Five Breaking Health Stories You May Have Missed
By Sheryl Kraft
News Flash: It's catch-up time! In case you missed them last week, here are some news nuggets worth noting:
Why So Many of Us Are Transfixed by Charlie Sheen
Frankly, I am sick of the whole thing, but lots of people are addicted to watching him break down, one piece at a time. Some experts think it's because with all going on around the world—the crisis in the Middle East, the economy and, now, the heartbreaking destruction from the earthquake in Japan—people welcome a distraction that doesn't affect them personally. Reported on HealthDay, author of the book Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior, Beverly Flaxington says that watching Sheen can make people reflect positively on their own lives. Yes, thank goodness most of us are doing a lot better than he is.
Cheers for Caffeine
No need to question your caffeine habit: a new benefit has just been added to the mix. A new study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association that looked at close to 35,000 women aged 49 to 83 found that those who drank more than one cup of coffee a day had a lowered risk of stroke, compared with women who drank less. And surprisingly the study also found that drinking little or no coffee was actually associated with a slight increase in the risk for stroke. An earlier study from 2009 (the Nurses Health Study) had similar findings. Women who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had a decreased risk of stroke compared with women who had less than one cup per month.
Phooey on Plastic
BPA: That's the chemical in plastic containers and linings that can leach chemicals into the surrounding environment and into our bodies (known as endocrine disrupters). So, we're safe avoiding products containing BPA, right? Maybe we thought so—but this new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives proves otherwise. Researchers found that even in plastics labeled "BPA-free," endocrine-disrupting chemicals can be leached. What's really scary is that in some cases, the products labeled BPA-free leached even more of the bad stuff than the ones containing BPA. Although no federal agency has made the move to declare BPA or any other endocrine-disrupting chemical products unsafe, you can't ignore the fact that most Americans have some amount of BPA in their bodies (in fact, due to our ubiquitous use of plastics, Americans have been found to have twice the amount in our bodies compared to Canadians). What's good to know is that some cities and states (Connecticut and Minnesota among them) are working toward restricting BPA in baby products, and China is reportedly moving toward a ban of BPA in children's products.
Exercise Keeps You Young.
Just how young, though? Try no gray hair, lots of energy, superior muscle mass and brain volume. In mice, anyway. (But that's a good start, no?) When mice who were genetically programmed to age quickly exercised regularly starting at 3 months old for five months (they ran the equivalent of a human running a 55-minute 10K three times a week starting at age 20), they aged dramatically differently than the mice who were sedentary. Those poor sedentary mice were balding and frail, while these dynamos were like super-mice— lean, muscular and youthful. They even were able to balance on narrow rods. No doubt, the fact that their gonads were healthy and intact (as opposed to the shrunken ovaries and testicles of the sedentary, aging mice) made the students working with the researcher, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, very, very impressed (and possibly, training for their first marathon).
It Might Be Time to Rethink the Apple
Previous medical studies have declared apple-shaped folks with fat around their waists to be a higher risk of a heart attack and stroke than pear-shaped people with fat concentrated around their bottoms and hips. Now a new study finds that although being obese is a major risk factor for heart disease, exactly where the fat is on the body has no impact on that risk. Obesity is an equal-opportunity killer, it seems. When it comes down to it, the best indicators of future heart risk are measures of blood pressure, cholesterol and a history of diabetes.