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Senior Citizens Should Walk Fast to Live Longer

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Two studies seem to prove that aging does not necessarily mean sedentary lifestyle:

Too many senior citizens assume that becoming inactive – sitting around doing not much of anything most of the time – is just what happens with getting older. Two research reports seem to prove this is just not true – life can be different with changing our mindset and, the second study finds, we will live longer if we just walk a little faster.

The program testing the results of changing the mindsets of older people was by UCLA researchers. Seniors in the pilot program became more physically active, increasing their walking by about 24 percent – an average increase of 2.5 miles per week.

The second study on speed of walking, which found that improvement in usual gait speed predicts a substantial reduction in mortality, is from the Division of Geriatric Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh.

Both studies which looked at people aged 65 or older appear in the issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Changing Mindset Works:
“We can teach older adults to get rid of those old beliefs that becoming sedentary is just a normal part of growing older,” said Dr. Catherine Sarkisian, assistant professor of geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the study’s lead author. “We can teach them that they can and should remain physically active at all ages.”

The researchers used a technique known as “attribution retraining” to effect a change among study participants about what it means to age and what to expect out of it.

“The exciting part is that, to our knowledge, this attribution retraining component hasn’t been tested in a physical activity intervention,” Sarkisian said. “It’s been very successful in educational interventions.”

The researchers worked with 46 sedentary senior citizens age 65 and older from three senior centers in the Los Angeles area.

The participants attended four weekly, hour-long group sessions led by a trained health educator who applied an attribution retraining curriculum. The participants were taught to reject the notion that becoming older means becoming sedentary and to accept that they can continue engaging in physical activity well into old age.

Each attribution retraining session was followed by a one-hour exercise class that included strength, endurance and flexibility training.

Participants were fitted with electronic pedometers, to be worn at all times, which measured the number of steps they took each week. They also completed surveys that gauged their expectations about aging — higher scores indicated that participants expected high functioning with aging, while lower scores meant they expected physical and mental decline.

As a result of the program, participants increased the number of steps they took per week from a mean of 24,749 to 30,707 — a 24 percent increase — and their scores on the age-expectation survey rose by 30 percent .

..

Also, their mental health-related quality of life improved, and they reported fewer difficulties with daily activities, experienced less pain, had higher energy levels and slept better.

“An intervention combining attribution retraining with a weekly exercise class raised walking levels and improved quality of life in sedentary older adults in this small pre-post community-based pilot study,” the researchers wrote. “Attribution retraining deserves further investigation as a potential means of increasing physical activity in sedentary older adults.”

Live Longer by Walking Faster:
The study on walking speed looked at 439 senior citizens to estimate the relationship between 1-year improvement in measures of health and physical function and 8-year survival.

Six measures of health and function were checked quarterly over 1 year.

Participants were classified for each measure as –
? improved at 1 year,
? transiently improved, or
? never improved.

Mortality was ascertained from the National Death Index.

Of the six measures, only improved gait speed was associated with survival.

Mortality after 8 years determined by the gait speed measurement was
31.6% – for improved,
41.2% – for transiently improved, and
49.3% – for never improved,.

The authors concluded, “Because gait speed is easily measured, clinically interpretable, and potentially modifiable, it may be a useful ‘vital sign’ for older adults.”

But, they also said, “Further research is needed to determine whether interventions to improve gait speed affect survival.”

About faster gait speed…
“Improvement in Usual Gait Speed Predicts Better Survival in Older Adults,” was by Susan E. Hardy MD, PhD, Subashan Perera PhD, Yazan F. Roumani MS, MBA, Julie M. Chandler PhD, Stephanie A. Studenski MD, MPH (2007)

Sources:http://seniorjournal.com/NEWS/Fitness/2007/7-11-16-SenCitCanDecide.htm

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Beauty of the Beetroot

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Scientists have discovered that beetroot has a remarkable effect on lowering blood pressure. Maria Fitzpatrick tries a medically approved new juice...

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Have you ever considered swapping your morning glass of fresh orange for freshly squeezed beetroot? Thought not – but in light of a remarkable discovery, it may be worth downing the inky, purple-red stuff with your cornflakes. And, thanks to the launch this month of a scrumptious new juice, getting your daily dose won’t require a pinch of the nose or scrubbing stubborn, deep purple stains off your chopping board.

Earlier this year, scientists at Barts and the London School of Medicine found that beetroot juice can have as great an effect on blood pressure as conventional drugs.

Led by Professor Amrita Ahluwalia of the William Harvey Research Institute – the renowned pharmacology centre that discovered how aspirin can prevent heart attacks and strokes – the research team found that just three hours after drinking 500ml of the juice (the equivalent of eating five medium-sized beetroots) there was a significant decrease in volunteers’ blood pressure. The remarkable effects were still noticeable 24 hours later.

That such an inexpensive and bounteous vegetable may lower blood pressure makes beetroot worthy of its new-found status as the first “super-root”. However, the woody consistency, off-putting earthy aroma and overly sweet taste (delete as applicable), of its raw juice have long prevented more of us taking a glug – which is a shame, given that one in three adults in the UK now suffers from hypertension and could benefit from a regular 250ml dose, the equivalent of an average glass.

According to the Blood Pressure Association, a third of sufferers don’t even realise they have the condition, which results in an estimated 350 “preventable” strokes or heart attacks every day.
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So how does beetroot work in the body? Like other superfoods, it has antioxidants in abundance, and is rich in iron, boron and folic acid. Betanene, which gives it its deep colour, is even more potent an antioxidant than polyphenols, the plant chemicals thought to be a key reason for people whose diets are rich in leafy vegetables having lower blood pressure.

But, says Professor Ben Benjamin, a consultant in Acute Medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth and member of the research team, it is beetroot’s capacity to absorb and store exceptionally high levels of nitrate that earns it the super-root title. Nitrates are nutrients found in soil which all plants need to build protein, and which the body harnesses in its battle against blood pressure.

“When nitrate is present in high concentration in saliva, bacteria on the tongue converts it into a more reactive chemical, nitrite,” Prof Benjamin explains. “When the nitrite is swallowed, it is easily converted into nitric oxide, a chemical which is continually produced by our blood vessels to make them relax and hence keep blood pressure low. So dramatically increasing the levels of nitrate with beetroot juice increases this effect.”

Along with its anti-hypertensive effects, the study also found that the high levels of nitrates in beetroot juice work like aspirin does to prevent blood clots, and help to protect the lining of the blood vessels.

So encouraged were researchers by the magnitude of the blood pressure effect that they approached a Suffolk-based natural drinks company to produce a bottled beetroot juice that would make it easy for people to introduce the root into their diet.

The resulting juice, HeartBeet, is certainly palatable, and definitely good for you. A “no bits” blend of crushed organic roots, with a touch of apple juice (10 per cent) to balance out the taste, it is now on sale in selected Holland & Barrett stores. Unlike other juices already available, seven per cent of its proceeds will go directly back into funding cardiovascular research.

It’s rare for the medical community to put its weight so boldly behind the power of nature over pharmacology. According to Prof Benjamin, it is testament to the importance of the findings, which he believes could lead the way to proving that high blood pressure can be treated by altering diet alone, and with fewer – if any – conventional drugs.

“Currently, treatment for high blood pressure involves a cocktail of aspirin, statins, beta blockers, and angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. Many people really don’t like taking all the tablets, especially since they often don’t feel unwell, and the treatment is essentially lifelong.”

One patient with high blood pressure, 60-year-old David Kelsall from Stoke-on-Trent, is already reaping the rewards of drinking a glass of beetroot juice a day. “I discovered that my blood pressure was higher than normal when my doctor was testing for something else,” he says. “It was 165/90mmHg – not life-threateningly serious, but none the less I was anxious to do something about it.”

Before committing to medication, he decided to give beetroot juice a try. “I drank three bottles of liquidised beetroot a week. Less than four weeks after the first test, I had my blood pressure taken again, and it had already levelled out to 150/90mmHg.” (A normal blood pressure reading would be in the range of 120/80mmHg.) “Now, a few months later, it is under control and normal. I am still drinking the juice, and I’m going to continue doing so. It may not help everyone, but it’s helped me.”

A growing body of research around the world suggests that the crucial nitrates in beetroot may also contribute to protecting us against other diseases, including infections and stomach ulcers – yet more reason to drink up. Having established a connection with blood pressure, scientists are now assessing just how much – or, rather, how little – of the juice is required for it to be effective.

If nothing else, beetroot’s health credentials give us all a reason to be smug: for once, the British country garden has come up with a foodstuff that trumps those in the Mediterranean “wonder diet”. And right now is the perfect time to grow your own. Beetroot seeds won’t germinate in temperatures below 7°C, or when there’s any inkling of ground frost, so early- to mid-summer is ideal to start planting. It can take as little as 10 weeks for a crop to mature, so you could be serving beetroot juice at your final summer barbecue of the year. We should all drink to that!
# HeartBeet organic beetroot juice (£1.49 for 25cl) is available from major Holland & Barrett stores (0870 606 6605, www.hollandandbarrett.com). For more details, call 01473 890111 or visit www.heartbeet.info

Sources: Telegraph.co.uk

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Vasectomy: Safe, Simple and Little Used

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Newer surgical techniques reduce the risk involved with having a vasectomy.
Vasectomy is a simple, painless procedure that is very effective in preventing pregnancy. Men usually have no side effects from vasectomy, and no change in sexual performance or function.

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Newer surgical techniques reduce the risk involved with having a vasectomy.

In Short:-

Vasectomies are safer and more cost-effective than tubal ligations, the sterilization technique for women, but remain relatively underused.

A new no-scalpel vasectomy technique significantly reduces complications.

The rate of unwanted pregnancies after vasectomy remains low; most of those pregnancies can be traced to patient error.

A tiny puncture and a little snip, done under local anesthetic — that’s essentially all there is to a vasectomy.

“Vasectomies are the safest, simplest, most cost-effective method of contraception we have,” said Dr. Edmund Sabanegh Jr., director of the Clinic for Male Fertility at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

They are also strikingly little-used. About 500,000 American men have the operation each year. More than twice as many women undergo tubal ligation for permanent contraception, even though that operation costs three to four times as much, requires general anesthesia and an abdominal incision, and carries a small but real risk of serious complications.

“There’s something about having a surgeon fiddling around down there with a scalpel that makes even tough guys squeamish,” said Dr. Marc Goldstein, director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Microsurgery at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York.

And then there are the misconceptions that discourage many men from having vasectomies, especially the widespread and groundless worry that the procedure will lower testosterone levels and affect sexual performance.

Whatever the reasons in the United States, the situation is not the same among men everywhere. By the time they reach their 50s, roughly half of men in New Zealand have undergone vasectomies, according to Dr. Sabanegh, compared with fewer than one in six in the United States. In Canada, vasectomies outnumber tubal ligations.

Experts hope that recent advances in vasectomy techniques will ease some of the fears.

The chief advance is the no-scalpel vasectomy, a technique pioneered in China in the 1970s that has been steadily gaining popularity in the United States. In a traditional vasectomy, doctors make two half-inch incisions on either side of the scrotum to sever the vas deferens, the two narrow tubes that carry sperm from the testicles during ejaculation. The no-scalpel approach does away with the need for incisions.

In the new technique, doctors use their fingers to locate the vas deferens by feel through the thin skin of the scrotum.

“Once we’ve located the vas, we make a tiny poke-hole over it,” said Dr. Phillip Werthman, director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Vasectomy Reversal in Los Angeles. The hole can be gently expanded in a way that pushes blood vessels aside rather than cutting through them, so there is almost no bleeding. Using a hooked instrument, surgeons pull the vas through the hole, then cut it.

“A lot of men can’t even tell where the procedure was done afterwards, the hole we make is that small,” said Dr. Goldstein, who was the first Western doctor to travel to China to learn the technique. Compared with traditional techniques, no-scalpel vasectomies result in less bleeding, less postoperative pain and quicker recovery. They also require less time to perform — a little more than 10 minutes in the hands of an experienced surgeon.

Although the traditional incision method is still more widely used, that is likely to change as more and more medical schools teach the no-scalpel approach.

In another bid to win over squeamish males, some doctors have replaced the needles used to inject anesthesia into the scrotum with high-pressure jets that deliver painkillers through the skin.

“A lot of men’s biggest fear is that needle,” Dr. Werthman said, even though the actual needle used is so narrow that most men barely feel it. “Pressure injection takes the psychological edge off that,” he said, though many patients find the loud popping sound it makes unpleasant.

In the end, the success or failure of a vasectomy depends not on how surgeons reach the vas but how they block it. Many doctors use several methods to ensure that sperm don’t find another path. Along with cutting out a small section of the tube, they may burn the inner lining of the two remaining ends, clamp them and separate them.

With current techniques, the chance of an unwanted pregnancy occurring in the first year after a vasectomy is 1 in 1,000, Dr. Sabanegh said. Some of those failures are the fault of the patient, not the procedure. Because it can take several months for sperm remaining after a vasectomy to be washed out, men are counseled to use other contraception methods until tests show that their semen is free of active sperm. Many men don’t bother. In a 2006 study of 436 vasectomies, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation found that only three out of four returned for follow-up semen analysis, and only 21 percent followed the full instructions to continue to be tested until two specimens came up negative.

Sources: The New York Times : June 29, ’08

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Herbs & Plants

Thankuni Leaf (Centella asiatica)

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Botanical Name::Centella asiatica
Family: Mackinlayaceae
Genus: Centella
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Apiales
Species: C. asiatica
Common names : Gotu Kola, Asiatic Pennywort, Indian Pennywort, Luei Gong Gen, Takip-kohol, Antanan, Pegagan, Pegaga, vallaarai , Kula kud, Bai Bua Bok , Brahmi (this last name is shared with Bacopa monnieri) and rau má (literally: mother vegetable- Vietnamese). In Assamese it is known as Manimuni. It is used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine, traditional African medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine. Botanical synonyms include Hydrocotyle asiatica L. and Trisanthus cochinchinensis (Lour.).In Telugu Language this is known as “Saraswathi Plant” in India. In Kannada  language is known as Ondelaga.

Habitat : Native to India, Sri Lanka, northern Australia, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, and other parts of Asia.Centella grows along ditches and in low wet areas. In Indian and Southeast Asian centella, the plant frequently suffers from high levels of bacterial contamination, possibly from having been harvested from sewage ditches. Because the plant is aquatic, it is especially sensitive to pollutants in the water, which easily are incorporated into the plant.

Description
The stems are slender, creeping stolons, green to reddish green in color, interconnecting one plant to another. It has long-stalked, green, reniform leaves with rounded apices which have smooth texture with palmately netted veins. The leaves are borne on pericladial petioles, around 2 cm. The rootstock consists of rhizomes, growing vertically down. They are creamish in color and covered with root hairs.
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The flowers are pinkish to red in color, born in small, rounded bunches (umbels) near the surface of the soil. Each flower is partly enclosed in two green bracts. The hermaphrodite flowers are minute in size (less than 3 mm), with 5-6 corolla lobes per flower. Each flower bears five stamens and two styles. The fruit are densely reticulate, distinguishing it from species of Hydrocotyle which have smooth, ribbed or warty fruit.

The crop matures in three months and the whole plant, including the roots, is harvested manually.

Edible use:
Centella is used as a leafy green in Sri Lankan cuisine, where it is called Gotu Kola. In Sinhalese (Sri Lanka) Gotu = conical shape and Kola= leaf. It is most often prepared as mallung; a traditional accompaniment to rice and curry, and goes especially well with vegetarian dishes such as parippu’ (dhal), and jackfruit or pumpkin curry. It is considered quite nutritious. In addition to finely chopped gotu kola, mallung almost always contains grated coconut and may also contain finely chopped green chilis, chili powder (1/4 teaspoon), turmeric powder (1/8 teaspoon) and lime (or lemon) juice.

A variation of the extremely nutritious porridge known as Kola Kenda is also made with Gotu Kola by the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka. Kola Kenda is made with very well boiled red rice (with extra liquid), coconut milk and Gotu Kola which is liquidized. The porridge is accompanied with Jaggery for sweetness. Centella leaves are also used in the sweet “pennywort drink.”

In Indonesia, the leaves are used for sambai oi peuga-ga, an Aceh type of salad, also mixed into asinan in Bogor.

In Vietnam and Thailand this leaf is used for preparing a drink or can be eaten in raw form in salads or cold rolls.

In Malay cuisine the leaves of this plant are used for ulam, a type of Malay salad.

It is one of the constituents of the Indian summer drink “thandaayyee”.

Cultivation method: For rapid propagation vegetative organ especially stolon and seeds are used.

Medicinal Uses:
Gotu kola is a mild adaptogen, is mildly antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcerogenic, anxiolytic, a cerebral tonic, a circulatory stimulant, a diuretic, nervine and vulnerary.

When eaten raw as a salad leaf, pegaga is thought to help maintain youthfulness. In Thailand cups with gotu kola leaves are used as an afternoon pick me up. A decoction of juice from the leaves is thought to relieve hypertension. This juice is also used as a general tonic for good health. A poultice of the leaves is also used to treat open sores.

Richard Lucas claimed in a book published in 1966 (second edition in 1979) that a subspecies “Hydrocotyle asiatica minor” allegedly from Sri Lanka also called “Fo ti tieng”, contained a longevity factor called ‘youth Vitamin X’ said to be ‘a tonic for the brain and endocrine glands’ and maintained that extracts of the plant help circulation and skin problems. However according to medicinal herbalist Michael Moore, it appears that there is no such subspecies and no Vitamin X is known to exist. Nonetheless some of the cerebral circulatory and dermatological actions claimed from centella (as hydrocotyle) have a solid basis.

Several scientific reports have documented Centella asiatica’s ability to aid wound healing, which is responsible for its traditional use in leprosy. Upon treatment with Centella asiatica, maturation of the scar is stimulated by the production of type I collagen. The treatment also results in a marked decrease in inflammatory reaction and myofibroblast production.

The isolated steroids from the plant have been used to treat leprosy. In addition, preliminary evidence suggests that it may have nootropic effects. Centella asiatica is used to re-vitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration , and combat aging. Centella asiatica also has anti-oxidant properties. It works for venous insufficiency. It is used in Thailand for opium detoxification.

Ayurvedic medicine
In India it is popularly known by a variety of names: Bemgsag, Brahma manduki, Brahmanduki, Brahmi, Ondelaga (North India, West India), Gotu kola, Khulakhudi, Mandukparni, Mandookaparni, Mandukaparni (South India), or Thankuni depending on region.

Bacopa monnieri is the more widely known Brahmi—both have some common therapeutic properties in Vedic texts and both are used for improving memory. C. asiatica is called “Brahmi” particularly in north India, although that may be a case of mistaken identification that was introduced during the 16th century, when brahmi was confused with mandukaparni, a name for C. asiatica.

Probably the earliest study of Mandookaparni as Medya Rasayana (improving the mental ability) was carried out at Dr.A.Lakshmipathy Research Centre(now under CCRAS)VHS,Adyar,Chennai by Dr.M.V.R Apparao,Kanchana Srinivasan et al.

Village people use it hugely for its availability and easy cultivation. Juice of leaves is used to cure dysentery and bowel complaints especially for babies and used as tonic also. It is also used for eczema, ulcers, liver complaints, rheumatism, improving memory, piles and irregular menstruation. Saving hair leaf juice is also very effective.

Folklore
Gotu Kola is a minor feature in the longevity myth of the Tai Chi Chuan master Li Ching-Yun. He purportedly lived to be 256, due in part to his usage of traditional Chinese herbs including Gotu Kola.

A popular folklore tale from Sri Lanka speaks of a prominent king from the 10th century AD named Aruna Withane who claimed that Gotu Kola provided him with energy and stamina to satisfy his 50-woman harem.

Background: Elderly people of this region(Eastern India & Bangladesh) have a strong belief that thankuni leaf as a pulp or extract can control loose motion. The mechanism of action of thankuni leaf extract is not known but the elderly, especially grandmothers, use thankuni leaf extracts for their grandchildren who suffer from loose motion. Objective: Evaluate control of motion and fluid loss as affected by intake of thankuni extract. Methodology: In a prospective study, 25 children aged 1-2 year(s), having more than 5 loose motions/day were randomly advised to take 60 mL of thankuni extract (extracted from 50 leafs with stem). The children were suffering from persistent malnutritional diarrhoea. They were also fed khichuri made with 300 g of rice, 200 g of vegetables, two eggs, 150 g of fish, 150 g of musur dal, and 30 mL of soybean oil. The total amount of khichuri was divided into 3 meals, and after each meal, 60 mL of thankuni extract was given to ingest. They were also advised to drink oral saline (tasty saline) in between the meals, and if capable, to eat fruits, such as banana, mango, guava, star fruit, and shaddock. The study was conducted at the private chamber of the author during 3 January-3 June 2003. None was admitted to hospital. Urinary excretion and stool of each patient were examined routinely on the first and the fifth day. After fifth day, they were advised to eat normal diets. Results: On the second day, 5 patients showed controlled motion (2-3 motions a day). Eleven cases showed controlled motion on the third day, 7 cases on the fourth day, and 2 cases on the fifth day. Signs of dehydration were absent in 15 cases on the third day, 8 cases on the fourth day, and 2 cases on the fifth day. Motion and dehydration both were controlled within the fifth day of thankuni therapy. Conclusion: Treatment of diarrhoea with thankuni, a common herb in Bangladesh, is not yet established, but the observation on 25 cases in this study showed 100% cure within 5 days. So, ICDDR,B  and other big children hospitals handling diarrhoea should give a clinical trial  upon thankuni extract and should establish this low-cost easy treatment in Bangladesh and abroad.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centella_asiatica
Medicinal Plants Of Bangladesh
Transfusion Medicine, Comilla Medical College, Comilla, Bangladesh

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