Health and fitness news

Resting heart rate as simple biomarker

A large study has found that a rise in resting heart rate over a decade may indicate an increased risk of death from coronary artery disease.

Norwegian researchers studied 30,000 healthy men and women 20 and older, checking heart rates at intervals 10 years apart. The scientists followed the subjects through 2008, recording the number of deaths from coronary heart disease. The results were published Dec. 21 in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Compared with those whose heart rates remained stable at 70 beats per minute or less, those whose rates increased to 85 or more were almost twice as likely to die of heart disease. For those with resting rates between 70 and 85 beats per minute at the first test, an increase to greater than 85 was associated with an 80 per cent increase in death rate.

There was no direct decrease in heart disease risk with decreasing resting heart rate, but among the 7,000 people whose heart rates had decreased from between 70 and 85 to below 70 beats a minute, risk for death from any cause was reduced by 40 per cent.

The subjects were completely healthy at both measurements, said Ulrik Wisloff of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “So resting heart rate is a simple, cost-free and strong biomarker that should be monitored regularly.”

Trace elements and pancreatic cancer risk
A new study has found that high bodily levels of the trace elements nickel and selenium may be associated with reduced risk for pancreatic cancer, and that high levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead may increase the risk.

The study, published online Dec. 19 in the journal Gut, included 118 pancreatic cancer patients and 399 patients with other diagnoses at several hospitals in Spain. Researchers analyzed toenail samples with plasma mass spectrometry, a highly sensitive technique for detecting trace elements.

After controlling for age, sex, smoking, diabetes and other factors, the scientists found that the subjects with the highest levels of arsenic were at twice the risk for pancreatic cancer, compared with those with the lowest concentrations. Those with high levels of cadmium were at three times the risk for pancreatic cancer, while those with the highest levels of lead were at six times the risk.

Those with the highest levels of nickel and selenium, on the other hand, were at significantly lower risk for pancreatic cancer.

Nuria Malats, an epidemiologist at the Spanish National Cancer Research Center and the senior author of the new study, said it was the first to provide these kinds of results with trace elements, and that it did not mean that people should take dietary supplements.

4 Vitamins that strengthen older brains

Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E are associated with better mental functioning in the elderly, a new study has found.

Researchers measured blood levels of these nutrients in 104 men and women, whose average age was 87. The scientists also performed brain scans to determine brain volume and administered six commonly used tests of mental functioning. The study is in the Jan. 24 issue of Neurology.

After controlling for age, sex, blood pressure, body mass index and other factors, the researchers found that people with the highest blood levels of the four vitamins scored higher on the cognitive tests and had larger brain volume than those with the lowest levels.

Omega-3 levels were linked to better cognitive functioning and to healthier blood vessels in the brain, but not to higher brain volume, which suggests that these beneficial fats may improve cognition by a different means.

Higher blood levels of trans fats, on the other hand, were significantly associated with impaired mental ability and smaller brain volume.

New York Times Service.

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