Sunday, March 14, 2010

Obesity 'ups' liver disease in drinkers

Compared to their normal-weight counterparts, overweight drinkers are at a greater risk of developing liver diseases, a new study finds.

Previous studies had reported liver cirrhosis as the major complications among regular drinkers. A new study, however, shows the risk to be higher among individuals with excess weight.

According to the study published in the British Medical Journal, Obese men who drank 15 or more units a week are 19 times more likely to develop the condition.

As for women, the risk increased 28 percent for each extra five units in those with a body mass index (BMI) of 22.5 or higher, the study found.

"Excess body weight clearly makes an independent contribution to rates of liver cirrhosis, and in middle-age women we estimated this to be about 17% of all cirrhosis-related hospital admissions and deaths, or almost half of the proportion attributable to alcohol," said lead researcher Bette Liu.

Scientists therefore urged individuals to reduce not only their excessive body weight, but also their alcohol consumption in order to protect themselves against liver cirrhosis.

Blood pressure fluctuations link to stroke

Individuals occasionally diagnosed with high blood pressure levels are reported to be at a greater risk of experiencing a stroke in the long run.

According to a study published in The Lancet Neurology, individuals with fluctuating blood pressure levels at different readings are more vulnerable to a future stroke regardless of their average blood pressure level.

"Rapid fluctuations can cause turbulent flow of blood, which can cause damage and stiffening of the arteries," said lead researcher Professor Peter Rothwell.

Such a finding can also explain the difference in the effects of various drugs on controlling blood pressure levels. Medications such as beta blockers, for example, are more effective in controlling variations in blood pressure.

"At the moment, the guidelines for GPs say not to believe a one-off unusual reading, to bring the patient back and measure again, and as long as it's not consistently high, there is no need to treat," said Professor Rothwell, urging physicians not to ignore any high blood pressure readings.

Calcium-rich diets 'increase' lifespan

Apart from various health benefits reported for calcium intake, a new study shows adopting a diet rich in calcium can increase one's mortality rate.

Previous studies had reported that higher calcium intake was associated with lower mortality in both men and women.

Following a diet rich in calcium with the addition of magnesium was also linked with reduced risk of developing chronic diseases.

According to the new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, men with the highest calcium intake were 25 percent less likely to die over the next decade.

The risk of heart-related death is also reduced by 23 percent among these individuals. Following such a diet, however, does not influence the risk of dying from cancer. Magnesium on its own, on the other hand, was not reported to have such an effect, the study found.

Scientists believe a calcium-rich diet can lower the risk of death through reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. They, therefore, urge individuals to get enough calcium in their daily routine.

Women on birth control pills live longer: Study

While previous studies had pointed out several complications with birth control pills, a new study says these pills can extend the lives of women taking them.

Oral contraceptive (OC) pills had long been linked to an increased risk of death particularly among older women and those who smoke.

According to the study published in the British Medical Journal; however, women on oral contraceptives are less likely to die from various serious and common diseases including heart disease and cancer.

A slight increase in the risk of death was reported among women aged younger than 45 who were recent or current users. The associated risk, however, virtually disappeared after taking the OC pills for about 10 years.

By the time a woman reaches her 50s, the benefits outweigh the risks, the study considered. "Women, who used first generation oral contraceptives many years ago, are likely to be reassured by our results.

However, our findings might not reflect the experience of women starting or using oral contraceptives if preparations currently available in today's market have different risk potentials than earlier products tested," said lead researcher Philip Hannaford.

Scientists concluded that women who have taken OC pills over the long term are less prone to death from heart diseases and cancers such as bowel, uterine and ovarian tumors.

“We know that the Pill does cause changes in clotting factors and some of the factors in biochemistry, so the increased risk of heart disease and stroke is explainable,” they added.

Fiber-rich diet lowers lung disease risk

Following a diet rich in fiber particularly from whole grains lowers the risk of developing chronic lung diseases, a new study finds.

"For COPD prevention, the most important public health message remains smoking cessation," said lead researcher Raphaelle Varraso, adding that the diet is another modifiable factor which might influence one's risk of developing COPD.

According to the study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, individuals with the highest fiber intake are at the lowest risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of such a diet might be the main reasons leading to the findings of this study.

Scientists, therefore, advised men to adopt a diet filled with 30 to 38 grams of fiber per day, adding that women should get 21 to 25 grams of the content in their daily routine.

Scientists added that fiber-rich diets can not prevent COPD, stressing that quitting smoking is the main key to staving off the disease.

Related Stories:

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Soy products 'lower' lung cancer risk in men
Secondhand smoke harmful for smokers: Study

Too much or too little sleep ups belly fat

Sleeping too little or too much can place young adults at an increased risk of putting on weight along their waistlines, a new study finds. Previous studies had linked insomnia and lack of sleep to weight gain and higher risks of developing diabetes and heart disease in the long run.

According to the study published in Sleep, black and Hispanic adults younger than 40 who slept for five hours or less each night are more likely to gain abdominal fat particularly the visceral fat that accumulates around the organs.

The same finding was reported in those who slept for eight hours or more each night; the condition, however, was less substantial.

No such relation was reported among minorities aged 40 years and more, the study found. Sleep duration is believed to affect the body mass index through influencing the levels of appetite-regulating hormones or the individual's mood or capability to exercise the next day.

"Appropriate amounts of sleep are important for maintenance of healthy weight," concluded lead researcher Kristen Hairston.