the excess mortality risk associated with continued smoking for all groups. But people who quit at younger ages saw larger reductions.

Those who quit smoking before age 35 had similar death rates as those who never smoked. The excess mortality risk associated with continued smoking was reduced by 90 per cent for those who quit before age 45 and 66 per cent for those who quit between the ages of 45 and 64.

“Among former smokers in each racial and ethnic group, whether male or female, quitting was associated with reductions of approximately 80 per cent of the excess mortality associated with continued smoking,” the authors wrote in JAMA Network Open.

Did You Know?

Strict parenting can cause changes in children’s brains that can increase their risk for depression later in life

Study presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology meeting

Statins may reduce risk of stroke

CHOLESTEROL LOWERING drugs called statins are known to protect the heart and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes caused by blood clots. A Danish study published in the journal Neurology suggests that statins may also reduce the risk of intracerebral haemorrhage, a deadly type of stroke which involves bleeding in the brain.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, intracerebral haemorrhages account for about 15 per cent to 30 per cent of strokes. The researchers looked at the health records of 989 people who had an intracerebral haemorrhage in the lobe area of the brain which includes most of the cerebrum, including the frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital lobes. They were compared to 39,500 people who did not have this type of stroke and were similar in age, sex and other factors.

The researchers also compared 1,175 people who had an intracerebral haemorrhage in the non-lobe parts of the brain to 46,755 people who did not have this type of stroke. The non-lobe area includes the basal ganglia, thalamus, cerebellum and brainstem.

Prescription data was used to determine statin use. People taking statins had a 17 per cent lower risk of stroke in the lobe areas of the brain and a 16 per cent lower risk of stroke in the non-lobe areas of the brain after adjusting for risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and alcohol use.

The risk was even lower with long term use. Taking statins for more than five years was associated with a 33 per cent lower risk of stroke in the lobe area and a 38 per cent lower risk of stroke in the non-lobe area of the brain. “It is reassuring news for people taking statins that these medications seem to reduce the risk of bleeding stroke as well as the risk of stroke from blood clots,” the study added.