The Telangana Science Journal
Reciting the yoga mantras enhance some aspect of heart and lung function and might be viewed as a health practice, finds a study in Christmas issue of the BMJ. Luciano Bernardi and colleagues recorded breathing rates in 23 healthy adults during normal talking, during recitation of the Ave Maria and yoga mantras, and during six minutes of controlled breathing. Normal talking reduced the breathing rate more irregularly. Breathing was markedly more regular during controlled breathing, the Ave Maria, and the mantra. Both the Ave Maria and the mantra slowed breathing to around six breaths per minute, inducing a favorable effect on the heart's rhythm. The benefits of breathing exercises in the practice of yoga have long been reported, and mantras may have evolved as a simple device to slow respiration, improve concentration, and induce calm. Similarly, the rosary may have partly evolved because it synchronized with the body's natural heart rhythms, and thus gave a feeling of wellbeing, and perhaps an increased responsiveness to the religious message, suggest the authors.
In Manra Yoga, the mind is concentrated by means of Japa, the repetition of sacred syllables, words and prayers (mantras). The Japa may be voiced, whispered, or mental, the last being considered the highest. The sacred syllable AUM is considered to be the basis of all sound-‘a’ is formed far back in the throat, the ‘u’ carries the tone forward and ‘m’ ends the word through the closed lips. Its vibrations are said to be beneficial to health and discipline the mind.
Transcendental Meditation is mental repetition of a mantra. According to Dr. Benson at Harvard Medical School meditation using any sound or phrase or prayer or mantra brings forth the same physiological changes noted during Transcendental Meditation. However, it is claimed that the traditions from the Indian continent produce specific effects, beyond the physiological effects. Patanjali (~200 BC) describes in his Yoga Sutra the supernormal powers attained by the accomplished yogi through the practice of concentration and meditation.
High education and occupational attainments have been associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer's Disease. Well, you don’t need to be so highly educated to avoid Alzheimer's Disease anymore! A study, conducted by investigators at Columbia University in New York, demonstrates the benefits of leisure activities as an independent factor in reducing the risk of dementia among people of any education or occupational level. Just pick up a book or magazine, go for a walk, see a movie or visit a friend or relative and reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer's Disease. Reading and engaging in other leisure activities may reduce the risk or delay onset of clinical manifestations of dementia, according the study published in Neurology.
Several treatments exist for alopecia areata, a hair loss disorder that often strikes children, but none works well for the cases involving the most widespread hair loss. Various chemicals that modulate the immune system are used now, but they're not specific enough. The most powerful treatments involve steroids, which can have significant side effects. Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have identified a key factor in the cause of alopecia areata. Their study that appears in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, December 2001, suggests that future treatments could involve desensitizing the body's immune system to the substances that provoke the attack. In the new findings, researchers show that proteins produced by melanocytes, or hair pigment-producing cells, trigger the assault when the body mistakes molecules within the cells for foreign substances. Alopecia areata commonly starts with one or more small, round, smooth, bald patches on the scalp, sometimes leading to complete hair loss in recurrent and unpredictable episodes, called alopecia totalis. In extreme cases, it can lead to complete body hair loss, alopecia universalis. It often begins in childhood, which can be psychologically devastating for its young victims. The condition strikes an estimated 1.7 percent of people, including 4 million in the United States, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF).
Charcoal Vs. Poisoning
A study in the journal Pediatrics concluded that in-home administering of activated charcoal, which binds to many substances and keeps them from being absorbed into the bloodstream, could help avoid trips to the hospital. In the study, researchers found that caregivers who were given instructions on how to use activated charcoal after a child ingested a poisonous substance were able to successfully begin the treatment at home. The researchers suggest that parents and pediatricians make activated charcoal and clear instructions about how its use part of a home safety program.
A study published in the journal Pediatrics finds that giving daily zinc supplements to low birth weight babies can significantly improve their chance of survival. In the study, U.S. and Indian researchers looked at 1,154 babies born in New Delhi, India. The babies were all full-term but smaller than normal, weighing 5.5 pounds or less. The researchers had some of the mothers give the babies zinc every day for nine months. The researchers say their findings, though preliminary, offer promise for boosting infant survival, particularly in parts of the world where babies often die from infectious diseases.
Bad eating habits and a lack of awareness about nutrition are causing more Japanese men to lose the battle of the bulge, according to a survey by Japanese government. About 30 percent of men in their 30s to 60s were overweight, based on their Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI of respondents was calculated by dividing their weight by the square of their height. Those with a BMI over 25 were classified as overweight, while those with a BMI under 18.5 were classified underweight. Almost 40 percent of men in all age groups said they gave little thought to nutrition, while 80 percent of women said they were careful to choose nutritionally balanced meals.
A report issued by the US government on December 13, entitled "The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity," outlined strategies that communities can use in helping to address the problems. Those options included requiring physical education at all school grades, providing more healthy food options on school campuses, and providing safe and accessible recreational facilities for residents of all ages. Approximately 300,000 U.S. deaths a year currently are associated with obesity and overweight (compared to more than 400,000 deaths a year associated with cigarette smoking). The total direct and indirect costs attributed to overweight and obesity amounted to $117 billion in the year 2000. In 1999, an estimated 61 percent of U.S. adults were overweight, along with 13 percent of children and adolescents. Obesity among adults has doubled since 1980, while overweight among adolescents has tripled. Only 3 percent of all Americans meet at least four of the five federal Food Guide Pyramid recommendations for the intake of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and meats. And less than one-third of Americans meet the federal recommendations to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days a week, while 40 percent of adults engage in no leisure-time physical activity at all. While the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased for both genders and across all races, ethnic and age groups, disparities exist. In women, overweight and obesity are higher among members of racial and ethnic minority populations than in on-Hispanic white women. In men, Mexican-Americans have a higher prevalence of overweight and obesity than non-Hispanic men, while non-Hispanic white men have a greater prevalence than non-Hispanic black men. Members of lower-income families generally experience a greater prevalence than those from higher-income families. These trends are associated with dramatic increases in conditions such as asthma, and in Type 2 diabetes among children.
Most people who adopt exercise will quit within a short time, 50% within 6 to 8 weeks, and another 25% by the end of the year. It's easier to quit than to get fit. Two of the most common excuses are "I just don't have the time" and "boring." The problem is to overcome the initial tedium and discomfort, to get to the point where the benefits kick in, and a good way to do this is to minimize discomfort and accentuate enjoyment of the activity. He advises people to find an activity they like, do it with a person they like, and keep doing it regularly until it becomes a habit.
Every year, cardiologists perform about half a million of angioplasties in the United States and double that worldwide, threading balloons into clogged heart arteries to restore blood flow. Often, the freshly opened arteries fill in again with scar-like growth that has bedeviled angioplasty since its invention in 1977. Doctors have tried lasers, cutting tools, radiation, gene therapy etc., to improve results. In the mid-1990s, they began using stents (tiny tubes) to prop open the arteries. Some of these help, but nothing solved the problem completely. The arteries still narrow up again about 20 percent of the time. In September at a European cardiology meeting, it was reported that testing showed a new kind of stent, coated with growth-stopping medicine, is totally effective. Not a single artery closed up after angioplasty. If no complications emerge, the stents could be on the market next year.
Smoking and George Harrison
George Harrison died of cancer. In fact, what killed Harrison was smoking. In 1997 he was treated for throat cancer, which he himself attributed to many years of smoking. He said at the time that he had quit smoking and that his doctors anticipated a complete cure. Four years later, he underwent surgery for lung cancer, followed by radiation therapy for a tumor in his brain, where lung cancer commonly spreads. A few months later, Harrison was dead. What will persuade the 48 million Americans who still smoke to quit, and what will keep the 3,000 teen-agers who each day start smoking to resist this deadly addiction? Some 440,000 Americans succumb each year to the deadly effects of tobacco smoke. As the nation's single leading cause of death and disability, smoking costs our economy some $70 billion a year. Up to half of all long-term smokers will prematurely develop a debilitating disease, most often heart disease, chronic lung disease or cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women, killing 70 percent more women each year than breast cancer. From 1950 to 1991, lung cancer in women rose by 550 percent, and from1960 to 1990, the death rate from lung cancer in women rose by more than 400 percent. Smoking increases the chances of infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth and prematurity; and for babies born healthy, exposure to tobacco smoke in the womb and during early childhood can impair their lung function throughout childhood. Secondhand smoke is a killer, increasing a child's risk of developing asthma and pneumonia and an adult's chances of developing heart disease, lung cancer and breast cancer. Women who smoke are nearly 70 percent more likely to have low birth weight babies, and maternal smoking has been linked to one in 10 infant deaths. It is estimated that at least 13 percent of pregnant women smoke.
The American Legacy Foundation has launched this month a national campaign targeting some 426,000 women who smoke throughout their pregnancy. The U.S. Public Health Service has a goal to reduce adult smoking prevalence to 12 percent by the year 2010, a target that many people find daunting since the current rate is 23 percent to 26 percent. But in the Dec. 5 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, Glantz and his co-authors, Asaf Bitton and Caroline Fichtenberg, submit that this goal is achievable through a reinvigorated tobacco control program financed by the billions of dollars available to states from the industry through the 1998 settlement agreement. They suggest aggressive antitobacco media campaigns focusing on industry lies and the dangers of secondhand smoke and nicotine addiction, as well as community-based efforts that foster clean indoor air laws and that counter pro-tobacco influences.
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is high in fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products, and low in red meats and sweets. A study led by Dr. William Vollner of Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., found that cutting salt in addition to DASH diet had worked better than either method alone in reducing blood pressure. Switching to a healthy diet and eating less salt can lower the blood pressure of healthy young people and adopting these changes on a long-term basis by young people helps reduce the risk of increase in BP that occurs as we age.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Chen et al. examined overall dietary patterns among patients diagnosed with distal stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, or cancer-free controls. Results suggest that certain dietary patterns confer a higher risk of stomach or esophageal cancer than other types of diets. All participants in the study were white male or female residents of eastern Nebraska. Of all the dietary patterns identified, the "High Meat" diet tended to be associated with a 3.6-fold higher risk of esophageal cancer and 2-fold higher risk of stomach cancer when compared with the "Healthy Diet". The "High Milk" diet tended to be associated with 2-fold risk of both types of cancer. These two dietary patterns were more prevalent among the cancer patients, with 33% of stomach cancer patients and 35% of the esophageal cancer patients consuming either the "High Meat" or "High Milk" diet.
Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, December 30, 2001
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