Monthly Archives: March 2015

Insufficient sleep increases blood pressure at night

Chronic sleep deprivation can increase night time blood pressure, putting you at greater risk of heart diseases, warns new research.

“For the first time, we demonstrated that insufficient sleep causes increases in night time blood pressure and dampens nocturnal blood pressure dipping,” said lead author Naima Covassin from Mayo Clinic in the US.

SEE PICS: Must haves for a good night’s sleep

The results stemmed from a controlled study that mimicked the sleep loss experienced by many people.

“We know high blood pressure, particularly during the night, is one of the major risk factors for heart disease,” Covassin said.

In this study, eight healthy normal weight participants aged 19 to 36 participated in a 16-day in-patient protocol consisting of a four-day acclimation period followed by nine days of either sleep restriction (four hours of sleep per night) or normal sleep (nine hours of sleep per night), and three days of recovery.

ALSO READ: Meditation helps improve sleep quality, lifestyle

Twenty four blood pressure monitorings at regular intervals were measured at each study phase.

During night time, in the sleep restriction phase compared to normal sleep phase, systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure averaged 115/64 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) versus 105/57 mm Hg respectively, researchers found.

Furthermore, the expected fall in blood pressure during the night was suppressed when the people had inadequate sleep.

They also found that night time heart rate was higher with sleep restriction than in normal sleep.

The findings are scheduled to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego on March 15.

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/insufficient-sleep-increases-blood-pressure-at-night/

Watch your lectin intake

By: Ishi Khosla

Food has been recognised as a medicine. Good food is medicine and can help delay, prevent and at times treat diseases. Wrong food can make us unwell and sick. Several dietary constituents and nutrients are well established with their protective roles in health and disease. A relatively less talked about concept is the role of food as a messenger carrying information and detailed instructions for every gene and cell in the body. It enables them to repair, regenerate, restore, heal, harm or damage, depending on what you eat.

One such component of food is lectins. The word ‘lectin’ comes from the Latin word legere, meaning to pick out or to choose. This is exactly what lectins do. They are a type of proteins that choose and bind to carbohydrates on cell membranes and form complexes (glycol-conjugates) on the membranes. These are present in most plants, especially seeds, nuts, cereals, legumes, beans, potatoes, tubers and dairy. They are also present in small amounts in some fruits, vegetables and seafood. Lectins are also present in the human body to some extent.

Lectins, not to be confused with the endocrine hormone leptin, play a major role in health affecting immune functions, cell growth, cell death and body fat regulation. Human lectins in our bodies act protectively as part of our immune system. However, lectins consumed in food act as chemical messengers that can in fact bind to the carbohydrates (sugars) of cells in the gut and the blood cells, initiating an adverse inflammatory response. Lectins may cause gastro-intestinal problems–cramping, bloating, flatulence, hyperacidity, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. They are also implicated in food intolerances, inflammatory and auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Other common manifestations of lectin induced damage include skin rashes, joint pains and even increased urinary infections. Many food allergies are actually immune system reactions to lectins.

Interestingly, lectins in food protect the seeds from micro-organisms, pests and insects. This is the reason why genetic modification of plants created a fluctuation in lectin content to develop pest-resistant varieties. In our bodies, lectins are not digested and we create antibodies against them.

Scientific literature shows that dietary lectins disrupt intestinal flora by reducing natural killer cells, the important defences against viruses and other invaders, thereby affecting our immune functions. Other mechanism affecting our health is their ability to influence inflammation.

Ishi Khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being, one should integrate physical, mental and spiritual health. According to her: “To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all.”

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/watch-your-lectin-intake/

Not only what you eat, when you eat also impacts heart

A team of Indian-American researchers has found that not just what you eat but when you do so is equally important in order to protect your heart from early ageing.

The results from experiments over fruit flies can one day translate into cardiac and obesity-related health benefits for humans, they noted.

“Time-restricted feeding would not require people to drastically change their lifestyles but just the times of day they eat,” said Girish Melkani, biologist at the San Diego State University.

The benefits of a time-restricted diet were not exclusive to young flies.

When the researchers introduced these dietary time restrictions to older flies, their hearts became healthier too.

“Even if you introduce time-restricted feeding very late, you still have some benefit,” Melkani pointed out.

Melkani, along with Satchidananda Panda, circadian rhythms expert at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Shubhroz Gill from the Broad Institute in Boston found that by limiting the time span during which fruit flies could eat, they could prevent aging- and diet-related heart problems.

Previous research has found that people who tend to eat later in the day and into the night have a higher chance of developing heart disease than people who cut off their food consumption earlier.

“So what is happening when people eat late? They are not changing their diet just the time,” Melkani added.

In their experiments, one group of two-week-old fruit flies was given a standard diet of cornmeal and allowed to feed all day long.

Another group was allowed access to the food for only 12 hours a day.

After three weeks, the results were clear.

Flies on the 12-hour time-restricted feeding schedule slept better, did not gain as much weight and had far healthier hearts than their “eat anytime” counterparts, even though they ate similar amounts of food.

The take-home message is to cut down on the late-night snacks, the trio concluded.

The study was published in the journal Science.

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/not-only-what-you-eat-when-you-eat-also-impacts-heart/

Take this online test to know when you might suffer a heart attack

A new online calculator could predict the age at which the person is likely to have a heart attack. The test asks you to submit details like your height, weight, family history etc.

Based on the data, the online calculator gives you an estimate about the age till which you will not suffer any heart attack or stroke.

Want to check out your risk of suffering a heart attack? Click here to take the test

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/take-this-online-test-to-know-when-you-might-suffer-a-heart-attack/

Decreased sexual activity could lower testosterone levels

Cutting down on your sexual activities with age may lead to lower levels of serum testosterone, a male sex hormone that is important for sexual and reproductive development, says a study.

“In older men, decreased sexual activity and desire may be a cause – not an effect – of low circulating testosterone level,” said the lead study author Benjumin Hsu from the University of Sydney in New South Wales.

Whether decreasing sexual function is a cause or an effect of reduced androgen status in older men, or whether some other age-related factor may be involved, is not clear.

To explore the relationship between declining reproductive hormones and decreasing sexual function in older men, the researchers assessed men of 70 years of age and above in Sydney, Australia.

The researchers tested the men for erectile dysfunction at baseline and again two years later. During both the visits, the participants answered questions about their sexual functions including, “How much desire for sex do you have now, compared with when you were 50?”

During both the visits, the researchers also measured the men’s serum testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), estradiol (E2), and estrone (E1).

By contrast, the decline in testosterone (but not in DHT, E2 or E1) over time, though less than 10 percent, was strongly related to decreased sexual activity and desire, but not to erectile dysfunction.

The findings were presented at ENDO 2015, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, in San Diego.

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/decreased-sexual-activity-could-lower-testosterone-levels/

How feeding birds could be dangerous for your lungs

When I came back to India after a long time and started living in Mumbai, I developed mild wheezing; I dismissed it as my reaction to pollution. Then one day I went up to the terrace of my building and was shocked to see two enormous trays filled with grains mixed with sev (fried stuff made from basan and spices). Birds, especially the friendly neighborhood pigeons and crows feasted on it and the entire floor of the terrace was covered with their droppings. It is at that point I realised that why so many pigeons come to rest near my windows, especially on the base of window grills that project out to give a feeling of space in tiny metropolitan flats.

Naturally, after their fiesta on the terrace, they hover around the building to find some place for their siesta. Some of them even nest and lay eggs, attracting crows who want to eat those.

The fact is that I love birds, and had a cockatiel as a pet for twelve long years, a clean, energetic and dignified fellow (it turned out to be a female at the end) with a tuft on its head. We, the bird and I had become friends, for it thought I am a bird and I thought it has all the human traits. Since I could not bring it to India (ban on exotic birds) and had to put it up for adoption, I missed it terribly and hated to shoo off the pigeons from my window grills. The wheezing continued.

Finally I came to know that my lungs were reacting to the friendly pigeons, but I was lucky that I did not develop a full blown BFD (Bird Fanciers Disease) with symptoms like breathlessness, chills, fever, dry cough and chest discomfort.

The reason behind BFD is that some of us are sensitive to a variety of environmental agents, we repeatedly breathe in making our immune system go for a toss and react violently. In this case, it is the proteins in the bird droppings that float in the air once the droppings dry and become powdery. BFD is not restricted to only pigeons but all the birds and in rare cases keeping a single pet bird can affect the lungs. The symptoms mimic asthma and there is a danger of misdiagnosis. BFD can be diagnosed only with CT scans and X-rays where ‘granulomas’ can be seen (in simple words it can be called localized inflammation). It is usually treated with steroid inhalers.

If not diagnosed or treated properly it can turn complicated with loss of appetite, weight loss and extreme tiredness. It can lead to a very serious condition called ‘fibrosis’ where fibrous tissue (scarring) replaces fine and delicate parts of our lungs (alveoli) where fresh air with oxygen enters our being. More scarring means less fresh air entering our body, and this can be fatal, deadly. Very small children, senior citizens, immune compromised patients are more prone to BFD, and they must wear masks if they live in the midst of pigeons or keep the birds away by not feeding them.

In India we feed birds for two reasons, we love them and also gather religious sentiments with hidden desire to collect ‘good karma’, but are we doing the right thing?

There is one more reason why we must not feed birds on terraces, for their droppings are acidic and over the years can erode the buildings (including the steel), making the structure weak.

The author is a microbiologist and has worked for food and pharmaceutical companies in marketing as well as business development in countries like Germany, India and the United Arab Emirates. She has written articles on ‘health & medicine’ in a leading Marathi newspaper and was also a freelance health columnist for a leading English newspaper in the Gulf for several years. From a young age she was also into writing poetry in Marathi and English, and some of her poems have been published. Now back in India she is a full time writer and pursues farming as a hobby. The first part of her Historical Novel trilogy called ‘Frontiers of Karma – the Counterstroke’ is published (August 2014) by Alchemy Publishers. It is a first novel published on Shivaji Aurangzeb conflict in English where the lives of these mighty men run parallel.
You can follow her on twitter – Medha Bhaskaran @MedhaDB.
Write to her on medha4979@gmail.com

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/how-feeding-birds-could-be-dangerous-for-your-lungs/

Male smokers at higher risk for osteoporosis

Overturning conventional wisdom, a large study of middle-aged to elderly smokers has found that men are more likely than women to have the progressive bone disease osteoporosis and fractures of their vertebrae.

Although current guidelines in the US do not recommend osteoporosis screening for men, the new findings suggest that smokers of both genders should be screened for low bone density

The researchers found that smoking history and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were independent risk factors for low bone density among both men and women.

While current smoking is a recognised risk factor for osteoporosis, neither smoking history nor COPD are among criteria for bone-density screening.

“Our findings suggest that current and past smokers of both genders should be screened for osteoporosis,” said Elizabeth Regan, assistant professor of medicine at the National Jewish Health in the US.

“Expanding screening to include men with a smoking history and starting treatment in those with bone disease may prevent fractures, improve quality of life and reduce health care costs,” Regan added.

The researchers evaluated 3,321 current and former smokers aged 45 to 80.

Men accounted for 55 percent of the smokers with low bone density and 60 percent of those with vertebral fractures.

Low-bone density increased in prevalence with worsening COPD, rising to 84 percent among severe COPD patients of both genders, the findings showed.

“The growing use of CT scans to screen heavy smokers for lung cancer may provide an opportunity to use the same scans for bone density screening in this high-risk population,” Regan pointed out.

The study was published online in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/male-smokers-at-higher-risk-for-osteoporosis/

Diet diary: Diet during exams

By: Ishi Khosla

With exams round the corner, children and parents come under pressure and stress. Can what you eat make a difference to how you cope with stress. The answer is a YES.

Studies suggest that what you eat can affect your mood, alter stress levels, irritability and promote calmness. Further, it has been reported that unhealthy meals can increase stress levels. Another study indicates that students under the influence of academic examination stress show significant increase in food intake, high fat and sugary snacks, which can be counter-productive.

Further, increased stress creates a greater need for certain essential nutrients like water soluble vitamins- Vitamin B, C and minerals like zinc. The levels of vitamin C can fluctuate depending on the degree of physical and emotional stress.

Nutrients such as vitamin C, B6, zinc, magnesium, potassium, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and amino acid tyrosine are required for synthesis and proper functioning of adrenal hormones- the most important stress fighting hormone. By following some simple tips, one can protect oneself from faulty eating during stressful times and promote calmer state of mind.

Beat stress by eating right:

Eat smaller frequent meals to ensure a steady stream of energy and have a calming effect on the brain. Avoid large meals.

Choose adequate amount of fresh fruits and vegetables like amla, citrus fruits, tomatoes, green peppers, green leafy vegetables, kiwi, broccoli, and strawberries to ensure good vitamin C status.

Minimise intake of white flour, white rice, sweetened beverages and sugar. Choose whole grains like oats, barley, brown rice and whole wheat; pulses, nuts and seeds, low fat dairy, seafood, lean meats, green leafy vegetables and wheat germ to ensure adequate intake of vitamin B and zinc.

Avoid junk food and poor quality fat (hydrogenated- trans fats).

Snack smart on fresh fruits, dry fruits, honey coated nuts, seeds, roasted whole grains, soups, salads, hot chocolate, almond milk or yogurt, to prevent swings in blood sugars and cravings.

Drink plenty of fluids and remain well hydrated. Green tea, jasmine tea and cammomile tea help calm the mind.

Take tea, coffee and caffeinated beverages, including colas in moderation.

For those looking for memory enhancing techniques, nourish your brain with healthy food rather than gulping memory pills.

Memory boosting nutrients include:

Antioxidants like vitamin A, E and C found in natural foods like eggs, carrots, brocolli, fish, nuts, green leafy vegetables and fruits. They reduce the cell damage in the brain.

Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, mustard oil, mustard seeds, methi, urad dal, rajma, soybeans, lobia, walnuts, bajra, and flaxseeds (alsi) are good for brain as well as good skin and heart health. Flaxseeds are the richest plant source of omega 3 fats.

Vitamin B1: It keeps the nervous system healthy and is used in the biosynthesis continued…

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/diet-diary-diet-during-exams/

Eating peanuts may help you live longer: Study

Eating peanuts may lower your risk of dying from a heart attack, a new study has claimed.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University in US and Shanghai Cancer Institute in China examined the association of peanut and nut consumption with mortality among low-income and racially diverse populations and found that intake of peanuts was associated with fewer deaths, especially from heart disease.

“Nuts are rich in nutrients, such as unsaturated fatty acids, fibre, vitamins, phenolic antioxidants, arginine and other phytochemicals,” said senior author Xiao-Ou Shu, associate director for Global Health at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Centre (VICC).

“All of them are known to be beneficial to cardiovascular health, probably through their anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and endothelial function maintenance properties,” Shu said.

While research has previously linked nut consumption with lower mortality, those studies focused mainly on higher-income, white populations.

The new study was the first to discover that all races – blacks, whites and Asians alike – could potentially increase heart health by eating nuts and peanuts.

“In our study, we found that peanut consumption was associated with reduced total mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality in a predominantly low-income black and white population in the US, and among Chinese men and women
living in Shanghai,” Shu said.

Participants included more than 70,000 Americans of African and European descent from the Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS), who were mostly low-income, and more than 130,000 Chinese from the Shanghai Women’s Health Study (SWHS) and the Shanghai Men’s Health Study (SMHS).

Peanut consumption was associated with decreased total mortality, particularly cardiovascular mortality (ie, 17-21 per cent reduction in total mortality, and 23-38 per cent reduction in cardiovascular mortality for the highest quartile intake group compared to the lowest quartile group) across all three racial/ethnic groups, among both men and women.

Because peanuts are much less expensive than tree nuts, as well as more widely available to people of all races and all socioeconomic backgrounds, increasing peanut consumption may provide a potentially cost-efficient approach to improving
cardiovascular health, Shu said.

“The data arise from observational epidemiologic studies, and not randomised clinical trials, and thus we cannot be sure that peanuts per se were responsible for the reduced mortality observed,” said William Blot, associate director for Cancer Prevention, Control and Population-based Research at VICC and a co-author of the study.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/eating-peanuts-may-help-you-live-longer-study/

Food and mood go hand-in-hand

By Ishi Khosla

The link between food and mood is not new. People have associated eating certain foods with a person’s mood. This has been long established, even in Ayurveda. Research over the last two decades has brought a deepened understanding of brain chemistry together with effects of food on behaviour and mental health.

Certain constituents of food alter the neuro-chemical messengers called the neurotransmitters, which help in brain functioning and carrying signals between nerve cells.

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The three main neurotransmitters which have been commonly associated with food include dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are produced in the brain from certain components of food. While dopamine and norepinephrine are associated with alertness, serotonin has a calming, relaxing and a feel-good effect. There is another set of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters are endorphins. These positively influence mood and appetite, decrease pain sensitivity and stress. Endorphins are released during starvation and prolonged exercise.

Changes in the levels of these neurotransmitters lead to alteration of moods and state of mind. Food high in carbohydrates increase the production of tryptophan, a precursor of serotonin. This explains why people often crave for carbohydrate food like sweets, breads, rice and pasta, and seek these as comfort and calming food. Interestingly, it also explains the drowsiness that sets in after eating a carbohydrate rich meal. Infact, the effect goes beyond calming. It has been suggested that serotonin has a role to play in appetite control and may inhibit eating. Scientific human and animal studies have shown that serotonin reduced caloric intake by reducing hunger and increasing satiety.

Chocolate consumption increases the release of serotonin and endorphins into the body, which together produce a relaxing and euphoric feeling. Another reason why chocolates help in elevating mood is its fat and phenyl-ethylamine content. Fat and phenylethylamine are associated with endorphin release and as mentioned sugars improve the serotonin secretion, so it’s not surprising why many crave chocolates when feeling depressed.

Source Article from http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/food-and-mood-go-hand-in-hand/