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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: Sep 09, 2012 00:18 IST

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

Even the overweight can be physically fit

Nearly half of overweight people are physically fit and healthy and at no greater risk of heart disease or cancer than their slim peers, say researchers at the University of South Carolina, US. The key, they say, is being “metabolically fit”, meaning no high blood pressure, cholesterol or raised blood sugar, and exercising. Their risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer was identical to people of ideal weight and was half that of “metabolically less fit” obese people. Data from over 43,000 people in the US showed more than a third of the participants were obese. Of these 18,500, were assessed as metabolically healthy after a physical examination and lab tests, showing once again the important role of physical fitness as a health marker.

Sleep disorders an early sign of Alzheimer’s

A pattern of disturbed sleep could be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease, suggest scientists. Working on a mouse model, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found that when the first signs of Alzheimer’s plaques appear in the brain, the normal sleep-wake cycle is significantly disrupted. Mice are nocturnal animals and normally sleep for 40 minutes during every hour of daylight. The new research shows when Alzheimer’s plaques began forming in the brain of mice, their average sleep times dropped to 30 minutes per hour.

Fish oils double your benefits from exercise

A combination of regular doses of fish oil and gym exercises improved the muscular strength of a group of women in their late sixties by 205%, found a new study from Britain. A control group who took part in the twice-weekly, 30-minute exercise sessions but did not take fish oil increased their muscle power by 11%. Over the course of the study, those who took the fish oils also made noticeably larger improvements in tests of their balance, walking speed and time taken to get up from a chair. After the mid-thirties, the ability to build muscle through exercise alone begins to diminish. Researchers said the fish oils could work by combating the low-level inflammation that is typical in older people and hampers the ability of the muscles to build power and mass.

Computers lower dementia risk in older people

Using desktops and laptops lowers the risk of dementia in older people by up to 40%, shows an eight-year study of more than 5,000 men aged between 65 and 85 in Australia. As the world’s population ages, the number of people experiencing cognitive decline and dementia will cross 50 million by 2025. Researchers found that the risk of dementia was about 30-40% lower among older computer users than non-users. Older people should therefore be encouraged to embrace computer technology as long as they understand the dangers of prolonged physical inactivity.

Bursts of exercise as good as running

Short bursts of exercise lasting just 150 seconds could help protect against heart disease as much as a 90-minute run or longer but less strenuous workouts, according to new research. Brief but intense exercise was more effective at reducing blood fat levels. Exercising at peak levels for 30 seconds before resting for four minutes and repeating, saw the fat in their blood drop faster than those who walked at a brisk pace. The results showed walking cut fat by 11%, compared with not doing any exercise, while short periods of exercise helped reduce fat by 33% — the same effect as a 90-minute run.