Good Habits

12 Minutes of Exercise Improves Attention, Reading Comprehension in Low-Income Adolescents

Workout.Exercise.Dict2A new Dartmouth study shows 12 minutes of exercise can improve attention and reading comprehension in low-income adolescents, suggesting that schools serving low-income populations should work brief bouts of exercise into their daily schedules.

The study, published as part of the June volume of Frontiers in Psychology, compared low-income adolescents with their high-income peers. While both groups saw improvement in selective visual attention up to 45 minutes after exercising, the low-income group experienced a bigger jump. (Selective visual attention is the ability to remain visually focused on something despite distractions.) The low-income students also improved on tests of reading comprehension following the physical activity, but the high-income students did not.

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Source: Dartmouth College. “12 minutes of exercise improves attention, reading comprehension in low-income adolescents.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 June 2014.


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Quality, Not Quantity, Counts Most in Exercise, Diet

Support.Healthy.LivingIf your goal is to lose weight and maintain optimal health and fitness, the quality of your exercise and diet regimen matters more than the quantity, says Skidmore College exercise scientist Paul Arciero. And he has the results to prove it.

In a paper published by The Journal of Applied Physiology, Arciero and several colleagues report the clear benefits of a multi-dimensional exercise regimen that includes resistance exercise, interval sprint exercise, stretching (including yoga or pilates), and endurance exercise. Add moderate amounts of protein regularly throughout your day, and you’ll be well on your way toward decreasing total and abdominal fat, increasing lean body mass, and achieving optimal levels for blood pressure, blood glucose, and insulin.

To make the regimen easy for the public to remember, Arciero has coined the acronym, “PRISE.” The “P” stands for protein, the “R” stands for “resistance,” the “I” stands for “interval,” the “S” stands for stretching, and the “E” stands for endurance.

For Arciero, this study was the culmination of research he has conducted and published over the last 20 years in an attempt to identify the most effective lifestyle strategies to improve health and physical performance. When the time came to capture the meaning of it all, the name “PRISE” jumped out at him.

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Source: Skidmore College. “Quality, not quantity, counts most in exercise, diet.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2014.


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Fight Memory Loss with a Smile (or Chuckle)

Support.LaughToo much stress can take its toll on the body, mood, and mind. As we age it can contribute to a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Recent research has shown that the stress hormone cortisol damages certain neurons in the brain and can negatively affect memory and learning ability in the elderly. Researchers at Loma Linda University have delved deeper into cortisol’s relationship to memory and whether humor and laughter – a well-known stress reliever – can help lessen the damage that cortisol can cause.

The researchers found that showing a 20-minute funny video to healthy seniors and seniors with diabetes helped them score better on memory tests and significantly reduced their cortisol levels when compared to non-video watchers.

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Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). “Fight memory loss with a smile (or chuckle).” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 April 2014.

Regular Doctor Visits May Greatly Diminish Skin Cancer Deaths

Body.Disease.Cancer1The risk of dying from the most dangerous type of skin cancer is significantly reduced with regular doctor visits, according to a study. This is believed to be the first study of its kind to link melanoma mortality with routine health care use. Researchers found that deaths from melanoma dropped 70 percent in patients who had at least one visit to their family doctor or to a specialist in the five years prior to their diagnosis. When factoring in age, gender, socio-economics and co-morbidities, mortality decreased by 90 percent in patients who visited a specialist.

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Source: Henry Ford Health System. “Regular doctor visits may greatly diminish skin cancer deaths.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2014.

Blood Pressure Control, Lifestyle Changes Key to Preventing Subsequent Strokes

Body.BrainStroke survivors should control their blood pressure, cholesterol and weight and do moderate physical activity regularly to avoid having another stroke, according to an American Heart Association/American Stroke Association scientific statement.

They should also receive other evidence-based therapy specific to their individual health, which may include aspirin therapy or a surgical procedure to keep neck arteries open.

The statement, “Guidelines for the Prevention of Stroke in Patients with Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA),”is published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

Treating high blood pressure is possibly most important for secondary prevention of ischemic stroke, according to the statement. About 70 percent of people who have had a recent ischemic also have high blood pressure.

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Source: American Heart Association. “Blood pressure control, lifestyle changes key to preventing subsequent strokes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2014.

Grandmas Stay Sharp When They Care For Grandkids Once a Week

Support.Granny1Taking care of grandkids one day a week helps keep grandmothers mentally sharp, finds a study from the Women’s Healthy Aging Project study in Australia, published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). That’s good news for women after menopause, when women need to lower their risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders.

On the other hand, taking care of grandchildren five days a week or more had some negative effects on tests of mental sharpness. “We know that older women who are socially engaged have better cognitive function and a lower risk of developing dementia later, but too much of a good thing just might be bad,” said NAMS Executive Director Margery Gass, MD.

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Source: The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). “Grandmas stay sharp when they care for grandkids once a week.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 April 2014.

Lifestyle Interventions Such as Weight Loss And Exercise Reduce Risk of Death From Cardiovascular Diseases

Body.WeightLoss.TipsMany research studies have shown that lifestyle interventions, such as exercise programmes or weight loss, in people with impaired glucose tolerance (those at high risk of diabetes) can prevent progression to overt type 2 diabetes.

The risk of death from all-causes and cardiovascular diseases among people with type 2 diabetes is more than twice that of people of a similar age without diabetes. Logically, if lifestyle interventions reduce the risk of diabetes they should also reduce the excess risk of death, particularly from cardiovascular disease. However, without proof that lifestyle interventions will lead long-term health benefits such as reducing death rates in high-risk people, it is difficult for doctors to recommend it to their patients as an effective preventive therapy.

In new research published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal, Professor Guangwei Li of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, Beijing, China, and colleagues, present the results from the 23-year follow-up of the Da Qing Diabetes Prevention Study, a randomized controlled trial, which showed that people in China with impaired glucose tolerance randomized to lifestyle interventions had significantly reduced death rates from cardiovascular disease and all-causes, compared to those patients randomized to the control arm.

The investigators enrolled 438 patients assigned to intervention clinics, and 138 patients were assigned to control clinics. The study intervention lasted for 6 years, and patients were then followed up for 23 years. At the end of the follow-up period, cumulative incidence of death from cardiovascular disease was 11.9% in the lifestyle intervention group, versus 19.6% in the control group, and death from all causes was 28.1% in the lifestyle group versus 38.4% in the control group. The difference between groups for both outcomes was statistically significant.

Source: Medical News Today.

Physical Activity is Beneficial For Late-Life Cognition

Business.Cloud.PhysicalActivity1Physical activity in midlife seems to protect from dementia in old age, according to a study carried out at the University of Eastern Finland. Those who engaged in physical activity at least twice a week had a lower risk of dementia than those who were less active. The protective effects were particularly strong among overweight individuals.

Further staying physically active, or becoming more active, after midlife may also contribute to lowering dementia risk, especially in people who are overweight or obese at midlife. The findings were not explained by socioeconomic background, age, sex, genetic risk factors, obesity, weight loss, general health status or work-related physical activity.

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Source: University of Eastern Finland. “Physical activity is beneficial for late-life cognition.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 April 2014.

Is Laughter the Best Medicine? Cartoons Could Help Patients Cope With Chronic Conditions

Support.LaughCartoons could be a beneficial way of educating patients and empowering them to cope better with their long-term conditions, research indicates. “Humor is frequently and naturally used by people with chronic illnesses to help them adjust and understand what is happening to them,” explains the study’s leader. “Our study has shown that cartoons could provide clarity to patients and be a way to engage with them. It is an untapped resource and could be a potential approach to support self-management.”

Published in the Health Services Research journal, the study was carried out under the auspices of National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (NIHR CLAHRC) Wessex and Greater Manchester. Researchers used patient feedback to create a series of cartoons which demonstrated common experiences, problems and anxieties. The cartoons were incorporated into a guidebook given to patients who have chronic kidney disease. These patients were asked their opinion on the use of cartoons and humour in regular patient information and then asked to evaluate the cartoons drawn for the guidebook.

Results showed a range of feelings towards the cartoons including amusement, recognition, hostility and incentives to action. Overall patients found the cartoons useful in lightening the tone of information and gave patients insight and understanding they had not had before.

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Source: University of Southampton. “Is laughter the best medicine? Cartoons could help patients cope with chronic conditions.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2014.