Linking Stress to Diabetes and Heart Disease

High levels of cortisol — the so-called stress hormone — have been associated with cardiovascular disease in some studies, but not in others. This may be because measuring cortisol in blood or saliva at one point in time may pick up acute stress, but it fails to account for long-term stress.

Now Dutch researchers have assessed cortisol levels over several months by analyzing scalp hair samples. Their results appeared online in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The researchers measured the cortisol content in hair samples corresponding to roughly three months of growth from 283 older men and women, average age 75. They also gathered self-reported data about coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease, Type 2 diabetes, lung disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

Compared with those in the lowest quarter for cortisol, those in the highest quarter had about three times the risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. There was no association between cortisol levels and the risk for lung disease, cancer or osteoporosis.

The senior authors, Dr. Laura Manenschijn and Dr. Elisabeth van Rossum of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, acknowledge that they had no data on blood pressure or lipid status, which may have affected the results.

“The increased risk,” Dr. van Rossum said, “is comparable to traditional risk factors — hypertension, abdominal obesity. This is in the same range.”

Source: Nytimes.com

B.N

Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep

Sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes way beyond just boosting your mood or banishing under-eye circles.

Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more.

"Sleep used to be kind of ignored, like parking our car in a garage and picking it up in the morning," says David Rapoport, MD, director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program.

Not anymore. Here are some health benefits researchers have discovered about a good night’s sleep.

Improve memory

Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During sleep you can strengthen memories or "practice" skills learned while you were awake (it’s a process called consolidation).

"If you are trying to learn something, whether it’s physical or mental, you learn it to a certain point with practice," says Dr. Rapoport, who is an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. "But something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better."

In other words if you’re trying to learn something new—whether it’s Spanish or a new tennis swing—you’ll perform better after sleeping.

Spur creativity

Get a good night’s sleep before getting out the easel and paintbrushes or the pen and paper.

In addition to consolidating memories, or making them stronger, your brain appears to reorganize and restructure them, which may result in more creativity as well.

Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.

Be a winner

If you’re an athlete, there may be one simple way to improve your performance: sleep.

A Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina.

The results of this study reflect previous findings seen in tennis players and swimmers.

Sharpen attention

A lack of sleep can result in ADHD-like symptoms in kids, Dr. Rapoport says.

"Kids don’t react the same way to sleep deprivation as adults do," he adds. "Whereas adults get sleepy, kids tend to get hyperactive."

A 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics found that children ages seven and eight who got less than about eight hours of sleep a night were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive.

"We diagnose and measure sleep by measuring electrical changes in the brain," Dr. Rapoport says. "So not surprisingly how we sleep affects the brain."

Have a healthy weight

If you are thinking about going on a diet, you might want to plan an earlier bedtime too.

Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat—56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass.
"Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain," Dr. Rapoport says. "When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite."

Source: Health.com

Raghda Sawas

Plan of Medicinal, Aromatic Crops Exceeds 77,000 Hectares

DAMASCUS, (ST) – Director of the Production Plant at the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, Abdul Mou’in Qadmani, underlined that investment in medicinal and aromatic plants is considered economically profitable projects being spread naturally in various areas of Syria, noting that these plants don’t need much toil, whereas other crops need irrigation and fertilization.

“The ministry is following up the agricultural production plan of some medicinal and aromatic crops such as cumin, anise, cumin, coriander, saffron, thyme, and damascene rose,” Mr. Qdmani said.

The total area planned for this season 2012-2013 is about 77055 hectares distributed to the governorates of Damascus Countryside  1113 hectares, Homs 3762 hectares, Hama 8764 hectares, Al Ghab Plain 1280 hectares, Idlib 13726 hectares, Tartous 28 hectares, Aleppo 36605 hectares, Al Raqqa 4157 hectares and Hasaka 7620 hectares, Mr. Qdmani pointed out.

“The average production per hectare of this crop is approximately 1200 kg and the average annual production is 9200 tons of crops included the agricultural production plan,” Mr. Qdmani clarified.


He pointed out that the area planted during the past 2011-2012 season amounted to 72236 hectares and cumin is considered on of the major crops where the total area planted of this crop is 58634 hectares, comprising 81 percent of the total cultivated area.

“Due to the increasing demand for these agricultural products and high prices on the local and regional level, the interest in growing such crops increased. In the current years, local investments started taking care about producing medicinal and aromatic plants for their multiple uses in the pharmaceutical industry, cosmetics, perfumery and food,” Mr. Qdmani stressed.

He pointed out that growing medicinal and aromatic plants are considered environmentally friendly because these crops do not need large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides and thus the cost of production is low as they don’t need large amounts of water and can also grow in the medium fertility land.

The Ministry is working with bodies concerned to invest in this sector, whereas technical committees were formed with the participation of several bodies from the Ministry of Agriculture, Public Authority for Agricultural Researches, Directorate of Plant Production, Directorate of Forestry, Colleges at the University of Damascus Medicine, Pharmacy, Agriculture, Science and Ministry of Culture. The Committee has listed 263 medicinal and aromatic plants spread within the Syrian territory.

 

Sh. Kh.

Fame may 'lead to a shorter life'

"The researchers found that performers such as actors were among those who died the youngest."

Having a glittering career in the public eye may come at the cost of a shorter life, an analysis of obituaries in a US newspaper suggests.

It showed performers and sports stars tended to die a few years younger than people successful in other careers.

The researchers acknowledge the study does not provide any conclusive answers, but said it asked interesting questions about the cost of fame.

The data was published in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine.

Researchers in Australia looked at 1,000 obituaries in the New York Times between 2009 and 2011.

They showed that performers, such as actors, singers and musicians, as well those who made a career in sport died the youngest - at an average age of 77.

Writers, composers and artists died at 79. Those classed as academics, including historians and economists, survived until 82 on average while those in business or politics made 83.

The researchers, at the University of Queensland and the University of New South Wales, said cancer, particularly tumours in the lungs, was more common in performers.

Professor Richard Epstein said: "A one-off retrospective analysis like this can't prove anything, but it raises some interesting questions.

"First, if it is true that successful performers and sports players tend to enjoy shorter lives, does this imply that fame at younger ages predisposes to poor health behaviours in later life after success has faded?

"Or that psychological and family pressures favouring unusually high public achievement lead to self-destructive tendencies throughout life?

"Or that risk-taking personality traits maximise one's chances of success, with the use of cigarettes, alcohol or illicit drugs improving one's performance output in the short term?"

He added that, whatever the reason, the findings should be considered as a "health warning to young people aspiring to become stars".

Honey Langcaster-James, a psychologist who specialises in celebrity behaviour, said so few people achieved star status that it made it difficult to scientifically study the effect on people's lives.

She said: "The results are interesting of themselves as they suggest an inherent hazard of a public career and that all that glitters is not necessarily gold.

"They may be paying a high price for their career."

However she said it was not easy to come up with a scientific explanation.

On the one hand she said such a career "has unique stressors" such as "the pressure to live up to a public image, which can lead to risky behaviours".

Yet she suspected that "particular personal characteristics predispose people to wanting a career in the public arena", which may also lead to lifestyle choices affecting health.

Source: BBC

M.W

Could New Flu Spark Global Flu Pandemic?

New Bird Flu Strain Seen Adapting to Mammals, Humans

A genetic analysis of the avian flu virus responsible for at least nine human deaths in China portrays a virus evolving to adapt to human cells, raising concern about its potential to spark a new global flu pandemic.

The collaborative study, conducted by a group led by Masato Tashiro of the Influenza Virus Research Center, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Tokyo, appears in the current edition (April 11, 2013) of the journal Eurosurveillance. The group examined the genetic sequences of H7N9 isolates from four of the pathogen's human victims as well as samples derived from birds and the environs of a Shanghai market.

"The human isolates, but not the avian and environmental ones, have a protein mutation that allows for efficient growth in human cells and that also allows them to grow at a temperature that corresponds to the upper respiratory tract of humans, which is lower than you find in birds," says Kawaoka, a leading expert on avian influenza.

The findings, drawn from genetic sequences deposited by Chinese researchers into an international database, provide some of the first molecular clues about a worrisome new strain of bird flu, the first human cases of which were reported on March 31 by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, the new virus has sickened at least 33 people, killing nine. Although it is too early to predict its potential to cause a pandemic, signs that the virus is adapting to mammalian and, in particular, human hosts are unmistakable, says Kawaoka.

Access to the genetic information in the viruses, he adds, is necessary for understanding how the virus is evolving and for developing a candidate vaccine to prevent infection.

Influenza virus depends on its ability to attach to and commandeer the living cells of its host to replicate and spread efficiently. Avian influenza rarely infects humans, but can sometimes adapt to people, posing a significant risk to human health.

"These viruses possess several characteristic features of mammalian influenza viruses, which likely contribute to their ability to infect humans and raise concerns regarding their pandemic potential," Kawaoka and his colleagues conclude in the Eurosurveillance report.

Kawaoka, a faculty member in the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine who also holds a faculty appointment at the University of Tokyo, explains that the majority of the viruses in the study -- from both humans and birds -- display mutations in the surface protein hemagglutinin, which the pathogen uses to bind to host cells. Those mutations, according to Kawaoka, allowed them to easily infect human cells.

In addition, the isolates from patients contained another mutation that allows the virus to efficiently replicate inside human cells. The same mutation, Kawaoka notes, lets the avian virus thrive in the cooler temperatures of the human upper respiratory system. It is in the cells of the nose and throat that flu typically gains a hold in a mammalian or human host.

Kawaoka and his colleagues also assessed the response of the new strain to drugs used to treat influenza, discovering that one class of commonly used antiviral drugs, ion channel inhibitors which effectively bottle up the virus in the cell, would not be effective; the new strain could be treated with another clinically relevant antiviral drug, oseltamivir.

In addition to Kawaoka and Tashiro, co-authors of the Eurosurveillance report include Tsutomu Kageyama, Seiichiro Fujisaki, Emi Takashita, Hong Xu, Shinya Yamada, Yuko Uchida, Gabriele Neumann and Takehiko Saito. The work was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Pandemic Influenza Research and Grant-in-Aid for Specially Promoted Research from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan; by the NIAID Center for Research on Influenza Pathogenesis (CRIP, HHSN266200700010C); by a Grant-in-Aid for Specially Promoted Research, by the Japan Initiative for Global Research Network on Infectious Diseases from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, Japan; and by ERATO, Japan.

Source:Science Daily

R.Sawas