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Relax, a Little Stress Might Be Good for You

Cara Murez wrote . . . . . . . . .

If holiday demands get you frazzled, you can take heart from a new study: When it comes to stress, a little is good.

“The bad outcomes of stress are pretty clear and not new,” said Assaf Oshri, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

“But there’s less information about the effects of more limited stress,” Oshri said in a university news release. “Our findings show that low to moderate levels of perceived stress were associated with elevated working memory neural activation, resulting in better mental performance.”

Working memory is the short-term information you use everyday for things like remembering a phone number or recalling directions on how to get someplace.

For the study, the researchers analyzed MRI scans from the Human Connectome Project, a project sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Scans came from more than 1,000 people with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Those who reported having low or moderate stress levels had increased activity in the parts of the brain that involve working memory.

Meanwhile, those who reported high stress had a decline in those areas, the findings showed.

The research team assessed perceived stress levels through questions like these: “In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?” and “In the last month, how often have you found that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do?”

The investigators also asked participants if they felt they had a meaningful life, and about the availability of friend-based support.

To assess working memory, participants were shown — and asked to recall — a series of images.

The researchers analyzed MRIs of the participants’ brains as they completed the tasks to assess neural activation in different parts of the brain.

Chronic bad stress can change brain structure, leading to increases in white matter at the expense of gray matter, the study authors noted. The latter is involved in muscle control, decision-making, self-control and emotional regulation.

This chronic stress can also increase the risk of migraine headaches, high blood pressure and heart disease, the study pointed out.

Conversely, previous studies by Oshri’s team have shown that low or moderate stress can help build resilience and reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders, such as depression and antisocial behaviors.

The study participants who reported more support from family or friends also appeared better able to cope with low to moderate stress levels in a healthy manner.

“You need to have the right resources to be strengthened by adversity and stress,” Oshri said. “For some people, being exposed to adversity is a good thing. But for others, maybe not.”

“It’s possible that you can sustain more stress if you have a supportive community or family,” Oshri said.

The findings were published in the November issue of Neuropsychologia.

Source : HealthDay

What A Global Flavor Map Can Tell Us About How We Pair Foods

Each node in this network denotes an ingredient, the color indicates food category, and node size reflects the ingredient prevalence in recipes. Two ingredients are connected if they share a significant number of flavor compounds, and link thickness representing the number of shared compounds between the two ingredients.

Nancy Shute wrote . . . . . . . . .

There’s a reason why Asian dishes often taste so different from the typical North American fare: North American recipes rely on flavors that are related, while East Asian cooks go for sharp contrasts.

That’s the word from researchers at the University of Cambridge, who used a tool called network analysis to chart the relationship between chemical flavor compounds. They did it to test the widely believed notion that foods with compatible flavors are chemically similar.

It turns out that’s true in some regional cuisines, particularly in North America – think milk, egg, butter, cocoa, and vanilla. But in East Asia, cooks are more likely to combine foods with few chemical similarities – from shrimp to lemon to ginger, soy sauce, and hot peppers.

The scientists used 56,498 recipes to test their questions about “the “rules’ that may underlie” recipes. (They mined Epicurious and Allrecipes as well as the Korean site Menupan.) They note that we rely on a very small number of recipes — around a one million — compared with all the possible food and flavor combinations available to us — more than a trillion by their estimates.

To illustrate their findings, the scientists decided to show, not just tell. The result: A stunning chart showing which foods are chemical cousins, and which are flavor outliers. Cucumber stands apart, while cheeses cluster in a clique, as do fish. Cumin connects to ginger and cinnamon, while tomato stands in a strange subgroup with chickpeas, mint, cardamom and thyme.

A lists the ingredients in two recipes, together with their flavor compounds. Each flavor compound is linked to the ingredients that contain it, forming a network. B shows the flavor network, whose nodes are ingredients, linked if they share at least one flavor compound.

The work appeared in Scientific Reports, an open-access journal from the Nature Publishing Group.

This network is beautiful enough to hang by the stove, and a big improvement on the usual eyeball-numbing illustrations in scientific journals.

But with people accustomed to eating food from around the world, those preferences may be shifting. A new survey declared salty caramel to be the hot North American flavor for 2012. Can garlic-soy caramels be far behind?

Source : npr

There Might Be a Perfect Indoor Humidity to Curb COVID Spread

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

It’s sort of like the Goldilocks principle — a room that’s either too dry or too humid can influence transmission of COVID-19 and cause more illness or death, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers say.

Maintaining an indoor relative humidity between 40% and 60% is associated with lower rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths, they reported Nov. 16 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Indoor conditions outside that range are associated with worse COVID outcomes, according to the report.

“There’s potentially a protective effect of this intermediate indoor relative humidity,” said lead author Connor Verheyen, a doctoral student in the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology, in Cambridge, Mass.

The research team noted that most people are comfortable between 30% and 50% relative humidity. An airplane cabin is kept around 20%.

Until now, researchers have considered that COVID-19 could be influenced by the seasons, but they tended to examine the virus’ patterns in the context of outdoor weather conditions.

The MIT team decided that other researchers might be looking in the wrong direction, given that people in most places spend more than 90% of their time indoors. Indoor conditions also are where most viral transmission occurs.

For the study, the investigators combined COVID data with meteorological measurements taken from 121 countries.

They gathered COVID case counts and deaths from between January and August 2020, before vaccines were available, and then compared each day of data with an average estimated indoor humidity on that day.

For example, they reasoned that if outdoor temperatures fell below the typical human comfort range of 66 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, folks would crank on the heat — and thus cause indoor humidity to fall.

As a result, they found that indoor relative humidity tended to drop below 40% during colder periods, and that COVID cases and deaths also spiked at those times.

The team also found a gradual rise of indoor humidity during tropical countries’ summer season reflected in a gradual increase in COVID deaths as humidity went past 60%.

COVID-19 cases and deaths tended to increase when a region’s average estimated indoor humidity was lower than 40% or higher than 60%, regardless of the time of year.

Nearly all regions had fewer COVID infections and deaths when average indoor humidity hovered in the “sweet spot” between 40% and 60%, the study authors said.

“We were very skeptical initially, especially as the COVID-19 data can be noisy and inconsistent,” said co-researcher Lydia Bourouiba, director of the MIT Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory. “We thus were very thorough trying to poke holes in our own analysis,” she noted in an MIT news release.

Bourouiba said the team used a range of approaches to test the findings, including taking into account factors such as government intervention.

“Despite all our best efforts, we found that even when considering countries with very strong versus very weak COVID-19 mitigation policies, or wildly different outdoor conditions, indoor — rather than outdoor — relative humidity maintains an underlying strong and robust link with COVID-19 outcomes,” Bourouiba said.

The researchers aren’t sure why indoor humidity might have such an influence over COVID’s virulence, but follow-up studies have suggested that germs might survive longer in respiratory droplets in either very dry or very humid conditions.

Source: HealthDay

Damage to Health Mounts With Each New COVID Infection

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Every time a person gets infected with COVID-19, their risk of dying or suffering serious long-term health problems increases dramatically, a new study has found.

People with repeated COVID-19 infections are twice as likely to die and three times as likely to be hospitalized compared to those only infected once, according to the report published online in the journal Nature Medicine.

Repeat COVID-19 patients are also three times more likely to develop lung and heart problems, and 60% more likely to develop a brain condition, the researchers found.

“Without ambiguity, our research showed that getting an infection a second, third or fourth time contributes to additional health risks in the acute phase, meaning the first 30 days after infection, and in the months beyond, meaning the long COVID phase,” said senior researcher Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly. He is a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The researchers also found that the risk rises with each additional infection.

“This means that even if you’ve had two COVID-19 infections, it’s better to avoid a third,” Al-Aly said in a university news release. “And if you’ve had three infections, it’s best to avoid the fourth.”

For the study, the investigators analyzed medical records of about 5.8 million patients treated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the nation’s largest integrated health care system.

The researchers compared nearly 41,000 people who had two or more documented COVID-19 infections with more than 443,000 people who had been infected once and 5.3 million others who were COVID-free between March 2020 and April 2022.

Most of the people who had been reinfected had gone through two or three bouts with COVID-19. A small number had four infections, and no one had five or more.

Statistical modeling assessed the health risks of repeat COVID-19 infections within the first month after contracting the virus, and then up to six months after.

The results pierce the “air of invincibility among people who have had COVID-19 or their vaccinations and boosters, and especially among people who have had an infection and also received vaccines,” Al-Aly said.

People who have had COVID-19 once should take every possible precaution to protect their health and prevent reinfection, he advised.

“Going into the winter season, people should be aware of the risks and practice vigilance to reduce their risk of infection or reinfection with SARS-CoV-2,” Al-Aly said.

He urged people to wear a mask, get all of their eligible boosters and stay home when they’re ill.

“Also, get a flu shot to prevent illness,” Al-Aly added. “We really need to do our best to reduce the chance we will have a twin-demic of both COVID-19 and the flu this winter season.”

Source: HealthDay

Have You Exercised Your Body Fat Lately?

Gretchen Reynolds wrote . . . . . . . . .

Is your body fat fit?

It could be, if you start or continue exercising, according to rousing new science, which shows that being physically active alters fat at a molecular level in ways that improve the fat’s health. The findings have broad implications for the state of our metabolisms, muscles and even how well our bodies deal with the approaching holiday season of cheery gluttony.

Many of us may not realize that body fat can be metabolically healthy — or the reverse — no matter what someone’s weight or shape.

“Healthy fat is not about the amount of fat” someone carries, said Jeffrey Horowitz, a professor at the University of Michigan, who studies exercise and metabolism. It is about how well that fat functions, he said. “A person who has healthier fat is much better off than someone with the same body fat percentage whose fat is unhealthy.”

What principally differentiates healthy from dysfunctional fat, Horowitz continued, is the size of the fat cells. “The more small fat cells, the better,” he said.

And notably, you don’t have to lose weight or fat to make the body fat you already have metabolically healthier.

Why fat cell size matters

Large fat cells, he said, are already filled with fat. They cannot store much more and tend to leak some of their overstuffed contents into the bloodstream as fatty acids. From there, the fatty acids slosh toward and lodge in other organs, such as the heart, muscles or liver. Fatty, well-marbled livers, muscles or hearts are undesirable (unless, perhaps, you raise steers).

Small fat cells, on the other hand, can expand, essentially slurping fat from your blood. You want fat to stay inside fat cells, Horowitz said.

Healthy fat cells also contain reams of active mitochondria, the power centers of any cell. Mitochondria convert oxygen and food into cellular energy. In general, the more mitochondria, the healthier and more resilient any cell will be, including fat cells.

Finally, healthy fat tissue teems with blood vessels, to ferry oxygen and nutrients to fat cells, along with battalions of other cells, most related to immunity, that help fight inflammation. Without sufficient blood supply and immune protection, fat tissue often becomes inflamed and scarred and releases substances into the bloodstream that initiate similar, unhealthy inflammation elsewhere in our bodies, even in people who are not overweight.

How exercise can remodel your fat cells

Until recently, though, scientists were not sure whether or how much our fat could change. That is, they knew healthy fat tissue could deteriorate, filling with large, leaky cells, dysfunctional mitochondria and inflammation.

But whether this process could be reversed or slowed remained unclear. Some studies in recent years involving rodents were encouraging, suggesting physically active animals harbored metabolically healthier body fat compared with sedentary rodents, even if they were all overweight by rodent standards.

But we are not lab mice and many questions remained about the malleability of our body fat.

A study published in June brought glimmers of clarity, though. In the study, researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark biopsied abdominal fat from young, sedentary men, older sedentary men and physically active older men, most of them longtime and frequent cyclists.

The fat cells from the older, sedentary men showed relatively poor mitochondrial health, with fewer mitochondria than in the young men’s fat and less energy produced by each mitochondrion. But the physically active men’s fat cells held plenty of mitochondria, more even than in fat tissue from the young men, so that their fat cells, overall, were better supplied with energy. Their fat tissue also showed fewer signs of incipient inflammation than fat from the inactive men, whatever their ages.

“Exercise training meant more mitochondria and better functioning mitochondria” and, in essence, healthier fat, said Anders Gudiksen, a professor of cell biology at the University of Copenhagen, who led the study.

But for anyone who might not have had the foresight to be a lifelong cyclist, another new study offers hope that starting to exercise now, no matter how sedentary you may have been, could rapidly improve your fat’s fitness.

For the new study, published in the Journal of Physiology and overseen by Horowitz, researchers biopsied fat tissue from 36 sedentary men and women with obesity and then asked them to ride a stationary bike at a moderate pace for 45 minutes or more intensely for a 20-minute interval workout four times a week for 12 weeks.

The volunteers’ diets were carefully monitored, so they would not lose weight. Otherwise, Horowitz said, changes in their fat tissue might have been due to weight loss, not exercise.

But without shedding pounds, the exercising volunteers still remade their fat. They wound up with substantially more small fat cells, as well as more capillaries to nourish those cells. Their fat tissue also held fewer biochemical markers of inflammation and less symptoms of scarring and hardening around the fat cells.

These effects were seen, whether the volunteers rode moderately or hard. “Intensity didn’t matter,” Horowitz said, only that they were active.

In the short term, these alterations should make fat tissue more capable of slurping up and storing any excess calories someone takes in with large meals during the holidays, Horowitz said, a scenario that does not necessarily mean weight gain. This fat is usually stored temporarily, soon converted into energy for other tissues, like muscles. But in the meantime, he said, it is better to warehouse such fat in fat cells, not your liver or arteries.

The longer-term implications of exercise and fat revolve around inflammation, Horowitz said, and whether and how metabolically healthy fat contributes to a metabolically healthy body, even — and perhaps especially — if people have obesity.

We need more research to fully understand what constitutes healthy fat, he said, and the types and amounts of exercise that best generate or maintain it. But already it seems clear, he said, movement benefits fat, as well as the rest of your body, offering one more reason to ride, walk, jog, swim or, in whatever way you choose, be active today.

Source: The Washington Post

Mouthwashes May Suppress SARS-CoV-2 That Causes COVID-19

Low concentrations of cetylpyridinium chloride, an antimicrobial agent present in mouthwashes, inhibit the infectivity of four variants of SARS-CoV-2.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is an airborne disease transmitted via aerosols, which are spread from the oral and nasal cavities—the mouth and the nose. In addition to the well-known division and spread of the virus in the cells of the respiratory tract, SARS-CoV-2 is also known to infect the cells of the lining of the mouth and the salivary glands.

A team of researchers led by Professor Kyoko Hida at Hokkaido University have shown that low concentrations of the chemical cetylpyridinium chloride, a component of some mouthwashes, has an antiviral effect on SARS-CoV-2. Their findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Commercially available mouthwashes contain a number of antibiotic and antiviral components that act against microorganisms in the mouth. One of these, cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), has been shown to reduce the viral load of SARS-CoV-2 in the mouth, primarily by disrupting the lipid membrane surrounding the virus. While there are other chemicals with similar effects, CPC has the advantage of being tasteless and odorless.

The researchers were interested in studying the effects of CPC in Japanese mouthwashes. Mouthwashes in Japan typically contain a fraction of the CPC compared to previously tested mouthwashes. They tested the effects of CPC on cell cultures that express trans-membrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2), which is required for SARS-CoV-2 entry into the cell.

They found that, within 10 minutes of application, 30–50 µg/mL of CPC inhibited the infectivity and capability for cell entry of SARS-CoV-2. Interestingly, commercially available mouthwashes that contain CPC performed better than CPC alone. They also showed that saliva did not alter the effects of CPC. Most significantly, they tested four variants of SARS-CoV-2—the original, alpha, beta and gamma variants—and showed that the effects of CPC were similar across all strains.

Antiviral efficacy of CPC against SARS-CoV-2 in cell cultures expressing TMPRSS2. For all of the four strains tested, a concentration of 40 µg/mL of CPC significantly reduced the viral titers, the number of virus particles. Asterisks indicate significant results (Ryo Takeda, et al. Scientific Reports. August 18, 2022).

This study shows that low concentrations of CPC in commercial mouthwash suppress the infectivity of four variants of SARS-CoV-2. The authors have already begun assessing the effect on CPC-containing mouthwashes on viral loads in saliva of COVID-19 patients. Future work will also focus on fully understanding the mechanism of effect, as lower concentrations of CPC do not disrupt lipid membranes.

Source: Hokkaido University

Scientists Propose New Mechanism Driving Alzheimer’s Disease

Amyloid-beta plaques have long been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, with some scientists theorizing that the plaques actually cause the degenerative brain disease.

But a new study suggests that the plaques are actually a symptom of what’s going on in the brain, rather than the cause of Alzheimer’s.

Instead, decreasing levels of the “normal,” water-soluble form of amyloid-beta is the real culprit behind Alzheimer’s, a research team argues in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“The paradox is that so many of us accrue plaques in our brains as we age, and yet so few of us with plaques go on to develop dementia,” said lead researcher Dr. Alberto Espay. He’s director and endowed chair of the Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at the University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Institute.

“Yet the plaques remain the center of our attention as it relates to biomarker development and therapeutic strategies,” Espay said in a university news release.

The team’s previous research had found that regardless of plaque buildup in the brain, people with high levels of soluble amyloid-beta kept their brain health. On the other hand, those with low levels of the protein were more likely to have cognitive impairment.

The researchers think soluble amyloid-beta levels decrease because the normal protein, exposed to stressors, starts transforming into abnormal amyloid plaques.

For this study, Espay and his team focused on amyloid-beta levels in a specific group of patients who carry mutations that predict they’d have more amyloid plaques in their brains — and therefore should be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

However, this group wound up having the same Alzheimer’s risk as the general population.

“What we found was that individuals already accumulating plaques in their brains who are able to generate high levels of soluble amyloid-beta have a lower risk of evolving into dementia over a three-year span,” Espay said.

Folks carrying a baseline level of soluble amyloid-beta can remain cognitively normal, regardless of the amount of amyloid plaques in their brains, researchers found.

These results jibe with previous clinical trials that showed that drugs effective in reducing amyloid plaques in the brain failed to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, researchers said. Earlier studies also have shown that reducing levels of soluble amyloid-beta can cause worse outcomes for Alzheimer’s patients.

Next, the researchers plan to test whether increasing levels of soluble amyloid-beta in the brain could be a beneficial therapy for Alzheimer’s.

Source: HealthDay

Brain Secrets of the Super-Sharp ‘Super-Agers’

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

Researchers have discovered another clue as to how some older people stay sharp as a tack into their 80s and beyond: Their brain cells are really big.

The study focused on what scientists have dubbed “super-agers” — a select group of elderly adults who have the memory skills of people decades younger.

The researchers found that in a memory-related area of the brain, super-agers had larger neurons than elderly adults with average brain power — and even in comparison to people 30 years their junior.

What’s more, those big brain cells were relatively free of “tau tangles,” one of the key markers of Alzheimer’s disease.

Tau is a protein that, in healthy brain cells, helps stabilize the internal scaffolding. But abnormal versions of tau — ones that cling to other tau proteins — can develop as well.

In people with Alzheimer’s, the brain is marked by a large accumulation of those tau tangles, as well as “plaques” — clumps of another protein called amyloid.

Researchers at Northwestern University, in Chicago, have been studying super-agers for years. In previous work the investigators found that those unusually sharp seniors are similar to their cognitively average peers when it comes to amyloid plaques: Both groups have comparable amounts in their brains.

Where they differ is in tau buildup. Super-agers have far fewer tau tangles in a memory-related area of the brain called the entorhinal cortex.

The new study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, adds to that picture. Super-agers also have larger neurons (nerve cells) in the entorhinal cortex.

“The study of super-aging establishes the principle that dementia is not inevitable — that withstanding ‘abnormal aging’ is possible,” said lead researcher Tamar Gefen. She is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

It also highlights the link between tau accumulation and the dementia process, Gefen said. Historically, amyloid plaques have gotten most of the attention, she noted — with drug development mainly aimed at reducing amyloid plaques in the brain.

Now, Gefen said, “it’s generally accepted among the scientific community that amyloid is not the only culprit. There are several targets, amyloid and tau included, that need to be considered in the fight against Alzheimer’s pathology.”

Based on the new findings, she said, her team suspects that tau tangles may cause neurons to shrink.

There are many unknowns about super-agers — including how many are out there, and why their brains resist age-related decline. It’s likely a mix of good genes and lifestyle factors, and Gefen said the super-ager study is trying to figure what, exactly, those factors might be.

Understanding why some seniors cognitively thrive into their 80s, 90s and beyond will also help researchers understand why so many others develop dementia.

“In order to more fully understand dementia risk, it is important for researchers to examine both sides of the coin,” said Claire Sexton, senior director of scientific programs and initiatives at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“In those people found to be consistently more resistant, what can we learn from them to help others reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s or other dementia?” said Sexton, who was not involved in the study.

She agreed that the new findings highlight tau as a key player.

“While much of the limelight is currently on anti-amyloid therapies for Alzheimer’s,” Sexton said, “these new findings align with a growing focus on the role of tau in neurodegenerative disease.”

Sexton noted that the Alzheimer’s Association is funding a number of studies developing experimental anti-tau therapies. And earlier this year, researchers launched the first trial to test a combination of drugs targeting both amyloid and tau.

The current findings are based on autopsied brain tissue from six elderly adults who’d participated in the super-ager study before their deaths and agreed to donate their brains for research. Their tissue samples were compared against donated brain tissue from seven “cognitively average” seniors, five elderly adults with early-stage dementia, and six healthy adults 20 to 30 years younger.

Overall, Gefen’s team found, super-agers had larger neurons, with far less tau, in the entorhinal cortex, versus both groups of older adults.

Surprisingly, their neurons were even larger than the younger group’s — some of whom were only in their 40s, Gefen noted.

It’s not clear why. But, Gefen said, it’s possible that super-agers are equipped with those larger neurons at birth.

She speculated that the super-size neurons may “harbor features,” as yet unknown, that help them resist tau-tangle formation. Resistance to tau, in turn, might protect the neurons from shrinking.

Source: HealthDay

Regular Weightlifting Could Lengthen Your Life

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

Combining weightlifting with aerobic exercise can significantly lower your odds dying early, especially from heart disease, new research shows.

Depending how much weightlifting they did, older adults reduced their risk of premature death by between 9% and 22%, the study found. Moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise lowered the risk by 24% to 34%. The lowest risk, however, was seen among those who did both types of exercise.

“Current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend participation in both aerobic physical activity and muscle strengthening exercise, like weightlifting,” said lead researcher Jessica Gorzelitz, of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

These results show that weightlifting is uniquely linked with lower rates of premature death and doing both offers even greater protection, she said.

“Thus, adding weightlifting to your physical activity routine, even for those who are aerobically active, is important for better health and longevity,” Gorzelitz said.

The study doesn’t prove that weightlifting reduces the risk of death, only that there appears to be a link. Weightlifting, however, can make the body leaner, which may explain the association, the researchers said.

“We know that muscle strengthening exercise is associated with a wide range of health benefits, which include increased strength and better physical function,” Gorzelitz said. “We are still learning about the metabolic effects of weightlifting on bodily systems that may affect [death rates], but we do know that this type of exercise can have a beneficial effect on body composition and other metabolic risk factors, such as blood pressure, inflammation markers and even blood cholesterol.”

For the study, data was collected on nearly 100,000 men and women who were part of a screening trial for prostate, lung, colon and ovarian cancers. Their average age was 71 at the trial’s start. Over nearly 10 years of follow-up, more than 28,400 participants died.

Participants were asked about how much moderate and vigorous physical activity they did. Both forms of activity work up a sweat, but vigorous activity increases breathing and heart rate to high levels. Moderate activity brings smaller increases.

In all, 23% of participants did some weightlifting, and 16% exercised with weights one to six times a week.

A third said they also got aerobic exercise. Twenty-four percent got in the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise and 8% exceeded that benchmark.

Gorzelitz’s team found that exercising with weights and aerobics was independently associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, as well as from heart disease, but not from cancer.

For example, the risk of death was 41% to 47% lower among people who met the recommended weekly activity levels and exercised with weights once or twice a week, compared with those who didn’t exercise. This link was stronger among women, researchers said.

If you don’t lift weights or do other muscle-strengthening exercises, such as calisthenics, pushups and squats, Pilates and plyometric exercises such as tuck jumps and burpees may be a good substitute.

“Our results suggest that some weightlifting is better than none, and it’s OK to get started slowly and progress as strength and confidence increase,” Gorzelitz said.

It is important, she said, to work all the major muscle groups — legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms. Adults, including older adults, should do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups two or more days a week.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, interim chief of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, reviewed the findings.

“Much of the focus of the cardiovascular health benefits of physical activity has centered on aerobic activity, including duration and intensity,” he noted. “Muscle strengthening exercise has become a more recent focus and is now included in recommendations for adults for overall health.”

Fonarow said the findings of this study offer further support for current exercise recommendations.

The findings were published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Source: HealthDay

Wearable Sensors Styled into T-shirts and Face Masks

Caroline Brogan wrote . . . . . . . . .

Imperial researchers have embedded new low-cost sensors that monitor breathing, heart rate, and ammonia into t-shirts and face masks.

Potential applications range from monitoring exercise, sleep, and stress to diagnosing and monitoring disease through breath and vital signs.

Spun from a new Imperial-developed cotton-based conductive thread called PECOTEX, the sensors cost little to manufacture. Just $0.15 produces a metre of thread to seamlessly integrate more than ten sensors into clothing, and PECOTEX is compatible with industry-standard computerised embroidery machines.

First author of the research Fahad Alshabouna, PhD candidate at Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering, said: “The flexible medium of clothing means our sensors have a wide range of applications. They’re also relatively easy to produce which means we could scale up manufacturing and usher in a new generation of wearables in clothing.”

The researchers embroidered the sensors into a face mask to monitor breathing, a t-shirt to monitor heart activity, and textiles to monitor gases like ammonia, a component of the breath that can be used to detect liver and kidney function. The ammonia sensors were developed to test whether gas sensors could also be manufactured using embroidery.

Fahad added: “We demonstrated applications in monitoring cardiac activity and breathing, and sensing gases. Future potential applications include diagnosing and monitoring disease and treatment, monitoring the body during exercise, sleep, and stress, and use in batteries, heaters, and anti-static clothing.”

The research is published in Materials Today.

Seamless sensors

Wearable sensors, like those on smartwatches, let us continuously monitor our health and wellbeing non-invasively. Until now, however, there has been a lack of suitable conductive threads, which explains why wearable sensors seamlessly integrated into clothing aren’t yet widely available.

Enter PECOTEX. Developed and spun into sensors by Imperial researchers, the material is machine washable, and is less breakable and more electrically conductive than commercially available silver-based conductive threads, meaning more layers can be added to create complex types of sensor.

The researchers tested the sensors against commercially available silver-based conductive threads during and after they were embroidered into clothing.

During embroidery, PECOTEX was more reliable and less likely to break, allowing for more layers to be embroidered on top of each other.

After embroidery, PECOTEX demonstrated lower electrical resistance than the silver-based threads, meaning they performed better at conducting electricity.

Lead author Dr Firat Güder, also of the Department of Bioengineering, said: “PECOTEX is high-performing, strong, and adaptable to different needs. It’s readily scalable, meaning we can produce large volumes inexpensively using both domestic and industrial computerised embroidery machines.

“Our research opens up exciting possibilities for wearable sensors in everyday clothing. By monitoring breathing, heart rate, and gases, they can already be seamlessly integrated, and might even be able to help diagnose and monitor treatments of disease in the future.”

The embroidered sensors retained the intrinsic properties of the fabric such as wearability, breathability and feel-on-the-skin. They are also machine washable at up to 30°C.

Next, the researchers will explore new application areas like energy storage, energy harvesting and biochemical sensing for personalised medicine, as well as finding partners for commercialisation.

Source: Imperial College