Why 4 hours of TV is bad for your health and Exercise Helps The Brain

January 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Health, Medical Research & Studies


Tempting though it is in this cold weather, curling up with Cranford could be shortening your lifespan according to an Australian study. It’s not Cranford of course that is the problem, but how many hours you spend in front of the box.

The study was done by Melbourne university and found that Aussies who reported watching four or more hours of TV a day were 46% more likely to die during a 6.6-year period than those who watched less than two hours a day. That’s bad enough, but they also found that the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease during follow-up was 80% greater in the excessive viewers, although statistically, the result attained only borderline significance. Well that’s a relief, but the risk was the same whether the participants also had other risk factors such as low exercise, smoking, poor diet, high blood pressure, and abdominal obesity.

It’s not the TV that’s really to blame, but an increasing habit of living a much more sedentary life than our predecessors. The programmes are not to blame, but the habit of sitting for long periods in a chair is.

It could be time to get out of the chair and head for the hills – or at least for a brisk walk – to keep your metabolism from slowing down to unhealthy levels.

Health Bite: Exercise for Your Brain’s Health

If you need another reason to get up out of the chair, it seems that almost any amount of moderate physical activity in middle age and beyond can reduce the odds of mild cognitive impairment by 30% to 40%. As mild cognitive impairment is associated with a 5-10-fold increased risk of dementia it is worth paying attention. Previous observational studies have shown that physical activity may protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and some evidence suggests that exercise for individuals with mild cognitive impairment offers some protection, too, the authors wrote.

Research by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota has found that the benefit applies equally to men and only when moderate exercise was undertaken — not light or vigorous physical activity. I have always been wary of vigorous activity and if this helps me solve more crossword puzzles then I am all for it. If you aren’t sure of the difference, here’s how the Mayo clinic categorised it:

• Light exercise: bowling, leisurely walking, stretching, slow dancing, and golfing using a cart.

• Moderate exercise: brisk walking, hiking, aerobics, strength training, swimming, tennis doubles, yoga, martial arts, weight lifting, moderate use of exercise machines, and golfing without use of a cart.

• Vigorous exercise: jogging, backpacking, bicycling uphill, tennis singles, racquetball, skiing, and intense or extended use of exercise machines.

Keep the grapes for yourself

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Wellness

red grapes

Ever wondered why most of us take grapes to people in hospital and end up eating them ourselves at the bedside? My personal idea is that all hospital visiting is stressful and so we unconsciously try to reduce that stress by distracting ourselves. Stress can impact heart disease, so imagine my surprise to find I have scientific backing for this idea – perhaps not the exact circumstances,but the latest research findings from Spain show that antioxidant-rich red grapes are high in fibre and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease more effectively than other fibre sources such as oat or psyllium.

It has to be red grapes however, not any other colour as a trial conducted by researchers in Madrid reported that cholesterol levels fell by nine per cent, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by a similar amount and blood pressure was reduced by about 5 per cent. The researchers said: “Grape antioxidant dietary fibre contains relatively large amounts of proanthocyanidins (condensed tannins), which are partially bioavailable in the small intestine, but a major part reach the colon, where they may provide a high antioxidant status.” This was only a small trial of 34 subjects, but might be worth you keeping that fruit bowl filled up with a large bunch if you have any concerns about family blood pressure.

Can’t sleep? Women at risk

March 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Health, Mens Health, Wellness, Womens Health

Yesterday it was reported in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity that women with sleep problems have higher levels of biomarkers for cardiovascular disease and diabetes than do men who can’t sleep. Poor sleep patterns in this instance is defined as problems falling asleep, taking 30 minutes or more to fall asleep, or awakening frequently. Apparently, researchers at Duke University found that such women also have greater psychological distress than men who sleep poorly. The difference in gender risk is marked, as when comparing men and women with the same poor sleep patterns, they found that the women had high levels of C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and insulin, leading to higher risks of cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

The women who had the biggest risk were those who took over half an hour to fall asleep, so if this is you it could be time to look at alternative methods to aid sleep such as camomile tea, valerian or a warm, not hot, bath with lavender oil before going to bed. If those simple methods don’t help, then you might also consider looking at these factors:

Are you a late night snacker?
Avoid anything containing grains and sugars (biscuits, cakes, bread, crackers) before bedtime as they will raise your blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when your blood sugar drops back to a lower level then you might wake up and not be able to get back to sleep.

Is your bedroom dark enough?
If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and seratonin. If you get up in the night to go to the bathroom then try and keep any light to a minimum because as soon as you turn on a light your body responds and immediately ceases all production of the important sleep aid melatonin and doesn’t recommence that night at all.

Late night tv watcher?
Watching tv right before bed is too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep. If you must watch, stay in the living room and don’t have set in your bedroom. Watching tv in bed is also disruptive of pineal gland function for the same reason as light in the bathroom/bedroom.

Cold feet?
Because our feet have the poorest circulation, they often feel cold before the rest of the body. A study has shown that wearing socks to bed reduces the possibility of you waking through feeling cold.

Tape Measure Predictor

February 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Medical Research & Studies

Identifying children most likely to have an early form of metabolic syndrome needs only a scale and a tape measure, researchers at the University of Verona in Italy have recently discovered during a long study of just under 1500 Italian children. Metabolic syndrome is the term they used to describe the combination of excess weight, hypertension, and high cholesterol and plasma glucose found in children and adolescents.

We know that childhood obesity is a growing problem, but if parents were to monitor the waist-to-height ratio of those aged 5-15 they could help prevent their child developing serious conditions later in life that are linked to obesity such as cardiovascular disease and risk of diabetes.

The significant figure is when a child has a waist-to-height ratio greater than 0.5 and may seem overweight, but not obese so that warning signals are not raised in time. Such children were found to have a 95% chance of meeting the criteria for metabolic syndrome. As with adults, having a high waist measurement is a red flag, although of course there are more high-tech tools available to assess the risk in such children.

The chief researcher, Dr. Maffeis, says that waist-to-height ratio is easier for parents to monitor and interpret before the stage of intervention may be required.