If you really have to make new year resolutions..

Mike the Psych's Blog

here are some sensible ones from Dr Mark Porter who writes for the Times (with my own comments added):looking_in_mirror_1600_wht_5647

  1. Get a tape measure and measure your waist. This should be less than half your height to maintain good health. Body Mass Index (bmi) is so out-of-date as I’ve written before.
  2. Buy a blood pressure monitor as one in three of us develops high blood pressure which often requires lifelong treatment. Taking your BP at home may be more accurate than if taken in a stressful environment such as a hospital or GP’s surgery (the well-known white coat effect).
  3. Buy a petrol car next time as diesel has been proved to be dirtier fuel and unhealthy in built-up areas
  4. Learn what sepsis looks like. Blood poisoning or septicaemia as it was once called kills thousands of people a year. It typically starts with bacterial infections of the chest…

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Middle-aged advised to get to bed more

stick_figure_sleeping_1600_wht_5121They need the sleep apparently. It’s the best medicine for middle aged people as research shows that lack of sleep is linked to ill-health including heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Lack of sleep is blamed on shift work, and night shifts in particular, and the use of smart phones and laptops in bed. Working on a computer at or shortly before bedtime is particularly bad for you as your melatonin levels are reduced. Melatonin is a hormone that indices sleepiness.

Research at Surrey University has shown that more than 700 genes – including those linked to immunity and inflammation – are altered when your sleep is reduced to less than six hours a day.

Middle-aged people are believed to particularly at risk because of increased work and family demands.

However Professor Jim Horne who established the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University is not convinced that there would be benefits from a campaign targeting sleep as planned  by Public Health England.

He thinks it’s the quality not quantity of sleep that’s important and doesn’t believe that there is convincing evidence that we’re getting less sleep than our forefathers.

If you’ve already stopped smoking, are taking more exercise and cut down on the booze then getting more sleep is something else you can try.

UPDATE September 12 2015

The wrong amount of sleep can make you ill. Sleeping too much i.e. more than 9 hours a night, or too little i.e. fewer than 5 hours a night, can increase the deposits of calcium which clog up the coronary artery.

Women are at a greater risk of getting a lesion in this artery as a result of poor sleep than men.

The scientists who carried out the research on 29,000 people in South Korea, found that seven hours sleep was the optimal amount. “Inadequate sleep is a common problem and a likely source of poor health including visible signs of disease such as heart attack”

People who slept for more than 9 hours had 70% more calcium in their coronary artery than those who slept 7 hours. People who slept for less than 5 hours had 50% more.

The changes might be the result of the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, throwing the body’s biochemistry out of balance.

Why microwave meals might be healthier than home cooking

place_setting_1600_wht_10503Hard to believe I know but researchers at Rush University in Chicago found that women who spent longer preparing and cleaning up after meals had a greater risk of health problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol and a higher risk of a heart attack.

The risk was reduced by a third when women spent less time in the kitchen.

The study looked at almost 3,000 women in the USA over 14 years measuring their obesity, blood fat levels, cholesterol, hypertension and blood glucose levels – all risk factors for heart disease.

Although unable to pinpoint the actual cause of the risk the researchers peculated that it might be due to home-cooked meals being eaten in larger proportions than those in restaurants (and they can be big in America) or in ready-prepared meals.

They also thought that there were more healthy convenience foods available now (not sure about that).

Public Health advice often suggests home cooking because previous research showed links between eating out and weight gain. That assumes that all home cooking is healthy of course which may not be the case.

Certainly in the UK a parliamentary inquiry suggested that many of us don’t know how to cook from scratch.

However as Xmas approaches and people get up early to start the Turkey and roast potatoes and peel the brussel sprouts bear the research in mind!

No need to run yourself into the ground

stick_figure_running_icon_1600_wht_3621If your idea of getting fit is running marathons then the latest research shows you don’t need to do that to improve your health.

Not even 10k or 7 k –just 7 minutes!

Less than an hour of exercise a week can reduce your risk of an early death through heart disease by 45% and extend your life expectancy by three years.

Experts at Iowa State University say that 5-10 minutes exercise a day is the most efficient way for busy people to stay healthy.

NHS guidance at present recommends vigorous exercise for 75 minutes a week but people doing much less were just as healthy in a survey of 55,000 people over a 15-year period in Dallas, Texas.

Not running at all was as bad for the heart as being obese but those who ran 6 miles or less were just as healthy as those running 20 miles a week in 6 runs.

Dr Duk-chul Lee, who conducted the survey, thinks deaths from heart disease could be reduced by 25% if people exercised more.

NHS guidance is 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of brisk walking or gardening. Brisk walking has been found to slightly lower the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes and 15 minutes a day of brisk walking can extend your life expectancy by three years.

Those of you who are dedicated runners be aware that some studies have found that very high levels of running can damage the heart.


Vitamin Supplements and what many have suspected for years………….

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

Taking vitamin supplements to prevent Alzheimer’s and keep the brain sharp is a waste of money, Oxford scientists have concluded.B vitamins fail to slow mental decline and do not prevent dementia, a comprehensive analysis of evidence has found. Middle-aged people are better off taking a walk or eating more fruit and vegetables, experts say.


People taking supplements scored no better on tests of memory, speed or decision-making than those taking placebos, according to an overview of data on 22,000 people in 11 different trials.

“Our study draws a line under the debate. B vitamins don’t reduce cognitive decline as we age. Taking folic acid and vitamin B-12 is sadly not going to prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr Robert Clarke of the clinical trials service unit at Oxford University.

The millions of people who spend £10 a time on packs of vitamins are doing their health no good, Dr Clarke added.“Taking…

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Soft Southerners?

stick_figure_sitting_on_pills_1600_wht_13337According to an Atlas of Mental Health created by CentreForum think tank people living in the South of England re more likely to say they are unhappy despite having lower levels of mental illness including depression.

People living in London Bedford, Milton Keynes, Brighton, and parts of Kent claim to be the unhappiest in the country – yet they have some of the lowest levels of diagnosed mental health problems.

Five of Britain’s unhappiest 20 places were in London including the borough of Barking and Dagenham which came in the top five on two measures of unhappiness and yet had the 23rd lowest level of mental health problems.

In the league table of areas with the highest long-term mental health problems only Brighton & Hove (which came 3rd in the table) and Nottingham (7th) were outside the North and North West.  The other worst areas in descending order were: Middlesborough, Blackpool, Manchester, Stockton on Tees, Knowsley, Nottingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Salford

Northern areas tend to receive less support for mental health issues and in some areas people are 4 times more likely to die from a mental health problem.

Poor mental health often leads to a poor diet, heavy drinking and smoking, all of which can lead to cancer or heart disease.

One in six adults suffers from mental illness such as depression or anxiety at some time in their lives.


NHS tests for over-40s useless

checking_blood_pressure_anim_500_wht_8476-1According to world-wide research by the Nordic Cochrane Centre the governments £300 million NHS Health Check programme is failing to deliver benefits and putting patients at risk of unnecessary treatment.

The researchers also say (in a letter to the Times) that it’s in conflict with the best available evidence and results in patients taking unnecessary drugs.

“Screening programmes should be based on evidence from randomised controlled trials that show they do more good than harm – as the UK screening programme explicitly states  – but there hasn’t been any proven benefit”.

In a paper published in the British Medical Journal last year the researchers analysed 14 randomised trials of international health check programmes which included 183,000 people. They found that none of the programmes cut deaths, kept people out of hospital, or prevented disability.

This is the centre that reported on breast screening last year and found that for every life saved four women had unnecessary surgery.

The Royal College of GPs is backing the findings saying that “routine checks were devaluing medicine” and that the routine tests were taking up time that could be used for treating patients who were actually sick rather than on the “worried well” who often  have to be re-tested to reassure them.

There is also a risk that health checks will show up diseases or risk factors which wouldn’t have caused any symptoms in a person’s lifetime.

The programme, introduced on a pilot basis on 2009 in some parts of the country, invites people aged 40 to 74 for a routine check every five years for conditions including heart disease, kidney problems, and diabetes. The NHS has now been told to offer it all across England and public health chiefs have to make it a priority as the Health Secretary believes it will save hundreds of lives.

Public Health England concedes that there is no direct evidence that health checks work but said that some of the trials examined by the Cochrane Centre were old and that “precautionary principles” justified the use of the checks.

A spokeswomen said (spin alert!) “The existing relevant evidence, together with operational experience accruing on the ground is compelling support for the programme. The NHS Health Checks offer a real opportunity to reduce avoidable deaths and disability, and tackle health inequalities in England”. No mention of real outcomes or evidence though?

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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Are vegetarian diets secret to long life? People who avoid meat have better health due to lower blood pressure

Flags out in Hebden Bridge?

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

Vegetarians live longer because of their diet – with men reaping the most benefits, claim researchers.

They found a cut in death rates for people eating vegetarian diets compared with non-vegetarians in a study of more than 70,000 people.

Over a six-year period, vegetarians were 12 per cent less likely to die from any cause, says a report published Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine. It is thought the benefits come from lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels in people eating low-fat diets based on vegetables, whole grains and fruit.

The health benefits of eating low-fat diets based on vegetables, whole grains and fruit include lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levelsThe health benefits of eating low-fat diets based on vegetables, whole grains and fruit include lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levelsThe research shows vegetarians are less likely to die because of their dietary choices

Vegetarian diets have been linked to lower risk for several chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.

An estimated three…

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Health predictor? Use your your tape measure

figure_measure_1600_wht_5484Forget bmi (body mass index) as a predictor of your health and well-being, particularly the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

It’s long been doubted as it takes no account of muscles and definess any well-built athlete, serviceman, or similar person as overweight.

As an example the Times compared Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito. Both have the same bmi but Arnold has a waist-height ratio of 0.47, Danny’s is 0.71.

A far better predictor is your waist-height ratio. The scientists who carried out the study say GPs should be telling people to keep their waist circumferences to less than half their height.

 Researchers at Oxford Brookes University looked at the Health & Lifestyle survey, which goes back to 1984, and the Health Survey for England which studies 8,000 people every year.

Death rates were low for the 10% of people with the lowest waist-height ratios and rose steadily as the ratio increased. People with waists 80% of their height at age 30 lost about 20 years of life.

While bmi shows a similar trend it’s not as strong as using the waist-height ratio.

And for apple-shaped people bmi may give false re-assurance as central fat is more dangerous than fat on the hips. See something I blogged elsewhere: Apples & Pears – What fruit is your bum?