Life Lines

Vol. 28 No. 4 | May-Jun 2018

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WALK WHERE THE AIR IS FRESH

Walking is highly beneficial for good health. But where you walk is also important. A London-based study that was performed on 119 seniors revealed that environmental factors can inhibit the benefits of walking. In the first week, the participants walked for 2 hours in a park with limited exposure to air pollution. Several weeks later, they walked in a busy shopping area with higher levels of air pollution. The results of the walk in the park area: lung capacity and blood flow were improved, and arteries were less stiff. However the results of the walk with greater exposure to air pollution did not have such an impact. “Walking for Fitness? Avoid traffic-clogged streets.” www.health.harvard.edu, March, 2018.

CANCER—BEAT THE ODDS

The way you live is a proven and powerful weapon against developing cancer. A recent analysis of cancer diagnoses in the United Kingdom revealed that nearly 40 percent of those cases could have been prevented by improving lifestyle habits. While smoking remains UK’s leading cause for cancer, obesity isn’t far behind. As the second most prominent cause, obesity contributes to 13 different types of cancer. UV radiation from the sun and sunbeds is a third cause. Other factors such as low fiber diets, alcohol consumption, and air pollution contribute to four percent of cancer cases. Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Leading a healthy life doesn’t guarantee that a person won’t get cancer, but it can stack the odds in your favour.” “More than 2,500 cancer cases a week could be avoided,” www.sciencedaily.com, March 23, 2018.

HEAVY DRINKING IS LEADING CAUSE OF DEMENTIA

Research shows that a lifetime of heavy drinking is the leading cause (57 percent) of early onset dementia. Alcohol use disorder is a condition that can shorten life expectancy by 20 years with dementia as the leading cause for death.

Detection and treatment of alcohol abuse should begin as early in life as possible. Health Policy Researcher Dr. Jürgen Rehm, concludes: “Alcohol-induced brain damage and dementia are preventable, and known-effective preventive and policy measures can make a dent into premature dementia deaths.” “Largest study of its kind finds alcohol use biggest risk factor for dementia,” www.sciencedaily.com, February 20, 2018.

WANT SMART KIDS?

Voluntary physical activity promotes brain growth and increased cognitive performance in children. Researchers believe that physical activity increases the size of a child’s hippocampus—the center of memory and emotion. 

A larger hippocampus helps children do better at self-discipline and long-term memory retention.

Children who took more breaks for physical activity also performed better on tests of attentiveness. Similar studies showed that physically active children had higher math skills, a better working memory, and more cognitive flexibility than children with little to no activity.

For children who struggled with ADHD, even short-term exercise was shown to enhance brain activity and help them maintain attention.

However, researchers noted that it was voluntary and enjoyable exercise that produced the above results, not forced physical activity. Structured activities like team sports and aerobic activities might be good options for some. But physical activity coupled with play such as tree-climbing, roller-skating, and playing games like hide-and-seek seem to be the best activities for brain growth and enhancement. “Exercise for children: Why physical fitness benefits the brain,” www.parentingscience.com, 2016.

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