News on Health & Science

Abdominal fat or belly fat

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As people go through their middle years, their proportion of fat to body weight tends to increase. Extra pounds tend to park themselves around the midsection. At one time, we might have accepted this as an inevitable fact of aging. But we’ve now been put on notice that as our waistlines grow, so do our health risks. Abdominal, or visceral fat is of particular concern because it’s a key player in a variety of health problems. The good news is that visceral fat yields fairly easily to exercise and diet, with benefits ranging from lower blood pressure to more favorable cholesterol levels.

Though the term  abdominal fat  or belly fat might sound dated, “middle-age spread” is a greater concern than ever. As people go through their middle years, their proportion of fat to body weight tends to increase — more so in women than men. Extra pounds tend to park themselves around the midsection.

At one time, we might have accepted these changes as an inevitable fact of aging. But we’ve now been put on notice that as our waistlines grow, so do our health risks. Abdominal, or visceral fat is of particular concern because it’s a key player in a variety of health problems — much more so than subcutaneous fat, the kind you can grasp with your hand. Visceral fat, on the other hand, lies out of reach, deep within the abdominal cavity, where it pads the spaces between our abdominal organs.

Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery.

Are you pear-shaped or apple-shaped?…….CLICK & SEE….

Fat accumulated in the lower body (the pear shape) is subcutaneous, while fat in the abdominal area (the apple shape) is largely visceral. Where fat ends up is influenced by several factors, including heredity and hormones. As the evidence against abdominal fat mounts, researchers and clinicians are trying to measure it, correlate it with health risks, and monitor changes that occur with age and overall weight gain or loss. .

The good news is that visceral fat yields fairly easily to exercise and diet, with benefits ranging from lower blood pressure to more favorable cholesterol levels. Subcutaneous fat located at the waist — the pinchable stuff — can be frustratingly difficult to budge, but in normal-weight people, it’s generally not considered as much of a health threat as visceral fat is.

Research suggests that fat cells — particularly abdominal fat cells — are biologically active. It’s appropriate to think of fat as an endocrine organ or gland, producing hormones and other substances that can profoundly affect our health. Although scientists are still deciphering the roles of individual hormones, it’s becoming clear that excess body fat, especially abdominal fat, disrupts the normal balance and functioning of these hormones.

Scientists are also learning that visceral fat pumps out immune system chemicals called cytokines — for example, tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6 — that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. These and other biochemicals are thought to have deleterious effects on cells’ sensitivity to insulin, blood pressure, and blood clotting.

One reason excess visceral fat is so harmful could be its location near the portal vein, which carries blood from the intestinal area to the liver. Substances released by visceral fat, including free fatty acids, enter the portal vein and travel to the liver, where they can influence the production of blood lipids. Visceral fat is directly linked with higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance means that your body’s muscle and liver cells don’t respond adequately to normal levels of insulin, the pancreatic hormone that carries glucose into the body’s cells. Glucose levels in the blood rise, heightening the risk for diabetes. Now for the good news.

Exercise and dieting can help you get rid of belly fat:

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So what can we do about tubby tummies? A lot, it turns out. The starting point for bringing weight under control, in general, and combating abdominal fat, in particular, is regular moderate-intensity physical activity — at least 30 minutes per day (and perhaps up to 60 minutes per day) to control weight. Strength training (exercising with weights) may also help fight abdominal fat. Spot exercising, such as doing sit-ups, can tighten abdominal muscles, but it won’t get at visceral fat.

Diet is also important. Pay attention to portion size, and emphasize complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and lean protein over simple carbohydrates such as white bread, refined-grain pasta, and sugary drinks. Replacing saturated fats and trans fats with polyunsaturated fats can also help.

Scientists hope to develop drug treatments that target abdominal fat. For example, studies of the weight-loss medication sibutramine (Meridia), have shown that the drug’s greatest effects are on visceral fat.

For now, experts stress that lifestyle, especially exercise, is the very best way to fight visceral fat.
Source: Harvard Health Publication


Health Alert Healthy Tips

Health Tips For 2010

As Written by :DR GITA MATHAI

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Somehow the spirit of the New Year affects everyone, including cynics. It is time for all those resolutions that will change your life and make you a better person. After all, before you “heal the world (and) make it a better place,” you have to change “the man in the mirror”.

The changes must be effected on a war footing. India is already known as the world’s diabetic and ischaemic heart disease capital. The statistics are alarming. Unless we get going right now, many of us will not live to see our grandchildren. And even those who survive may be too sickly to enjoy them.

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IN GOOD COMPANY: Join a group if exercising alone seems uninspiring

Recommendations for fitness have increased over the last five years from walking half an hour three or four times a week to one hour every day. However, a one-hour stroll in bathroom slippers will not do the trick — walking or jogging should be at a steady pace where conversation is not possible. At least four to five kilometres have to be covered in 60 minutes. If you feel you can walk for an hour in the evening as well, your health may improve further.

At times, taking walks outdoors may be dangerous, especially for women. There are no nearby walkers’ parks. Don’t lose heart — it’s possible to get almost similar benefits by spot jogging. This means standing in one spot and running vigorously, moving the arms as well. You must wear jogging shoes. The right foot has to hit the ground 45 times in one minute. Gradually, try to work up to 45 minutes a day. It is less effective than a using a treadmill or running on the road as there is no forward propulsion, but it definitely has health benefits and is better than doing nothing.

Jogging or walking helps reduce weight, trim the waistline and tone the body, controls blood pressure, boosts the immune system, and decreases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, fracture and mental disease. Depression and insomnia are far less. Walkers have also been shown to live to a healthy, mentally active old age in greater numbers than their inactive counterparts.

People are always asking for a magic pill for health, a single ingredient to prevent disease and treat all illnesses……. Regular speed walking or jogging is an activity that provides an answer to all these.

Diabetes, hypertension and ischaemic heart disease develop in susceptible genetically predisposed individuals when the environment is right. Even if the disease appears inevitable, the onset of these diseases can be delayed 10 years or more by maintaining a body mass index (BMI) of 23. This can be calculated by dividing the weight in kilograms by the height in metre squared. The only variable in this formula is the weight, as adult height does not change.

Walking or running alone will not help maintain your BMI. Diet has to be factored in by eating 20 calories per kilogram of expected weight. This, combined with jogging or walking, will help maintain your BMI. Calories are hidden everywhere — a cube of chocolate means 60 calories, a ladoo 280 calories and a plate of bhel puri 400 calories! Each teaspoon of sugar in juice adds 20 calories, 100gm of peanuts 550 calories and a teaspoon of oil around 50 calories.

A good way to chart progress is to maintain a diary and record the kilometres covered daily along with the approximate number of calories consumed. The weight should be recorded once a week.

It takes a negative balance of 3,500 calories to lose half a kg of body weight. This cannot be achieved by dieting alone. Walking or jogging builds up the calf muscles. It also increases the BMR (basal metabolic rate) so that more calories are utilised even at rest.

If exercising alone is a bother, get yourself good company. I am a member of groups such as Runners for Life, Chennai Runners and Chain Reaxion. I participated in the Chennai Half Marathon and two 47-km cycling events. To my pleasant surprise, I found a group of enthusiastic young people determined to propagate a healthy lifestyle. I also discovered that contrary to common belief, age is not a bar. Nor does running cause your knees to develop osteoarthritis!

Take the example of 97-year-old Fauja Singh who goes around the world running marathons. He is the Adidas poster boy for their slogan “nothing is impossible”.

So as we move into 2010, let us make the figure our walking milestone and cover 2,010 km in 365 days

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News on Health & Science

Docs test heart implant to prevent strokes

At least 120,000 Americans a year suffer strokes because of a common irregular heartbeat  one that’s on the rise, hard to treat and can shoot deadly blood clots straight to the brain….click & see

Now doctors are experimenting with a new way to prevent those brain attacks: a tiny device that seals off a little section of the jiggling heart where the clots form.

If it works   and a major study is under way   the Watchman device might provide long-needed protection for thousands of people with atrial fibrillation, whose main hope now is a problematic blood-thinning drug that too many can’t tolerate.

“I don’t think I’m biased, but it could potentially revolutionise a-fib, which is a ton of people,”says Steven Almany, vice chief of cardiology at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. He has implanted the Watchman into more than a dozen patients so far.

About 2.8 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat. It is most common among the elderly, and cases are increasing as the population greys.

A-fib occurs when the heart’s top chambers, called the atria, get out of sync with the bottom chambers’ pumping. The atria speed up, sometimes so fast that they quiver like a bag of worms. Blood pools inside a pocket of the heart, allowing clots to form.

About 20% of the nation’s strokes are blamed on the condition, and they tend to be particularly severe. About a third of the victims die, and another third are significantly disabled.

The blood thinner warfarin, also called Coumadin, lowers the stroke risk dramatically. But it is very difficult to use    it can’t be taken together with dozens of other medicines. In addition, side effects include serious, even life-threatening, bleeding.

By some estimates, almost half the people who should take the drug can’t or won’t, and “there are lots of people out there on Coumadin who want off,”says William Gray, a cardiologist studying the Watchman at New York’s Columbia University Medical Center. “This provides the opportunity, hopefully, to get them off the drug.”

In atrial fibrillation, 90% of stroke-causing blood clots collect inside a jalapeno pepper-shaped flap of tissue that hangs off the edge of the left atrium. The Watchman physically seals off that flap, depriving clots of their staging area.

Source:The Times Of India