Cut salt and smoking — recipe for longer life
LIFESTYLE changes can be difficult to make, but cutting down on smoking and salt intake could save millions of lives. In TheLancet this week, researchers predict that reducing dietary salt intake and improving tobacco control would avert millions of chronic disease-related deaths worldwide, for an average cost of about 40 cents per person per year. The findings are based on an analysis of 23 low-income and middle-income countries. Together, these countries account for 80 per cent of deaths from chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes. Researchers predicted the effect of a 15 per cent reduction in salt consumption in the 23 countries, and found that this strategy could avert 8.5 million deaths between 2006 and 2015. Tobacco control measures, including increased tobacco taxes and bans on tobacco advertising were predicted to reduce smoking by 21 per cent, thereby averting 5.5 million deaths from chronic diseases related to smoking. Combining salt reduction and tobacco control in these countries would save 13.8 million lives between 2006 and 2015. Lancet 2007;doi:10.1016/S01406736(07)61698-5 (Asaria P, et al) FITNESS, not fatness, predicts whether an older person will live a longer life, concludes a new study in the JournaloftheAmerican MedicalAssociation . The study showed that adults over the age of 60 with higher levels of cardio-respiratory fitness lived longer than unfit adults, regardless of their levels of body fat. Researchers recruited 2603 men and women aged 60 years or older. Their fitness was assessed by a treadmill exercise test and their body mass index, waist circumference and per cent body fat were measured. Over the following 12 years, there were 450 deaths. In both normal-weight and overweight people, higher fitness was associated with reduced risk of death compared to the lowest fitness level. Surprisingly, obese people with high cardiorespiratory fitness had a lower risk of death than unfit normal-weight people. Regular physical activity may therefore be better than weight loss alone for increasing health and longevity. JAMA 2007;298:2507-2516 (Sui X, et al) MALES with a twin sister are more likely to develop the eating disorder anorexia nervosa than other males, according to new research in the ArchivesofGeneralPsychiatry . Anorexia is 10 times more common in females than males, suggesting that oestrogen — the female sex hormone— may increase the risk. Researchers studied 24,310 Swedish twins (male-male, female-female and opposite-sex pairs) born between 1935 and 1958. Overall, female twins were more likely than male twins to develop anorexia. The one exception was among males who had a twin sister — their risk was the same as that of their twin sister. The results suggest that exposure to oestrogen during development in the uterus increases the risk of anorexia later in life — a finding that could lead to hormone-based therapies for this disease. ArchGenPsychiatry 2007;64:1402-1407 (Procopio M, et al) MEDITATION may not only relax the mind, it could also reduce high blood pressure. In CurrentHypertensionReports this week, researchers have combined the results of 23 published studies on stress reduction programs and high blood pressure. In each of the studies, participants were randomly assigned to either a stress reduction technique or placebo-type control for at least eight weeks. The transcendental meditation technique, which involves sitting comfortably with your eyes closed for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day, significantly reduced high blood pressure. This effect was not seen with any of the other forms of relaxation tested, including other types of meditation and stress management. On average, transcendental meditation reduced systolic blood pressure (the peak pressure in the arteries, reported first in a blood pressure reading) by 5.0 points and diastolic blood pressure (the lowest pressure in the arteries, reported second) by 2.8 points compared to no treatment. This form of meditation could be used alongside prescribed medications to lower blood pressure, say the authors. CurrHypertensRep 2007;9 (Anderson J, et al) RELATIVES of patients with Parkinson’s Disease face an increased risk of depression and anxiety disorders, claims new research in the ArchivesofGeneralPsychiatry . The risk is particularly increased in relatives (brother, sister, mother, father, son or daughter) of patients who develop Parkinson’s before the age of 75. The research team studied 1000 relatives of 162 Parkinson’s patients and 850 relatives of 147 healthy people without Parkinson’s. Relatives of Parkinson’s patients were 45 per cent more likely to suffer from depression and 55 per cent more likely to have an anxiety disorder compared to relatives of the healthy controls. According to the authors, there may be a common genetic link between Parkinson’s, depression and anxiety disorders, which may provide a target for new therapies. ArchGenPsychiatry 2007;64:1385-1392 (Arabia G, et al) PEOPLE who have trouble reading quickly may have an abnormal brain structure, according to a study in the latest issue of Neurology . Detecting these abnormalities could allow doctors to better diagnose such learning disabilities, say the authors. Researchers tested the reading abilities of 30 adults with normal intelligence, and performed brain scans. Ten of the participants had a rare genetic brain disease called ‘‘ periventricular nodular heterotopia’’ (PNH) that causes seizures and reading disabilities. Another 10 people had dyslexia — one of the most common learning disabilities in the general population — and 10 more were healthy with no reading problems. Difficulty reading was associated with greater disruption in the ‘‘ white matter’’ of the brain, where connections are made between different brain regions. Neurology 2007;69:2146-2154 (Chang BS, et al) Want to know more? Items are referenced where possible. A reference such as ‘‘ 2007;35:18-25’’ means the source article was published on pages 18-25 in volume number 35 of the publication, in 2007. A doi number or website address is used for research published on a journal’s website.
Longevity: Dictated by fitness, not fatness