February Health Tips


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 One for your Valentine: older couples are more likely to get healthy together

We are better together after all as a new study shows that people are more successful in taking up healthy habits if their partner makes positive changes too.

Experts looked at 3,722 couples aged over 50 years who were married or living together. They examined how likely people were to quit smoking, start being active, or lose weight in relation to what their partner did, and published their findings in JAMA Internal Medicine.

People were more successful in swapping bad habits for good ones if their partner made a change as well. For example, among women who smoked, 50% managed to quit if their partner gave up smoking at the same time, compared with 17% of women whose partners were already non-smokers and 8% of those whose partners were regular smokers.

Men were equally affected by their partners and were more likely to quit smoking, get active, or lose weight if their partner made the same changes.

“Making lifestyle changes can make a big difference to our health and cancer risk,” comments Dr Julie Sharp from Cancer Research UK. “And this study shows that when couples make those changes together they are more likely to succeed.

“Getting some support can help people take up good habits. For example if you want to lose weight and have a friend or colleague who’s trying to do the same thing you could encourage each other by joining up for a run or a swim at lunchtime or after work. And local support such as stop smoking services are very effective at helping people to quit.

“Keeping healthy by not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight and being active can all lower the risk of cancer, and the more people can help and encourage each other the better.”

Source: Jump Start magazine, jumpstart



Image credit: Rosana Prada


Don’t go totally nuts over this… but nutty eaters do have better diets

People who eat tree nuts (that’s almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts) tend to have better diets overall than non-nut eaters, says a large study published in the journal Nutrients.

Experts looked at data from 14,386 adults and found that just 6% regularly ate tree nuts (about 44g a day). And these people were more likely than non-nut eaters to consume recommended levels of vitamins A, E and C, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and fibre.

“Consumption of tree nuts should be encouraged, as part of a healthy diet, by health professionals to improve diet quality and nutrient adequacy,” suggests Prof Carol O’Neil, who led the work.

Source: Jump Start magazine



Image credit: JD Hancock

Immune systems of extraverts cope better with infections

Aspects of our personality may affect our health and wellbeing and new research from the UK and US now goes some way to explaining why.

The study did not support the theory that tendencies toward negative emotions such as depression or anxiety can lead to poor health. But it did suggest that being an extravert can actually boost the immune system.

A total of 121 adults did a personality test to measure extraversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Blood samples were collected and their typical smoking, drinking and exercise behaviours were recorded. Experts used technology to look at the five personality traits and two groups of genes, one involving inflammation, and another involving responses to viruses.

“Our results indicated that individuals who we would expect to be exposed to more infections as a result of their socially orientated nature (ie extraverts) appear to have immune systems that we would expect can deal effectively with infection,” explains Prof Kavita Vedhara who led the study.

“Individuals who may be less exposed to infections because of their cautious/conscientious dispositions have immune systems that may respond less well. We can’t, however, say which came first. Is this our biology determining our psychology or our psychology determining our biology?”

Source: Jump Start magazine,



Image credit: Jasmine Kaloudis


Yoga could reduce risk of cardiovascular disease

You don’t need to break into a sweat to lower your chances of cardiovascular disease, as new research suggests that yoga may be just as effective as more energetic forms of exercise when it comes to cardiovascular health.

A study of 2,768 people found that risk factors for cardiovascular disease improved more in those doing yoga than in those doing no exercise. And yoga was even found to provide the same benefits in reducing risk of cardiovascular disease as many traditional physical activities.

“Any physical activity that can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease developing should be encouraged, and the benefits of yoga on emotional health are well established,” says Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation. “This study’s findings are promising, showing some improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

“The benefits could be due to working the muscles and breathing, which can bring more oxygen into the body, leading to lower blood pressure.”

Source: Jump Start magazine



Image credit: Jason Bachman

Popeye was right! Potassium salts (found in spinach) improve bone health as well as muscles

The potassium salts (bicarbonate and citrate) play an important part in improving bone health, says research published in Osteoporosis International, and the good news is that they are plentiful in fruit and vegetables.

The study is the first to show that potassium salts slow down bone resorption, which is when bone is broken down, so therefore increase their strength. And high intake of potassium salts was found to lower the excretion of calcium and acid.

“This means that excess acid is neutralised and bone mineral is preserved,” explains Dr Helen Lambert, lead author. “Excess acid in the body, produced as a result of a typical Western diet high in animal and cereal protein, causes bones to weaken and fracture. Our study shows that these salts could prevent osteoporosis, as our results showed a decrease in bone resorption.”

Bone resorption and bone formation is a natural process that allows bones to grow, heal and adapt. But in osteoporosis, more bone is broken down than is built up, leading to fragility and fractures.

This study shows that eating more fruits and vegetables could be a way to improve the strength of our bones and prevent osteoporosis.

Vegetables high in potassium include spinach, potatoes (with skin), sweet potatoes (with skin), sprouts and asparagus. And fruits to go for are banana, papaya, mango, kiwi and orange.

Source: Arthritis Digest magazine