Smoke & Mirrors

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The first US Surgeon General warning against cigarette smoking was issued just over 50 years ago. Since that time, ample research has been published illustrating the detrimental health costs of smoking. In a global effort to reduce smoking worldwide, many attempts have been made to reduce smoking prevalence including, increasing prices and bans on advertising, promotion, sales to minors, and smoking in public places. However, smoking has resulted in almost 6 million deaths worldwide, and effects life expectancy and quality of life significantly. Since 1980, Research has shown that the prevalence of smoking has been reduced significantly, however, because of population growth, the total number of smokers has actually increased. In addition, some interesting trends have started to emerge in other areas. 

Recently published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reportsome troubling data has been released. From 2010 to 2016, the total number of tobacco-use scenes in top-grossing movies has increased by 72% from 2010 to 2016, including a 43% increase in tobacco-use depictions PG-13 rated films. Interestingly, prior to 2010, this figure had been declining. In a 2012 report on youth smoking, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that there is a causal relationship between smoking depictions in films and smoking initiation among children and teens.

Although it's not clear as to whether or not the film industry is pushing for cigarette placement in these films, the research is alarming and one to take note of. It is common knowledge at this point, that smoking is wildly detrimental to overall health, yet it continues to have a large social and global impact. The emerging statistics add to a growing volume of literature suggesting that smoking still holds a dangerous place in society, especially amongst our youth. 

Just a little educational reality check! So, be healthy, living longer, and of course, don't smoke!



We Wear the Genes In This Relationship

They say genetics load the gun and environment pulls the trigger. But does it really? How much do our genes control our health, and how much control do we actually have? When it comes to heart health and coronary artery disease, it's well known that lifestyle modifications have an enormous effect on our risk for developing CAD. But how much do our healthy habits of diet and exercise actually help? Well, recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined just this. 

Researchers quantified genetic risk for CAD in three separate search groups, encompassing over 55,000 participants: 7814 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, 21,222 in the Women’s Genome Health Study (WGHS), and 22,389 in the Malmö Diet and Cancer Study (MDCS). They also examined compliance with a healthy lifestyle by scoring participants based on 4 factors:  no current smoking, no obesity, regular physical activity, and a healthy diet. A  healthy or "favorable" lifestyle was considered one with 3 out of 4 of the above criteria. While an unhealthy of "unfavorable" lifestyle only contained 1 of the above criteria. 

When they ran the numbers on all that collected data, they found several (un)surprising numbers...

  1. The relative risk of incident coronary events was 91% higher among participants at high genetic risk. 
  2. A healthy lifestyle was associated with a substantially lower risk of coronary events than an unhealthy lifestyle, regardless of the genetic risk category.
  3. For patients with high genetic risk, a favorable lifestyle was associated with a 46% lower relative risk of coronary events than an unfavorable lifestyle. 
  4. A reduction in the standardized 10-year incidence of coronary events for patients that maintained a favorable lifestyle. 
  5. A favorable lifestyle was associated with significantly less coronary-artery calcification within each genetic risk category.

Now, you may have a family history of CAD or heart problems, but you can do your part to adhere to a healthy lifestyle and drastically decrease your chances of being affected. So talk with your primary care physician about simple and easy ways to start living a healthier lifestyle! Your heart will love you for it! 

Train Like An Athlete: Start Meditating


Ever wonder how the High level athletes do it? Sure, they push themselves beyond their physical limits, and train their bodies for perfection. But, all that physical training takes a toll on the mind. Forcing your body further and further beyond its comfort zone takes a lot of mental focus and energy. Its no question that grit and intensity will get you pretty far, but maybe there are other ways to perform at such high levels for long periods of time. A recent article in The NY Times Well Blog discussed some emerging research investigating the benefits of meditation in high level athletes. 

The research was published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. The study examined the effects of Mindfulness Training (MT) and Relaxation Training (RT) on sustained attention and emotional well being in college football players during their pre-season high demand training.  The study showed that greater engagement in both MT and RT was correlated with less anxiety and a more positive affect over the high-demand pre season training. The study suggests that athletes must sufficiently engage in both MT and RT to experience the benefits of these programs over cognitively and emotionally demanding intervals, such as pre-season athletic training. 

Check out the complete article at the NYT Well blog! And don't forget to meditate like the Pros :)

Should 15,000 steps be our new goal?

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Many pedometers, fitness apps, and health nuts will quickly jump to tell you that 10,000 steps per day is the magic number to shoot for when it comes to your daily step count. Although, this nice round number is a great goal for most people,  this step count hasn't been scientifically validated to actually show a decrease in cardiovascular disease. However, a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity, takes a look at how many steps per day is associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. The study examined 111 postal service workers in Glasgow, Scotland between the ages of 40 and 60. The study showed that employees who sat for a majority of the day, were correlated with larger waist lines, poorly controlled blood sugar, and higher cholesterol. Postal workers who walked for approximately 15,000 steps per day showed no increased risk for cardiac disease risk. Although it's just one study and a relatively small sample size, it may be a good idea to go for another lap around the block :) Check out the NY times article for more details about the study. 

Age is just a number - Ask this cyclist

Robert Marchand, age 105. Photo: NYT Well Blog

Robert Marchand, age 105. Photo: NYT Well Blog

At the ripe age of 105, Robert Marchand isn't ready to ride off into the sunset just yet. But he is definitely going to keep riding! In fact, just recently he set the world record for cycling distance in one hour for age group 105+. Although, he didn't have to beat anyone's record. He actually created the category, as no other cyclist had eve attempted such a feat. He rode a very respectable 14 miles. But when you consider the fact that he was born at the dawn of the 20th century, that's just unbelievable. But in order to achieve his record, he had a little help. Back in 2012, when he set the cycling record for 100+ age group, he drew the attention of Veronique Billat, a professor of exercise science at the University of Evry-Val d’Essonne in France. She took him to her lab, with the rest of the professional athletes, and wanted to see if she could alter his training to improve his VO2 Max (a measure of aerobic fitness level). Read the rest of article, and check out Robert's tips for success...

Organic chickens get more room to roam

Photo: NPR blog

Photo: NPR blog

Although organic farming techniques provide chickens with access to the outside world, it most certainly isn't as spacious as we have been led to believe. Thousands of hens are packed into hen houses, with only a small porch to share. Although this satisfies the regulations, it is hardly the utopian organic farming we imagine. However, recently new regulations have been set by the USDA.  According to an article on the NPR blog, " farmers must provide at least one square foot of outdoor space for each 2.25 pounds of poultry in their flock". It is thought, that roughly 25% of all organic farms do not currently meet this regulation.  The new rules by the USDA are looking to instill trust in the organic farming community, and improve animal welfare across the country. Check out the complete article on the NPR website

What is the longest humans can live?

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Researchers recently published an article in the Journal of Nature stating that we, as humans, may have reached the upper limit of longevity. Now, although it's no secret that one day we all must cease to exist, it is most certainly debated as to when that is going to happen. The New York Times Well Blog recently featured an article discussing the new journal publication, and some of its surprising facts. The article states, " In 1968, the oldest age attained was 111. By the 1990s, that figure had increased to around 115. But then this trend stopped, too. With rare exceptions like Mrs. Calment (shown on the left), no one has lived beyond 115 years." The jury is still out regarding the upper limits of human age, but it's always great to see cases of people living over a century with such high quality of life. See what you think about the rest of the article at the NYT blog. 

How the sugar industry shifted the blame towards fat

Photo: NYT Well Blog

Photo: NYT Well Blog

A new article published in the international medical journal JAMA discussed the role of the sugar industry and its role in our "understanding" of coronary heart disease, as well as the history behind our current scientific thoughts on saturated fats. The New York Times Well blog, featured a great article on the publication, and is an easy to read summary on the forces of research that may have shaped our negative connotation with saturated fats and their role in heart disease. Give it a read and brush up on your nutrition history!

Stressed out? IT may affect your healthy eating habits

Photo: NPR Blog

Photo: NPR Blog

NPR had a great summary article on their website discussing a recent publication on the effects of stress on healthy eating. In a very brief nutshell, they explain how the study showed that even after eating a "healthy" meal, stress can lead to inflammatory changes in the body, similar to those caused by eating an "unhealthier" meal high in saturated fat. Great article!

Organic Gatorade - What does it mean for Public Health?

Organic Gatorade: Photo: Atlantic Health Blog

Organic Gatorade: Photo: Atlantic Health Blog

The Atlantic health blog featured some good food for thought, in their article discussing Organic Gatorade. "The market for products labeled "organic" has exploded in recent years, to $43.3 billion in the US alone in 2015. Marketing to capitalize on that demand sometimes confuses consumers  into thinking that organically-produced products are healthier for us". Although eating organic can have many health benefits, it's also important to keep in mind the overall nutritional content of the Organic foods that we eat. This can be especially true when it pertains to sugary beverages such as Gatorade. See what you think of the article, and always keep an open mind when you see the term "Organic".