Health briefs

January 26, 2012

Better than nothing: Even a little exercise can make your heart healthier

Better than nothing: Even a little exercise can make your heart healthier

You don’t have to live at the gym to enjoy a healthier heart. A recent research study reported that even small amounts of exercise – after-dinner walks, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, doing some gardening or just playing with your kids – can produce a noticeable reduction in heart disease risk.

Results of the Harvard University School of Public Health study, which were published by the journal Circulation, showed that exercising just 2.5 hours a week reduced heart disease risk by about 14 percent compared to those who did no exercise. Weekly exercise of about five hours produced a 20 percent average risk reduction.

The bottom line: Say goodbye to sedentary living, and get on the path to a healthier heart.

Working long hours may take a toll on the heart

People who work long hours may be damaging their health more than they realize. According to a recent study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, people whose typical workday lasted at least 11 hours were more likely to suffer future heart problems than those who worked seven to eight hours a day.

During the study, British researchers evaluated the coronary heart disease risk factors of more than 7,000 middle-aged men and women and tracked the group for a 12-year period. About 10 percent of the group reported long workdays.

After 12 years, results indicated that those who reported working at least 11 hours a day were 66 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack, or die from one, compared to people who worked less.

While further research is needed to determine the precise relationship between working hours and heart problems, the research team emphasized the connection between chronic stress associated with long working hours causing problems with the body’s metabolic processes, higher rates of depression and problems with sleep.


Swapping carbs for soy and low-fat dairy helps blood pressure

Some easy-to-make diet substitutions may actually lower your blood pressure. That’s the finding of a new study which provides some of the strongest evidence yet that cutting back on carbohydrates in favor of more low-fat dairy and soy products can have a healthy impact on blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for potentially-fatal heart attacks and strokes. Earlier studies had shown a connection between diets rich in low-fat dairy products and lower blood pressure. This latest study, conducted by a research team at Tulane University in the US, is the first to directly examine the effects that carbohydrates, vegetable protein and dairy protein may have on blood pressure.

During the study, participants who had been diagnosed with pre-hypertension or moderate hypertension took a series of supplements made from soy protein, low-fat milk protein or carbohydrates. Each participant had his blood pressure checked periodically throughout the study.

The results showed that people in the low-fat protein and soy groups registered a modest,but statistically significant, reduction in blood pressure of about four percent versus the carbohydrates group. It’s estimated that such a reduction in blood pressure could translate to a six percent decline in stroke deaths and a four percent drop in fatal heart attacks.

So the next time you catch yourself reaching for a sugar-heavy cola drink, make the healthy swap with a glass of soy or low-fat milk instead.

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