Friday, February 25, 2011
By Matthew Heller on February 25, 2011
European researchers have concluded that air pollution directly leads to about as many heart attacks as better-known triggers such as physical exertion and excessive drinking.
In a study published in the journal The Lancet, researchers said that the main reason for the widespread impact of air pollution is its pervasiveness. Everyone is exposed to dirty air. So, even though air pollution poses a relatively low risk to any single person, it was estimated to be the trigger for 5 percent to 7 percent of all heart attacks.
Cocaine, by contrast, increases an individual’s immediate heart attack risk by an alarming 2,400 percent. Still, given the comparatively small numbers of people exposed to cocaine, the study found that it accounted for only 0.9 percent of heart attacks.
“The important message here is that while an individual’s risk from air pollution is moderate or small, each of us is exposed, making the amount of risk intolerable for the entire community,” Dr. Andrea Baccarelli of the Harvard School of Public Health, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study, told The Boston Globe.
Baccarelli said air pollutants may trigger heart attacks by promoting inflammation and increasing blood clotting. Pollutants also appear to attach to lung cell receptors, sending a signal to the heart that the body is in trouble.
The researchers from Belgium and Switzerland who conducted the study reviewed 36 epidemiological assessments to assess the importance and relevance of “final straw” risk factors for heart attacks — as opposed to their longer-term causes.
Traffic exposure was judged to be the top factor, accounting for 7.4 percent of heart attacks. Researchers acknowledged that the traffic figure could be related to exposure to air pollutants, or to other commuting issues such as stress and noise, but said they lacked the data to clarify the possible connections.
Along with traffic exposure and air pollution, physical exertion, alcohol and coffee were rated among the leading triggers, all thought to account for 5 percent or more of heart attacks. As for sexual activity, it rated well behind, accounting for 2.2 percent.
The study was published Thursday, a day after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was easing rules to crack down on air pollution from industrial boilers and incinerators
Monday, February 14, 2011
Emphasize moderation. Offer junk food occasionally — not daily — and keep portion sizes as small as possible.
Educate kids. Explain that you’re making a change not to punish them but to help them be stronger and smarter.
Continually introduce healthier snacks. Instead of Oreos, offer sweetness in the form of graham crackers or small boxes of raisins. Try fun shapes—like celery stalks with peanut butter and raisins, a.k.a. “ants-on-a-log”—and healthy dips such as hummus.
Make homemade versions of favourites. Create pizzas with whole-wheat muffins, tomato sauce and low-fat mozzarella cheese, or cook “fries” by spraying potato wedges with olive oil, sprinkling on salt and baking at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes per side.
Don’t cut out snacks. Kids need them to maintain energy. Just put out healthy choices when you know they’re hungry, perhaps with a small treat on the side.
Get rid of junk. If big bags of chips and candy aren’t in your pantry, no one can raid them.
Involve kids in food preparation. They’ll be more likely to try new foods if they have helped select recipes, pick out foods and cook.
Make family meals a priority. Serve plenty of lean protein, fruits and vegetables and whole grains. You’ll be setting a good example and reducing the temptation to grab junk on the fly.
Offer nonfood rewards. Stop using junk food as a prize for good behaviour.
McClatchy News Services
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Alcohol claims 2.5 million lives a year: WHO
GENEVA, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- The use of alcohol causes approximately 2.5 million deaths a year, and young people were especially vulnerable to its harms, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday in a report profiling 193 countries on alcohol controls.
"One third of deaths (from alcohol) are among young people," said Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of the WHO's Mental Health and Substance Abuse department, adding that alcohol is responsible for 9 percent of all deaths that occurred to people aged between 15 and 29.
"Alcohol is also a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries," the WHO expert stressed.
Saxena said alcohol consumption may lead to liver cirrhosis, epilepsy, poisonings, and mental disturbance which very often causes road accident or violent behavior.
Recent research even proved the links between alcohol abuse and cancers.
Vladimir Poznyak, the head of WHO's substance abuse unit who collaborated the report, said: "Six or seven years ago we didn't have strong evidence of a causal relationship between drinking and breast cancer. Now we do."
Restrictions on alcohol marketing and on drink-driving were tightened in some countries through the past few decades, but there are still many with weak alcohol policies and insufficient prevention programs.
The Global Strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, endorsed by WHO member states in May 2010, promotes a range of proven effective measures for reducing alcohol-related harm.
These measures include taxation on alcohol to refrain from harmful drinking, restraining availability through reducing alcohol distribution, raising age limits for the buyers and imposing effective drink-driving prohibitions.