Health & Wellness

Frequent TV Watching Heightens Obesity Risk in Young Adults

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It’s probably not news to many, but new research confirmed the impact of watching too much television to a person’s weight.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health conducted a 15-year study to investigate the effect of TV watching to the risk of obesity. More than 3,200 adults took part in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study, which started in 1990 and was monitored and evaluated for fifteen years. The study required participants to have their waistlines measured, their body mass indices determined every 5 years, and their TV viewing habits declared.

The team correctly predicted that spending too much time in front of the TV will result to a higher risk of obesity. However, what surprised the researchers was that the likelihood was observed in young adults and not in middle-aged people. “This suggests that middle-aged adults may differ from young adults in how they respond to the influence of TV viewing,” said study lead author Dr. Anthony Fabio in a news report.

Although the study did not look into the reasons behind the link between TV viewing and obesity, the researchers believe that this may be due to many reasons, some of which include snacking while watching TV, and better food choices by middle-aged persons.

The proponents believe that their study will bear significance on global health. “Television viewing and obesity are both highly prevalent in many populations around the world… This means that even small reductions in television viewing could lead to vast public health improvements. Reducing sedentary time should be a healthy lifestyle guideline heavily promoted to the public,” Fabio said further.

The study was published in the journal SAGE Open.


Addiction Substance Abuse

Increase in Wages Helps Workers Quit Smoking

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According to a recent study published in the Annals of Epidemiology, increasing the pay of workers results to lower smoking rates in men. “Increasing the minimum wage could have a big impact on a significant health threat,” according to study senior author Paul Leigh, who also works at the University of California – Davis Health System Center for Healthcare Policy and Research.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from UC Davis who looked into data on full-time employees between the ages of 21 and 65, as acquired from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from 1999 to 2009. Information such as status of smoking and amount of wages were correlated using instrumental variables analysis as a statistical framework, as reported in a news item.

The researchers discovered that increasing wages by 10 percent resulted to a decrease of 5 percent in smoking rates for male workers. The same scenario was observed for people whose educational attainment is high school or lower. Meanwhile, the 10 percent rise in pay also increases the chances of current smokers to quit smoking by up to 20 percent.

“Our findings are especially important as inflation-adjusted wages for low-income jobs have been dropping for decades and the percentage of workers in low-paying jobs has been growing nationwide,” Leigh expressed. He added that their research supports the long-standing belief that financial status affects a person’s health. “Our findings add to the existing body of epidemiological literature showing that lower income predicts poor health habits… They also show that higher minimum wages could reduce the prevalence of smoking,” the senior author added.


Substance Abuse

Education Program Helps Doctors Issue Correct Opioid Prescription

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Prescription drug abuse has become a worldwide health issue, prompting governments and medical organizations to pursue programs that prevent the problem from escalating. One of these programs comes from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), who has been successfully educating clinicians on how to properly prescribe opioid medication to patients.

The program is called Safe and Competent Opioid Prescribing Education (SCOPE of Pain), a three-hour educational program that participants may view either in person or online. The program is aligned with the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) requirement of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As of June 2014, more than 10,000 individuals have undergone SCOPE of Pain since it started in 2013. Roughly 27 percent of this population are clinicians, who are the primary targets of this program.

To monitor the effectiveness of the program, a group of researchers led by Dr. Daniel Alford of BUSM checked the prescription practices of the participants before and after completing SCOPE. According to a news release, about 87 percent of the participants committed to change something in their regular routine to support the objective of the program. After two months, the study discovered that roughly two-thirds of the SCOPE of Pain participants said that they have become more confident in prescribing opioids to follow the guidelines. “Our program improved knowledge, attitudes, confidence and clinical practice in safe opioid prescribing,” said Alford, who also works as course director of the program.


Health & Wellness

Does Drinking Water Before Meals Help In Weight Loss?

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The long-recognized practice of drinking water before meals to suppress appetite has recently been confirmed by a study that looked into its impact on weight loss.

According to a research team from the University of Birmingham in the UK, drinking 500 mL of water 30 minutes before taking a meal resulted to a more significant weight loss in people diagnosed with obesity. Study co-author Dr. Helen Parretti believes that this could help people lose weight and keep it that way. “The beauty of these findings is in the simplicity. Just drinking a pint of water, three times a day, before your main meals may help reduce your weight,” Parretti said in a news item.

The study, published in the journal Obesity, monitored 84 obese individuals who were placed in either of two groups: one group was required to drink 500 mL of water half an hour before their scheduled meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner); while the other group was asked to imagine that they are already full prior to taking the meals. Both groups were provided consultations on how to manage their weight and keep themselves physically active.

Results were clear: those who drank water prior to meals lost an average of 1.3 kg more than the control group. In terms of absolute amounts, participants preloaded with water lost 4.3 kg on the average during the 12-week observation period, compared to only 0.8 kg by those who didn’t drink before meals.

The researchers are confident that this practice can drastically improve the way people manage their weight. “When combined with brief instructions on how to increase your amount of physical activity and on a healthy diet, this seems to help people to achieve some extra weight loss – at a moderate and healthy rate. It’s something that doesn’t take much work to integrate into our busy everyday lives,” Parretti added.


Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Lack of Vitamin D May Cause Multiple Sclerosis

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Lack of vitamin D may be a direct cause of multiple sclerosis, a new study has found.

MS, a potentially disabling auto-immune disease that damages nerve fibres, tends to be more prevalent in places that get less sunshine and sunshine triggering a chemical reaction in the skin is the primary source of vitamin D.

While previous studies have suggested an association between lower vitamin D levels and a higher risk of MS, this latest study has demonstrated a genetic correlation that points strongly to a causal link.

Scientists checked the DNA of nearly 34,000 people and identified variants in the genetic code that were closely associated with a vitamin D blood marker.

A comparison between thousands of MS sufferers and healthy individuals found that people whose genetic makeup was associated with a lack of vitamin D  were at least twice as likely to have multiple sclerosis.

Writing in the online journal Public Library of Science Medicine, the authors, led by Dr Brent Richards from McGill University in Canada, wrote: “The identification of vitamin D as a causal susceptibility factor for MS may have important public health implications, since vitamin D insufficiency is common, and vitamin D supplementation is both relatively safe and cost-effective.

“The importance of these findings may be magnified in high-latitude countries, which have disproportionately higher rates of MS and also higher rates of vitamin D insufficiency.”

The finding provided “strong evidence in support of a causal role of vitamin D in MS susceptibility”, said the scientists.

They added: “Whether vitamin D sufficiency can delay or prevent multiple sclerosis onset merits further investigation in long-term randomized controlled trials.”

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Health & Wellness

Diabetes Drug Helps Patients Lose More Weight, Study Says

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Many Type 2 Diabetes patients have been able to maintain their health condition using the diabetes drug liraglutide. A recent study discovered that the medication may also help in weight loss management.

This new study, which supports an earlier research about the peptide-1 (GLP-1) mimetic, was conducted on a larger scale with close to 850 diabetes patients who were either overweight or obese. According to study author Melanie J. Davies of the University of Leicester in the U.K., the study aims to address the difficulty of weight loss management in Type 2 Diabetes patients. “Weight loss is especially challenging for individuals with type 2 diabetes, who often experience a reduced response to weight-management pharmacotherapies compared with individuals without diabetes,” Davies mentioned in a news article.

Similar to the earlier study, test respondents were given either a placebo (control) or either of two dosages of liraglutide (1.8 mg or 3.0 mg). The treatment was conducted once a day for 56 weeks, and the patients were monitored for an additional 12 weeks to check if the treatment produces any long-term effects. The patients were also urged to follow a strict low-calorie diet and increased physical movement throughout the treatment period.

Results revealed a six percent drop in the weights of patients who took 3-mg doses of the diabetes drug. The lower dose of 1.8 mg led to a loss of 4.7 percent, while the control group lost only 2 percent. It was also discovered that a weight loss of 10 percent or higher was observed in more than 25 percent of the patients who took 3.0 mg of liraglutide. “This is the first study specifically designed to investigate the efficacy of liraglutide for weight management in patients with type 2 diabetes and also the first study to investigate liraglutide at the higher 3-mg dose in a population with type 2 diabetes,” Davies said.


Substance Abuse

Chewing Tobacco Leads To More Than 200,000 Deaths Worldwide

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Many players in professional baseball, including Major League Baseball (MLB), have long been engaged in the practice of chewing tobacco during games. However, a recent research reveals the impact of this practice on the health of players.

The study — a collaboration of Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh, with financial support from the Medical Research Council and Leeds City Council — revealed that use of smokeless tobacco led to more than 200,000 fatalities in 2010 alone. Direct causes of the deaths range from mouth cancers to cardiovascular diseases. Data for the study came from several surveys, including the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study.

Despite the alarming death rate caused by smokeless tobacco use, study co-author Dr. Kamran Siddiqi said that their findings may just be scratching the surface. “It is possible that these figures are underestimated and future studies may reveal that the impact is even bigger. We need a global effort to try and address and control smokeless tobacco,” according to Siddiqi as reported in a news item.

The research team believes that the current laws and regulations that have succeeded in reducing cigarette smoking need to translate to regulating smokeless tobacco as well. “There is a need to build on the insights obtained from efforts to reduce cigarette smoking and to investigate strategies to reduce the use of smokeless tobacco,” Siddiqi added.

The state of California announced a proposed bill that prohibits chewing tobacco in MLB games. The bill authored by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) was passed in June 2015, according to a news report.


Health & Wellness

10 Great Things to Do With Your Dog on National Dog Day Aug. 26

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Aug. 26 is National Dog Day and to help you celebrate, TestCountry has drawn up a list of 10 things to do with your pooch. It is your dog’s day, after all.

So, grab your canine companion and try one of these wonderful activities:

  • Take your dog to a dog beach: If there is a dog beach in your area, why not treat your pet to a day in the sun and surf?
  • Visit a doggie play resort or a doggie spa: Yes, they’re a thing and your dog will love it.
  • Find out your mixed breed dog’s ancestry: Ever wonder what kind of dog breeds are in your mixed-breed canine? Now you can with a simple dog DNA test.
  • Buy your dog some doggie ice cream: New toys are fun and all, but your dog will flip for this unique treat.
  • Buy a new collar and leash for your dog: They’ll be just as fashionable as you.
  • Give your dog an at-home health check up: You don’t need to visit the vet to give your pooch a check up. A simple at-home health and wellness test for dogs can do just that.
  • Bake your dog some homemade dog biscuits: Find a recipe and indulge your culinary side for your pooch’s sake.
  • Take your dog for some portraits: Make the doggie magic last longer with these wonderful momentos.
  • Take your dog to your local dog park: A classic!
  • Adopt a dog from a shelter: It’s the perfect day for adopting a brand new friend.

[Photo courtesy of Rob Swystun on Flickr]

Health & Wellness

New Analysis Reveals Americans are Dealing with Major Pain

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A new analysis from existing health data shows that an astonishing number of Americans are living with some kind of pain, including ongoing chronic pain.

The analysis comes from data provided by the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). It found that an estimated 25.3 million adults (11.2%) experience chronic pain, defined as pain every day for the preceding three months. Nearly 40 million adults (17.6%) experience severe levels of pain and those with severe pain are also likely to have worse health status.

“The number of people who suffer from severe and chronic pain is striking,” said Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., director of NCCIH. “This analysis adds valuable new scope to our understanding of pain and could inform the National Pain Strategy in the areas of population research and disparities. It may help shape future research, development, and targeting of effective pain interventions, including complementary health approaches.”

Pain is among the leading reasons Americans turn to complementary health approaches such as yoga, massage, and meditation, which may help manage pain and other symptoms that are not consistently addressed by prescription drugs and other conventional treatments. For this reason, NCCIH research priorities include the study of complementary approaches to determine their effectiveness for treating symptoms such as pain.

The analysis was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and was published in The Journal of Pain.


testcountry banner[Photo courtesy of Ryan Weisgerber on Flickr]


Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Top 5 Health Hazards Of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

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Alcohol remains to be one of the most abused substances, bringing health hazards to millions of people in the world. Consumption of alcohol comes in all shapes and sizes, but one hazardous way of ingesting the substance is through chronic heavy drinking.

Excessive alcohol consumption — whether in the form of binge drinking or chronic alcoholism — has long been proven to cause detrimental effects on the human body. Although the body can metabolize alcohol in moderate amounts, excess of this tolerable level goes to the bloodstream, where it is brought to the different parts and organs of the body. This distribution causes slight alterations in bodily functions and natural metabolic processes.

Medical News Today has recently released the most common diseases and health problems caused by chronic heavy drinking. The top five health hazards due to alcoholism are the following:

  1. Liver disease
  2. Pancreatitis
  3. Cancer
  4. Gastrointestinal issues (including ulcers)
  5. Dysfunction of immune system

The effects of excessive alcohol intake may differ from one person to other, depending on several factors such as age, gender, body mass index, genetics, and health status. On a general perspective, heavy drinking may be defined as consumption of more than 8 alcoholic beverages per week in women, and above 15 drinks for men.

Excessive alcohol consumption is considered to be one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.