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)

Settling the Egg Debate

You can safely eat a dozen eggs a week—or possibly more—without increasing your risk of heart disease, according to new research. Like butter and red meat, eggs are high in dietary cholesterol, and for decades many physicians advised patients to cut back on such foods to keep their heart healthy. To test the health effect of eggs, researchers at the University of Sydney put 128 people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes—a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease—on two different diets for a year. One group ate 12 eggs a week and the other ate two eggs or fewer a week. At the end of the study, the researchers found no adverse changes in cardiovascular risk factors in either group, including in blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol and blood-sugar levels, MedicalDaily.com reports. “Our research indicates people do not need to hold back from eating eggs,” study author Nick Fuller says, “if this (Read More)

Diet Linked to Arthritis

Having a bad diet may increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis. Scientists have long thought the condition was tied to obesity and excessive stress placed on the joints, reports MedicalDaily.com. But in a new study, a team from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that a high-fat Western diet caused mice not only to gain weight but also to develop systemic inflammation and an imbalance in their gut microbiome: Their colons had high levels of harmful bacteria and hardly any beneficial “probiotic” bacteria. When the researchers tore cartilage in the rodents’ knees to trigger osteoarthritis, the disease progressed more rapidly in the obese mice. When they then treated these mice with a probiotic to restore their gut microbiome, the rodents had less inflammation and their joint health improved. Study author Eric Schott says his team’s findings “set the stage to develop therapies that target the microbiome and actually treat (Read More)

Night Owls May Live Shorter Lives

People who habitually stay up late are more likely to die early, a new study has found, perhaps because their internal body clock is out of sync with a society that favors early risers. Researchers tracked about 430,000 adults between 38 and 73 years old for 6.5 years. They found that night owls had a 10 percent greater risk of early death than those who prefer to wake up early, Vox.com reports. Those who burned the midnight oil were more likely to have chronic health issues, such as diabetes, neurological disorders, and respiratory disease. One possible reason, says study author Kristen Knutson, is that the pressure to conform to other people’s work and social schedules leaves late risers anxious, sleep deprived, and feeling as if they live in a perpetual state of jet lag. “There’s a problem for the night owl who’s trying to live in the morning-lark world,” Knutson (Read More)

Some of the Things They Said Were Good For Us… and Some of the Things We Were Told to Avoid

Some of the things they said were good for us… Nature Walks can make you healthier and happier by driving out obsessive, negative thoughts. A Stanford University study found that strolling in a natural setting decreases activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region particularly active during rumination. “It was pretty striking that a 90-minute walk had this much of an impact,” says author Gregory Bratman. For people with a tendency to brood, interrupting an endless stream of negative thoughts reduces the risk for depression and other mental illnesses. Green spaces may also make kids smarter. A separate study of roughly 2,600 fourth-graders in Barcelona found that those with greater exposure to nature were more attentive and experienced a 5 percent increase in working memory. Awe-inspiring experiences can help you live longer. Gazing out over the Grand Canyon or beholding an artistic masterpiece can trigger positive emotions with immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory effects (Read More)