IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  June 1, 2007

Brain produces brawn?

You've heard of the placebo effect with medications. That is, if people believe a fake pill is real, they sometimes get the same benefit as with a real pill.

It's possible that your mind can fool your body about exercise in the same way. Researchers studying mind-body connections at Harvard University have found that believing you got a workout might lead to some healthy results.

Writing in the journal Psychological Science, researcher Ellen Langer reported a study involving a group of hotel housekeepers who were told they were getting excellent aerobic exercise cleaning rooms. This group lost weight and improved blood pressure, compared to a group that were told nothing.

Langer reported that the results were similar to 1998 studies showing the power of the mind. People exposed to what they thought was poison ivy developed a rash. Giving people what they thought was a caffeinated drink caused the same rise in heart rates as the real thing.

Believing you have had a good aerobic workout may bring some physiological improvements such as better sleep.


Walk, garden, bike

The great weather of May has finally come. It's time to play, have fun, and get in shape no matter what your age or present fitness level.

The payoffs are many, including a longer, healthier life, more alert mind, a stronger heart, and a general overall feeling that life is good.

You don't have to be an athlete to personally participate in physical fitness and sports activities. Here are some easy ways to start:

  • Walk. It's the easiest and most natural form of exercise in the world. While you are doing it, you can visit with a friend, "get away from it all," and have the nice feeling that you are doing something just for you. Put a daily walk on your schedule, and you'll find you can make time to do it.

  • Work in the yard. You should do that anyway, but researchers say yard work and gardening are among the best forms of exercise.
  • Target activities you love. Dance, hike in the woods, or play outside with your children. Instead of doing the same thing, schedule a different activity for each day. Make the time for it, and you'll be glad you did.
  • Ride your bike. If you haven't ridden for a while, take shorter rides at first. Riding a bike to work on a nice day makes you feel good and saves money on car expenses.

    If you are already in pretty good shape, but want to be better:

  • Get friends together for some pickup basketball games.
  • Go back to your favorite racquet sport, tennis or racquetball.
  • Swim. It exercises all your muscles. Take advantage of good weather and go to the lake or a swimming pool.
  • Lift weights. When it rains, make that the day you stay inside and lift, either at home or in the gym.

    Remember the saying, "Move it or lose it." You can enjoy yourself and get fit at the same time. If you don't start now, you could lose the ability to perform such activities in the future.


    Naproxen: best pain reliever?

    A new report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that the pain reliever naproxen (Aleve or Naprosyn) offers pain relief that is similar to COX-2 drugs and other NSAIDs (such as aspirin and ibuprofen)

    In addition, naproxen may actually lower risk of heart attack for some patients. The report was based on 360 studies.


  • Fat-blocking pill OK'd for over-the-counter sale

    In June, the first prescription weight-loss pill will be sold over the counter to any adult who wants it.

    Glaxo-SmithKline's Alli (pronounced Al-eye) is a nonprescription version of the drug orlistat, sold under the prescription brand Xenical. The prescription version is 120 mg. The over-the-counter pill is 60 mg. Alli will retail for $50 for 90 pills, a month's supply. It should be taken with meals three times a day.

    The fat-blocking medication blocks enzyme action in the stomach and small intestine. It keeps some fatty acids and triglycerides from breaking apart, making them too large to be absorbed. They pass through the digestive system and are excreted. It may result in loose bowels, especially if too much is taken.

    Business analysts say Alli should be one of the more important over-the-counter products in history.

    Experts at Temple University Center for Obesity Research and Education in Philadelphia say consumers should recognize that Alli is a weight-loss aid, not a cure.

    They recommend that those taking it take multivitamins and focus on changing their behavior.

    According to the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, being overweight has consequences, including an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

    The over-the counter Alli, along with diet and exercise, may aid overweight adults who seek to lose excess weight to improve their health.

    At the Obesity Society, weight-loss professionals say it will help some people, but it's not a magic bullet.


    Reviewing CPR

    If it has been a while since you considered what you would do if someone had a heart attack in your presence, please review the current technique.

    1. Tilt the head back and lift the chin. Look and listen for breathing.

    2. If not breathing, pinch the nose and cover the mouth with yours. Give two full breaths lasting one second each until you see the chest rise.

    3. Begin chest compressions. Using both hands, (one on top of the other) push the chest down 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Press 30 times. Pump at the rate of 100 compressions per minute.

    4. Continue with two breaths, then 30 pushes, until help arrives.


    Arm exercises help circulation in the legs

    Arm exercises can increase the amount of time people with peripheral artery disease (PAD) can walk without pain. Doctors at the University of Minnesota had PAD patients do arm exercises, treadmill exercise, or no exercise at all.

    While those exercising on the treadmill showed the greatest improvement in the distance they could walk without pain, those doing arms-only exercises had significant benefits when compared to those who did no exercise at all.

    Participants exercised for one hour, three times a week, for 12 weeks. Those doing arms-only exercise used an arm-powered pedal device, according to the American Heart Association.


    Test may detect dementia

    A new, noninvasive test that can determine mental decline in elderly people was recently described at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders held in Madrid, Spain. It is superior to other forms of testing, including verbal scores.

    The electroencephalogram-based technology, known in its new application as BIS-AD, involves a sensor placed on the patient's forehead, which monitors brain activity.

    The standard BIS is used to monitor consciousness during surgery. It ensures that overmedication does not occur.

    New treatment for COPD

    Until now, only smoking cessation and oxygen therapy were known to improve survival rates for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

    Recently, a two-drug combination (salmeterol and fluticasone propionate) has been found to reduce deaths from COPD by a significant 17.5 percent.

    The study was presented to the American College of Chest Physicians.

    Climate increases gout risk

    High temperatures and high humidity both increase the risk of experiencing a recurrent gout attack, according to the American College of Rheumatology.

    Temperatures from 87 to 105 degrees increased risk. A similar magnitude of increased risk was found when the humidity increased from 64 to 77 percent.

    Oral health/pancreatic cancer

    A Harvard study of 51,000 male doctors showed that the men with a history of gum disease were at 64 percent greater risk for pancreatic cancer compared with those who had healthy gums.

    The study is the test in a series of reports showing that the health of your mouth, teeth, and gums may have a powerful impact on your health. Gum disease is also linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and pregnancy problems.


    Lowering Alzheimer's risk

    You may have wondered if eating a healthy diet would reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease even if you already have such conditions as heart disease, stroke, or diabetes.

    According to research reported in the Archives of Neurology, adopting a Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk for several diseases including cancer.

    Researchers at Columbia University gave test subjects ratings of one through nine, depending on how closely they followed the Mediterranean diet. Those in the top third of the rating had 68 percent lower odds of getting the disease. Those in the middle had 53 percent lower odds.

    Eat fruits, vegetables, cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds. Use olive oil for cooking, frying, baking, and in salads. Eat small amounts of red meat and butter and limited fish and poultry.

    Cured meat, COPD linked

    Researchers at Columbia University say a study of 7,500 surveys suggest that people who eat cured meats at least 14 times a month are 71 percent more likely to have symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Cured meats include bacon, salami, and deli meats.

    They speculated that cured meats contain nitrites, which produce nitrogen that causes emphysema-type changes in the lungs. The connection was based on two lung function scores but they stressed they could not say that cured meats actually caused COPD. However, some this could be one step in explaining why some nonsmokers develop COPD.