Potassium Protects the Heart

People often eat bananas, avocados, and leafy greens for various health benefits. New research adds another benefit: These and other potassium rich foods may help prevent heart disease, ScienceDaily.com reports. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that a high-potassium diet makes arteries more flexible, and thus could reduce the risk for atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries.” For the study, the researchers fed mice with a genetic susceptibility to heart disease a diet with low, normal, high levels of potassium. The mice on the low-potassium diet had more severe narrowing and hardening of the arteries than those with adequate potassium intake. High potassium diets had the opposite effects, suggesting that potassium rich foods – which also include potatoes, spinach, carrots, and artichokes – could also help prevent heart disease in people.   Mineral Depletion. Too little potassium, calcium or magnesium in your diet can contribute to leg (Read More)

Leg Movement Key for Brain Health

Using your legs in weight-bearing exercise is critical for brain health, new research shows. Researchers found that moving the large muscles in the legs, through activities such as walking, climbing stairs, and running, triggers the production of stem cells in the brain—helping that critical organ to renew itself. “We are meant to be active: to walk, run, crouch to sit, and use our leg muscles to lift things,” study author Raffaella Adami tells MedicalNewsToday.com. For the study, researchers immobilized the hind legs of a group of mice for 28 days, then examined a specific area of their brains known as the subventricular zone. They found the neural stem cell activity of the mice had plummeted by 70 percent. Declines in oxygen levels associated with reduced physical activity also altered the rodents’ metabolism. These findings may explain why the health of people who are bedridden often deteriorates rapidly. In addition to the (Read More)

Germs Lurking in Hotel Pools

As summer gets under way, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a stark warning for travelers: Beware of the hotel pool. Between 2000 and 2014, nearly a third of the disease outbreaks linked to recreational water facilities occurred at hotels, inns, and lodges, the CDC reports. Cryptosporidium, or crypto, was the culprit behind 58 percent of the outbreaks with a confirmed source. This parasite, which wreaks havoc on the digestive system, is highly tolerant of chlorine and can survive for days in well-maintained pools and hot tubs. “Swallowing just a mouthful of water with crypto in it can make otherwise healthy kids and adults sick for weeks with watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting,” the CDC’s Michele Hlavsa tells CBSNews.com. Legionella bacteria, which can cause pneumonia, accounted for 16 percent of the reported outbreaks; 13 percent involved Pseudomonas, a group of bacteria responsible for “hot tub rash” and “swimmers’ ear.” The (Read More)

The Benefits of Eating Fish

Concerns about mercury contamination should not dissuade Americans from eating seafood, the American Heart Association has announced. Recent research has found that large fish such as ahi tuna and swordfish contain high levels of the metal, which is toxic to the brain and nervous system. (Mercury enters the atmosphere through coal burning and other industrial activity, eventually making its way into lakes and oceans.) But studies have also found that seafood helps prevent heart disease, reports MedicalDaily.com. After reviewing all the available data, the AHA concluded that the significant cardiovascular benefits of eating fish outweigh the neurological risks. In an updated scientific advisory, the organization advises adults to consume two 3.5-ounce servings of nonfried fish every week, and specifically recommends salmon, trout, sardines, and other oily fish that are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. “The benefits of fish,” says Harvard epidemiologist Eric Rimm, who chairs the group that wrote the (Read More)

Walk Faster, Live Longer

If you want to add a few extra years to your life, try picking up the pace. That’s the advice of an international team of researchers who found that people’s walking speed is linked to their risk of dying early from heart disease and other causes. The scientists analyzed data provided by more than 50,000 Britons, who reported their typical walking speed (slow, average, fairly brisk, or fast) and other health metrics for nine years—during which time 3,617 of the respondents died. Compared with slowpokes, fast and average walkers had roughly a 20 percent lower risk of premature death, and a similar reduction in risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, reports MarketWatch.com. Upping the pace was even more beneficial for older walkers. Average-pace walkers ages 60 and over experienced a 46 percent reduction in risk of death from heart disease, and fast-pace walkers a 53 percent drop. To get the maximum (Read More)

Reducing the Risk of Dementia

Playing cards, reading books, and engaging in other mentally stimulating activities can help ward off dementia later in life, new research suggests. Scientists tracked more than 15,500 people ages 65 and over in Hong Kong for five years and routinely asked them about the “intellectual activities” they’d engaged in, including reading books and newspapers, playing board games, and even betting on horses. None of the participants had dementia at the start of the study, but by the end more than 1,300 participants had the condition, says Time​.com. Researchers found that individuals who performed intellectual activities on a daily basis had a far lower risk of developing cognitive decline than those who did them less often or not at all—even after adjusting for other factors, including physical exercise and fruit and vegetable consumption. “Given the growing older population worldwide,” the study authors write, “promoting regular engagement in intellectual activities might help delay or (Read More)

Scarfing Snacks in the Office

Catered meetings, donuts in the office kitchen, and sugary vending machine snacks could be expanding the waistlines of American employees, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers asked more than 5,000 employees across the U.S. about the food and drink they bought at work or got for free in common rooms, meetings, or social events. Nearly a quarter of participants obtained food at work at least once a week, each consuming an average of 1,300 calories a week—more than half the recommended daily calorie intake for the average adult. Most of the food was high in added sugar—cookies, brownies, pizza, and cakes were among the most commonly offered munchies—and more than 70 percent of the calories consumed in the office came from freebies. To change employees’ habits, study co-author Stephen Onufrak tells ABCNews.com, companies should “encourage healthier foods at meetings and events, especially when the (Read More)

Meds Tied to Depression

As the U.S. suicide rate ticks up, a new study has found that more than a third of Americans are taking at least one prescription drug that could raise their risk of depression. Researchers analyzed medications taken by 26,000 adults from 2005 to 2014 and identified more than 200 widely used drugs that list depression or suicidal thoughts as possible side effects, including hormonal birth control pills, antacids like Prilosec and Zantac, beta-blockers, and the anti-anxiety pill Xanax. About 37 percent of people took at least one of the drugs, and researchers discovered that the more of these drugs participants used at the same time, the greater their likelihood of depression. Some 15 percent of people who used three or more of the drugs—but didn’t take an antidepressant—had depression, while only 7 percent of those taking one and 5 percent who weren’t taking any had the condition. Columbia University psychiatrist (Read More)

Yoga’s Brain Boost

Yoga and meditation are becoming increasingly mainstream activities in the U.S., and new research helps explain why. Daily sessions of either practice can have dramatic effects on brain function. Scientists asked 31 healthy people to engage in 25 minutes of hatha yoga, mindfulness meditation, and quiet reading in random order. Mental tasks completed before and after each session found that yoga and meditation led to greater improvements in the participants’ energy level, mood, executive function, and ability to control thoughts and emotions. “Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation both focus the brain’s conscious processing power on a limited number of targets, like breathing and posing, and also reduce processing of nonessential information,” the study’s co-author, Peter Hall, tells ScienceDaily.com. That mental training, he said, apparently enables people “to focus more easily on what they choose to attend to in everyday life.” In addition to the physical aspect of brain health, our New (Read More)

Fast Food and Infertility

Women trying to get pregnant should steer clear of fast foods and eat more fresh fruit instead. That’s the conclusion of a new study that followed the diets of nearly 5,600 women in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the U.K. Researchers found that participants who ate meals at fast-food restaurants at least four times a week took nearly a month longer to conceive than those who rarely ate fast food. And while women who rarely or never ate fast food had an 8 percent risk of infertility—defined as not being able to get pregnant after a year of trying—the risk was 16 percent among regular fast-food eaters. Meanwhile, women who ate fruit at least three times a day got pregnant two weeks faster on average than women who ate fruit less than once a month. “It shows that healthier foods support conception,” study leader Jessica Grieger tells NBCNews.com. Researchers note that (Read More)