It is fairly self-evident that health problems in North America are on the rise.
Obesity, hypertension, sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes, sexual dysfunction and mental disorders are on the rise. This is due, in large part, to the vast wealth that North Americans enjoy because of industrialization and capitalism, and the resulting inactivity that such wealth brings.
Recently, the United States government has stepped up its efforts to educate the public on health related matters in an attempt to save the health care system.
Despite their best efforts however, people do not appear to be listening. And, if they are listening, the educational campaigns are having little effect.
Part of the problem is psychological. Often, people want a pill that is a quick fix to their problems. People resist change, and if they can get a pill to offset the negative impacts of their lifestyle habits while allowing for their behavior to continue to be the same, they will take it.
Another part of the problem is that disease processes today are more complex than in times previous. Treatments that used to work are no longer as effective at combating health problems, and in fact may no longer work at all. New virulent diseases have emerged and are often contagious and devastating.
But the biggest reason that educational campaigns are not working may be because they are directed at the wrong population. Presently, the government is directing its health campaigns at adults who already have health problems.
While this may seem like a good idea, real change will come only when the educational system is also modified to include nutritional education during the years of development.
Good health and long life require lifestyle changes, and these changes are a process, not a quick fix. If steps are taken now to modify the early education of the next generation of children, perhaps disease rates will begin to decline in several decades.
In the meantime each of us can be ambassadors and educators to those of the general public, not only from our examples, but also in our discussions, we can begin to educate people on the important issues of health, and how everything is related to diet and physical activity.
Only when a paradigm shift occurs in the general population will the current trends begin do decrease. Once this shift has occurred, government educational programs that are thus far ineffective will no longer be necessary.
Source: Today's health problems and health education. American Journal of Public Health, March 2004, Vol. 94, No.3.
Walking is once again in vogue. As sales of step counters continue to increase, millions of men and women determined to lose weight are hitting the beaten path.
Often, success or failure is determined by the number of steps that one takes in a given day. While these goal-oriented programs are a step in the right direction, it is not yet known how many steps daily are required to achieve weight loss.
Recent studies have determined that intensity of physical activity more than any other factor will determine if weight loss occurs.
A recent study has concluded that if weight loss is the goal, one must walk for approximately 60 minutes for slow walking, and 30 minutes of brisk walking. Given that brisk or athletic walking is an unrealistic achievement for those who have just begun a walking program, it should not be expected that 15 or 30 minutes of walking per day will deliver significant results. It is important, then, to adjust ones expectations accordingly.
A walking program should not be seen as a quick fix. It should, in fact, be seen as a process where one will go from being able to walk for 15 of 30 minutes of moderate-brisk walking, to the 60 minutes that is required to affect body composition.
While step counters are helpful and serve to indicate the number of steps that one has taken over the course of a day, they should be used as a rough guide only.
After all, it is how you look in front of the mirror that counts.
Changing ones lifestyle is hard work. In fact, it can be more difficult when one has a partner that wants to maintain the status quo. It is, after all, easier to be the way you have always been, than to change, even if the desired change is for the better.
In relationships, one often seeks to bring about change in the eating habits or physical activity levels of both persons, but sometimes these efforts are met with resistance. The reasons for this resistance can range from ignorance or self-perceived barriers.
It is often said that one can not change another person. While this is true, this is not to say that one can not make it easier for that other person to change themselves.
A recent study has examined the behaviors of 137 couples who were randomized using computer generated numbers. Of these 137 eligible couples, 78 couples completed the study and were present for a one year follow-up.
Dietary modifications were assessed with a short food frequency questionnaire, and physical activity levels were also assessed during this period.
After a period of seven days from the beginning of the study program, and again after fourteen days, the participants were questioned about their experiences with stages of change, barriers to change, beliefs about the benefit of a healthy lifestyle.
Not surprisingly, barriers to change regarding diet were lack of willpower and ignorance.
After being on the program and then being followed up at the one year mark, all 78 of the couples demonstrated a significant improvement of awareness regarding the variables of a healthy lifestyle.
The statistics make it clear that in relation to the pre-experiment data the perceived barriers fell significantly in the intervention group at the end of the program.
The study concluded that the mutual support of partners when undergoing stages of change appears to be effective for modifying cognitive responses.
Many bodybuilders use insulin growth-like factor.
Recent research has examined IGF-1's role in the cancer process. Scientists have been studying IGF and cancer because, in recent years, evidence has accumulated that nutrition related hormones may be implicated in carcinogenesis, and that high level of these hormones may increase risks for some types of cancers.
Recent research conducted by scientists at Harvard Medical School has shown that high exposure to IGF-1 may mediate many of the risk factors for some cancers that are prevalent in Western populations.
It is noted, however, that dietary factors play a large role in determining ones risk factors for cancer.
It is also noted that further research is required to understand the exact epidemiology of cancers.
Recent statistics released by NHANES indicate that 65% of North Americans are overweight; of these 65%, 15% are obese.
It is no surprise, then, that manufacturers have attempted to offer over the counter solutions to this epidemic.
In recent years, the use of substances like Ephedra have gained popularity. It is theorized that these substances increase thermogensis by converting excess body fat to heat.
Concerns about their safety, however, have been raised as a number of deaths have occurred from their use. This has led the US FDA to impose a ban on such substances.
Despite widespread anecdotal evidence, scientific research has failed to establish that these compounds are effective. This has led to a debate as to whether they are effective for the purpose for which they have been advertised.
Not surprisingly, many scientific studies have been done, the most recent of which is a study appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
This study is unique in that it examined a number of well known substances commonly used for weight loss.
Among them were:
This study systematically reviewed the existing literature and did a meta-analysis, and 25 additional trials were included and reviewed. All trials in the review were randomized and double-blind. The same is true of the meta-analyses that were included.
With respect to the Auyervedic preparations, the Chitosan, glucomann, Ephedra, the yerba mate, significant differences between the control groups and the manipulations groups were observed, however with the all other substances no significant differences were noticed between the two groups.
The study concluded that although some of the substances showed promise, there was no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that any specific supplement was effective for reducing bodyweight, the only exception being Ephedra.
This conclusions of this study fly in the face of anecdotal evidence, as some of these substances have been used for years, and have been reported effective and safe when used correctly.
In this study no mention was made of dietary factors or physical activity levels amongst users. It should be concluded, therefore, that the conclusions of this study are speculative at best and may not be accurate.
It is fairly straightforward that regular physical activity reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease. This is due, in part, to reduced blood pressure and decreased body mass.
The question has always been: although there is a negative link between hypertension and physical activity levels, is there an association between physical activity, body mass index and the risk of hypertension? A study by Finnish researchers aimed to answer this question.
The study had 17 441 participants (divided equally amongst the sexes), ranging in age from 25-64, some of whom were overweight.
Over an 11 year follow-up period, it was noted that 787 men and 813 women developed hypertension. This increase is typically associated with increased age and an increase in body mass index and blood pressure ratings.
The study indicated that regular physical activity and weight control can reduce the risk of hypertension. The productive effects of physical activity were observed in both sexes, regardless of the level of obesity of the subjects.
Source: Hypertension, 2004;43:25-30.
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