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Posts Tagged ‘Exercise’

Clip Art for American Heart Month

February is Heart Month. Many factors other than genetics influence heart health. High levels of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol increase cardiovascular risks. Statins are the most effective classification of drugs and frequently considered the best option for lowering LDL levels. They act in the body by reducing an enzyme needed to create cholesterol. Less LDL cholesterol helps to prevent buildup of fatty substances in the arteries called plaque.

More than 33 million people take some form of statin medications, with nearly half of the population over age 75 taking some form of the drug. Some of the most commonly recognized statins on the market include Crestor, Lipitor, Pravachol, Zocor, and others.

Statins are safe and effective for most people, but like many drugs, they may pose risks for some. Among the adverse effects are memory loss, mental confusion, increased blood sugar, and serious muscle problems.

While statins save many lives of people with cardiovascular difficulties, are they the best option for everyone? A recent study followed thirty-seven overweight subjects for three months. All gradually increased treadmill exercise up to 45 minutes a day for five days per week. Half of the subjects received a statin, and half did not. The LDL cholesterol levels dropped 40 percent in those taking statins while they increased slightly in the non-statin group. Cardio fitness increased 1.5 percent in the statin group compared to an increase of ten percent in the non-statin group. So while statins lowered LDL in the experimental group, cardio fitness was greater in those who exercised but did not take statins.

When it comes to heart health, no drug is a substitute for a healthy lifestyle. After cessation of smoking, appropriate exercise and eating remain two changes that promote heart health. While statins may be appropriate for great numbers of the population with serious heart conditions, others may fare better with altered lifestyles. As this February Heart Month draws to a close, remember if we want to stay healthier and live longer, the option is ours. When statins aren’t the best choice, either eat healthy foods and move that body or plan for an earlier demise.

 

 

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If you’ve wondered if exercise is really as important as touted by health professionals, now comes more proof. A report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in January 2015 found exercise can help prevent premature death.

For couch-potatoes who want to continue to live an inactive lifestyle, this study is bad news. Almost everyone knows the perils of smoking and the effects of obesity on health. Recent evidence from a twelve-year study of more than 300,000 European men and women support reasons to get up and move. Even twenty minutes of brisk walking per day may reduce by thirty percent the risks of dying prematurely. Other studies in Asia have found that fifteen minutes per day of mild exercise improved longevity by nearly fifteen percent. These levels of activity are less than public health recommendations.

If you are one of those trim and slim or you are just a little overweight, that’s no cause for smugness. The most striking results of increased physical activity occurred in those who were of normal weight and free of abdominal fat (pot belly). Moderate exercise had a greater effect on preventing premature death in normal weight people than it did in the overweight or obese. The European study found that increased exercise lowered the risk of death twice as much as losing weight. However, increased physical activity also made a difference for the overweight and obese.

The fact remains. Any physical activity makes a difference. If you want to live longer, whatever your weight, get up and move. The longer you wait to start, the more likely you are to die before your time.

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Cancer—the dreaded C word. The thought chills us with the realization of our mortality. What is this frightening disease? Cancer results from the malfunction of genes that control cell growth and division. Most cancers aren’t strongly linked to heredity, but some like colorectal, breast, and prostate are. Most cancers result from damage to genes occurring during a person’s lifetime. It may take ten years or more to detect the effect of factors causing mutant cells.

What if you could avoid getting cancer? February is Cancer Prevention Month. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, Americans can prevent one-third of the most common cancer cases by changes in diet, weight, and physical activity. That translates into 374,000 people annually who could go cancer-free with those changes. Next to tobacco use, which estimates say will cause 176,000 deaths in 2014, changing your lifestyle could keep you from getting cancer.

Anyone can develop cancer. No one is immune and the risk increases with age. About seventy-seven percent of all cancers occur in people fifty-five years of age and older. Researchers expect diagnosis of about 1,665,540 new cancer cases in 2014, and that figure excludes some precancerous conditions. Likewise, they expect 585,720 Americans to die of cancer in 2014. How can you keep from being a statistic?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. We hear this over and over. Are we listening? The ACS suggests being as lean as possible throughout life without being underweight. If you are obese or overweight, losing even a small amount has health benefits. Reduce high-calorie foods and beverages, and use up unneeded calories with increased activity.
  • Adopt a physically active lifestyle. The ACS suggests 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Don’t forget the children. They need at least one hour of exercise daily with more intense exercise at least three days each week. Avoid being a couch potato or spending too much time at computers or other sedate activities. Make it a point to get up and move. Even small amounts of exercise help. Physical activity may reduce risks of breast, colon, endometrium, and advanced prostate cancer. Physical activity also seems to improve the quality of life and reduce mortality for those who already have cancer.
  • Consume a healthy diet. If you have followed this blog, you know that’s what it’s all about. Lest I sound like a stuck record, the ACS makes the following recommendations.
    • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
    • Limit consumption of red meat and processed meat.
    • Eat at least two and one-half cups of vegetables and fruits daily.
    • Choose whole grains instead of refined-grain products.
    • Limit alcoholic beverage consumption. Drinking alcoholic beverages increases risks for cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectal, breast, and possibly pancreas. Men should limit drinks to no more than two per day while women shouldn’t drink more than one a day. As little as a few drinks per week may slightly increase the risk for breast cancer in women.

 To find out how much you know about cancer, try the quiz at this link. And tune in next week for nutritional claims related to cancer—what you can trust and what you should ignore. Your health is too important to snub warnings. Improve your chances of avoiding cancer.

 

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