Drink Coffee, Live Longer

People who rely on a cup of joe to wake up or power through the day could be adding years to their lives. Two sweeping new studies reveal that a coffee habit could boost longevity by reducing the risk of death from heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease. “If you like to drink coffee, drink up,” researcher Veronica Setiwan of the University of Southern California tells ScienceDaily.com. “If you’re not a coffee drinker, then you need to consider if you should start.” Setiwan’s team examined data on nearly 186,000 adults of various races and ethnicities. The results showed mortality risk dropped 12 percent for those who drank just one cup of coffee each day while two to three cups brought even better odds – 18 percent. Another study analyzed the link between coffee and prolonged life span among more than 500,000 Europeans who were followed for about 16 (Read More)

America’s Growing Alcohol Problem

Americans are drinking more alcohol in recent years than they did 15 years ago, with 12.6 percent of the population -30 million people – binge drinking at least once a week, a new study has found. The study, which compared the drinking habits of 40,000 people in 2001-02 and in 2012-13, showed a big jump in the number of people who regularly engaged in “hazardous”  drinking downing four or more drink for women, and five or more for men. Consuming that much alcohol is associated with a host of dangerous behaviors, including drunk driving and violence, and increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and neurological problems. The study also found that 12.7 percent of the population is alcoholic. Heavy drinking rose most sharply among women, blacks, and seniors. Deborah Hasin, an epidemiologist and author of the study, said a number of factors could be driving the rise of (Read More)

How Exercise Slows Aging

If working out makes you feel younger, a new study suggests it’s no illusion- vigorous exercise can actually slow the aging process on a cellular level, turning back the clock nearly a decade. Researchers analyzed 6,000 adults based on their physical activity and biological markers of aging, Time.com reports. Most importantly, they used DNA samples to measure the length of participants’ telomeres, protein caps that protect chromosomes, like the plastic tips of shoelaces. Telomeres shrink with age – we lose bits of them every time a cell divides. “In general, people with shorter telomeres die sooner and are more likely to develop many of our chronic diseases,” says study author Larry Tucker. Taking into account risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and obesity, the researchers found people who exercised strenuously – say, running for 30 to 40 minutes five days per week – had longer telomeres. That gave them (Read More)

NSAIDs Boost Heart Risk

Evidence is mounting that common pain killers such as ibuprofen and naproxen may be tied to greater risk for heart problems, reports The Independent (U.K.). Doctors have long been concerned that non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may play a role in heart failure, because they reduce the body’s ability to metabolize salt. To investigate that link, researchers in Italy examined the health records of 7.6 million people who had recently been treated with NSAIDs, and compared them with data on 8.2 million people who didn’t use the drugs. They found that with the exception of celecoxib (Celebrex), NSAIDs raised the relative risk of heart failure by 19 percent. The higher the dosage of these drugs, the greater the risk. The researchers said the fact that these drugs could be bought over the counter fueled the misconception that they were harmless in high doses. Peter Weissberg, from the British Heart Foundation, (Read More)

A Clue On ‘Super Agers’

Researchers are a step closer to understanding the secrets of “super agers,” the lucky seniors who retain their memory, mental sharpness, and thinking skills for much longer than their peers. A team at Northwestern University performed brain scans on 24 super agers – whom they classified as people over 80 who scored as highly in memory test as those 15 to 30 years younger-and 12 cognitively average counterparts. Over a period of 18 months, the researchers looked for changes in thickness in the participants’ cortex, the outer layer of the brain responsible for thinking, memory, and decision making. They found that while all the seniors lost brain volume, the super agers retained twice as much as their peers. More research is now needed to understand what causes this lower rate of atrophy, reports CBSNews.com. “The most important aspect is to determine the possible genetic, social, and environmental factors that contribute (Read More)

Poor Sleep Tied to Alzheimer’s

Adults with normal thinking and memory skills who have trouble sleeping may be at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease, a new study shows. Researchers asked 101 older people with genetic risk factors for the degenerative brain disease to complete a sleep questionnaire. Samples of participants’ spinal fluid revealed those reporting poor sleep quality had more biological markers of Alzheimer’s, including buildups and tangles of toxic proteins, such as beta-amyloid and tau, as well as brain-cell damage and inflammation, the New York Times reports. “Not everyone with sleep problems is destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease,” says study author Barbara Bendlin of the University of Wisconsin. “We’re looking at groups of people, and over the whole group we find the association of poor sleep with the markers of Alzheimer’s.” The precise link is unclear. Previous studies suggest the brain “cleans house” overnight, clearing out harmful toxins, and sleep loss could disrupt this (Read More)

Diet Key to Weight Loss

Exercise has many proven health benefits, but those who dutifully log miles on the treadmill in the hopes of shedding stubborn pounds may want to reconsider their approach to weight loss. In a new study, researchers at Loyola University in Chicago found that healthy eating habits appear to be more important than exercise for long-term weight control, reports LiveScience.com. The team analyzed the physical activity and weight fluctuations of roughly 2,000 adults from the U.S., Ghana, Jamaica, South Africa, and the Seychelles. In each of the five countries, many of those who did 2.5 hours of moderate weekly exercise actually put on more pounds over two years than their more sedentary peers. The most likely explanation for this? Exercise tends to boost appetite, meaning active people eat more than they otherwise would. The findings suggest that physical activity alone is “not enough to prevent weight gain,” says lead author Lara (Read More)

Exercise Prevents Alzheimer’s

A landmark study has confirmed what many neurologists have long believed: Exercise is good for the brain. Researchers analyzed data from more than 150 studies on how physical activity affects the risk for Alzheimer’s. They concluded beyond a doubt that older people who exercise regularly have a significantly lower risk of developing the progressive brain disorder than those who are inactive. The study also found that people with Alzheimer’s who keep physically active are better able to perform routine daily activities than those who are sedentary, MedicalDaily.com reports. “After evaluating all the research available,” says study author Kathleen Martin Ginis, a professor at the University of British Columbia, “our panel agrees that physical activity is a practical, economical, and accessible intervention for both the prevention and management of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia’s.” The study’s authors recommend that older people adhere to current federal guidelines: at least 150 minutes of (Read More)

Runners Live Longer

Running for two hours a week could add about three years to your life, a new study suggests. Analyzing existing literature on the link between exercise and longevity, a research team found that running at any pace is associated with an up to 40 percent lower risk for premature death, The New York Times reports. The researchers suspect that running reduces common risk factors, including high blood pressure and extra body fat, but say it’s also possible that runners are more likely to have other healthy habits, such as eating healthfully and not smoking. For reasons that aren’t clear, the benefits of other forms of exercise, such as walking and biking, weren’t as striking, accounting for a roughly 12 percent drop in risk of early death. Overall, most people who laced up their sneakers for two hours weekly would end up running nearly six months over the course of 40 (Read More)

Midlife Weight Gain

Americans tend to gain a pound of two each year between early adulthood and middle age. That gradual weight gain may not seem to be a cause for concern, but Harvard scientists warn that the extra pounds add up and significantly increase the risk for chronic health issues and early death. The researchers analyzed the health records of about 118,000 people. Women gained an average of 22 pounds between the ages of 18 and 55, while men packed an average of 19 pounds. The study found that a gain of five pounds was the threshold for health problems. For every 11 pounds a person gained, the risk for type 2 diabetes rose by 30 percent, for high blood pressure by 14 percent, and for cancer by 6 percent. Study author Frank Hu tells MedicalDaily.com that “even a modest around of weight gain may have important health consequences.”