Alcohol contributes to 2.8 million deaths a year worldwide, and there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, researchers say. The new analysis of hundreds of studies conducted between 1990 and 2016 found that one in three people worldwide (2.4 billion people) drink alcohol, and that 6.8 percent of men and 2.2 percent of women die of alcohol-related health problems each year. How the United States fits into those figures is unclear. It was not among the top or bottom 10 for the most or the heaviest drinkers in 2016. Denmark led the list for most drinkers (97 percent of men and 95 percent of women), while Romania (men) and Ukraine (women) had the heaviest drinkers. Worldwide, alcohol use was the seventh-leading risk factor for early death and disability in 2016. It was the top cause for early death and disability among 15- to 49-year-olds, accounting for one in 10 deaths. In this age group, the main causes of alcohol-related deaths were tuberculosis (1.4 percent), road injuries (1.2 percent) and self-harm (1.1 percent), the findings showed. Among people 50 and older, cancer was a leading cause of alcohol-related death, accounting for 27 percent of deaths in women and nearly 19 percent of deaths in men. Any protection alcohol may provide against heart disease is outweighed by the health problems it causes, particularly cancer, according to…  read on >

Staying hydrated is a mantra not only when exercising, but throughout the day for optimal health. Yet it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. In recent years, a number of athletes have died from a condition called exercise-associated hyponatremia, or EAH, which results from overwhelming the kidneys with excess fluid and upsetting the body’s natural balance of sodium. One high school football player died after consuming four gallons of liquids during a practice session. EAH has happened to athletes during endurance events like triathlons, but it can occur with any type of activity, even yoga. That’s why it’s important to balance fluid intake with individual needs. According to an EAH conference report, smaller people and those who exercise at a slower pace tend to drink more than they lose through sweat. The American College of Sports Medicine has hydration guidelines for before, during and after exercise, and suggests weighing yourself before and after to see if you’re losing weight and truly need to replace fluids. When extra liquids are in order, knowing quantity limits can help keep you safe. Before exercise: Have 16 to 20 ounces of water or a sports beverage at least 4 hours in advance. Have 8 to 12 ounces of water 10 to 15 minutes in advance. During exercise: For workouts under one hour, 3 to 8 ounces…  read on >

Ace hitters like Barry Bonds and Derek Jeter probably can confirm this: Baseball players with faster hand-eye coordination are better batters, a new study finds. This is especially true when it comes to measures of “plate discipline,” like drawing walks and swinging at pitches in the strike zone, researchers said. “Batters with better eye-hand visual motor reaction time appear to be more discerning in deciding to swing at pitches as compared [to those with] poorer visual-motor reaction time,” wrote study leader Dr. Daniel Laby and colleagues. Laby is with the State University of New York College of Optometry. Their findings from tests of 450 professional baseball players appear in the July issue of the journal Optometry and Vision Science. They found that players with the fastest hand-eye coordination drew walks 22 percent more often than those with the slowest hand-eye coordination — an average of one walk per 10 times at bat, compared with one walk per 13 times at bat, respectively. Players with the fastest hand-eye coordination were also 6 to 7 percent more likely to swing at pitches in the strike zone and to swing at fastballs in the strike zone, rather than curveballs or other off-speed pitches, the researchers found. “One could hypothesize that faster eye-hand reaction time allows the batter an opportunity to be selective in which pitches he ultimately decides…  read on >

Middle-aged people who drink moderately — no more than a glass of wine a day — may have a relatively lower risk of developing dementia later in life, researchers report. The study, which followed 9,000 British adults for over two decades, found that both heavier drinkers and abstainers had a higher dementia risk than moderate drinkers. Moderate drinking was defined according to the recommended drinking limits in the United Kingdom: no more than 14 “units” of alcohol per week. That translates to one medium-sized glass of wine, or roughly a pint of beer, each day. People who were nondrinkers in middle age were 47 percent more likely to eventually be diagnosed with dementia, versus moderate drinkers, the findings showed. Meanwhile, when people drank beyond moderate levels, their risk of dementia rose in tandem with their alcohol intake. Among people who had more than a drink per day, dementia risk rose by 17 percent with every additional 7 units of alcohol they downed per week. That’s equivalent to three to four glasses of wine. None of that, however, proves there is something directly protective about moderate drinking, experts stressed. “No one is saying that if you don’t drink, you should start,” said Dr. Sevil Yasar, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore. She wrote an editorial published with the study Aug. 1…  read on >

Dieting can be hard on your social life. You might think it’s easier to avoid social events like cocktail parties and even family gatherings because of the temptation to overeat. But there’s no reason to deny yourself the joy of being with friends and loved ones when simple tricks will help you stay on course with your diet and still have a great time. The first rule is don’t arrive ravenous. That will just make it harder to eat smart when facing tempting food. Take the edge off hunger before you go out with a healthy snack that’s high in fiber, such as whole grain crackers with avocado slices or an ounce of nuts. Once at the party, make it harder to grab food by holding a glass of seltzer in one hand. Take a sip every time a tray of hors d’oeuvres goes by. You don’t have to deny yourself all treats, but it’s easy to lose count if you take a tidbit from every platter that’s offered. Decide on two or three nibbles of more indulgent food. In general, your calories will go farther if you stay away from hot canapes, which are often pastry-based. Instead choose protein choices, like shrimp and chicken. If a cocktail hour will be followed by a full meal, focus on low-calorie fill-ups like raw vegetables, but skip…  read on >

(HealthDay News) — There’s new research suggesting that a switch over to e-cigarettes can help cigarette smokers kick their habit — even if initially they didn’t intend to. The small British study of 40 people “found that vaping may support long-term smoking abstinence,” lead researcher Dr. Caitlin Notley, of Norwich Medical School, at the University of East Anglia, said in a university news release. Still, anti-smoking advocates in the United States stressed that vaping isn’t without its own hazards. First of all, prior research shows that ex-smokers who vape often return to tobacco cigarettes, said Dr. Len Horovitz, a lung specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. And, “while there are certainly more harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke, there is a question of safety in e-cigarettes because of the presence of propylene glycol, and other as yet unidentified compounds,” Horovitz said. In the new study, Notley’s group asked 40 people who used e-cigarettes about their tobacco smoking history and prior attempts to quit smoking, and about their vaping habits. The investigation was funded by Cancer Research UK. According to Notley, the study revealed that vaping provides smokers with “many of the physical, psychological, social and cultural elements of cigarette smoking.” Beyond that, vapers described the activity as “pleasurable in its own right, as well as convenient and cheaper than smoking,” she said. “But…  read on >