Fresh Health News: Summer 2020

Going the Distance

New research suggests how much you walk may be more important than how hard you hustle

If you’re looking to boost your health with regular walking (bravo!), you may wonder what’s more important: the distance traveled or the effort exerted. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging and National Cancer Institute as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention teamed up to study just that and found that the number of steps you take in a day is more important for longevity than the intensity of them. Using data gathered as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 to 2006, the team analyzed average daily step count and cadence (or speed) of close to 5,000 Americans. They also collected mortality data from the group in 2015. People who walked an average of 8,000 steps daily had a 50 percent lower risk of death by any cause at the 10-year follow up than those who averaged 4,000 steps per day. Participants who averaged 12,000 steps per day had a 65 percent reduced risk for death when compared to the folks who typically traversed 4,000 steps. Meanwhile, researchers—who published their findings in March 2020— found the speed at which people walked had no significant impact on longevity.

Another Strike Against E-Cigs

Rates of vaping, or smoking electronic cigarettes (e-cigs), have soared in recent years—particularly among teens and young adults. According to data from the annual National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than five million American youths and teens reported regularly smoking e-cigarettes in 2019, compared to 3.6 million in 2018. Despite this surge in popularity, the long-term effects of e-cigs are still largely unknown. To add to the growing body of research on vaping, scientists from New York University recently studied the effects of e-cig vapor on mice’s lung health. Researchers exposed a group of 40 mice to e-cigarette vapor with nicotine for four hours a day, five days a week for about a year. They had two control groups as well: 18 mice regularly exposed to nicotine-free e-cig vapor and 18 mice not exposed to any fumes. Of the first group, nine of the mice—or 22.5 percent—developed one or more lung tumors, compared to just one mouse in either control group.

Brain Drain

Cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizza, French fries and chicken wings: You likely know that foods like these that are high in saturated fat aren’t great for your heart or waistline. But did you know they could also hamper your productivity? Researchers at Ohio State University recently studied the short-term effects of fatty foods on concentration levels and found that eating just one meal high in saturated fat may significantly detract from how well you’re able to focus. For the study, 51 women performed a computer-based attention test both before and five hours after eating a heavy breakfast cooked in either a palmitic acid-based oil (which is very high in saturated fat) or sunflower oil (which contains unsaturated fat). A few weeks later, they repeated these steps, eating the same meal cooked with the other type of oil. On average, participants performed 11 percent worse on the concentration test after eating the foods prepared with saturated fat-filled oil.

Good Pup!

Dog owners can go on and on about why they love their canines—from the companionship to the cuddles to the endless entertainment. New research out of Sweden shows that having a dog can benefit your heart health and longevity as well—most likely due to increased physical activity levels and lower rates of isolation. Using health data gathered between 2001 and 2012, researchers analyzed the mortality rates and cardiovascular health of more than 3.8 million people. They found that:

  1. In general, dog owners had a 24 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality than non-dog owners.
  2. Among heart attack survivors who lived alone, death rates were 33 percent lower for dog owners than non-dog owners. They were 15 percent lower for heart-patient dog owners who lived with a partner or child.
  3. Among stroke survivors living alone, mortality risk for dog owners was 27 percent lower than non-dog owners (And 12 percent lower for dog owners living with someone).

Photographs by (walker) shutterstock/aslysun & (e-cig) shutterstock/Fabian Strauch & (burger) shutterstock/Joshua Resnick & (man with dog) shutterstock/Monkey Business Images