Pregnancy & Fertility

Doing Exercise While Pregnant Lowers Risk of Hypertension and Big Babies

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Pregnancy may be a delicate situation for some women, but a recent study revealed that pregnant women who engage in exercise may reduce the risk of complications associated with childbearing.

According to a new study jointly conducted by Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and Western University, doing exercise while pregnant lowers the risk of high blood pressure in women. In addition, the physical activity also reduces the likelihood of having oversized infants, the condition of which is clinically called fetal macrosomia. “Those oversized babies are at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases later in life, like obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and/or hypertension. We really want to try and prevent those big babies because they are at risk for health issues,” said study co-author Michelle Mottola in a news release.

To get the results that they needed, the proponents of the study tapped the participation of a random group of pregnant women who were asked to follow a specific exercise program during their respective pregnancies. Results showed that pregnant women who don’t engage in exercise have a threefold likelihood of developing high blood pressure, roughly 2.5 times more susceptible to give birth to oversized babies.

Mottola said that even the simplest and easiest of exercise routines can already do wonders to the health of the mother and the child. “Many people think that you have to go to the gym and sweat – and yes, that’s true for some people – but walking will also give you great aerobic benefit. It’s very important to be physically active during pregnancy. We suggest 10,000 steps a day. If you can walk 10,000 steps a day, that’s incredible,” Mottola added.

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Health & Wellness

Weight Management and Correct Food Choices Lower Cholesterol in Women, Says Study

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If the sheer number of studies in the past isn’t convincing enough for you to follow a weight loss regimen, here’s another study that revealed the effects of proper diet and weight management on cholesterol level.

A study spearheaded by a research team led by Cheryl Rock of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine was conducted to answer the question on whether removal of fat in a person’s diet can guarantee reduction of cholesterol. “Many diets have said it is okay to eat healthy fats and emphasize olive and canola oils,” said Rock in a news article.

However, there is confusion over how the human body functions in the presence of fat in a diet. That’s why the study investigated the impact of dietary fat in the health of women diagnosed as obese or overweight. A group of females who fell into the category underwent a weight loss program from one year, and randomly given either of three types of diet plans:

  • low in fat, high in carbohydrates
  • high in fat, low in carbohydrates
  • high in fat from walnuts, low in carbohydrates

Results of the study showed no significant difference in the weight losses of the women in the three groups. However, the group of women who received the walnut-rich diet were found with the best lipid profile of all three groups, showing a decrease in bad cholesterol (LDL) level and an increase in good cholesterol (HDL).

All in all, the amount of weight lost after six months into the program was 8 percent on the average. “This weight loss may not put these women at their ideal weight, but it made a significant reduction in their risk of cardiovascular and other diseases… This level of weight loss is achievable and can have a dramatic impact on their quality of life,” Rock added.

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Health & Wellness

Global Childhood Obesity Epidemic: A Cause For Alarm, Says WHO

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Obesity continues to be a health issue not only in the U.S. but also the entire world. This was recently emphasized by the World Health Organization, as one of its sectors released a report on the growing problem.

According to the report by the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity via a news release, obesity wasn’t regarded as a major health problem in the past, with many people dismissing it as merely a result of wrong choices in living. However, its recent investigation through more than 100 nations showed that it’s more than a family’s responsibility to combat obesity.

“To date, progress in tackling childhood obesity has been slow and inconsistent,” the report stated, after realizing that world governments have not implemented enough strategies to help individuals get out of the unhealthy condition.

Peter Gluckman, who co-chairs the WHO commission, said that the issue must be addressed not only by individuals and families, but also by governments and health experts. “Dieting and exercise alone is not the solution… We have responsibilities on behalf of the world’s children to stop them from being overly obese,” Gluckman said.

Countries in Africa have posted the worst figures in the world, with the number of children below age 5 diagnosed as overweight or obese running by 10.3 million in 2014. This is almost double the number in 1990, which was at 5.4 million.

[Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr]

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Health & Wellness

Pre-Pregnancy Obesity Increases Infant Death Risk

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Obesity is known to have health risks on any person, but a new study suggests that this risk may be carried to infants.

According to a group of researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health, women who are obese before they became pregnant raise the risk of their infants from dying shortly after birth. This was based on data of more than 6 million infants born in the U.S. from 2012 to 2013.

Results of the study showed that the risk of newborn death was double in infants born of women who were obese prior to pregnancy than those who had regular body mass indices. The study also discovered that weight management during pregnancy may not have a significant effect on the death risk in the child.

The study proponents, however, clarified that the link between female obesity and infant death is not a direct causality. “There is a need for more open, honest discussions about avoiding the possible risks of maternal obesity on infant health,” study lead author Eugene Declercq said in a news item.

The study sheds light into the importance of female health and how medical professionals must include obesity risks as part of the care. “The findings suggest that primary care clinicians, ob-gyns and midwives need to have conversations about weight as part of well-woman care, and when women are contemplating getting pregnant,” Declercq added.

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Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

HPV Increases Risk of Head and Neck Cancer

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A new study from researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine has found that individuals with human papillomavirus, specifically HPV-16 in their mouths are 22% more likely to develop a type of head and neck cancer compared to people without it.

In their study, the researchers conducted two different nationwide studies consisting of almost 97,000 people. Patients who were considered cancer-free at the beginning of the study were asked to provide mouthwash samples for the study. Researchers identified 132 cases of head and neck cancer after an average of four years of follow-up. Also included was a comparison group of 396 healthy subjects.

Participants who displayed symptoms of HPV-16 were 22 times more likely to be diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer compared to participants who showed no signs of HPV. The Einstein College team also discovered the presence of other types of oral HPV: Beta- and gamma-HPV, which are usually detected in the skin, but were associated with the development of head and neck cancers.

There was some good news from the study, as well. Easy-to-collect mouthwash samples could potentially help predict a person’s risk for head and neck cancer development, the team said.

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Health & Wellness

Regular Exercise Reduces Death Risk From Cardiovascular Disease

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A recent study from a group of cardiologists strengthened the long-standing belief that exercise is good for the heart.

This was revealed in a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, by saying that physical activity — even in small measures — can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). The research, released by the Sports and Exercise Cardiology Council of the American College of Cardiology (ACC), was based on several earlier studies about CVD and the results of doing regular exercise.

On a more specific angle, the council looked into the optimum amount of exercise to achieve a lower risk of CVD while maintaining overall health, according to a news article. The group inferred that there is a range of intensity for physical activity to yield a positive effect on human health. Based on its review, the council discovered that increasing the level of exercise leads to a decrease in CVD risk.

The study comes at an opportune time when several studies also discount the health benefits of physical activity, which has been labelled badly by the media as of late. “The public media has embraced the idea that exercise may harm the heart and disseminated this message, thereby diverting attention away from the benefits of exercise as a potent intervention for the primary and secondary prevention of heart disease,” said Dr. Michael Scott Emery, who co-chairs the council.

In a similar study in 2013, researchers revealed that exercise lowers the risk of heart disease just as effectively as medication.

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Substance Abuse

Cocaine Use Triggers Auto-Destruct Mode in Brain Cells

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As more people are becoming aware of the dangers of using cocaine, a new study adds another thorn into the issue by describing a specific effect of the illicit drug on brain cells.

According to a research team from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, use of cocaine in high doses may lead brain cells to activate a process called autophagy. This natural phenomenon involves the degradation and recycling of cellular compounds, which may be useful for proper brain functioning. However, abnormal conditions may lead cells to destroy themselves.

The research revealed that cocaine increases the likelihood of brain cell autophagy. “Autophagy is the housekeeper that takes out the trash – it’s usually a good thing. But cocaine makes the housekeeper throw away really important things, like mitochondria, which produce energy for the cell,” said study co-author Prasun Guha via a news item.

To investigate the matter, the researchers used lab mice to assess the effects of cocaine in the animals’ brains. They also looked into the healing effect of the experimental drug experimental drug CGP3466B, which is being tested as a cure for diseases such as ALS and Parkinson’s disease. “We performed ‘autopsies’ to find out how cells die from high doses of cocaine. That information gave us immediate insight into how we might use a known compound to interfere with that process and prevent the damage,” said Johns Hopkins professor Solomon Snyder.

Based on their findings, the researchers are confident that the specificity of the impact of cocaine on brain cells could pave the way for better treatments to prevent this deadly effect.

This study echoes a similar research last year about the effect of cocaine on the natural communication channels in the brain.

The study is scheduled for publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Health & Wellness

Presence of Water Dispensers in Schools May Reduce Obesity Risk in Children

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Drinking water before meals has been associated with better weight management, according to a previous study. A separate research recently looked into the effect of putting water dispensers in educational institutions on the obesity risk of young students.

A team of researchers from the New York University School of Medicine inferred that water plays a big part in terms of following a balanced diet. In fact, this is the reason behind the installation of water jets by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Department of Education in several New York schools.

The study investigated the impact of the water jet dispensers on obesity markers — such as body mass index (BMI) and body weight — in elementary and middle school students. To do this, the researchers categorized more than 1,200 public schools into two groups: one that had water jets and the other without.

Results of the study revealed that schools with water jets were associated with a BMI decrease of 0.025, a 0.5 percent lower likelihood of obesity, and 0.9 reduced risk of being overweight in male students. A similar trend was also observed in girls, with a 0.22 BMI decrease and a 0.6 percent lower likelihood of weight issues. “This study demonstrates that doing something as simple as providing free and readily available water to students may have positive impacts on their overall health, particularly weight management. Our findings suggest that this relatively low-cost intervention is, in fact, working,” said study lead author Brian Elbel in a news release.

The presence of the water jets also led to a reduction in the selling of chocolate milk, at roughly 12.3 half-pints lower per student than those enrolled in schools without water dispensers.

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Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Higher Risk of Lung Cancer Found in Smokers Diagnosed With Pneumonia

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A recent study revealed that people who smoke and are diagnosed with pneumonia have a higher likelihood of developing lung cancer.

The researchers, composed of teams from Israel’s Rabin Medical Center and the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, considered lung cancer to be a serious disease that needs a cost-effective cure. “Previous studies have shown that a low-dose radiation CT scan conducted once a year on heavy smokers has the potential to lower lung cancer mortality rates… But this requires huge resources, and we still don’t know how it will perform in real-world conditions, outside of strictly conducted clinical trials,” said study lead author Dr. Daniel Shepshelovich in a news article.

Hospital records of heavy smokers from 2007 to 2011 were used by the research team to match pneumonia findings with lung cancer development. Results showed that 9 percent of smokers with pneumonia were found with lung cancer.

Although the number doesn’t seem too big, the researchers emphasized the proportion of this group to the percentage of people diagnosed with pneumonia. “Considering that only 0.5 to 1 percent of smokers without pneumonia have a chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer every year, the fact that 9 percent of our study group developed lung cancer is alarming,” Shepshelovich added.

The study lead author believes that early intervention is the primary key to curing the disease. “Lung cancer is truly aggressive. The only chance of recuperation is if it’s caught before it begins to cause any symptoms at all. The idea is to find the tumor well in advance,” he expressed.

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Health & Wellness

Study: Diabetes Drug Metformin Reduces Pancreatic Cancer Growth

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Metformin has long been used as medication for people diagnosed with diabetes, but a new study directs the drug towards another purpose: reduction of pancreatic cancer progression.

This was revealed by a group of researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital, who described the effect of the diabetes drug on pancreatic cancer. “We found that metformin alleviates desmoplasia – an accumulation of dense connective tissue and tumor-associated immune cells that is a hallmark of pancreatic cancer – by inhibiting the activation of the pancreatic stellate cells that produce the extracellular matrix and by reprogramming immune cells to reduce inflammation,” study senior co-author Dai Fukumura in a news item.

The most common form of this type of cancer is pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, which exhibits weight management issues on half of the people diagnosed with the disease. Metformin, meanwhile, is being taken by type 2 diabetes patients to help them control their weight.

The study involved lab experiments on obese mice treated with metformin. Results revealed that tumor-associated macrophage levels in the lab rats were decreased by 60 percent.

The research team believes that although their study is not a complete solution to pancreatic cancer, their discovery on metformin could become a worthy addition to curing the disease. “Understanding the mechanism behind metformin’s effects on pancreatic and other cancers may help us identify biomarkers – such as patient body weight and increased tumor fibrosis – that can identify the patients for whom metformin treatment would be most beneficial,” said study senior co-author Rakesh K. Jain.

The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

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