How to Stay Safe When Your City’s Air Quality Is Dangerous

Seattle residents are facing an air quality alert from the National Weather Service that will last through Wednesday evening after smoke from wildfires blanketed the area. Air quality monitoring stations in the region reported ratings from moderate to unhealthy Monday morning, according to The Seattle Times, and even healthy people are being urged to stay indoors.

The smoke is coming from British Columbia and has caused delays at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport due to low visibility, the paper says.

Seattle isn’t the only city that’s currently grappling with air quality issues: People from Oregon to Colorado are facing the air quality fallout from wildfires, according to the Associated Press. Public schools in Portland have even suspended all outdoor sports practices as a result.

Air pollution can come from many different sources.

Air quality alerts are issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in order to alert people that they’re being exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution. (These alerts are different from the ones you may get about high allergen counts, which let people know when pollen counts are high.)

There are two main categories of air pollution: First, there’s ground-level ozone, which is a product of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that have been exposed to heat and sunlight. This type of pollution is generally caused by motor vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents, NOAA says.

The second category is particulate matter, such as dust, dirt, soot, and smoke. Particulate matter can be directly emitted into the air by cars, trucks, buses, factories, construction sites, and wood burning, but particles may also be formed in the air when gases from burning fuels react with sunlight and water vapor.

Poor air quality can affect anyone, but those with chronic lung conditions are especially sensitive to it.

When you have particulate matter in the air, like smoke from wildfires, everyone is going to be affected, Raymond Casciari, M.D., a pulmonologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., tells SELF.

Specifically, fumes from fires and pollution create a lot of byproducts like nitric oxide, sulfur dioxide, and diesel exhaust, all of which can cause your lungs and nasal passages to overreact, allergist Tania Elliott, M.D., a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, tells SELF. “The lungs and nasal passages…act as they would towards a bacteria or a virus, triggering an initial response of coughing and sneezing, and a more long-term response of mucous production and inflammation,” she says.

Your nose and mouth can generally help filter out particles that might be flying through the air, but pollution is concerning because it can become so concentrated, Dr. Casciari says. “There is a point where the amount is so much that it overcomes your natural filtering system,” he says.

Air pollution warnings are also important for people with lung conditions. If you have a lung condition like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you’re at an especially high risk for complications when the air quality is poor, Jonathan Parsons, M.D., director of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. “The harmful materials in the air can exacerbate the underlying lung disease and result in increased cough, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and wheezing,” he says.

If you’re concerned about the air quality in your area, there are a few things you can do.

For starters, you’ll want to keep tabs on the air quality near you by visiting AirNow.gov, which breaks down air quality reports across the country on any given day, as well as forecasted problematic air quality. That way you’ll know what to expect and how else you can prepare.

If the air quality in your area is poor, stay inside as much as possible. If you absolutely need to go outside, wearing a face mask or nasal filter can help filter out particulate matter, Dr. Elliott says. (Dr. Casciari specifically recommends looking for an N95 respirator. This device creates a physical barrier between your mouth, nose, and contaminants in the environment, including fine particles, the Food and Drug Administration says.

When you’re in your car, run your air conditioner—this can help filter out pollution, including particulate matter, Dr. Cascari says. When you’re at home, try to keep your windows closed and do any exercising indoors, Dr. Parsons adds. And, if you’re in an area where wildfires are burning and you have a chronic lung condition, he recommends trying to leave the area for a bit, if possible.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore air quality alerts. At best, being out in poor quality air can irritate your lungs. At worst, it can cause serious health repercussions—and that’s not a chance you want to take.

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11 Styling Products I Use to Get the Best Twist Outs

I can track the start of my semi-complicated relationship with my natural hair back to my last two years of college. During junior year was when I first decided to ditch the perm and fully embrace my coily—and sometimes frustrating—hair. One of the first protective styles I learned how to do on myself was two-strand twists (courtesy of one of my roommates) which was my go-to twist out method for years later to create loose curls. Nowadays, I’ve taken my twist out method a step further by creating bantu knots after finishing my two-strand twists to get even more defined curls that last for days on end.

There is a science to achieving an effective twist out (YouTube videos, optional), but one of the most important steps is finding a styling product that works for you. Over the years, my hair has held a variety of textures thanks to occasional heat damage (I decided to put the flatiron down for now), but there are some tried and true (and a few new!) products that I rely on to get the job done when it comes to perfecting my at-home twist outs.

Read on for some of my favorite products for twist outs that will have your second day hair looking even better than it did on the first.

2018 U.S. Open Tennis Championships: Everything You Need to Know

What’s the best way to succinctly describe the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, one of the biggest, most esteemed events in the sport?

It’s a “three-week bonanza of tennis,” David Brewer, U.S. Open tournament director, tells SELF. And that bonanza has already begun.

The qualifying tournaments kicked off today at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in NYC, and the main competition, hosted at the same venue, will begin on Monday, August 27 and wrap on Sunday, September 9.

Here, everything you need to know about this big-time series, including its significance, qualifying standards, various events, players to watch this year, and how and when to tune in for it all.

The U.S. Open is one of four Grand Slam Tournaments hosted annually.

The U.S. Open and the three other annual Grand Slam Tournaments (Wimbledon, the French Open, and the Australian Open), are the “tentpoles of the sport,” says Brewer. “They’re the longest running and seen by the players as the most prestigious trophies to win each year.”

They also serve as a gathering ground for essentially every top player in the sport, Brewer adds. Pretty much every big-name tennis player will compete in the Grand Slam events (unless they’re injured or taking time off from the sport) which makes the tournaments extremely high-profile—and extremely exciting.

Though the four Grand Slam tournaments feature the same events and follow the same qualifying procedures, they all carry a unique vibe. “Each Grand Slam event tends to take on the personality of its host city,” says Brewer. As for the U.S. Open: “We are very much reflective of New York—we’re loud, brassy, and gritty.”

Approximately 650 athletes will participate in the U.S. Open in a variety of singles, doubles, mixed doubles, junior, and wheelchair events.

As mentioned, the qualifying tournament began today, with 128 men’s singles players, and 128 women’s singles. “These are the young up-and-comers hoping to earn their way into the U.S. Open main draw,” says Brewer. The top 16 men and 16 women from the qualifying round, which wraps on Friday, will earn spots in the main draw, which is otherwise comprised of the top players based on annual world rankings.

Events in the main draw include men and women’s singles, men and women’s doubles, mixed doubles, junior competitions, and wheelchair competitions. The first two days of the tournament will feature solely singles matches, with additional events beginning on the third day.

Players and teams are eliminated or advance in a bracket-style competition. In total, singles players need to win six matches to make it to the final round; doubles need to win five matches; and mixed doubles need to win four matches. Some players will participate in both singles and doubles, says Brewer, which is a LOT of tennis—or as some might say, a bonanza.

While the championship is anyone’s game, there are several favorites going into the tournament this year—including veterans-slash-legends Serena and Venus Williams.

On the women’s singles side, there’s Romanian Simona Halep, who’s currently ranked number 1 in the world, “but of course Serena [Williams], Venus [Williams] and Maria Sharapova [the defending U.S. Open champ from Russia]” are also top contenders, says Brewer.

As for what’s expected from Serena following her stellar and inspiring performance at Wimbledon in July? “I’m not in the future-predicting business,” says Brewer, “but we’ll just say she always performs well in New York.”

On the men’s singles side, there are the “usual suspects,” says Brewer, including the defending champion Rafael Nadal (currently ranked number 1 the world), plus Serbian Novak Djokovic, who won Wimbledon this year, and Swiss player Roger Federer, currently ranked number 2 in the world.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Open this year, there are several components of the tournament in New York City that are free and open to the public.

For one, the qualifying rounds are entirely free and open to the public now through Friday, August 24, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York. The public is also invited to attend free, open practices at the center now through Friday the 24th. Roger Federer will practice tomorrow from 10 A.M. to 11 A.M. ET, and Novack Djokovic will practice on Thursday, August 23 (time to be announced).

If you can’t make it to Queens, there’s an expo at Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan featuring player
appearances, food, live music, and a full-sized tennis court on Wednesday, August 22, and Thursday, August 23, from 10 A.M. to 8 P.M. each day. Check out USOpen.org for schedules and more details on these free events.

The tournament officially begins on Monday, August 27, and continues with daily games through Sunday, September 9. Here’s how and when you can tune in.

Every single game throughout the tournament (including this week’s qualifying rounds) will be broadcast on ESPN, says Brewer, which you can access via cable, Hulu Live, Sling TV, or DirecTV Now. If you don’t have cable or one of these subscriptions, you can download the ESPN+ app (a seven-day trial is free; you can purchase a monthly subscription for $4.99) to view coverage.

You can also view live scores, live match streaming, and match highlights on USOpen.org and with the US Open app.

Two consumer baby monitors show worrisome results in measuring vital signs

Researchers who tested two commercially available baby monitors are raising serious concerns about the accuracy of these products, which are marketed to parents, but are not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

“We evaluated how accurate these monitors were in detecting low oxygen levels in infants,” said study leader Chris Bonafide, MD, MSCE, a pediatrician and safety expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “One monitor detected those levels when they occurred, but was inconsistent; the other never detected those levels when they occurred.” The team also evaluated pulse rate accuracy in the babies, and found that the monitor that never detected low oxygen levels also often falsely displayed low pulse rates.

Bonafide and colleagues, including CHOP neonatologist Elizabeth Foglia, MD, MSCE and co-authors from the ECRI Institute, a nonprofit research organization that evaluates medical devices and practices, published a report today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Last year, the researchers wrote an opinion piece in JAMA raising concerns about consumer use of physiological baby monitors being broadly marketed to parents. They argued that such products may cause undue anxiety to parents, with no evidence of medical benefits for healthy infants. “We previously discussed the consensus in the pediatric community that there is no medical reason to electronically monitor vital signs in healthy babies at home,” said Foglia. “Our new study adds serious concerns about the accuracy of these consumer monitors, when we compared them to a standardized hospital monitor in a cohort of sick infants.”

In the current study, the team studied 30 infants, six months old and younger, hospitalized in CHOP’s Cardiology and General Pediatrics units between July and December 2017. Each baby wore an FDA-approved reference monitor (the Masimo Radical-7) on one foot and a consumer monitor on the other foot.

The consumer monitors were the Owlet Smart Sock2 and the Baby Vida, the only two currently marketed smartphone-integrated consumer baby monitors that use pulse oximetry — a measure of the blood’s oxygen levels. The scientists analyzed hypoxia (low oxygen levels) and bradycardia (slow pulse rate), comparing results between the reference monitor and each consumer monitor.

While testing the Owlet, the reference monitor reported hypoxia in 12 patients, and the Owlet reported at least one simultaneous hypoxia reading in all 12 patients. However, at least once during hypoxia, the Owlet also erroneously indicated that five of those 12 infants had normal oxygen levels. Across all the data points, the Owlet’s overall sensitivity was 88.8 percent — it detected hypoxia, but not consistently. “If something is going wrong with a sick infant, you would want to know that 100 percent of the time,” said Bonafide.

Testing of the Baby Vida monitor showed that none of the 14 infants who experienced hypoxia according to the reference monitor had simultaneous hypoxia readings on Baby Vida — a sensitivity of 0 percent, a serious flaw. In addition to missing hypoxia, the Baby Vida monitor also falsely displayed bradycardia in 14 patients who had normal pulse rates, a high rate of false positives. “False positives raise the possibility of unintended consequences,” said Foglia. “Parents who see an abnormally low pulse rate reading might call 911, or unnecessarily rush their baby to an emergency department.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Depressed patients see quality of life improve with nerve stimulation

People with depression who are treated with nerve stimulation experience significant improvements in quality of life, even when their depression symptoms don’t completely subside, according to results of a national study led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study involved nearly 600 patients with depression that could not be alleviated by four or more antidepressants, taken either separately or in combination. The researchers evaluated vagus nerve stimulators, which send regular, mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve. The nerve originates in the brain, passes through the neck and travels down into the chest and abdomen.

The FDA approved vagus nerve stimulation for treatment-resistant depression in 2005, but there has been a recognition more recently that evaluating only a patient’s antidepressant response to stimulation does not adequately assess quality of life, which was the purpose of this study.

The findings are published online Aug. 21 in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

“When evaluating patients with treatment-resistant depression, we need to focus more on their overall well-being,” said principal investigator Charles R. Conway, MD, a Washington University professor of psychiatry. “A lot of patients are on as many as three, four or five antidepressant medications, and they are just barely getting by. But when you add a vagus nerve stimulator, it really can make a big difference in people’s everyday lives.”

As many as two-thirds of the 14 million Americans with clinical depression aren’t helped by the first antidepressant drug they are prescribed, and up to one-third don’t respond to subsequent attempts with other such drugs.

The researchers compared patients who received vagus nerve stimulation with others who received what the study referred to as treatment as usual, which could include antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroconvulsive therapy or some combination.

The researchers followed 328 patients implanted with vagus nerve stimulators, many of whom also took medication. They were compared with 271 similarly resistant depressed patients receiving only treatment as usual.

In assessing quality of life, the researchers evaluated 14 categories, including physical health, family relationships, ability to work and overall well-being.

“On about 10 of the 14 measures, those with vagus nerve stimulators did better,” Conway said. “For a person to be considered to have responded to a depression therapy, he or she needs to experience a 50 percent decline in his or her standard depression score. But we noticed, anecdotally, that some patients with stimulators reported they were feeling much better even though their scores were only dropping 34 to 40 percent.”

A vagus nerve stimulator is surgically implanted under the skin in the neck or chest. Stimulation of the vagus nerve originally was tested in epilepsy patients who didn’t respond to other treatments. The FDA approved the device for epilepsy in 1997, but while testing the therapy, researchers noticed that some epilepsy patients who also had depression experienced fairly rapid improvements in their depression symptoms.

In the new study, patients with stimulators had significant gains in quality-of-life measures such as mood, ability to work, social relationships, family relationships and leisure activities, compared with those who received only treatment as usual.

Study participant Charles Donovan said he never felt much better when he took antidepressant drugs. He was hospitalized for depression several times before he had a stimulator implanted.

“Slowly but surely, my mood brightened,” he recalled. “I went from being basically catatonic to feeling little or no depression. I’ve had my stimulator for 17 years now, and I still get sad when bad things happen — like deaths, recessions, job loss — so it doesn’t make you bulletproof from life’s normal ups and downs, but for me, vagus nerve stimulation has been a game-changer.

“Before the stimulator, I never wanted to leave my home,” he said. “It was stressful to go to the grocery store. I couldn’t concentrate to sit and watch a movie with friends. But after I got the stimulator, my concentration gradually returned. I could do things like read a book, read the newspaper, watch a show on television. Those things improved my quality of life.”

Conway believes an improved ability to concentrate may be key to the benefits some patients get from stimulation.

“It improves alertness, and that can reduce anxiety,” he said. “And when a person feels more alert and more energetic and has a better capacity to carry out a daily routine, anxiety and depression levels decline.”

Updated: Common Blood Pressure Medications Containing Valsartan Recalled Over ‘Impurity’ Concerns

Update: It’s been over a month since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) originally announced the recall of several common blood pressure medications containing valsartan over fears that they contain a chemical “impurity” linked to cancer. Now, even more drugs are being recalled.

Torrent Pharmaceuticals Ltd. announced Tuesday that it is voluntarily recalling 14 lots of medications containing valsartan. Earlier this month, the FDA also announced that the recall had expanded to also include products from Camber Pharmaceuticals.

You can see the full list of recalled products at the FDA’s website here and the full list of valsartan products not recalled here. If you do happen to have one of the recalled products, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to figure out a replacement.

Original report (July 17, 2018):

Several valsartan-containing drugs, which are commonly used to treat high blood pressure, have been recalled over contamination fears, the FDA announced late last week. Specifically, the medications were tainted with N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a compound that’s been linked to cancer, the FDA said in a statement.

As a result, three companies—Major Pharmaceuticals, Solco Healthcare, and Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd.—have voluntarily recalled their products that contain valsartan. Solco and Teva Pharmaceuticals are also recalling their valsartan/hydrochlorothiazide medication. (Representatives from Major Pharmaceuticals, Solco Healthcare, and Teva Pharmaceuticals did not return SELF’s request for comment.)

“The presence of NDMA was unexpected and is thought to be related to changes in the way the active substance was manufactured,” the FDA said in the statement. Additionally, the FDA noted that all the recalled products containing valsartan were supplied by a third party, which has since stopped supplying the ingredient. “The FDA is working with the affected companies to reduce or eliminate the valsartan [active pharmaceutical ingredient] impurity from future products,” the statement reads.

The problem is that NDMA has been linked to an increased risk for cancer.

NDMA is a semi-volatile compound that forms in both industrial and natural processes, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains. It’s created from chemical reactions involving nitrates, nitrites, and other proteins, Rowena N. Schwartz, Pharm.D., an oncology pharmacist and associate professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Cincinnati, tells SELF. So, the compound may be an unintentional byproduct of the medications’ chemical manufacturing process, Jamie Alan, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells SELF.

There’s evidence NDMA can create free radicals in your body that can damage your DNA, which can lead to the formation of cancer in some cases, Alan explains. Although this sort of process could raise the risk for any kind of cancer, Alan says, NDMA is a nitrate; and nitrates have specifically been linked to an increased risk of stomach, colon, and kidney cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Technically, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) considers NDMA a Group 2A agent, meaning it’s considered a probable human carcinogen. This category sits one step above agents categorized as “possibly” carcinogenic to humans (which is Group 2B) and one step below definite human carcinogens (Group 1). According to the IARC’s definitions, category 2A is usually chosen when there’s sufficient evidence for a compound being carcinogenic in animal studies, but limited evidence in human studies, especially if there’s evidence that the animals studied share a common potential mechanism of action with humans.

But, because there are so many other factors at play, it’s hard to say exactly how much your risk for cancer would increase if you were exposed to NDMA. Those factors include things like your family history, the dose of NDMA you were exposed to and the length of exposure, your other environmental risks, as well as your personal history with cancer. “It really is specific to the individual,” Alan says.

If you’re affected by this recall, there are a few things you should do.

First, check your medication by looking at the drug company and drug name on the bottle and seeing if it’s one that’s included in the recall. If that information isn’t clear on the packaging, contact the pharmacy where you got the medication. If it turns out your medication is affected by the recall, call your doctor or pharmacist and follow the instructions posted on the FDA’s website for that particular medication.

Obviously, if you’re taking a blood pressure medication, there’s probably a good reason for it—and you shouldn’t just stop taking it without having a backup plan in place, Sanjiv Patel, M.D., a cardiologist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells SELF. Suddenly stopping your medication could cause a rebound effect that makes your blood pressure go up, Dr. Patel says, and that can put you at a higher risk of a stroke or heart attack. So, the FDA currently recommends that you keep taking your medication until you have a good replacement—and that you talk to your doctor or pharmacist about getting that replacement ASAP.

If for some reason you’re having a hard time getting hold of your doctor, call the pharmacy that filled this for you—they may be able to give you a similar product with valsartan that was not affected by the recall, Alan says. Or, your doctor may even recommend that you try a totally different medication. “There are other options beyond valsartan,” Dr. Patel says. “It just one of many medications we can use to treat high blood pressure.”

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Demi Lovato’s Sister Shares an Emotional Message on the Singer’s 26th Birthday

Monday marked Demi Lovato‘s 26th birthday, and in addition to the outpouring of love and support from her fans, the singer also got one special message from her younger sister, Madison De La Garza.

In honor of her big sister’s birthday, De La Garza posted a childhood pic of the two of them smiling at the camera and included a heartfelt message.

“Today could have been one of the worst days of my life, but instead i get to spend it thanking God, the incredible doctors, demi’s team, and everyone across the world who offered their support — without all of these people i wouldn’t have my big sister anymore,” De La Garza wrote in the caption. “I’ve been thinking about how i wish that everyone could see the silly little things that she does, like how her nostrils move when she says certain words and when she brushes my hair behind my ear when i’m trying to sleep, because those are the things i’m thankful for today.

“They seem so small, but those little things make up my sister — not a singer, not a celebrity, and definitely not what she’s been described as in the media,” she continued. “She’s a daughter, a friend, and my big sister… and i am so, so thankful that i can tell her happy birthday. #happybirthdaydemi ❤️”

Earlier this month, Lovato released a statement following a suspected drug overdose and subsequent hospitalization at the end of July.

“I want to thank my family, my team, and the staff at Cedars-Sinai who have been by my side this entire time,” Lovato said in the statement. “Without them I wouldn’t be here writing this letter to all of you. I now need time to heal and focus on my sobriety and road to recovery. The love you all have shown me will never be forgotten and I look forward to the day where I can say I came out on the other side. I will keep fighting.”

Recovery is a long, sometimes challenging road. But, as SELF explained previously, having a solid support system can make a huge difference and give you the foundation you need to move forward.

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Living close to urban green spaces is associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer

An increasing number of studies are reporting health benefits of contact with urban green spaces. A new study from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institute supported by the “la Caixa” Banking Foundation, has examined, for the first time, the relationship between exposure to green spaces and breast cancer. The study, which analysed data from more than 3,600 women in Spain, concluded that the risk of breast cancer was lower in the women who lived closer to urban green spaces, like parks or gardens.

Previous research has identified an association between contact with green spaces and several health benefits, including better general and mental health and increased life expectancy. In the older population, contact with green spaces has recently been linked with slower cognitive decline. In children, exposure to greenness has been associated with improvements in attention capacity, behaviour, emotional development, and even beneficial structural changes in the brain. To date, few studies have focused on the relationship between exposure to natural green spaces and the risk of cancer, more specifically breast cancer, the most common malignant disease among women and the one that causes the most cancer deaths in the female population. The new study, published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, was carried out in the framework of the Spanish multicase-control study (MCC-Spain), co-financed by the CIBER of Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP). The authors collected and analysed data from 1,738 patients with breast cancer and 1,900 participants with no history of the disease living in ten Spanish provinces (Asturias, Barcelona, Cantabria, Girona, Guipuzcoa, Huelva, Leon, Madrid, Navarre and Valencia).

Data on lifetime residential history, socio-economic level, lifestyle factors and levels of physical activity were obtained during interviews with each one of the participants. Information on proximity to urban green spaces or agricultural areas, air pollution levels, and population density was obtained by geo-codding the residential address of each participants.

The first author of the study, ISGlobal researcher Cristina O’Callaghan-Gordo, explains, “We found a reduced risk of breast cancer among women living in closer to urban green spaces. By contrast, women living closer to agricultural areas, had a risk higher. This findings suggests, that the association between green space and a risk of breast cancer is dependent on the land use.”

Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, the study coordinator and Director of ISGlobal’s Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative, goes on to explain that the researchers “found a linear correlation between distance from green spaces and breast cancer risk. In other words, the risk of breast cancer in the population declines, the closer their residence is to an urban green space. These findings highlight the importance of natural spaces for our health and show why green spaces are an essential component of our urban environment, not just in the form of isolated areas but as a connective network linking the whole urban area and benefitting all its inhabitants.”

“We still don’t know which characteristics of natural spaces are the most beneficial and nor do we understand the mechanisms underpinning these beneficial health impacts,” explains ISGlobal researcher Manolis Kogevinas, coordinator of the MCC-Spain project. “Other studies have shown that the mechanisms that might explain the health benefits of green spaces include higher levels of physical activity in the population and a reduction in air pollution, an environmental hazard clearly linked to the onset of cancer. However, we did not observe these associations. We believe that other mechanisms — including lower levels of stress among people living close to green spaces — could play a role, but more research is needed to confirm this hypothesis,” he adds. The results of earlier studies have suggested that the association between a higher risk of breast cancer and residential proximity to agricultural land may be due to the use of pesticides. O’Callaghan-Gordo concludes: “We didn’t analyse levels of exposure to agrochemicals in our study, but they should be taken into account in future research to provide more insight into the mechanism underlying this negative association.”

Simple leg exercises could reduce impact of sedentary lifestyle on heart and blood vessels

A sedentary lifestyle can cause an impairment of the transport of blood around the body, which increases the risk of disease in the heart and blood vessels. New research published in Experimental Physiology suggests that performing simple leg exercises whilst lying down might help to prevent these problems.

Previous work has demonstrated that prolonged sitting for up to 6 hours results in a decline in both blood flow to the limbs and in our larger arteries’ ability to widen to accommodate increased blood flow. This is the first study to demonstrate that sitting for just 10 minutes is sufficient to reduce blood flow to the legs and impairs the function of small blood vessels supplying muscles in the leg.

This paper also demonstrates a reduction in the function of small blood vessels when lying down. However, this study suggests we might be able to somewhat reverse this impairment in function by performing simple leg exercises when lying down in bed or on the sofa. These findings are important in increasing our understanding of the negative impact of sitting and physical inactivity on blood vessel function and the supply of blood to the legs.

The effects of sitting on blood circulation have been attributed to blood passing more sluggishly through arteries whilst sitting. The researchers who performed this study aimed to find out whether these reductions were caused by sustained sitting, or whether 10 minutes would be sufficient to have a negative effect.

The research group used a Doppler ultrasound technique alongside the knee to measure blood flow and examined the extent to which blood vessels widened in 18 healthy, young males. These measurements were made prior to and following a 10-minute period of sitting or during a period of rest whilst lying down, with or without leg exercises, which were performed by extending the foot back and forth every two seconds for a third of the time spent lying down. Results showed that a 10 minute period of sitting reduced participants’ ability to rapidly increase blood flow to the lower legs via small blood vessels, but did not affect the widening of larger arteries in response to increased blood flow. These findings suggest that a brief period of inactivity affects an individual’s ability to rapidly push blood to the lower limbs as efficiently as normal, but doesn’t affect the ability of large blood vessels to widen. The results also suggest leg exercises can help maintain rapid increases in the blood supply to the limbs.

The current study demonstrates changes in blood vessel function measured at the level of the knee. However, the researchers only tested healthy young males, and as such, their findings cannot be extended to females. It remains unknown as to how these responses may vary with age, or with people who have heart problems. Further research may investigate the impact of sitting and inactivity on blood vessels in other places in the body. For example, would sitting impact the function of blood vessels supplying the brain? Finally, studies designed to investigate the impact of repeated bouts of short-term sitting on blood vessel function are needed.

Co-author Dr. Paul Fadel sheds light on his team’s results: “These findings further our understanding of the negative impact of inactivity on blood vessel function and demonstrate the positive effects of simple leg exercises whilst lying down providing further insight into how inactivity affects vascular health of the lower legs.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by The Physiological Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Silent Heart Attack: What Are the Risks?

What is a silent heart attack?

Answer From Rekha Mankad, M.D.

A silent heart attack is a heart attack that has few, if any, symptoms. You may have never had any symptoms to warn you that you’ve developed a heart problem, such as chest pain or shortness of breath. Some people later recall their silent heart attack was mistaken for indigestion, nausea, muscle pain, or a bad case of the flu.

The risk factors for a silent heart attack are the same as those for a heart attack with symptoms. The risk factors include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Age
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of exercise
  • Being overweight

Having a silent heart attack puts you at a greater risk of having another heart attack, which could be fatal. Having another heart attack also increases your risk of complications, such as heart failure.

There are no tests to determine your potential for having a silent heart attack, but if you have the risk factors, they should be evaluated by your doctor and treated to reduce your likelihood for having a silent heart attack. The only way to tell if you’ve had a silent heart attack is to have imaging tests, such as an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, or others. These tests can reveal changes that signal you’ve had a heart attack.

If you wonder if you’ve had a silent heart attack, talk to your doctor. A review of your symptoms, health history, and a physical exam can help your doctor decide if more tests are necessary.

Updated: 2017-04-25

Publication Date: 2017-04-25