FRIDAY, March 2, 2018People’s chances of living longer have been increasing dramatically for decades. But, that seems to have slowed recently, a new worldwide study has found. The sharpest decline has come in countries that already had the shortest life expectancy, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. They said the slowdown in life expectancy gains does not mean that humans have simply reached their maximum biological life span. Rather, the researchers argue that their findings could mean that recent medical advances have not sustained historic increases in average life expectancy. “This is not about us hitting the ceiling,” researcher David Bishai said in a Hopkins news release. “The slowdown has been sharpest in countries that have the most life expectancy to gain.” Bishai is a professor in the school’s Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health. “It’s a rebuke to the idea that you can fix global health just by inventing more stuff,” he said. “New health technology has been essential to making strides in life expectancy, of course, but our predecessors in the 1950s were making faster progress with the basics of soap, sanitation and public health.” In the 1950s, the study found, life expectancy worldwide increased, on average, by 9.7 years in a decade. Since 2000, however, the increase in a decade has been just…  read on >

Single dads have been played for laughs in countless TV sitcoms, from “The Andy Griffith Show” and “My Three Sons” up to modern takes such as “Arrested Development” and “Louie.” But in real life, being a single dad is tough — so much so that it can lead to an early grave, Canadian researchers report. “We found that single fathers had a threefold higher mortality compared to single moms and partnered dads, and a fivefold higher mortality compared to partnered moms,” said lead researcher Maria Chiu. She is a scientist with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Services at the University of Toronto. Over the course of a decade, you can expect six single dads to die versus two single moms, two partnered fathers and one partnered mother out of every 100 parents from each group, Chiu said. Single-parent families headed by fathers are becoming more commonplace around the world, largely due to increasing rates of divorce, separation and children born out of wedlock, the researchers said. More than 2.6 million households in the United States are headed by single dads, a ninefold increase since the 1960s, the study authors noted. Despite this, most research on single parents has focused on single mothers, Chiu said. No study to date has compared the life expectancy of single dads, single moms and partnered couples. To investigate, Chiu and…  read on >

Fruits and veggies are great ways to get important nutrients, try new tastes, and add low-calorie sides to your meals. When fresh isn’t available or affordable, frozen is a healthy option. Look for fresh-frozen fruits and vegetables that have been properly stored, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends. Packages should feel firm. They shouldn’t be limp, wet or sweating, which are signs of thawing. However, when choosing vegetables and fruits sold in bags, you should be able to feel individual pieces, not large solid blocks of food, which could signal that the contents thawed and re-froze. Avoid stained packages or any with visible ice crystals, other signs of defrosting and re-freezing. Choose plain frozen vegetables without any butter, sauce or added salt. Choose plain frozen fruit without any added sugar. These are also the best options when adding the food to a recipe. Look for U.S. grade standards that measure quality. These are optional, so they’re not always printed on the package. But when they are, Grade A fancy vegetables have the most color and tenderness. Grade B aren’t quite as perfect and have a more mature, slightly different taste. Grade C are less uniform in color and flavor but are fine for soups and stews. Grade A fruits are near picture-perfect. Grade B, the most common fruit grade, signals very good quality. Grade C…  read on >

If the constant stream of bad news from around the world gets to you, one psychiatrist suggests that helping others might make you feel better. “The sheer volume of stressful events occurring on a near-daily basis can make people feel pessimistic or fearful,” said researcher Emanuel Maidenberg, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. “As we continue adapting to the ever-increasing speed of the news cycle, it’s important to take a moment to explore the impact it is having on how we feel, behave and think, to better take care of ourselves,” he added in a university news release. Maidenberg suggested a number of ways to cope with an uncertain world. You can gain a sense of control by helping others. Making a donation or volunteering your time to help others can ease feelings of helplessness, he said. If you feel overwhelmed, seek social support. This could include something like joining a book club or other type of group, Maidenberg explained. In addition, it’s a good idea to do more leisure activities that you enjoy, get more exercise, and maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Finally, Maidenberg advised, limit your exposure to news. Restrict it to certain times of the day or certain days of the week. It might also be a good idea to limit your sources of news. For…  read on >

You may not want to sit down for this. New research finds the mere act of standing burns more calories over time compared to sitting, and anyone bent on weight loss may want to remain upright a few more hours each day. In fact, standing for six hours each day — at a ‘standing desk’ at the office, for example — could help you shed more than five pounds in one year, the new study found. Even though the notion of standing instead of sitting for a few more hours per day might seem daunting, “for the person who sits for 12 hours a day, cutting sitting time to half would give great benefits,” said study author Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez. He’s chair of preventive cardiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “Standing not only burns more calories,” Lopez-Jimenez said in a Mayo news release, “[but] the additional muscle activity is linked to lower rates of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes, so the benefits of standing could go beyond weight control.” One cardiologist who read over the findings agreed. “Any amount of exercise is good exercise,” said Dr. Rachel Bond, who directs Women’s Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “When it comes to sitting, we can see clear-cut detrimental effects to cardiovascular disease risk factors.” Numerous recent studies have found that…  read on >

If you think your battle against obesity ends on the operating table, you’re mistaken. “Exercise and eating smaller portions have to be part of your lifestyle change in order to be successful” after weight-loss surgery, said Dr. Ann Rogers, director of Surgical Weight Loss at Penn State Medical Center, in Hershey, Pa. It’s also important to keep a detailed food journal, she added. “It’s unbelievably helpful at getting people back on track because it forces them to be accountable,” Rogers said in a Penn State news release. Patients must also keep all follow-up appointments with their doctor. “There’s a lot of evidence that people who see their doctor regularly after surgery do better,” Rogers said. Some people are afraid of potential complications from weight-loss surgery, but for most, Rogers said, “it’s safer than choosing to live their lives as obese.” Doctors usually recommend patients try different types of diet and exercise for at least five years before considering weight-loss surgery. They should also have at least one serious weight-related health problem, such as diabetes, or a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or greater. BMI is a rough estimate of a person’s body fat based on height and weight. “Most of our patients have tried diet and exercise for their whole lives,” Rogers said. “Yet a lot of them have still been overweight or obese…  read on >

Many of us make choices about whether to eat healthy or not-so-healthy foods based on whether we’re in a good or not-so-good mood. When a bad mood strikes, we often tend to reach for junk food. And that can be a recipe for disaster when you’re trying to lose weight. Here’s how to keep your emotions from ruining your diet resolve. First, it helps to think about the future rather than just that moment. Refocus on the long-term health benefits of good nutrition, and remind yourself how much more important they are than any short-lived comfort from food. Next, look for ways to brighten your mood that don’t involve eating at all. If you’re blue, call a diet buddy who knows how to motivate you. Or turn on a favorite movie. If you’re nervous or angry, release your emotions by working out to your favorite music mix or taking a short run. Healthy lifestyle habits help insulate you from bad moods and the emotional eating that often follows. Boost your mood on a daily basis with regular exercise and with a few minutes of relaxation, like taking a warm bath, meditating, or reading a book. Using a food journal can help you look for causes of a bad mood, like stress, and show patterns you can then take steps to change. For example, if giving…  read on >

Obesity and other health problems may boost the chances of cancer returning after a man has his prostate removed, a new study finds. “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, and up to 30 percent of patients will develop recurrence after [prostate removal],” said study author Dr. Arash Samiei, of Allegheny Health Network’s urology department in Pittsburgh. Samiei’s team analyzed data from 1,100 prostate cancer patients who had their prostate removed (radical prostatectomy) at a Pittsburgh hospital between 2003 and 2013. The patients were an average of age 60 when diagnosed. Thirty-four percent were obese, and 19 percent had metabolic syndrome — a group of risk factors that increases the chances of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Characteristics of metabolic syndrome include high blood sugar, obesity, abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The patients were followed for an average of four years. Prostate cancer returned in more than 32 percent of obese patients, compared with about 17 percent of those who weren’t obese, the researchers said. Patients with metabolic syndrome had a more than four times higher risk of prostate cancer return than those without the syndrome, according to the study. The findings are scheduled for presentation Friday at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting, in Austin, Texas. “Obesity…  read on >

Working toward a healthier environment involves more than separating glass and plastic. Try a new take on the three “R’s” — recycle, reduce and reuse — to save money, energy and natural resources. Start in your pantry. Donate packaged foods you know you’re not going to eat to a local food bank or soup kitchen. When you shop, buying in bulk and choosing items in refillable containers translate to less packaging. These options are often more economical in the long-term, too. To make the most of some of your food waste, start a compost pile. This is a mix of organic material that can be used in your vegetable or flower garden. Compost piles do double duty by keeping this waste out of landfills, where it releases the potent greenhouse gas methane. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food scraps and yard waste represent up to 30 percent of what Americans throw away and could be easily composted instead. But compost only fruit and vegetable waste — no meat or bones, for instance. Compost Composition Greens: grass clippings, vegetable and fruit waste, and coffee grounds. Browns: yard materials like leaves, branches and twigs. Water: add to the greens and browns to help the composting material develop. When it’s ready, use your compost to feed your soil. It can help sandy soil hold nutrients and…  read on >

Smokers often think their habit won’t have health consequences until far into the future, a small survey suggests. Researchers found that compared with nonsmokers, those who smoke generally believe that any health problems — from yellow teeth to lung cancer — would strike later in life. It’s a perception, researchers said, that might delay some people’s efforts to quit. Smoking rates in the United States have fallen substantially over the years, noted Dr. Norman Edelman, senior scientific advisor for the American Lung Association. That’s due to efforts like cigarette taxes and, in particular, public education about the many health hazards of tobacco use, said Edelman, who was not involved in the study. Even so, many people continue to light up. As of 2016, nearly 38 million Americans said they smoked on at least “some days,” according to a report released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s no secret, Edelman said, that “smokers tend to minimize the health risks.” And the new findings, recently published online in the Journal of Cognitive Psychology, underscore that view. “This isn’t surprising,” Edelman said. “But it is important information.” He said it might be wise for education efforts to emphasize the short-term consequences of smoking — describing not only what they are, but how quickly they can show up. As examples, he pointed to…  read on >