Archived Articles - November 2015


Regular sauna sessions reduce heart disease risks dramatically
    Nov-02-2015

Findings of a latest study undertaken by researchers at the Kuopio-based University of Eastern Finland and carried in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal have revealed that visiting a sauna on a regular basis my reduce an individual's death risks significantly.

During the course of the study, researchers found that adult males who visited sauna very often were 40 percent less susceptible to death due to various causes over a period of 10 years compared to men who did not frequent saunas. Moreover, spending more time in the sauna during each visit also reduced the chances of death and it was found that people who stayed 20 minutes or more in saunas during each visit benefited most.

Hot, dry saunas

The above-mentioned study was undertaken in eastern Finland, where people have a long tradition of using sauna. A conventional Finish sauna is usually 80°C to 100°C hot, but they are dry with humidity levels varying between just 10 percent and 20 percent.

Altogether 2,315 men belonging to ages between 42 years and 60 years participated in the study. The average age of the subjects was 53 and their mean body mass index (BMI) was 26.9. During the beginning of the study, the participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire with a view to help the scientists to obtain their cardiovascular risk factors like blood pressure, activity level, alcohol consumption, smoking as well as their socio-economic status. In addition, the participants were also asked to state the medications they used and if they had any chronic ailments that have been diagnosed by a physician. At the same time, the researchers themselves measured the participants' blood pressure, BMI and blood cholesterol levels. They also assessed the fitness of the participants' heart and lung.

Subsequently, the researchers took a look at the number of men died during a 10-year follow-up due to cardiovascular diseases, sudden cardiac arrest, coronary heart disease and various other causes. These deaths were corroborated with the deceased medical reports.

The researchers, however, did not analyze deaths due to other reasons separately. These deaths had a cardiovascular component such as burst aortic aneurysm, cancer, pulmonary embolism or cardiac tamponade. In addition, participants who died within five years from the date the study was undertaken were excluded.

Reasons for sauna benefit unknown

During the study, researchers discovered that men who visited saunas just once every week or maybe even less faced 24 percent more death risks due to various causes compared to those who visited saunas twice or thrice every week. In addition, those who visited saunas more often faced 22 percent less risks of death due to sudden cardiac arrest, 23 percent less risk due to coronary heart diseases and about 27 percent reduced risks due to cardiovascular disease.

It is interesting to note that the reduction in death risks among men who visited saunas four to seven times every week was noticeably higher. For instance, the risks were 40 percent less for all causes, 66 percent less for deaths due to sudden cardiac arrest, 48 percent less deaths due to coronary heart disease and a whopping 50 percent less deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Even the duration of one's visit to sauna showed a remarkable impact. Men who spent anything between 11 minutes and 19 minutes faced 7 percent less death risk due to sudden cardiac arrest compared to those who spent less than 11 minutes in the sauna in each visit. Similarly, spending over 19 minutes in a sauna during each visit lessened the risk of death from sudden cardiac arrest by a striking 52 percent. The benefits were similar in the case of deaths due to coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

However, the duration for which one was in a sauna did not have any consequence on death from all other causes.

All the effects were same after regulating the other risk factors. However, apparently the effect was strongest among men who did not smoke, men enduring type 2 diabetes as well as men with weak cardio-respiratory health.

In an editorial accompanying the findings, University of California-San Francisco Rita Redberg, who is also the editor-in-chief of JAMA Internal Medicine, wrote that though it is not clear why men visiting saunas more often enjoyed a longer life (irrespective of the time they were in the hot room, the leisure time, the free time in one's life that permits additional relaxation time, or the companionship in a sauna), the findings of the study clearly show that the time they spent in a sauna has been worth it.

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Common milkweed - a food, medicine and a survival tool
    Nov-12-2015

Since time immemorial, human beings have been traditionally using numerous easy-to-grow plants in the form of food as well as for therapeutic purposes to ensure their health and survival. What is interesting is that there are plentiful wild plants that can also be employed for the same purposes.

Common milkweed (botanical name Asclepias syriaca L.), which is found growing in the wild in most regions of the United States as well as Canada, is particularly beneficial plant. The plant offers unlimited benefits and is employed in the form of food, as a medicine and also for making candle wicks.

Generally, milkweed is found growing in fields and roadsides. This plant usually grows up to a height of six feet. You can identify this plant quite easily by its characteristic broad leaves, purple or pink flowers and green pods. Usually, the common milkweed produces flowers during the period between onset of summer and beginning of fall.

Prior to discussing the several benefits offered by milkweed, it is important for you to know that the milk-like sap exuded by this plant can lead to eye irritations. Hence, it is important that you do not rub your eyes while dealing with this plant. On the other hand, some people endure allergic reactions when milkweed sap comes in contact with their skin.

Milkweed used as food

Virtually all parts of the milkweed plant, including its leaves, flowers, seeds and seed pods, are edible in various different ways. Even the oil extracted from this plant is consumed.

The flavour of milkweed seed pods is akin to that of brown sugar. The pods are consumed after boiling. If you like peas, you may also cook the closed milkweed flower buds and consume them. Similarly, if you are fond of asparagus, you may try consuming the young shoots of the plant since their flavour is similar to asparagus.

The seed pods of this plant can be used in the form of a soup thickener or to add essence to other foods. The oil extracted from milkweed seeds as well as the sap exuded by the plant's stems are excellent substitute for chicle. They can also be used to make chewing gum.

Milkweed used as medicine

As this plant possesses many therapeutic properties, it offers numerous health benefits. For instance, it is believed that the roots of milkweed have several functions, varying from a diuretic to an expectorant.

In addition, an infusion prepared from the leaves of milkweed can be drunk as a tea to treat coughs, asthma and fever. This infusion may also be employed to pass kidney stones.

Other uses of milkweed

Apart from its nutritional and therapeutic properties and uses, the milkweed plant is also used for many other practical purposes.

The inner bark of the plant is dried out and used for making paper, twine, and even cloth. The oil extracted from milkweed seeds is employed for making liquid soaps.

The seed floss taken from milkweed seed pods can be employed for stuffing pillows and making candle wicks. It is also used for making cloth by blending it with other fabrics. Milkweed floss is remarkably buoyant - in fact, six times higher compared to cork. This is one reason why at times it is employed to make life jackets.

Before concluding, it is worth mentioning that milkweed is only one of the numerous wild plants that can be employed for a wide range of purposes.

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Carbon nanotubes discovered in children's' lungs!
    Nov-19-2015

Concerns over the safety of using modern technical applications have increased manifold after scientists discovered the presence of minute structures known as carbon nanotubes in children's lungs. According to several researchers, when seen under a microscope, these carbon nanotubes look very similar to asbestos fibres. They have also demonstrated that these carbon nanotubes are responsible for fatal, inflammatory responses in our immune cells - something akin to the reaction of asbestos fibres.

It is worth mentioning here that during the 20th century, researchers eventually exposed that asbestos were responsible for widespread lung ailments and even different forms of cancer, for instance mesothelioma. Therefore, questions are being raised whether carbon nanotubes are responsible for various respiratory problems during the 21st century.

These carbon nanotubes or particles function both in the form of conductors as well as semi-conductors. They are not only much stronger compared to their size, but are also being used more and more in new scientific applications. Unfortunately, the more these particles are used, the more they escape into the environment, thereby making the air more polluted.

Release of relentless carbon nanotubes not only beckon, but also destroy macrophages, which promote formation of lesions. Researchers have demonstrated that these minute particles, measuring just 20 micrometers in length, can remain in the body for prolonged periods thereby resulting in adverse reactions in our immune system.

Ken Donaldson of the University of Edinburgh, the U.K., has corroborated that such carbon nanotubes can remain in abdominal cavities of mice and result in an immune system response within just seven days. It was found that macrophages that reacted to the invasion of these particles could not get rid of the nanotubes. It was found that in case the macrophages swallow carbon fibres that are more than 20 micrometers in length, they ruptured and died. These nanotubes persisted and led to the formation of lesions or granulomas in the organs in the region of the abdomen.

Carbon nanotubes are more persistent in current times than before because now they are being widely used in computing, medical technology and even clothing. Hence, various questions such as how these particles are wondered and when they actually start forming tumours in gullible people come to our mind.

Asthmatic children afflicted by persistent nanotubes in their lungs

If you want to comprehend how these carbon nanotubes affect humans negatively, first it is important to know how they enter the human body. A team of researchers led by Fathi Moussa from the Saclay-based University of Paris have recently discovered that these nanotubes may enter our body through inhalation. They discovered these nanotubes in fluids obtained from children's lungs. However, a section of researchers may not take this for granted since these nanotubes usually fasten together owing to their high charge and they do not remain in the atmosphere for a very long period.

Despite this, such carbon nanotubes have been found in children's lungs - especially children suffering from asthma. Precisely speaking the Moussa and his team examined 64 children suffering from asthma and it was found that carbon nanotubes were present in each child's lungs. Lung fluid samples taken from five other children showed that these particles were present even in their macrophages. This is an indication of the fact that such tubes are threatening the immune system of children because these macrophages come apart and eventually die after combating the carbon nanotubes.

Nanotubes bind and take other toxins into the lungs, entering cell membranes

Researchers are of the view that the carbon nanotubes may have their origin in vehicle exhaust. Interestingly the structure of the sample nanotubes taken from the lungs of children is similar to those particles collected from vehicle exhaust.

However, James Bonner from Raleigh-based North Carolina State University is of the view that we should not make a big deal of these carbon nanotubes. Bonner said that he believes that no one, including the researchers and scientists, is certain regarding the precise structures of these nanotubes, particularly the samples that have been collected from the patients' lung cells.

Although carbon nanotubes are not toxic themselves, they may bind to other molecules in the air that are more persistent as well as dangerous. In this case, it is possible that these nanotubes function as a carrier or vector resulting in the inhalation of more hazardous pollutants. These dangerous pollutants not only get implanted into the lungs, but also enter the cells by penetrating their membranes. Eventually, this may sometimes lead to fatal consequences.

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Top 3 herbal remedies for mood-balancing
    Nov-22-2015

In the fast-paced and hectic modern lifestyles, it is very common to feel stressed out, restless or simply low. Don't be too concerned if you are also facing these problems, for there are three wonderful herbs that help in improving, lifting and balancing moods.

These mood-balancing herbs include chamomile, kava kava and valerian. Below are brief discussions on the usefulness, dosage and effects of these herbal remedies.

Chamomile

This herb possesses the ability to soothe the body and also aids in alleviating various types of exasperations. In addition, chamomile is also effective in alleviating allergic reactions and inflammation, which may eventually exacerbate anxiety. Certain compounds enclosed by this herb are responsible for its antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and smooth-muscle relaxing attributes, especially in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Chamomile (botanical name Matricaria chamomilla) may prove to be beneficial for children enduring digestive uneasiness or colic or even those who are teething as well as upset. This herb works to provide comfort by treating these problems. At the same time, chamomile is also an effective sleep aid - however, its action is milder compared to valerian. This herb can be used to prepare a warm tea, which is sipped slowly to induce a relaxing pleasure. The standard dosage of this tea is anything between 3 cups and 4 cups consumed between meals.

Alternatively, you can also add chamomile tea to your bath water to offer you a comforting and soothing experience.

Kava Kava

Kava kava (botanical name Piper methysticum) is useful for encouraging relaxation, providing relief from pain and also lessening anxiety. The best thing about this herb is that it promotes relaxation without having any negative effect on the mind, such as causing the feeling of mental haziness or disturbing mental clarity.

Aside from relaxing the mind, kava kava also works as a muscle relaxant. As a result this herb can also be employed as an anticonvulsant agent. It not only provides relief from muscle tension, but also helps to assuage pain. These effects of kava kava make it an excellent remedy for promoting sleep too.

Findings of double-blind studies, counting one that continued for six months, have shown that this herb was useful in lessening symptoms related to anxiety in people who endured mild to restrained anxiety. Another study found that kava kava is beneficial for menopausal women suffering from anxiety.

Dosage: The potential doses of this herb are 200 mg to 300 mg daily, split over twice or thrice a day. Alternatively, one can also use this herb in the form of kava-pyrone tablets taken in dosage of 60 mg to 120 mg of every day. Also known as kava-lactones, kava-pyrones are basically compounds present in this herb are responsible for kava's therapeutic properties. In order to treat mild to moderate anxiety, one may also use kava kava extracts enclosing 120 mg to 240 mg kava-pyrones daily split over two to three equal doses.

Whatever may be the case, you should be aware that that kava kava may not suit some people. Moreover, it is important that one should never drive or operate machinery after drinking a kava kava preparation, as using this herb may make him/ her look intoxicated. You should also know that kava kava works to augment the effects of psychoactive drugs such as sedatives and tranquilizers as well as alcohol. In addition, this herb should be avoided by pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Valerian

Valerian (botanical name Valeriana officinalis) is a very effective mood-balancing herb. Aside from calming and soothing the nervous system when one is stressed or suffering from high anxiety, this herb also helps to boost the energy levels when one is exhausted or feeling low. However, valerian is used more often to promote composure and relaxation, especially when one is excited or irritated. This herb also possesses the aptitude to ease panic attacks during the night.

Scientists have undertaken extensive studies on valerian to ascertain the herb's role in treating insomnia. Double-blind studies undertaken on people have shown that the herb is useful for people enduring mild to moderate levels of insomnia. The findings of such studies have shown that the herb not only made falling asleep easier, but also helped people to get sound sleep. However, valerian did not help in increasing the duration of sleep.

Generally, people have been using valerian to treat insomnia and other nervous conditions for several centuries. In the 18th century, this herb was widely accepted as a sedative agent. Simultaneously, herbal medicine practitioners also recommended valerian for people with nervous conditions, especially those associated with restive digestive system.

Dosage: The potential doses of this herb are taking it in amounts of 300 mg to 500 mg every day. Alternatively, one can also take 50 mg valepotriate tablets three times every day. Moreover, a section of physicians recommends taking anything between 300 mg and 500 mg of a concentrated extract of valerian root (standardized to no less than 0.5% volatile oils) either in tablet or capsule forms about 30 minutes prior to bedtime.


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