Medical

HDL Cholesterol: a New Understanding

For many years HDL cholesterol has been called "good" because it carries plaque-forming particles from your arteries and bloodstream back to your liver, where they can be removed from your body. An exciting new study from Texas Medical Center shows that regular HDL cholesterol may not be very effective in doing this, but another form called Nascent HDL carries these protein-fats much more quickly to your liver to be removed from your circulation (Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, Nov 21, 2017).

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Deceptive Headlines about Exercise and Heart Attacks a Gross Disservice

"You Can Exercise Yourself to Death, Says New Study" was the headline in The New York Post on October 17, 2017. Headlines like that are likely to discourage people from exercising and thus to shorten their lives. The entire article was a disturbing and offensive misinterpretation of a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago of 3,175 people in the CARDIA study (Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Oct. 16, 2017). The study showed that men who spend a lot of time exercising each week have more plaques in their arteries than moderate exercisers, but it did not show that these men suffer more heart attacks.

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New Study Points to Best Use of Stents

A recently published study suggests that stents placed in arteries leading to the heart have not been shown to cure chest pain (Lancet, Nov 2, 2017). Placing stents in people who have heart pain from narrowed arteries and giving them medication is not more effective in relieving pain than just giving them medication and no stents. Stents do help to prevent the heart muscle from dying when put in place within the first few hours after the start of a heart attack. If stents are placed in the heart arteries several hours after the heart attack starts, it can be too late to offer benefits.

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Exercise May Help to Prevent Dementia

An outstanding review of hundreds of articles in the world's scientific literature showed that exercising older people have far less loss of brain function with aging, less brain blood vessel damage, larger hippocampal brain size for better memory, less loss of brain tissue with aging, better spatial memory, better communication between brain nerves and improved ability to learn new facts (Mayo Clin Proc, 2011 Sep; 86(9): 876–884). 

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Tips For Keeping Your Maximum Heart Rate Up as You Age

Your maximum heart rate is the fastest your heart can beat and still pump blood effectively through your body. As you age, your maximum heart rate drops. This means that your heart is weaker and more susceptible to damage, and you can't exercise as fast over distance as you could when you were younger. How fast you can run, cycle, ski or swim over distance is limited by the time that it takes to move oxygen into your muscles. Your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to your muscles, so the faster your heart can beat, the more blood it can pump to your muscles and the faster you can move. 

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Piriformis Syndrome

If it hurts to touch a point that's in the middle of one side of your buttocks, you probably have piriformis syndrome. This chronic condition is very difficult to diagnose, because other injuries may produce exactly the same symptoms. Similar pain may be the result of an injury to bones, muscles, tendons, bursae (pads between the tendons and bones), the hip joint, or the sciatic nerve, but there are ways to determine from which condition you might be suffering.

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Plaques are Reversible

Most heart attacks are caused by lifestyle factors, not by genes, and the prevention of heart attacks depends far more on what you do now than what you did earlier in your life. It is an incredible tragedy that many physicians prescribe statin drugs to prevent heart attacks without also explaining the importance of lifestyle changes. Doctors are too busy to take the time to teach their patients, and many heart attack victims are guilty of not making the necessary lifestyle changes because they are not sufficiently motivated to improve their diet, to exercise and control their weight.

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Blocking Inflammation Key to Preventing Heart Attacks

In the biggest advance in knowledge about the prevention of heart attacks since the discovery of statins, researchers at Harvard Medical School have shown that blocking inflammation helps to prevent heart attacks (New Engl J of Med, August 27, 2017) and cancers (Lancet, August 27, 2017). You can help to protect yourself from having a heart attack by making lifestyle changes and taking statins to lower cholesterol. However, five years after people who suffer a heart attack have made some lifestyle changes and taken statins, 25 percent will suffer another heart attack. Hundreds of previous research papers point to continuing inflammation as the cause.

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Calculate Your Fitness Age

VO2max can be used to predict a person’s risk of premature death from a heart attack. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have developed a simple way to estimate a person’s VO2max, his maximal ability to take in and use oxygen (Med Sci Sports Exerc, November 2011;43(11):2024-30). The researchers had 4,637 healthy adults, average age near 50, run to exhaustion on a treadmill and measured their VO2max (a complicated test that measures oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations). They then developed a formula that correlated very well with the subjects’ actual VO2max.

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How Exercise Helps Prevent Heart Attacks

Two recent breakthrough studies give the best explanation yet of how exercise helps to prevent heart attacks. Competitive older endurance athletes may have more plaques in their arteries than non-exercisers, but they have the type of plaques that are far less likely to break off and cause heart attacks (Circulation, April 27, 2017;136:138-148; May 2, 2017;136:126-137). The studies showed that competitive master athletes have:

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Cancer-Causing HPV Found in 20 Percent of U.S. Teens and Adults

Human Papilloma Viruses (HPV) that cause cancers of the mouth and sexual organs are the most common sexually-transmitted diseases in the United States today, infecting 20 percent of people under age 60 (CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, April 6, 2017). The Communicable Disease Center estimates that these cancer-causing viruses infect 80 million Americans, with more than 14 million of the new infections occuring among teenagers. They found that almost 31,000 new cases of cancer each year from 2008 to 2012 were attributable to HPV and that most could be prevented with immunization.

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Power Napping Delivers Myriad Benefits

Power napping for an hour can help you to learn, remember and interpret more efficiently. Try to nap before having an important interview, writing a report or learning new concepts. Many employers such as Google, Uber, Zappos and PricewaterhouseCoopers provide facilities for their employees to nap during their workdays. Napping also helps athletes to recover faster after intense workouts. Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist and winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon, naps regularly.

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