Many Brits couldn’t run for a bus

typical_day_bus_stop_500_clr_15648A British Heart Foundation (BHF) survey has found that almost half of all women and over 40% of men would be breathless running to catch a bus.

However its survey of 2,000 adults found that almost half of the people questioned said they could run half a mile although 1 in 5 said they could only manage 100 yards.

38% said they weren’t up to joining a gym and 28% thought running was for those who were already fit.

The BHF said that heart and circulatory disease  affects 7 million people in the UK and is responsible for over 150,000 deaths a year.

That’s one person dying every 3 minutes!

The charity is launching a new campaign next month called MyMarathon which urges people to run the length of a marathon – 26.2 miles – over a month. Check out details here.

Keeping physically active is one of the best ways to build a strong and healthy heart” a BHF spokesperson said.

Of course people like QfL boot campers know that already.

Daytime naps maybe not so beneficial

line_figure_sleep_desk_1600_clr_10066Although many people have extolled the virtues of day-time naps (not to mention siestas) including famously Winston Churchill, experts are now suggesting that people who do so are at greater risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

Feeling sleepy in the day may be a warning of metabolic syndrome,a cluster of conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess fat round the waist, and high blood sugar.

This condition is thought to affect 15 million people in the UK who are at risk of developing more serious conditions and having a sleep for 40 minutes during the day increases the risk and if you sleep for 90 minutes the risk increases by 50% according to research by Dr Tomohide Yamada at the University of Tokyo.

The research supports guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation that naps of 20-30 minutes increase alertness.

I remember reading somewhere (and probably posting it at some time) that the trick to having a power nap was to have a cup of coffee before you started it. The caffeine takes about 20 minutes to have an effect on you so when you wake up it kicks in and you’re ready to go!

60 is the new middle age

grandma_cane_fencing_500_wht_192At least as afar as illness is concerned which has halved in the over-60s in the past ten years.

Only about 8% of people aged 60-64 have dementia, cancer or Parkinson’s disease or have survived a stroke or heart attack, down from about 14% in 2002.

Among 65 to 69-year olds about 12% have at least one serious illness down from 18%.

Ros Altman (the appropriately named tsar for older workers) said “It’s fantastic news. Most people in their sixties will not be old in the conventional sense any more”

The finding s were part of a report,“Serious Illness in the Over-50s”  by the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) which shows that the onset of serious illness is occurring later in life for most people. So fewer people aged 55-80 have at least one serious illness, the proportion affected has increased in the over-80s.

David Sinclair, the Director of the ILC-UK, believes it gives the NHS a temporary reprieve as the research shows a potentially healthier population in the under-70 age groups.

There are 3.1 million people in the UK living with a serious illness and its predicted that this will rise. However the drop in the 60-64 age group, mainly through a drop in strokes and heart attacks, better diets and a reduction in smoking, is good news as that is the age at which most serious illnesses strike.

Sadly there are more people over 80 living with cancer. It seems to be a disease of old age and only last week the predicted proportion of people who will get cancer was increased from 1 in 3 people to 50%.





Future-proofing your health

looking_in_mirror_successful_1600_wht_5648Scientists have found that making behavioural changes now can significantly improve your health in 20 years time.

They reached these conclusions after following thousands of people over a twenty year period to see what impact diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices made.


Gentle and sustained exercise every day is good for your brain and can cut the risk of developing dementia by 40% according to a study that tracked people in a community in Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948.

A 20 year study into female nurses found that those who walked  30 minutes a day scored significantly better on mental-health tests.

However three years down the line the advice for a healthy heart is that it’s not good enough just to exercise – it  has to be intense.

Danish researchers recently reported a study of 10,000 adults in the BMJ which showed that a daily power walk or jog could cut the risk of heart disease by 50% whereas a slow amble made no difference.

The fast walking halved the risk of metabolic syndrome – a collection of factors such as a bulging midriff, high blood pressure, and abnormal blood fat levels – and jogging reduced it by 50%.

Generally the more effort you put into your exercise the better. Some experts say two 60-second workouts a week can reduce the risk of heart disease from middle-age onwards. The participants in one study did all-out 6 second sprints 6 times increasing to 10 times.

They lost 1kg without changing their diet or other activities but more importantly their cardiovascular function was improved after just 8 weeks. It suggests that HIT can have a significant impact on obesity and heart disease.

On the other hand yoga is an excellent way of reducing tension, reduces bmi, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Research at Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam shows that regular yoga can be as effective as strenuous forms of exercise when it comes to heart health. For patients with existing heart disease taking medication the benefits were even greater.

So if you can’t do high intensity training (HIT)or have a pre-existing heart condition yoga sounds like the ideal solution.

Eating meat

Eating even small amounts of processed meat like bacon, sausages, or salami, can increase your likelihood of  dying prematurely by 20% according to research at Harvard based on 100,000 people over 28 years.

Unprocessed red meat also carries a health risk. Daily servings of red meat (85g) over the length of the study brought an 18% increased risk of dying from heart disease, a 10% increased risk of dying from cancer and eating 100g a day increased the risk of diabetes by 19%.

Red meat is considered dangerous because steak often contains high amounts of saturated fat and salami and bacon contain high amounts of salt.

The BHF is reviewing its guidance on fat however and suggests you eat a healthy range of fats including the saturated type you find in lean meat and some dairy; along with fats from nuts, avocados, oily fish and seeds.

Replacing red meat with poultry, fish, vegetables, whole grains and other healthy foods could cut your risk of dying prematurely by 20%.

Eating naturally occurring fats rather than that in biscuits, cakes and snacks is the best advice.


Feeling isolated at work or under threat from colleagues is not just upsetting but is a long-term risk to your health and can more than double the risk of serious illness or early death.

A 20-year study at Tel Aviv university tracked more than 800 white-collar workers. Those who were surrounded by bullies and backstabbers were 2.4 more likely to die during the study.

On the other hand feeling supported and welcomed by co-workers seems to protect your health and well-being. Considering how much time we spend at work it’s important that it is a positive experience and somewhere you can get emotional support if you need it.

But it’s not just at work. Living alone in middle age can double your chances of developing Altzheimer’s especially if you are widowed or divorced according to the findings of a 20-year study of 2,000 people published in 2011.

Vitamin supplements

Some supplements may do more harm than good. German research published in Heart in 2012 found that calcium supplements taken to fend off osteoporosis can double the risk of heart attacks.

Research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that men with prostate cancer who take more than 7  multi-vitamins a week are 30% more likely to get advanced and fatal forms of the disease.

Defenders of supplements argue that people who take them are more likely to be ill in the first place. But if you have a healthy diet and aren’t vegan why would you need to take supplements anyway?


Being conscientious i.e. doing what you say you will do, and paying attention to detail has significant health benefits according to the results of an 80-year study of American children from the age of eight called the Longevity Project.

Conscientious people live significantly longer. Being conscientious means having a prudent nature, being persistent and well-organised, somewhat obsessive and not generally carefree, say the authors of the study..

“Taking life seriously makes people want to live more meaningful, committed lives.  They also take fewer risks and look after their well-being everyday; they achieved much for their families and nurtured close relationships. They were persistent and successful and dedicated to things and people other than themselves.”


A quarter of us don’t take all our holidays in the UK (an average of 5 weeks). The US isn’t so generous with paid leave but data from the earlier mentioned Framingham study shows that women who don’t often take holidays are eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took two holidays a year.

Our bodies fact to our lifestyles and if that involves being stressed it’s not good for us.


Having sex is particularly important for middle-aged men. Those who have intercourse several times a week significantly reduce their risk of suffering a fatal stroke.

The University of Bristol monitored the cardiac health and sexual activity over over 900 men in Wales from a former mining village. The men were aged 45-59 when first studied in the early 1980s.

20% reported having sex once a month or less, 25% had sex twice a week or more often. The rest of the group were somewhere between these two extremes.

The 25% who enjoyed the most sex suffered the fewest fatal strokes according to the report in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

 Eating & Drinking

Studies in Japan show that stopping eating when you feel 80% full can reduce your calories intake by around 20%. Restricted calorie intake has been linked to longevity.

If you don’t fancy that approach a mediterranean diet helps replacing processed foods with freshly prepared meals rich in olive oil, oily fish and nuts. A low carb diet rich in nuts, grains, oat cereals and barley can reduce the risk of heart disease by 10% over 10 years.

Drinking in moderation can help you long term. A study of almost 2,000 men and women published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research showed that men and women who drink moderately tend to live longer than heavy drinkers or teetotallers.

Experts from the university of Texas found three drinks a day did no harm. Low-level alcohol consumption protects against coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in developed countries. So the experts think the benefits outweigh any risks.

Drinking tea also helps. Four or five cups a day helps to protect your heart. A survey of 13,000 people found that those drinking tea (with or without milk) had a better cardiovascular profile than coffee drinkers or those who drank neither.

Tea has a positive effect on blood pressure and has anti-oxidants that have survival benefits.

Diet Drinks are a definite no-no. Drinking artificially sweetened drinks including water is definitely not good for you. The American College of Cardiology suggest that people drinking two or more of these drinks a day are 30% more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problem than people who never drink them.

Prime sources: Times Body + Soul June 2012 “How to be healthy in 20 years time”; Times Body & Soul January 2015 “The midlife healthy heart guide: the rules for men and women”; plus various posts from this site.


Lose weight the Cuban way?

cuba_flag_perspective_anim_500_wht_11391Not that you would want to suffer the hardship that befell cubans following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Suddenly they lost their export market for sugar. There were fuel shortages, and power cuts.

China gave them 1 million bicycles. People walked, farmers ploughed their fields the old-fashioned way.

Over a 5 year period, 1990 – 1995, cubans lost an average of 5 kilos in weight.

Deaths from diabetes began to fall in 1996 and remained low for 6 years (until the economy picked up again). Deaths from stroke and heart disease dropped dramatically from the same year.

The sad news is that by 2000 the prevalence  of strokes, heart disease and diabetes was back at pre-crisis levels as the economy recovered.

Researchers writing in the British Medical Journal say  the findings, although extrapolated from one country, are “a notable illustration of the potential health benefits of reversing the global obesity epidemic”

Walter Willett, professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, says it’s well-known that changes in food supply such as the spread of fast-food outlets, combined with a reduction in physical activity and increased car use, leads to weight gain and the growth in diabetes and heart disease.

He went on to say “The findings add powerful evidence that a reduction in overweight and obesity would have major population-wide benefits”.

So cut out the burgers and chips and get up off the couch!

Men – you can’t afford to skip breakfast!

hungry_man_pc_1600_wht_1282Men who skip breakfasts are at greater risk of heart attacks.

A study of 27,000 males aged between 45  and 82 over a 16-year period from 1992 found that those who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of a heart attack or death from coronary heart disease (CHD) than those who ate breakfast, after taking into account other factors such as weight, exercise, work stress and diet.

The study, by nutrition scientists at Harvard School of Public Health, found that skipping breakfast can lead to one or more risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes – which in turn may lead to a heart attack.

Not everyone agreed as some men who skipped breakfasts were also more likely to smoke, be employed full-time, be unmarried, less physically active and heavier drinkers of alcohol. Many of these factors are also indicators of poor health outcomes. And skipping breakfast leaves the body in a “fasting” state which temporarily raises blood pressure, and levels of insulin and cholesterol.

cardiogram_heart_working_500_wht_5747During the study almost 1,600 men had first-time cardiac events

The study appeared in The American Heart Association journal Circulation.

The British Heart Foundation recommends having breakfast to avoid the need to snack on biscuits mid-morning (although recent research suggests the opposite – se below).

They recommend whole-grain toast, or cereals like porridge with low fat milk although not everyone would agree with that as the current thinking is that full fat milk and butter isn’t necessarily bad for you.

Additives are often put in low fat products to make them taste OK. Personally I can’t see the attraction of skimmed milk – it looks like chalky water and has no taste.

And the latest research on breakfast suggests that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. You might want to rethink that King of meals tag.

Why simply worrying about being stressed can make you ill: If you fear it, it will happen

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Experiencing stress can increase the likelihood of a heart attack by almost 50 per cent

Experiencing stress can increase the likelihood of a heart attack by almost 50 per cent Just thinking about being stressed can make you  seriously ill, a study has revealed. The increased perception of stress almost doubles the risk of suffering a heart attack, researchers found.

It is the first time a link has been discovered between heart disease and people’s own view on how stress is affecting their health. The research suggests doctors should take a patients’ perspective into account when managing stress-related complaints. It could also mean that helping patients to unwind can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study followed more than 7,000 civil servants over a period of up to 18 years. Participants, who had an average age of 49.5, were asked to what extent they felt day-to-day stress had affected their health. They were also asked about lifestyle factors such as smoking,  alcohol consumption, diet, and exercise, and their medical background…

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Fish Oils not quite as beneficial as we thought

There we were thinking that of all the supplements omega 3 oil was the one with proven benefits. Sadly not so.

A large scale study of 70,000 people, carried out at the University Hospital of Ionnia in Greece and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that it doesn’t prevent heart attacks, strokes or deaths from heart disease

Another study of 20,000 people in South Korea came to the same conclusions as did a study of almost 5,000 men with heart disease reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. In the last study half the men were given omega 3 supplements but the number of heart attacks for that group was no different from those who didn’t receive the fish oil.

Omega 3 oil is needed for many bodily functions and comes entirely from our diet. It is found in oily fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines.

The British Heart Foundation still stands by its advice to take 400mg a day and the NHS advice is to take supplements after a heart attack if the diet doesn’t supply it (a typical serving of salmon contains 3,000mg).

And the European Food Standards Agency, which is evaluating and clamping down on supplements, still allows “general health claims” that omega 3 oil helps maintain normal vision and heart and brain functions as well as normal growth and development of children.

There is also some evidence that omega 3 has anti-inflammatory properties that might help arthritis sufferers (some sufferers claim it is more effective than paracetamol in reducing pain) as well as studies that show it has anti-ageing properties – not so much a wrinkle remover but it works at the cellular level reducing biological ageing.

Some people claim it boosts their energy, reduces depression, and improves concentration – one reason experiments have been carried out in schools to help combat disruptive behaviours. Research in Australia showed that it also helped improve spelling, particularly among boys.

For post-war baby boomers there was free orange juice and the dreaded cod liver oil which had been introduced during the war to compensate for restricted diets due to wartime food shortages. The NHS stopped supplying it in 1975 although mothers on benefits can still get vitamin drops free if they ask.

For the 20% of the population who take fish oil daily we have to buy it and it’s a big part of the £400 million a year supplements market.

So disappointing news if you are taking them as a preventative against strokes and heart diseases but the evidence is they do no harm and probably help you maintain a healthy body. I’ll still be taking them.

Prime source: Sunday Times Focus 7 October 2012

Don’t just sit there – fidget!

The bad news is that just sitting around can knock years off your life, according to US researchers.

They say that 27% of deaths can be attributed to a sedentary lifestyle!

Bus drivers, call centre operators, receptionists – anyone tied to a chair basically. So if you fall into one of these categories, beware!

A Dr Williamson, writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, said “reducing sitting time makes us better at breaking sugars and fats down”.

So if you are a couch potato reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke by having a fidget break every 20 minutes or so. Walk round, wiggle your hips or rock on your heels. That’s what commercial breaks are for!

Put the kettle on

Making a cup of tea is the British response to any stressful situation. And it may have a strong basis in science.

Several years ago researchers at University College London found that drinking tea actually made you less stressed.

The tea lowered cortisol levels. This is the hormone released when we’re stressed and which increases our blood pressure and pulse rate. Tea contains a supernutrient called theanine, which blocks the effect of nerve transmitters leading to raised stress levels, along with other bioactive compounds including one with a mild sedative effect.

So if you want to lower your stress levels drink 4 cups of tea a day.

Other research suggest that drinking 3 cups a day can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease because of the anti-oxidants it contains. These flavinoids, also exist in onions and apples but tea provides 80% of our daily intake.

Flavinoids help to reduce blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessel walls and also make it more difficult for cholesterol to attach and form the plaques that block blood flow and can break off to find their way to the brain to cause strokes. Flavinoids also reduce bad LDL cholesterol by over 10%.

Research in 2010 on almost 5,000 over-65 year olds showed that tea drinkers showed less cognitive decline over a fourteen year period and there is research that shows the positive effects of tea drinking in preventing diabetes by interfering with blood glucose activity.

Now scientists at the University of Western Australia and Unilever have discovered that drinking three cups of black tea a day lowers your blood pressure (both systolic and diastolic). However they don’t know the effect of drinking tea with milk which is strange seeing that most Brits have milk in their tea and probably influenced Australian tea-drinking traditions).


How popular is tea as a drink? Second only water across the world (so coffee still has some catching up to do)

Does tea dehyrdrate you? Research on high altitude climbers showed that tea is not a diuretic and it doesn’t dehydrate you

Is there no caffeine in tea? Tea has about half the caffeine found in coffeee but the more stewed it gets the higher the level.

But isn’t caffeine bad for you? 40-60gm of caffeine helps you to concentrate and combat fatigue so no need to stop drinking coffee.

Is green tea better for you than black tea? Green tea is prepared differently from black tea but from the same plants. Green tea has more catechins (flavonoids) which have antioxidant, antibacterial, and immune system regulating effects. Some experts suggest drinking green tea can raise your metabolism and help you burn more calories.

What about white tea?  Green tea is made from mature fresh tips whereas white tea is made from buds and young leaves. It has a higher level of catechins and a greater antibacterial effect than green tea.

SourcesThe Times 21/11/2006 and Wikipedia

The UCL research was published in Psychopharmacology and described experiments where 75 healthy non-smoking men were allowed their usual tea, coffee and caffeinated drinks for 4 weeks before the experiments. They were then subjected to a series of stressful tests including being accused of shoplifting and threatened with job loss.

Half the group were then asked to drink 4 cups a day of a tea coloured fruit drink which contained all the active constituents of a cup of black tea. The other 38 drank a tea-coloured placebo. After 6 weeks of this the stress tests were repeated. The cortisol levels of those participants drinking the fruit drinks fell more quickly and they reported feeling less stressed than the placebo drinking participants.

The research on the effects on CHD was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The Australian study comprised 95 people aged between 35 and 75 who drank either 3 cups of black tea or a placebo with the same flavour and caffeine content. The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in January 2012