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Healthy Living

Five Breaking Health Stories You May Have Missed

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 03/16/2011
Last Updated: 10/16/2012

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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.

Comments

thanks for the information, Sheryl. I'm still not going to watch any reports about Charlie Sheen.. but wondering how the caffeine research stacks up if you drink tea rather than coffee? I know you've written about health benefits from tea before. any thoughts on how it compares to what's learned of coffee in this study?

We have twice as much BPA in our bodies as Canadians? Whoa! That's amazing. I changed my attitude after reading Slow Death by Rubber Duck, co-authored by two Canadians. I think we should pay attention to this and warn any of our daughters who are carrying babies to be extra careful.

I know - amazing and scary to learn of those statistics.

Whoa, four cups of coffee a day? I would be VIBRATING.

I saw the exercise article and emailed it to my husband - we were both happy to read it!

The plastic stuff just scares me, and it's in our food. It's crazy to try to looking for non plastic packaging because it barely exists.

I must admit, I'm one of the pathetic people who's fascinated by the Charlie Sheen doings. I don't know if it's because it's like watching a slow-motion train wreck, or because it's just darn entertaining. Or yeah, so glad I'm not him (or his goddesses... or kids...or ex-wives...).

Good to see that there's even more research to support the idea that exercise makes a difference.

I follow health news too, but hadn't seen the research on BPA and plastics - yikes! Thanks for clueing us in.

My husband will be happy to know that caffeine is getting high marks. He's a major coffee drinker.

Caught the BPA story and was bummed. It doesn't surprise me that all plastics likely leach it just concerns me.

Coffee makes me anxious, but I do drink my tea. Like the others above, I'm curious how caffeine in tea consumption stacks up.

As far as I know, that has not been studied in a similar way. But tea has been studied extensively for other health benefits, so I say drinking tea is just as good for so many reasons.

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Good info, I just know that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of s-troke. I continued to follow the story.

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