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Archive for April 19th, 2009

What we know for sure about diet and what protects the heart is a relatively short list.

That’s the conclusion of new research based on an analysis of nearly 200 studies involving millions of people.

Vegetables, nuts and the Mediterranean diet made the grocery list of “good” heart foods. On the “bad” list: starchy carbs like white bread and the trans fats in many cookies and french fries.

The “question mark” list includes meat, eggs and milk and many other foods where there’s not yet strong evidence about whether they’re good or bad for the heart.

“I do research. I also buy groceries for my family every week,” said study co-author Dr. Sonia Anand of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who hopes the findings “decrease the confusion around what we should eat and what we shouldn’t eat.”

The study, appearing in Monday’s Archives of Internal Medicine, doesn’t actually read like a shopping list. It’s a complicated explanation of how the researchers rated 189 prior studies on the topic.

In short, they used criteria developed by Sir Austin Bradford Hill, the late British scientist who helped establish a link between smoking and lung cancer. When multiple studies on a certain food or diet showed a strong link with better heart health, that put the food or diet at the top of the list.

Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said the analysis underlines that there’s a big gray area and a shorter list of foods with strong links to heart health.

Linda Van Horn, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said the analysis is more about the strengths and limits of previous studies than advice for consumers.

But she said the analysis reaffirms the benefits of a Mediterranean diet — rich in vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and olive oil — compared to a Western diet, heavy on processed meats, red meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy.

Beyond that, she found no reason to tear up your grocery list based on the findings.

“It’s really about the totality of the usual eating pattern, rather than whether you ate a hot dog on opening day of baseball season,” Van Horn said.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health supported the research.

(Source: AP, 13 April 2009)

My comment:

Generally, I believe a healthy lifestyle constitutes a daily balanced exercise, sleep and diets with plenty of vegetables, fish and fruits will do good to our health.

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Older adults who worry about their health often opt out of physical activity and as a result, they may have greater trouble walking and getting around as they age, new research suggests.

A key component to avoid walking difficulty in older adults is to resolve health worry issues earlier in life, the researchers from the department of nutrition and exercise science at Oregon State University in Corvallis suggest in the current issue of Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, where their research is published.

Some studies have suggested that “health worry” may motivate people to exercise regularly and engage in other healthy behaviors. The current study, however, suggests that’s not always the case.

Among a representative sample of 7,527 adults aged 70 and older participating in the Longitudinal Study of Aging, people with a high degree of health worry engaged in less physical activity than those who worried less about their health.

Furthermore, people who participated in less physical activity were more likely than their more active counterparts to report having trouble walking 6 years later.

Because physical function decreases with age and safety concerns arise, older adults may not choose physical activity as a response to health worry.

They also note that health professionals, the media, fitness instructors and family and friends may use warnings of illness or premature death to try to motivate aging couch potatoes to exercise or at least become more physically active. However, the current study suggests that this may be counterproductive; aging adults may become so fearful of their health that they will avoid physical activity.

The study noted using threats and fear-tactics to encourage physical activity in older adults will not work.

The current study suggests a more productive approach in dealing with health concerns in the aging population is to provide health-related information and screening tools prior to beginning a physical activity routine to help cope with health worries. This might ease health concerns and promote participation in physical activity.

The simple message from this study is that people should be encouraged to walk. To encourage walking, people should avoid fear-raising tactics. Rather, the emphasis should be on walking for fun, for health and for transportation.

The study warned that fear-inducing strategies often cause older adults to worry about things like falling and that diminishes their desire to walk, which in turn diminishes their ability to walk.

(Source: Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, March 2009.)

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