Study explains benefits of exercise in preventing vision loss

Agencies
July 3,2020

Apart from the many benefits of doing exercise, new research has now found that exercise can slow down or prevent the development of macular degeneration and may benefit other common causes of vision loss, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

The new study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that exercise reduced the harmful overgrowth of blood vessels in the eyes of lab mice by up to 45 per cent. This tangle of blood vessels is a key contributor to macular degeneration and several other eye diseases.

The study represents the first experimental evidence showing that exercise can reduce the severity of macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss, the scientists report. Ten million Americans are estimated to have the condition.

"There has long been a question about whether maintaining a healthy lifestyle can delay or prevent the development of macular degeneration. The way that question has historically been answered has been by taking surveys of people, asking them what they are eating and how much exercise they are performing," said researcher Bradley Gelfand, PhD, of UVA's Center for Advanced Vision Science.

"That is basically the most sophisticated study that has been done. The problem with that is that people are notoriously bad self-reporters ... and that can lead to conclusions that may or not be true. This [study] offers hard evidence from the lab for the very first time," Gelfand added.

Enticingly, the research found that the bar for receiving the benefits from exercise was relatively low - more exercise didn't mean more benefit.

"Mice are kind of like people in that they will do a spectrum of exercise. As long as they had a wheel and ran on it, there was a benefit. The benefit that they obtained is saturated at low levels of exercise," Gelfand said.

An initial test comparing mice that voluntarily exercised versus those that did not found that exercise reduced the blood vessel overgrowth by 45%. A second test, to confirm the findings, found a reduction of 32 per cent.

The scientists aren't certain exactly how exercise is preventing the blood vessel overgrowth. There could be a variety of factors at play, they say, including increased blood flow to the eyes.

Gelfand, of UVA's Department of Ophthalmology and Department of Biomedical Engineering, noted that the onset of vision loss is often associated with a decrease in exercise.

"It is fairly well known that as people's eyes and vision deteriorate, their tendency to engage in physical activity also goes down. It can be a challenging thing to study with older people. ... How much of that is one causing the other?" he said.
The researchers already have submitted grant proposals in hopes of obtaining funding to pursue their findings further.

"The next step is to look at how and why this happens, and to see if we can develop a pill or method that will give you the benefits of exercise without having to exercise," Gelfand said.

He explained, "We're talking about a fairly elderly population [of people with macular degeneration], many of whom may not be capable of conducting the type of exercise regimen that may be required to see some kind of benefit." (He urged people to consult their doctors before beginning any aggressive exercise program.)
Gelfand, a self-described couch potato, disclosed a secret motivation for the research: "One reason I wanted to do this study was sort of selfish. I was hoping to find some reason not to exercise," he joked. "It turned out exercise really is good for you."

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Biryani tops the list of most ordered dishes in India even during lockdown

Agencies
July 25,2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown saw many people turning chefs overnight, but those who could not turned to online delivery of food. And not just any food, as per a new report, Indians "craved the most for Biryani" during the lockdown.

The "StatEATistics report: The Quarantine Edition" from food delivery platform Swiggy found that Indians ordered biryani over "5.5 lakh times" from their favourite restaurants.

The new normal might have opened a pandora's box of behavioral changes, but some old habits die hard like the love for Biryani, which took the top spot for overall orders. It was followed by butter naan and masala dosa at 3,35,185 and 3,31,423, respectively.

Biryani has topped the list of most ordered dishes for the fourth year in a row, the food delivery platform noted.

Indians didn't forget to indulge their sweet tooth in the uncertain months of lockdown. Their favourite comfort food during the lockdown period was the moist and decadent Choco Lava cake, ordered around 1,29,000 times.

"The humble Gulab Jamun (84,558) and chic Butterscotch Mousse cake (27,317) followed suit," said the report derived from Swiggy's order analysis in the past few months across cities that it is present in.

Also, as birthday parties moved to video calls, and virtual cake cutting sessions, according to the food delivery platform, it delivered nearly "1,20,000 cakes" to complete these celebrations.

According to the report, on average, "65,000 meal orders" were placed by 8 pm each day to make sure food arrived in time for dinner.

"It was the busiest hour for Swiggy delivery partners and restaurants. On average, they (customers) chose to tip Rs.23.65, with one particularly generous customer tipping Rs. 2500!," it added.

For those who only relied on home-made food during the quarantine, Swiggy delivered a whooping 323 million kgs of onions and 56 million kgs of bananas through its grocery section and hence ensured that its consumers were all stocked up.

That said, it also took care of the 'quick-fix meal' tribe -- consumers who resort to the evergreen college hacks of living on instant noodles.

"Around 3,50,000 packets of this ideal easy to cook meal were ordered during the lockdown," it said.

In all, Swiggy delivered 40 million orders across food, groceries, medicines and other household items during India's lockdowns. It also delivered over 73,000 bottles of sanitizers and hand wash along with 47,000 face masks as the definition of essentials' changed during these uncertain times.

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Physical stress on the job linked with brain, memory decline in older age: Study

Agencies
July 24,2020

Colorado, Jul 24: A new study has found that physical stress in one's job may be associated with faster brain ageing and poorer memory.

Aga Burzynska, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, and her research team connected occupational survey responses with brain-imaging data from 99 cognitively normal older adults, age 60 to 79. They found that those who reported high levels of physical stress in their most recent job had smaller volumes in the hippocampus and performed poorer on memory tasks. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is critical for memory and is affected in both normal ageing and in dementia.

Their findings were published this summer in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience under the research topic 'Work and Brain Health Across the Lifespan.'

"We know that stress can accelerate physical ageing and is the risk factor for many chronic illnesses," Burzynska said. "But this is the first evidence that occupational stress can accelerate brain and cognitive ageing."

She added that it is important to understand how occupational exposures affect the ageing of our brains.

"An average American worker spends more than eight hours at work per weekday, and most people remain in the workforce for over 40 years," Burzynska said. "By pure volume, occupational exposures outweigh the time we spend on leisure social, cognitive and physical activities, which protect our ageing minds and brains."

Physical demands at work

Burzynska explained that the association between "physical stress" and brain/memory were driven by physical demands at work. These included excessive reaching, or lifting boxes onto shelves, not necessarily aerobic activity. This is important because earlier work by Burzynska and her colleagues showed that leisure aerobic exercise is beneficial for brain health and cognition, from children to very old adults. Therefore, the researchers controlled for the effects of leisure physical activity and exercise.

As expected, leisure physical activity was associated with greater hippocampal volume, but the negative association with physical demands at work persisted.

"This finding suggests that physical demands at work may have parallel yet opposing associations with brain health," Burzynska explained. "Most interventions for postponing cognitive decline focus on leisure, not on your job. It's kind of unknown territory, but maybe future research can help us make some tweaks to our work environment for long-term cognitive health."

She added that the results could have important implications for society.

"Caring for people with cognitive impairment is so costly, on economic, emotional and societal levels," Burzynska said. "If we can support brain health earlier, in middle-aged workers, it could have an enormous impact."

The researchers considered and corrected for several other factors that could be related to work environment, memory and hippocampus, such as age, gender, brain size, educational level, job title, years in the occupation and general psychological stress.

One piece of the puzzle

"The research on this topic is so fragmented," Burzynska said. "One previous study linked mid-life managerial experience with greater hippocampus volume in older age. Another showed that taxi drivers had larger hippocampi than a city's bus drivers, presumably due to the need to navigate. In our study, job complexity and psychological stress at work were not related to hippocampal volume and cognition. Clearly, our study is just one piece of the puzzle, and further research is needed."

The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data used for the study was collected at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign between 2011 and 2014.

CSU researchers now can collect MRI data with the new 3T scanner at the University's Translational Medicine Institute.

With this new capability, Burzynska, along with Michael Thomas and Lorann Stallones of CSU's Department of Psychology, is launching a new project, "Impact of Occupational Exposures and Hazards on Brain and Cognitive Health Among Aging Agricultural Workers," which will involve collecting MRI brain scans and identifying risk and protective factors that could help the agricultural community age successfully. The project recently obtained funding as an Emerging Issues Short-Term Project from the High Plains Intermountain Center for Agricultural Health and Safety.

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of CSU's College of Health and Human Sciences.

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National Bone and Joint Day | Bone and joint problems in obese

Dr G K Sudhakar Reddy
August 4,2020

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Being overweight or obese is now recognised as a serious cause of ill health and disability. There is a significant positive association between orthopaedic disorders and the level of obesity causing pain, deformity and difficulty in walking.

Excess body weight accumulation increases pressure on joints, particularly the hips, knees and ankles.

Here are a few type of  arthritis:

Osteoarthritis

It is a condition of damage/ wear and tear of the joint lining or cartilage. Obesity triggers this by loading excessive weight on the weight bearing joints like the knee and the hip. 

Knee Osteoarthritis

This is the most common arthritis especially in the Indian subcontinent.

While walking, an individual exerts 3 to 6 times pressure that of the body weight on the weight-bearing knee joint, which means in an obese with excess body weight, larger forces are exerted, which lead to higher risk of deterioration of cartilage.

In addition, there are excessive fat tissues that produce hormones and other factors that affect the joint cartilage metabolism and cause inflammation of the joints giving rise to joint pathology.  Leptin is one of the hormones causing knee osteoarthritis. 

Hip osteoarthritis

The force exerted across the hip is 3 times that of body weight. Hip osteoarthritis is caused by factors such as joint injury, increasing age and being overweight.    

Hand osteoarthritis

The observation that obese individual has a higher risk in having hand osteoarthritis has led to a hypothesis that the metabolic effect produced by fat tissue is the underlying factor. 

Osteoporosis

It is a progressive bone condition of decrease in bone mass and density (Bone Mineral Density or BMD) which can lead to an increased risk of fracture. Recent research suggests that obesity may accelerate bone loss. It is the amount of muscle mass which is seen in an active person, which accounts for bone strengthening effects and not due to the fat seen in a heavy person.

Low back pain

Low back pain from degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine is one of the most disabling conditions in the community and overweight and obesity have the strongest association with seeking care for low back pain.

Managing Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis

Life style changes

If one is overweight, try to lose weight by doing more physical activity and eating a healthier diet. Regular exercise keeps you active and mobile and builds up muscle, thereby strengthening the joints and can improve symptoms. 

Pain Killers

Painkillers help with pain and stiffness for short term. They don’t affect the arthritis itself and won’t repair the damage to your joint. Creams and gels can be applied directly onto painful joints.

Nutritional Supplements

Glucosamine and chondroitin are nutritional supplements. Animal studies have found that glucosamine can both delay the breakdown of and repair damaged cartilage. However, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of glucosamine in humans and one can expect only a mild-to-moderate reduction in pain

Joint injections

If pain from osteoarthritis is severe joint steroid injections are injected into the joints that can reduces swelling and pain. The injections can start working within a day or so and may improve pain for several weeks or months. 

Hyaluronic acid injections, which help to lubricate your knee joint also give short term relief. In early stages. Stem cell treatment or cartilage regeneration procedures are being tried in young people with small defects, however it is still experimental and lacks long term evidence.

Surgery

May be recommended if you have severe pain or mobility problems.

Arthroscopy

If one has frequent painful locking/stiffening episodes especially in the knee joint, an operation to wash out loose fragments of bone and other tissue as joint can be performed by a minimally invasive key hole procedure called Arthroscopy.

Arthrodesis

If hip or knee replacement is not suitable, especially in young people who do heavy manual work, one can consider an operation known as an arthrodesis, which fuses your joint in a permanent position. This means that your joint will be stronger and much less painful, although you will no longer be able to move it.

Osteotomy

In young, active people in whom a knee joint replacement would fail due to excessive use one can consider an operation called an osteotomy. This involves adding or removing a small section of bone either above or below your knee joint.  This helps realign your knee so your weight is no longer focused on the damaged part of your knee. An osteotomy can relieve your symptoms of osteoarthritis, although you may still need knee replacement surgery eventually as you grow old

Joint replacement surgery

Joint replacement therapy is most commonly carried out to replace hip and knee joints. It involves replacing a damaged, worn or diseased joint with an artificial joint made of special plastics and metal.

For most people, a replacement hip or knee will last for at least 20 years, especially if it is cared for properly and not put under too much strain.

Dr G K Sudhakar Reddy is a Sr Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Citizens Speciality Hospitals, Hyderabad

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