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Health scan

A snapshot of the current thinking in medicine, fitness and lifestyle trends that impact your life.

health and fitness Updated: Nov 10, 2012 22:36 IST

Virtual avatar could help you lose weight
Strongly identifying with your on-line image or virtual avatar can improve your physical health and appearance in real life. When an individual strongly identifies with the cyber representation of himself - known as an avatar - the electronic doppelganger can influence that person's health and appearance.

Harnessing the power of the virtual world could lead to new forms of obesity treatment and help break down racial and sexual prejudices. People seeking to lose weight, for example, could create fitter avatars to help visualise themselves as slimmer and healthier.

Divorce affects kids in adult life
The children of divorced parents can suffer the effects of the break-up well into their adult life. The picture was the same across different generations, suggesting that although divorce and separation have become more common than they once were, the impact on mental health has not decreased.

Good health also depends on lifestyle conditions - or 'social medicines'- such as a stable family life, stress-free childhood, alcohol-free culture for young people, secure and rewarding employment, positive relationships with friends and neighbours and a socially active old age, it concluded.

"People who suffer stresses such as parental divorce in childhood are at a higher risk of social and psychological problems later in their adult lives," said the report, which was funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council.

Having milk can keep kids fit in old age
Drinking milk, cheese and other dairy produce are known help build strong bones by providing much-needed calcium during childhood. A new study now shows that the benefits last for years, with children who regularly drink milk are physically fitter in old age.

People who had the highest amounts of milk and dairy foods in childhood walked faster and had less problems with balance, which raises the risk of fractures in old age, reports the study in the journal Age and Ageing.

High blood pressure damages brain
Uncontrolled high BP damages the brain's structure and function in adults under 50 years, but people can influence their late-life brain health by keeping their BP under control. The study found accelerated brain ageing among hypertensive and prehypertensives in their 40s. Earlier studies have linked high blood pressure with a heightened risk of brain injury and atrophy leading to reduced brain function and a greater likelihood of dementia.

Spice allergy for foodies and cosmetic users
Globally, 2 to 3% people have a spice allergy, said allergists at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Common spice allergy triggers include cinnamon and garlic, but can range from black pepper to vanilla. Several spice blends contain anywhere from three to 18 spices, and the hotter the spice, the greater the chance for allergy.

Spices are one of the most widely used ingredients in foods, cosmetics and dental products, with most makeup, body oils, toothpaste and fragrances including one or more spices. Spices are not regulated and are often not noted on food labels, making spices possibly the most difficult allergen to identify or avoid. According to estimates, spice allergy is responsible for 2% of food allergies.

Brisk walking adds years to your life
Just 75 minutes of brisk walking every week adds up to 1.8 years to your life, say researchers.

Adding low amounts of physical activity to one's daily routine is associated with increased longevity: a gain of 1.8 years of life expectancy after age 40, compared with doing no such activity.

For those who did the equivalent to 150 min of brisk walking per week, the gain in life expectancy was 3.4 years.