Thursday, 28 June 2007

Don't "weight" to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's

The Alzheimer's Society has warned that in 50 years' time, up to 2.5 million people in the UK could suffer from dementia unless there is a reduction in the levels of obesity.

Here are some facts about obesity and Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and there is no cure for this condition.

Currently, around 700,000 people suffer from dementia (more than half have Alzheimer's disease) in the UK.

Age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer's.

1 in 3 older people will end their lives with a form of dementia.

Obesity is a huge risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. According to Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, "People who are obese at 60 are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's by the time they are 75."

Research has shown that a healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.

But lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol also affect a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's.

For tips and advice on what you can do to to reduce your risk, visit the Alzheimer Society's website here.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Heart disease in the obese

Did you know that heart attack and angina patients who are obese are more likely to survive treatment than those of normal weight? I didn't until recently.

A German and Swiss study involving 1,676 patients suggests that heart survival rates are higher in obese patients, but cannot explain why. Some theories about this are described here.

The lead researcher Dr Heinz Buettner said that there was no doubt that people who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease in the first place. He added that obese people should make efforts to lose weight, saying

"It is well known that even a modest intentional weight loss can improve or prevent obesity-related cardiovascular risk factors."

Although obese people seem to have a better chance of surviving heart treatment, I know I would rather prevent heart disease in the first place by maintaining a healthy weight.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Diet is a dirty word. Take pills instead.

I don't know who chooses the names for new drugs, but many of them sure sound unpleasant to me.

Take Rimonabant, for example. It's a diet pill that was launched in the UK last year. But it has been rejected by a US committee advising the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because of concerns that it increases the risk of suicide.

Rimonabant can aid weight loss by reducing appetite. Apparently, it can help users lose up to 10 percent of their body weight and it's currently recommended for obese people who are at risk of diabetes or heart disease. About 37,000 people have been prescribed the drug in the UK. at the cost of £720 a year.

But the US committee of experts, after reviewing studies on Rimonabant, say that it is linked with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts even in those with no history of depression. They warn that the drug is targeted at obese people who have a higher incidence of depression and eating disorders than the rest of the population.

UK experts had also raised concerns about the side effects of Rimonabant: anxiety and depression. But the increased risk of suicide is small, according to Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of UK-based Weight Concern. He says the risks of the drug have to be balanced with the advantages.

Are there other ways for obese people to improve their quality of life, without risking anxiety and suicide by taking a weight loss drug? Sure, dieting is one way to achieve that. To find out about a safe and effective weight loss programme, go to

Monday, 11 June 2007

How safe is your child's drug?

UK researchers say that more safety studies are needed for newer drugs being given to children with epilepsy.

Many medicines are not tested on children prior to being licensed because of the difficulties of including children in clinical trials. This means that consultants have to rely on experience and estimate a safe and effective dose based on the age and size of the child. More information here.

According to Dr Colin Ferrie, a consultant paediatric neurologist at Leeds General Infirmary, "when you are prescribing a drug 'off licence' to a child, it's important to let the family know exactly the implications of this."

Perhaps it would be wise for parents to request information about drugs, anti-epilepsy and others, that are prescribed for their children.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

What's testosterone got to do with health?

A new US study suggests that low testosterone levels may increase the risk of death in men over 50. Men with lower levels have a 33% increased risk of death over an 18-year period than those with higher levels.

The co-author of the study, Professor Elizabeth Barrett-Connor does not recommend that men use testosterone supplements. The author, Professor Gail Laughlin, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego said that lifestyle may determine testosterone levels, which may be altered by lowering obesity.

The researchers noted that men with lower testosterone levels are three times as likely to have 'metabolic syndrome'. This is the collective term for a cluster of risk factors that are associated with heart disease and diabetes. The risk factors are waist measurement over 40 inches, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

According to Professor Richard Sharpe from the MRC Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in Edinburgh, research has shown that levels of testosterone in men of all ages are falling. He also said:

"Being obese lowers the available testosterone and that makes you more obese so it's a vicious cycle.

"Testosterone gives you a zing. If you have low testosterone it tends to make you less active."

Professor Sharpe recommends that instead of using testosterone supplements, men should maintain their testosterone levels by keeping a good body shape.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Folic acid benefits

Many people know that folic acid is recommended for pregnant women and women who are thinking of having a baby.

However, some recent studies suggest that folic acid may also decrease the risk of heart disease, bone disease and stroke in some people. Experts have warned though that these benefits must be balanced against other risks and that folic acid can increase the risk of heart disease in some people.

Go here to see more information about the folic acid research.