WATCH: The top 6 healthiest vegetables you can eat
These are at the top of the list.
There may be a select few people on earth who actually enjoy eating vegetables, but with the rise of health and wellness in the past few years, vegetables and other superfoods are finally being consumed by more people. Here are the top 6.
Breast cancer is the leading cancer affecting women in South Africa, according to CANSA. The National Cancer Registry indicates that one in 27 women is at risk of being diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime.
But a new study casts a bright light on the fight to end this deadly disease. After looking at 200 000 people, scientists from the University of Cambridge identified 352 genetic mutations that increase an individual’s risk of developing the killer disease. The researchers, whose findings were published in Nature Genetics, believe that these mutations may impact as many as 190 genes.
According to the report, fewer than 40 genes had been previously recognised, making this breakthrough highly impressive.
Why this is good news
This new discovery paints a hopeful picture as it can help pinpoint which women are predisposed to developing breast cancer, and therefore allow them to be closely monitored.
“This incredible haul of newly-discovered breast cancer genes provides us with many more genes to work on, most of which have not been studied before,” said Dr Alison Dunning from the University of Cambridge.
Dunning added that the large number of genes that are now known to play a role emphasise how complex the disease is, and that it will help researchers build a more detailed picture of how it arises and develops.
The human genome
The human genome contains between 20 000 and 25 000 genes, and while individuals actually share as much as 99.9% of the same hereditary material, 0.1% of our genetic variants make us unique. It’s also what makes us susceptible to certain diseases.
What makes studying these genes even more intricate is that there are no single genes that cause diseases such as breast cancer, but rather a combination of these genes acting together to increase one’s risk of developing the disease.
Science writer Ed Yong from the Atlantic writes: “These genes continue to be mysterious because they sit in parts of the genome that are hard to analyse with modern techniques. So when geneticists search for variants in the genome that are associated with diseases or physical traits, they often gloss over these duplicated genes entirely.”
However, Yong also points out that newer techniques are starting to solve these problems, with the recent discovery a case in point.
Living with breast cancer
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer affects more than two million women each year with an estimated 627 000 breast cancer-related deaths recorded in 2018. The WHO also notes that the rates are increasing in almost every region across the world.
Although breast cancer often manifests as a lump in the breast, not all lumps are cancerous, as explained in a previous Health24 article. Risk factors for the disease include, among others, age, age at first pregnancy, genetic inheritance, early onset of menstruation, and menopause after age 55.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of the disease, once a tumour has formed:
Unusual nipple discharge, sometimes stained with blood
Rash or crusting on the nipples
Lump or swelling in the lymph glands in the armpit
Sharp pain in the breast
Colour, shape and texture changes in the nipple
Breast lumps should never be ignored. If you notice a lump, it’s important to see your doctor right away.
You made your resolution – this year was finally going to be the year you lost weight. But then your neighbour stopped by with a plate of cookies, and well, your resolve didn’t even last a day. Maybe next year?
But instead of looking at your resolutions as a sweeping year-long project, what if you concentrated on making healthy changes every Monday? That way, if you slip up and dive into that pile of cookies, another chance to get it right is just a few days away.
It’s called the Healthy Monday Reset, and the idea is to send you into the week with a fresh mindset.
“What we really want people to do is implement a mindset change. If you think about the New Year’s resolution, you pick one day a year to start changes and if you fall off the wagon, it’s another year,” explained Ron Hernandez, the managing director of The Monday Campaigns.
“But with Monday, you have 52 opportunities in a year. If you fall short one week, there’s always an opportunity right around the corner, so you don’t have to wait that long to make a change,” he said.
This, Hernandez added, is something you can really integrate: “‘Monday, I will make better choices.'”
A study conducted with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that people often describe Monday as the day they are seeking out health information.
“Monday becomes a cue, and if you start off the week well, you’re more likely to keep going through the rest of the week,” he said.
The Monday Campaigns recently surveyed nearly 1 000 adults with Data Decisions Group. Sixty percent of the group was white, 14% black and 18% Hispanic. The remaining 8% identified as “other”.
Only about one-quarter of respondents said they kept their resolutions all year long. Twenty percent made it just two weeks.
Some of the challenges they reported were staying on track, a lack of discipline, getting started and not seeing results fast enough.
Three-quarters of respondents said they thought refreshing their goals every Monday might help them maintain their resolutions.
Reflect and learn
Samantha Heller, a registered dietitian with NYU Langone Health in New York City, likes the idea of weekly goals. They’re more realistic, more achievable and less daunting than a year-long resolution, she said.
“You can use the Monday reset to reflect and learn. If my goal is to have vegetables every day for lunch, how did I do? If I managed three days, that’s good, but how can I plan so I’ll do better? People often make resolutions whether they’re prepared to do the work or not, but making a successful change takes thoughtful planning,” Heller said.
So, if you want to meet that vegetable every day for lunch goal, you have to plan time to shop, and then to prepare your lunches. “Learn to make a plan and set aside the time to reach your goal. You set aside time to get your hair done. Set aside time to achieve your goals,” Heller said.
And, if you didn’t reach your goal this week, look back at what works and then start fresh again on Monday. She said it’s important to be kind to yourself if you slip up.
“Change is difficult and there’s no quick fix. Start taking it step by step. You can’t walk on to a tennis court for the first time and start playing a Wimbledon-level match,” she explained.
“Use Mondays to reassess, learn and start doing something to be a happy, healthier person,” Heller added.
In carefully selected patients, the surgery provided much more relief than two different types of medication treatment – 67% for surgery compared to 28% for “active” drug treatment and 12% for the “control” (placebo) drug treatment.
Symptoms often remain
“GERD is an extremely common problem. About one in five people has GERD. Heartburn is the main symptom. Drugs called proton pump inhibitors [PPIs] are the best treatments we have for GERD, but as many as 30% of people still have symptoms when taking PPIs,” said study lead author Dr Stuart Jon Spechler. He’s chief of gastroenterology at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
In that group of people who don’t improve on PPIs, many have what’s known as functional heartburn. That means doctors can’t pinpoint a specific disorder that’s causing the heartburn. Surgery won’t help them, he said.
“If someone has heartburn, it was thought to be reflux-related. The thinking was that if it’s burning, there must be acid in the oesophagus. But there are a lot of other things that can cause that burning feeling,” Spechler said.
He said patients can’t tell if they have reflux or another kind of heartburn. And, if their heartburn isn’t reflux-related, surgery won’t provide relief.
“We only want to operate on the group that will benefit from the surgery,” Spechler explained.
So, for the first part of the new study, Spechler’s team took several steps to identify which patients would be good candidates for the surgery called fundoplication.
This surgery is done under general anaesthesia with a laparoscope, a thin tube with a tiny video camera. The surgeon sews the top of the stomach around the oesophagus. This adds pressure to keep the oesophagus from opening back up and allowing reflux, according to the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Procedures to determine cause
“It’s a big operation, but it does fix the plumbing problem and prevents the reflux of all material,” Spechler said. “There are some side effects. The surgery creates a very effective valve that may cause problems with belching or vomiting” because the valve no longer opens in that direction.
The study included 366 patients referred to Veterans Affairs clinics for heartburn that didn’t respond to PPI treatment. Their average age was 48.5 years; 280 were men.
All were given 20 milligrams of omeprazole twice daily for two weeks. If their heartburn persisted, they were scheduled for procedures to determine the cause.
In all, 288 patients didn’t move on to the study’s treatment phase. Some had relief from the initial treatment. Many didn’t complete all of the tests. Some had other oesophageal disorders, or were excluded for other reasons.
That left 78 patients who were randomly selected to receive one of three treatments: surgery; active treatment with omeprazole and baclofen, and possibly a third drug; or the control treatment, which was omeprazole plus a placebo.
In the “highly selected subgroup, surgery was superior to medical treatment,” the authors wrote.
Find an experienced surgeon
Dr Anthony Williams, chief of gastroenterology at Sinai-Grace Hospital at Detroit Medical Center, reviewed the findings and said the study group was small, but the research confirms what gastroenterologists are doing in practice.
“This was a good review that reiterates that we don’t need to send many people to surgery,” he said, adding that in 30 years of practice, he has sent only a few people for surgery.
When people do choose to have this surgery, Williams said, it’s very important to find a surgeon who has done the procedure many times.
“The success of this surgery is really operator-dependent. You need a surgeon who does hundreds of these surgeries a year,” Williams advised.
The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
People suffering from depression are often desperate for anything to break them out of their debilitating mood disorder.
But in their misery, many might be turning to a risky solution that’s likely to make their condition even worse – marijuana.
Rapidly increasing use
People with depression are twice as likely to be using pot as those who aren’t depressed, researchers reported in the current issue of the journal Addiction.
“Cannabis use has increased rapidly among persons with depression, and this increase has been more rapid than among those without depression,” said senior researcher Renee Goodwin. She’s an adjunct associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in New York City.
In 2017, about 19% of people with depression said they had used pot in the last month, compared with about 9% of others, according to an annual government survey on drug use among Americans.
Daily cannabis use occurred in 7% of people with depression compared to 3% of those without the mood disorder, the investigators found.
The researchers said this might be happening because marijuana is gaining a reputation for being harmless.
Depressed people who see no risk linked to regular use of pot are much more likely to use it than those who consider it significantly risky – 39% compared with about 2%, Goodwin said.
“With increasing legalisation in the US, previous studies have shown that perception of risk associated with use is declining overall,” she said. “The results of this study show that this decline is even more rapid among this vulnerable population.”
Experts said the problem is that marijuana’s effects actually are more likely to worsen depression than relieve it.
“We have no evidence whatsoever that marijuana helps in these psychiatric disorders but, nevertheless, people believe it,” said Dr Andrew Saxon, a psychiatrist with the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, in Seattle.
Symptoms of depression that might be heightened by marijuana include lack of motivation, listlessness and isolation as well as a lack of pleasure and interest in things people used to enjoy, said Dr Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York.
“People who are depressed may be more likely to take risks,” Krakower said. “They will go out on a limb hoping this agent may help them.”
Symptoms of withdrawal
Saxon cautioned that this was an observational study, so the exact relationship between depression and marijuana use can’t be fully understood from these findings.
He said it might be that instead of turning to marijuana to relieve depression, cannabis use actually causes depression among typically healthy people.
It also could be that people using pot enough to be dependent on it mistake symptoms of withdrawal as depression, Saxon added. These symptoms might include disturbed sleep, depressed mood or decreased appetite.
Krakower and Saxon said they’re most concerned about depressed teens who might turn to pot to help them.
“There’s no evidence marijuana is good for the teenage brain, and there’s accruing evidence that it’s bad for the teenage brain,” Saxon said. “Depression or not, teens shouldn’t be using marijuana.”
Exercise may do more than build body strength: New research shows it might also keep brain cells in shape.
According to the study, exercise helps maintain the brain’s gray matter, which is linked to various skills and thinking abilities. So, keeping your gray matter intact may help prevent thinking declines, the German researchers explained.
The report was published online in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Improving cognitive function
“This [study] provides indirect evidence that aerobic exercise can have a positive impact on cognitive function in addition to physical conditioning,” said Dr. Ronald Petersen, a Mayo Clinic neurologist.
“Another important feature of the study is that these results may apply to older adults, as well. There is good evidence for the value of exercise in midlife, but it is encouraging that there can be positive effects on the brain in later life as well,” said Petersen, who co-authored an editorial that accompanied the report.
Exercise and brain scans
The German researchers, led by Katharina Wittfeld, followed more than 2 000 adults in northeastern Germany from 1997 through 2012. Over the study period, fitness was measured and participants underwent MRI brain scans.
Although the study found an association between exercise and brain health, it couldn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
According to Mayo Clinic experts, moderate and regular exercise – about 150 minutes per week – is recommended. Good fitness also involves:
Vitamin D deficiency is linked with poor muscle health in older adults, a new study finds. Maintaining muscle health helps seniors maintain their independence, mobility and quality of life. It also lowers their risk of falls and frailty.
Researchers looked at more than 4,100 people, aged 60 and older, in England. About 4 in 10 with vitamin D deficiency had muscle weakness – twice the level found among those who had adequate vitamin D levels.
Impaired muscle performance was three times more common among those with vitamin D deficiency (25.2%) than those with adequate vitamin D (7.9%).
Further analysis showed that vitamin D deficiency significantly increased the odds of impaired muscle strength and performance.
The study also confirmed the benefits of exercise. Participants who got regular moderate physical activity were much less likely to have poor muscle strength and physical performance, according to the researchers at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland.
“Maintaining muscle function is incredibly important, and often overlooked, in promoting healthy aging,” said researcher Maria O’Sullivan, an associate professor in nutrition. “Addressing this through multimodal approaches that incorporate physical activity, reversing vitamin D deficiency and other modifiable diet and lifestyle components require further investigation.”
First author Niamh Aspell, who did her doctoral studies at Trinity, said the findings support the need for public health strategies to eliminate vitamin D deficiency in older people.
“Future research, however, should identify and focus on older adults with vitamin D deficiency and aim to better understand if reversing this deficiency improves skeletal muscle function,” she said in a college news release.
Study co-author Eamon Laird, a research fellow at Trinity, said Finland is among countries that have all but eliminated deficiency in the population by fortifying food with vitamin D. “Such a policy could similarly be implemented in the UK and Ireland for older populations,” he said.
The findings were recently published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Ageing.