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Roundup: Racquet Sports Score Highest in Reducing Risks of Heart Disease, Death; Lack of Sleep is Costing U.S. Workforce 1.2 Million Days A Year

While just about any sustained exercise routine can improve your overall health, there may be certain sports or aerobic activities that can further improve your odds against dying from heart disease or stroke, researchers say.

In a study of several types of exercise and their risk levels, the researchers found that participation in specific sports showed significant benefits, and they urged public health policymakers to encourage people to take them up.

The healthiest activity: racquet sports, such as tennis or racquetball. Swimming regularly and dance aerobics, such as Zumba, also scored highly, researchers said.

If done regularly, all of these activities can help a person meet or exceed the minimum amount of exercise recommended by the American Heart Association [1] for overall cardiovascular health: at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes.

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine [2], analyzed data from 11 annual health surveys conducted across England and Scotland between 1994 and 2008, covering 80,306 adults with an average age of 52. Exercise chronicled among the participants included heavy domestic chores and gardening; walking; cycling; swimming; aerobics, gymnastics or dance; running; football or rugby; and badminton, tennis or squash.

Overall, compared with respondents who had not done a given sport, risk of death during the follow up period from any cause was 47 percent lower among those who played racquet sports, 28 percent lower among swimmers, 27 percent lower among dance aerobics fans and 15 percent lower among cyclists.

When it came to death from heart disease and stroke, the study found racquet sports players had a 56 percent lower risk, with 41 percent for swimming and 36 percent for aerobics, compared with those who did not participate in these sports.

“These findings demonstrate that participation in specific sports may have significant benefits for public health,” researchers concluded, adding that the findings should help health professionals further promote regular sports/exercise as good way of staying healthy.

Less than half of the respondents in the study (just over 44 percent) met the recommended weekly physical activity quota when they were surveyed.

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Lack of Sleep is Costing U.S. Workforce 1.2 Million Days A Year

More than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has declared sleep disorders as a “public health problem.”

Now a new study has found that insufficient sleep results in the U.S. workforce losing about 1.2 million working days per year, amounting to $411 billion in lost productivity.

Assuming  there  are  250  working  days  in  a  given  year,  the study found that  a  worker  sleeping  less  than  six  hours  loses  about six working  days  per year more than a worker sleeping seven to nine hours.  A person sleeping six to seven hours loses on average about 3.7 working days more per year.

The study, “Why Sleep Matters – the Economic Costs of Insufficient Sleep [6],” was done by researchers at the non-profit organization RAND Europe and is the considered the first of its kind to quantify the economic impact of sleep deprivation.

For the most part, adults — anyone over the age of 18 — still require about 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night to avoid health issues, according to the National Sleep Foundation. But most surveys show American adults are not getting adequate rest based on either the NSF guidelines or those by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“According to recent evidence, the proportion of people getting less than the recommended hours of sleep is rising and is associated with lifestyle factors related to a modern 24/7 society, such as stress, unbalanced diet, lack of physical activity and excessive media use, among others,” the researchers said. “This is alarming as insufficient seep has been found to be associated with a range of negative health and social outcomes, including adverse performance effects at schools and in the labor market.”

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Smoking Linked to 8-Fold Higher Risk of Heart Attack in People Under 50

The health threats of smoking to adults, from heart disease to several types of cancers, has been well documented, especially for older adults. New research, however, should be of concern to those under the age of 50 who light up on a regular basis.

Compared to former smokers and nonsmokers in their age group, heart attack risk is nearly 8.5 times higher for smokers younger than 50, British researchers found [10].

Researchers led by Dr. Ever Grech, of Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, England, analyzed data from more than 1,700 adult heart attack patients in northern England.

Current smokers were usually about a decade younger than former smokers or nonsmokers when they suffered their heart attack, researchers said.

Less surprisingly, the study also found that smokers at older ages faced higher heart risks. Compared to former smokers and nonsmokers in their age group, smokers aged 50 to 65 were at five times higher risk of heart attack, and smokers over 65 had a three times higher risk, the study found.

Overall, smokers had a more than tripled risk of heart attack than former smokers or nonsmokers combined.

Another troubling finding: Those younger smokers may not realize they are at a higher risk for a heart attack since most did not have other risk factors – aside from smoking itself – that are seen in older smokers, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

In an editorial accompanying the study [11], Yaron Arbel, M.D., a cardiologist with the Tel Aviv Medical Center writes that efforts within the medical community should be focused on expanding prevention and education efforts among younger smokers.

“Increase the awareness to the dangers of smoking and in young patients especially,” says Arbel. “Most smokers know that smoking is bad. However, exact numbers (ie, eightfold increase in heart attack rates) have a tendency to hit home more often. Therefore, studies like the present one are especially important.”

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