Health Briefs

Sugary Drinks Linked to Heart Disease

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One risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, may be sugary drinks. Analysis of data collected on 42,883 men in the “Health Professionals Follow-Up Study,” published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, linked a daily 12-ounce serving of a sugar-sweetened drink to a 19 percent increase in the relative risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with higher levels of unhealthy triglycerides and C-reactive protein (a byproduct of inflammation), and lower levels of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
 
Senior study author Frank B. Hu, Ph.D., a physician and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, Massachusetts, cautions that diet sodas are not a good alternative. “Some studies have found a relationship between diet soda and metabolic disease,” he notes.
 

Resveratrol Can Aid Prostate Cancer Treatment

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It’s already known that resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins and red wine, can improve cardiovascular health and help prevent strokes. Now a University of Missouri School of Medicine (Columbia) researcher has discovered that it can make prostate tumor cells more susceptible to radiation treatment, increasing the likelihood of a full recovery from all types of prostate cancer, including aggressive tumors.
 

Flavonoids Protect Men Against Parkinson’s

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Findings published in the journal Neurology add to a growing body of evidence that regular consumption of flavonoids, found in berries, teas, apples and red wines, can positively affect human health. According to new research on 130,000 men and women undertaken by Harvard University, in Boston, and the UK’s University of East Anglia, men that regularly consumed the most flavonoid-rich foods were 40 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those that ate the least. 
 
No similar protective link was found for women. It is the first human study to show that flavonoids can help protect neurons against diseases of the brain.
 

Sports and Music: A Winning Combination

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Listening to our favorite music, whatever the genre, can increase both our enjoyment of and performance levels in competitive sports participation. Keele University researchers, presenting these findings at the 2012 British Psychological Society annual conference, noted that playing selected tunes reduces perceived exertion levels, plus increases one’s sense of being “in the zone”. The greatest effects were found with music used during structured training sessions. Previous studies showing that motivational music in general boosts performance did not include exploring the effects of listening to one’s favorite music.
 

Garlic May Help Alleviate Cystic Fibrosis

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The American Society for Microbiology reports that by age 18, about 80 percent of patients with cystic fibrosis are chronically infected with the bacterium pseudomonas aeruginosa, which promotes an inflammatory response that destroys lung tissue. The infection frequently leads to serious related health issues. According to collaborative research led by Tim Holm Jakobsen, Ph.D., and Michael Givskov, Ph.D., of the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark, garlic, which acts as a powerful natural antibiotic, could help.
 
The onion-related herb contains ajoene, the major component of a multitude of sulfur-containing compounds, which is produced when garlic is crushed. Ajoene inhibits the expression of 11 key genes controlled by cell-to-cell communication and is regarded as crucial to the ability of the bacterium to cause disease.
 

Calm Restless Legs Naturally

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Restless Legs Syndrome (RSL) can wake both sufferers and their partners at night, and more people suffer than realize it. Even when both continue to doze through a bout of restlessness, it hampers the quality of sleep and can cause them to begin the day fatigued. Some people only notice that a problem exists by its absence―when a vacation or business trip prompts sleeping in separate beds, the calmer partner will enjoy deeper, more restful sleep.

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Love Your Liver

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When it comes to achieving good health, taking care of your liver should be a top priority. After all, the liver is the central processing department of the body; responsible for hundreds of functions that impact your hormonal health, nutrition, digestion, cholesterol levels and more. 

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Fewer Scans May Lower Breast Cancer Risk

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While screening for breast cancer is important, women should avoid unnecessary medical imaging, according to a recent report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) which identified two factors that increased the risk for the disease: post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy and radiation exposure from medical imaging.
 
Physician Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California-San Francisco, who contributed to the IOM report, notes that CT scans and other forms of medical imaging have revolutionized medicine and can be lifesaving. However, she recommends that women engage their doctors in the decision-making process and discuss the necessity and safety of all potential radiological scans.

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The Exercise Advantage

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Taking a brisk walk or bike ride may stave off cognitive decline better than reaching for the daily crossword puzzle, says a new study published in the journal Neurology. Researchers at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh reviewed the medical records of more than 600 Scots born in 1936 that were given MRI scans at age 73.
 
“People in their 70s that participated in more physical exercise, including walking several times a week, had less brain shrinkage and other signs of aging in the brain than those who were less physically active,” says study author Alan J. Gow, Ph.D.
 
Surprisingly, the study showed that participating in mentally and socially stimulating activities, such as visiting family and friends, reading or even learning a new language, did little to ward off the symptoms of an aging brain. Study participants will undergo a second MRI scan at age 76, and researchers plan to compare the two scans to see if the links between exercise and better brain health hold up.
 

Natural Oils Lower Cholesterol

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According to new data presented at the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions, people that switched to cooking with a blend of sesame and rice bran oils experienced noteworthy drops in blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels. The 60-day study in New Delhi, India, involved 300 participants and showed that cooking with a combination of these oils in a variety of ways worked nearly as well as a commonly prescribed high blood pressure medication.