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eating almonds

The practice of yoga in the U.S. has increased significantly among all age groups in recent years, a large, nationally representative survey revealed.

Almond joy

Snacking on almonds seems to lessen the risk of heart disease and reduce belly and leg fat, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

In a 12-week study at Penn State University, 52 overweight, middle-aged adults who were basically healthy but had high cholesterol levels followed nearly identical cholesterol-lowering diets. The only difference in the diets was that some participants ate a daily snack of 1.5 ounces of almonds while others ate a banana muffin containing the same number of calories as the almonds.

Those who ate the almonds experienced a decrease in total cholesterol and a significant reduction in abdominal fat mass, waist circumference and leg fat mass, compared to the muffin eaters.

“Our research found that substituting almonds for a high-carbohydrate snack improved numerous heart health risk factors, including the new finding that eating almonds reduced belly fat,” said lead researcher Claire Berryman. “Choosing almonds as a snack may be a simple way to help fight the onset of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.”


New weight control drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved for adults a new weight management drug.

FDA officials have given the OK to the drug Saxenda as a treatment option for chronic weight management when used with a reduced calorie diet and physical activity. The drug is approved for adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater (obese) or a BMI of 27 or greater (overweight) and at least one weight-related condition such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol.

To learn more about Saxenda, including clinical trial results and information on possible side effects, visit fda.gov.


Online dieting

Dieters who participate in online weight-loss programs can increase their chances of success by increasing their interaction with other participants, recent research showed.

A Northwestern University study found that among people enrolled in an online weight management program, those who regularly logged on to the site, recorded their weight and “friended” other enrollees shed more than 8 percent of their body weight in six months.

Also within a six-month period, dieters who did not interact with others lost roughly 5 percent of their body weight; those with two to nine “friends” lost nearly 7 percent of body weight; and those with more than 10 friends lost more than 8 percent of body weight.

For the study, researchers accessed the database of the online weight-loss community CalorieKing.com, which charges a membership fee.

“There is an almost Facebook-like social network system in this program where people can friend each other and build cliques,” senior study author Luís A. Nunes Amaral said. “In this case, we found the larger your clique, the better your outcomes.”

Researchers concluded that for people lacking time for or access to an in-person weight loss community, the online route seems to be a good alternative.

“Modern life is so complex and stressful, to go somewhere for a meeting is often not practical,” Amaral said. “It is hopeful that this alternative approach, or going online for support, could work.”


Teens and e-cigarettes

The 2014 National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future survey results are in, and while alcohol, tobacco cigarette and illicit drug use declined among teens in 2014, the use of e-cigarettes increased, surpassing the use of tobacco cigarettes.

In response, American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the use of e-cigarettes.

“According to these findings, a new generation of American teens are taking up nicotine via e-cigarettes, which remain un-regulated,” Brown said in a statement. “How many more of our children will fall prey to these hi-tech devices before the FDA acts?”

Brown noted that while smoking among American adolescents is at its lowest since 1975, that milestone is overshadowed by the shift to electronic nicotine delivery systems.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 million children live in states where they can buy e-cigarettes legally, and 70 million children live in states (Missouri is one of them) where they could be exposed to either secondhand smoke or e-cigarette aerosol in worksites, restaurants and bars.

The national Monitoring the Future Survey tracks trends in substance abuse among students in grades eight, 10 and 12. Now in its 40th year, the study surveys 40,000-50,000 students in about 400 U.S. secondary schools.

To see complete survey results, visit monitoringthefuture.org.


Negative night owls

People who have a hard time refraining from worry might benefit from adopting a new sleep schedule, according to a new study.

Past research linking sleep problems with repetitive negative thoughts prompted Binghampton University researchers Jacob Nota and Meredith Coles to conduct some research of their own. They gave questionnaires and computerized tasks to 100 young adults and measured how much they worried, ruminated or obsessed about things. They asked the participants also about their sleep patterns.

Study results showed that people who slept for shorter time periods and went to bed later at night, as well as those who described themselves as “evening types,” often experienced more negative thoughts than others. The types of thoughts they had were typical of those often experienced by people with generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

According to Nota, making sure sleep is obtained “during the right time of day” may be an inexpensive and easily accomplished intervention for people who are bothered by intrusive thoughts.

The study was part of a larger body of research into the relationship between sleep and mental health. Nota, Coles and others at Binghampton University are seeking to learn how information about sleep might be useful in helping people with anxiety disorders.

The research findings were published in Cognitive Therapy and Research.


Trends in complementary medicine

Every five years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health administers a complementary health questionnaire as part of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an annual study interviewing tens of thousands of Americans about their health and illness experiences.

A comparison of the most recent survey data, gathered in 2012, to data from previous surveys identified the following trends in complementary medicine:

• Adults’ use of fish oil, probiotics or prebiotics, and melatonin increased between 2007 and 2012.

• Fish oil was the top natural product used by adults and children. In 2007, echinacea was the top natural product used by children.

• Melatonin was the second-most-used natural product among children in 2012, and its use increased significantly since 2007. Some studies have shown melatonin to have some benefits for those with sleep issues.

• Adults’ use of glucosamine/chrondrotin, echinacea, and garlic decreased between 2007 and 2012.

• The practice of yoga has increased among all age groups. About 21 million adults practiced yoga in 2012, nearly double the number reported in 2002. Roughly 1.7 million children practiced yoga in 2012.

• Nearly 18 million adults and more than 900,000 children practiced meditation in 2012.

• Almost 20 million adults and 1.9 million children received chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation in 2012.

• Children whose parents use a complementary health approach are more likely to use one, too.

For the full report on Americans’ use of natural products and mind and body approaches to improved health, visit nccih.nih.gov/nhis2012.


Tracking physical activity

Many people rely on wearable devices to track their physical activity, but according to recent research, most smartphone applications designed for the same purpose are just as good.

University of Pennsylvania researchers recruited healthy adults to walk on a treadmill wearing a pedometer and two accelerometers at the waist, three wearable devices on the wrists, and two smartphones in their pockets that ran a total of four applications. For the trial, participants used 10 of the most popular devices and smartphone apps.

Step counts from each device were recorded, and researchers concluded that smartphone apps are as accurate as wearable devices for tracking physical activity.

“Since step counts are such an important part of how these devices and apps measure physical activity, including calculating distance or calories burned, their accuracy is key,” said Dr. Mitesh S. Patel, study author. “Compared to the 1 to 2 percent of adults in the U.S. that own a wearable (activity tracking) device, more than 65 percent of adults carry a smartphone. Our findings suggest that smartphone apps could prove to be a more widely accessible and affordable way of tracking health behaviors.”


More hip replacements

The number of people in the U.S. aged 45 and older receiving total hip replacements has increased dramatically in recent years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

From 2000 through 2010, the number of total hip replacements among U.S. adults aged 55-64 nearly tripled. Among adults aged 45-54, the rate of hip replacement increased from 45 to 117 surgeries per 100,000 people.

The data, which the CDC obtained from the National Hospital Discharge Survey, showed also that the percentage of hip replacements increased for younger age groups and decreased for older age groups. In light of that fact and given the overall aging of the nation’s population, CDC officials concluded that there may be an increase down the road in the number of procedures performed to replace artificial hip joints that wear out over time.

Total hip replacement involves replacing the head of the femur and its socket and is done to restore movement to hips damaged by osteoarthritis, degenerative bone and cartilage disease and other injuries and disease.


On the calendar

The Biggest Winner of St. Charles County Round 7 Kick-off is from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3 or 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4 at St. Charles Community College, 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in Cottleville. Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital and Progress West Hospital help participants reach their weight-loss goals in a 10-week contest. Membership is limited to St. Charles County residents aged 18 and older, and participants must be able to attend weekly weigh-ins at one of the partner sites offered throughout the county. To view official rules and the participant agreement, visit bjcstcharlescounty.org. For more information and to register, call 928-9355.

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“Dining with the Expert: Questions About Stroke Awareness” is from noon-1 p.m. on Friday, March 6 at Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon. The fee is $5. To register, call (636) 344-2273, or visit progresswest.org.

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