Digital pacifiers may impact children's emotional development


MOST PARENTS TRY to calm a cranky child by letting her use electronic devices. While it may calm them, doing so too often could hinder the child’s ability to regulate emotions properly. According to a US study published in JAMA Pediatrics, frequent use of digital pacifiers to calm upset children can lead to increased emotional dysregulation, especially in boys.

The study included 422 parents and 422 children aged 3-5 years. Parents were asked how often they used electronic devices as a calming tool. The researchers compared the frequency of use and symptoms of emotional reactivity or dysregulation, such as rapid shifts between sadness and excitement, a sudden change in mood or feelings and heightened impulsivity, over a six-month period.

Those who were frequently given devices to calm down were more likely to show signs of emotional reactivity. The association was particularly stronger among boys and children who already experienced hyperactivity, impulsiveness or a strong temperament. “Using a distractor like a mobile device doesn’t teach a skill—it just distracts the child away from how she is feeling. Kids who don’t build these skills in early childhood are more likely to struggle when stressed out in school or with peers as they get older,” said the study author.

Shingles up risk for heart attack, stroke


PEOPLE WHO HAVE had shingles have a significantly higher long-term risk for a major cardiovascular event, such as heart attack or stroke, and this risk may last 12 or more years after a shingles outbreak, according to a US study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is marked by painful rashes that can occur anywhere on the body. It is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. The virus remains dormant in the body of anyone who has had chicken pox and reactivates later as shingles.

The study included 2,05,030 adults without a history of stroke or coronary heart disease. During up to 16 years of follow-up, 3,603 participants suffered a stroke, and 8,620 developed heart disease.

Overall, people who had shingles were up to 38 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke, and the risk was greatest five to eight years post-shingles. Similarly, they had up to 25 per cent greater risk of heart disease, including heart attack, and the risk was highest nine to 12 years after they had shingles.

Shingles vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective and it is recommended that adults 50 years and older get two doses. Since so many adults are “at risk for this painful and often disabling disease and the availability of an effective vaccine, shingles vaccination could provide a valuable opportunity to reduce the burden of shingles and reduce the risk of subsequent cardiovascular complications,” the author said.

Stay hydrated for healthy ageing


STAYING WELL HYDRATED in middle age may slow down the ageing process, lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart and lung ailments and help you live longer, according to a US study published in eBio Medicine.

The findings are based on data collected from 11,255 adults during five medical visits over 30 years. Their first two visits were between the ages of 45 and 66, and the last between 70 and 90.

The researchers analysed the participants’ serum sodium levels (blood salt levels)—which go up when fluid intake goes down—and correlated it with biological ageing. This was assessed through 15 health markers, which included factors such as systolic blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, which provide insight into a person's cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, renal, and immune health.

Normal serum sodium levels ranged from 135 to 146 milliequivalents per litre. Adults with serum sodium levels at the higher end of the normal range had up to 50 per cent higher odds of being biologically older than their chronological age and a 21 per cent increased risk of premature death than those at the lower end of the normal range. They also had up to a 64 per cent increased risk for developing heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation and peripheral artery disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes and dementia.  

It is recommended that women consume eight to nine cups of fluids daily, while men eight to 12 cups, which can be done with water as well as other fluids.

Did You Know?

Consuming even very little alcohol during pregnancy can alter the unborn baby’s brain structure, affecting areas involved in language development and social cognition, and delay brain development.

Study presented at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America

Limit coffee intake if you have severe hypertension


IF YOU HAVE SEVERELY high blood pressure, you should think twice before reaching for that second cup of coffee. According to a Japanese study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, drinking two or more cups of coffee a day may double the risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke or other type of cardiovascular disease among people with very high blood pressure.

Earlier studies have shown that coffee may have cardiovascular benefits. The aim of the current study was to examine if the protective effects of coffee also applies to people with varying degrees of hypertension and also examine the effects of green tea in the same population, the study author explained.

The study included 6,574 men and 12,035 women between 40 and 79 years of age from 30 Japanese communities. They were grouped into five blood pressure categories: 130/85 or lower (normal); 130-139/85-89 (high normal); 140-159/90-99 (grade 1 hypertension); 160-179/100-109 (grade 2 hypertension); and 180/110 mm Hg (grade 3 hypertension).

During nearly 19 years of follow-up, 842 cardiovascular-related deaths were reported.

Participants with severe hypertension (160/100 mm Hg or higher) who drank two or more cups of coffee a day had twice the risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases, compared to those who didn't drink coffee. Drinking one cup of coffee or any amount of green tea a day did not increase the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases across any blood pressure categories. The increased risk did not apply to people with lower blood pressure levels.

“These findings may support the assertion that people with severe high blood pressure should avoid drinking excessive coffee because caffeine's harmful effects may outweigh its protective effects,” said the author.

Best time to exercise


PEOPLE WHO EXERCISE in the morning have the lowest risk of heart disease and stroke regardless of the total amount of daily physical activity, according to a Dutch study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

To find out the impact of timing of exercise on cardiovascular disease outcomes, the researchers used data from 86,657 adults aged 42 to 78 years who did not have cardiovascular disease at baseline. They wore an activity tracker that monitored physical activity patterns for seven days. Fifty-eight per cent of the participants were women.

During six to eight years of follow-up, 2,911 participants developed coronary artery disease and 796 had a stroke. Those who were most active between 8am and 11am had the lowest risks of both heart disease and stroke. Those who were most active in the early morning or late morning had 11 per cent and 16 per cent lower risks of coronary artery disease. Exercising in the late morning was associated with a 17 per cent decreased risk of stroke.

Morning exercise was particularly beneficial for women. They had a 22 per cent to 24 per cent lower risk of coronary artery disease and a 35 per cent lower risk of stroke.

Did You Know?

Early retirement can accelerate cognitive decline, and social isolation could be the key contributing factor.

Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization

Fast food linked to fatty liver disease


REGULARLY EATING FAST FOOD can put you at risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, also known as liver steatosis, which could be fatal. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can cause cirrhosis, which can lead to liver cancer or failure.

Fast food consumption is already associated with greater risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. For the study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the researchers compared fast-food consumption, including pizza, with the fatty liver measurements of 4,000 adults. About 52 per cent of the participants consumed some fast food. Of those, 29 per cent got at least one-fifth of their daily calories from fast food. About 29 per cent had a rise in liver fat levels.

People who were obese or had diabetes and consumed 20 per cent or more of their daily calories from fast food had severely elevated levels of fat in their liver compared to those who consumed less or no fast food. Even people who were not obese or diabetic had moderate increase of liver fat when one-fifth or more of their diet was fast food.

“If people eat one meal a day at a fast-food restaurant, they may think they aren't doing harm,” said the study author. “However, if that one meal equals at least one-fifth of their daily calories, they are putting their livers at risk.”

How to offset the health risks of sitting


PROLONGED SITTING is an established health hazard and can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and other chronic illnesses, even if you exercise regularly.

A US study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests that you can offset the negative effects of prolonged sitting by moving more. But how often and how long should you move around?

To find out, the researchers recruited 11 participants who came to a lab and sat for eight hours on five separate days and followed one of five exercise “snacks” that they were assigned to: one minute of walking after every 30 minutes of sitting; one minute every 60 minutes; five minutes every 30; five minutes every 60; and no walking.

The participants could work on a laptop, read, and use their phones during the sessions and were provided standardised meals. Their blood pressure and blood sugar (key indicators of cardiovascular health) were assessed throughout the sessions.

The optimal amount of movement needed to offset some of the negative effects of prolonged sitting was five minutes of walking every half an hour. This walking pattern significantly lowered both blood sugar and blood pressure and was associated with a 58 per cent reduction in blood sugar spikes after large meals.

Any amount of walking reduced blood pressure by 4 to 5 mmHg compared with sitting all day. “This is a sizeable decrease, comparable to the reduction you would expect from exercising daily for six months,” the study author said.

Did You Know?

Up to 1.35 billion teens and young adults are at risk of hearing loss because they use headphones and other personal listening devices at unsafe levels and listen to loud music at concerts.

BMJ Global Health

Is vaping safer than smoking?


VAPING IS JUST as bad for your heart as cigarettes. Two studies presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions say the negative impact of vaping on cardiovascular function was similar to that of smoking tobacco products for nearly 20 years.

The first study examined the short-term effects of vaping and cigarette smoking and compared them with matched peers who did not use nicotine in any form. Both e-cigarette and combustible cigarette users had greater increases in blood pressure, heart rate and blood vessel constriction, immediately after vaping or smoking, compared to people who did not use any nicotine. They also performed significantly worse on treadmill stress tests that assess heart disease risk which they took 90 minutes after they vaped or smoked.

The findings are especially concerning because the negative impact on cardiovascular function among the people who vaped was similar to that of people who used combustible cigarettes, even though those who vaped were much younger (27.4 years vs 42 years) and had vaped for nearly 20 years less than the smokers (average 4.1 years vaping vs 23 years smoking). “People should know that e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes contain addictive nicotine and toxic chemicals that may have adverse effects on their cardiovascular system and their overall health,” said the study author.

Did You Know?

People who eat food such as berries, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, apples, pears, legumes, broccoli, tomatoes, olive oil, and drink tea, all rich in antioxidant flavonols, may have a slower rate of memory and cognitive decline as they age.


Smoking linked to mid-life memory loss, confusion


PEOPLE WHO SMOKE are much more likely to experience memory loss, confusion and cognitive decline in middle age compared to nonsmokers. But the risk is lower for those who have quit.

The findings of the study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease was based on data from a one-question self-assessment survey that asked 1,36,018 people aged 45 or older if they experienced problems such as growing memory loss or confusion. The researchers compared subjective cognitive decline measures among current smokers, recent former smokers, and people who had quit years earlier. About 11 per cent reported cognitive decline.

The prevalence of cognitive decline among smokers was 1.9 times that of nonsmokers. For those who had quit less than 10 years ago, it was 1.5 times that of nonsmokers. Subjective cognitive decline among those who quit more than a decade before the survey was only slightly above the nonsmoking group, suggesting that quitting earlier had more brain benefits.

“It is also one more piece of evidence that quitting smoking is good not just for respiratory and cardiovascular reasons, but also to preserve neurological health,” said the study author.