Exercise can be as good a medicine as pills for people with conditions such as heart disease, a study has found.
Doing exercise regularly:
- Can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer by up to 50%.
- Can lower your risk of early death by up to 30%.
- Can boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy as well as keep weight off.
- Moderate activity, such as cycling or fast walking, gives your heart and lungs a work-out
The work in the British Medical Journal looked at hundreds of trials involving nearly 340,000 patients to assess the merits of exercise and drugs in preventing death.
Physical activity rivalled some heart drugs and outperformed stroke medicine.
The findings suggest exercise should be added to prescriptions, say the researchers. Continue reading Exercise rivals Medication for Heart Disease.
For a healthier body and mind, forget food fads and try the age-old practice of going without.
THERE’S a fuzz in my brain and an ache in my gut. My legs are leaden and my eyesight is blurry. But I have only myself to blame. Besides, I have been assured that these symptoms will pass. Between 10 days and three weeks from now, my body will adjust to the new regime, which entails fasting for two days each week. In the meantime, I just need to keep my eyes on the prize. Forget breakfast and second breakfast, ignore the call of multiple afternoon snacks, because the pay offs of doing without could be enormous.
Fasting is most commonly associated with religious observation. It is the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam. Buddhists consider it a means to practise self-control and advocate abstaining from food after the noon meal. For some Christians, temporary fasts are seen as a way of getting closer to God. But the benefits I am hoping for are more corporeal.
A new surge of interest in fasting suggests that it might indeed help people with cancer. It could also reduce the risk of developing cancer, guard against diabetes and heart disease, help control asthma and even stave off Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Many of the scientists who study fasting practise what they research, and they tell me that at my age (39) it could be vital that I start now. “We know from animal models,” says Mark Mattson at the US National Institute on Aging, “that if we start an intermittent fasting diet at what would be the equivalent of middle age in people, we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.” Surely it’s worth a try? Continue reading Intermittent Fasting by Emma Young
They have treated heart disease for 40 years, but it now seems that beta blockers don’t work. What went wrong?
IT IS very rare for new evidence to question or even negate the utility of a well-established class of drugs. But after four decades as a standard therapy for heart disease and high blood pressure, it looks like this fate will befall beta blockers. Two major studies published within about a week of each other suggest that the drugs do not work for these conditions. This is a big surprise, with big implications.
The first beta blocker, Inderal, was launched in 1964 by Imperial Chemical Industries for treatment of angina. This drug has been hailed as one of great medical advances of the 20th century. Its inventor, James Black, was awarded the Nobel prize in medicine in 1988.
The 20 or so beta blockers now on the market are very widely used – almost 200 million prescriptions were written for them in the US in 2010. They are standard issue for most people with heart disease or high blood pressure. This may now change.
A large study published last month in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that beta blockers did not prolong the lives of patients – a revelation that must have left many cardiologists shaking their heads (JAMA, vol 308, p 1340). Continue reading Beta-Blockers don’t appear to Work
From dementia and diabetes to high blood pressure – no pill protects us against ill health like exercise does.
A plethora of recent studies shows that exercise protects us from heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, obesity, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. It even boosts memory. And it has the potential to prevent more premature deaths than any other single treatment, with none of the side effects of actual medication. “It’s a wonder drug,” says Erik Richter, a diabetes researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. “There’s probably not a single organ in the body that’s unaffected by it.”
Throughout evolution, humans have been active. Our ancestors chased prey as hunter-gatherers and fled from predators. More recently, they laboured on farms and in factories. But the decline of agricultural and industrial labour, plus the invention of the car, a multitude of labour-saving devices and – most perniciously – TV, computers and video games, mean we’ve all ground to a sudden and catastrophic standstill.
“We were built to be active, but the way our environment has changed and the way we live our lives has led us to become inactive,” says Christopher Hughes, senior lecturer in sport and exercise medicine at Queen Mary, University of London. Continue reading Exercise – Probably the best Medicine of all
Scientists are uncovering evidence that short periods of fasting, if properly controlled, could achieve a number of health benefits, as well as potentially helping the overweight, as Michael Mosley discovered.
I’d always thought of fasting as something unpleasant, with no obvious long term benefits. So when I was asked to make a documentary that would involve me going without food, I was not keen as I was sure I would not enjoy it.
But the Horizon editor assured me there was great new science and that I might see some dramatic improvements to my body. So, of course, I said, “yes”.
I am not strong-willed enough to diet over the long term, but I am extremely interested in the reasons why eating less might lead to increased life span, particularly as scientists think it may be possible to get the benefits without the pain.
How you age is powerfully shaped by your genes. But there’s not much you can do about that.
Calorie restriction, eating well but not much, is one of the few things that has been shown to extend life expectancy, at least in animals. We’ve known since the 1930s that mice put on a low-calorie, nutrient-rich diet live far longer. There is mounting evidence that the same is true in monkeys. Continue reading Michael Mosley on intermittent Fasting
Extreme exercise such as marathons may permanently damage the heart and trigger rhythm abnormalities, warn researchers. They say the safe ‘upper limit’ for heart health is a maximum of an hour a day – after which there is little benefit to the individual.
A review of research evidence by US physicians says intensive training schedules and extreme endurance competitions can cause long-term harm to people’s hearts. Activities such as marathons, iron man distance triathlons, and very long distance bicycle races may cause structural changes to the heart and large arteries, leading to lasting injury. Continue reading Extreme Exercise and Heart Disease