Healthy Habits – How Many Do You Have?

Recent research reveals that 97% of Americans don’t have all four of these basic healthy habits.

What are the most important things you should be doing for your health? While there’s a ton of advice out there, most doctors agree that it boils down to four basic habits: watch what you eat; exercise moderately and regularly; keep an eye on your body fat percentage; and don’t smoke.

Just doing these four things lowers your risk of many health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Seems simple, right? But according to recent research, only 2.7 percent of American adults adhere to all four habits.

When researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Mississippi looked at the behavior of 4,745 adults from across the United States, they were shocked to discover how few people had all four habits. Ellen Smit, senior author on the study and an associate professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, remarked on the findings in a news release. “This is pretty low, to have so few people maintaining what we would consider a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “This is sort of mind boggling. There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement.”

Not smoking was the most popular healthy habit, with 71 percent of subjects avoiding cigarettes. 46 percent of subjects hit or exceeded their activity level goal. 38 percent ate well. A mere 10 percent had a body fat percentage in the normal range.

Rather than simply asking the subjects about their behavior and relying on self-reported data, the study also used actual behavioral measurements. Each subject wore an accelerometer, which is a device that measures movement. The goal was 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week. Smoking status was confirmed by blood samples. X-ray absorptiometry was used to determine body fat percentage. Subjects who were in the top 40 percent of people who ate foods recommended by the USDA were considered to have a good diet.

Some other remarkable findings of the study were:

  • Having a normal body fat percentage appeared to be the most important factor in achieving healthy levels of HDL and total cholesterol.
  • While only 2.7 percent of the subjects had all four healthy habits, 11 percent had none, 34 percent had one, 37 percent had two, and 16 percent had three.
  • There were differences in habits according to gender. Women were less likely to get enough exercise, but were more likely to avoid smoking and eat well.
  • Mexican Americans scored higher on the healthy eating scale than non-Hispanic white or black adults.
  • While adults over 60 had fewer healthy habits than adults ages 20-39, they were more likely to be non-smokers and eat a healthy diet.

While the findings of the study were alarming, hopefully they will serve as a wake-up call to the many American adults who have unhealthy habits. Experts agree that more research needs to be done to discover the best ways to help people incorporate healthy behaviors into their daily lives.

 

Article Sources

News release: Oregon State University

 

 

 

Gentler Cancer Treatment is on the Horizon

 

Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen have made considerable inroads in the search for a treatment that attacks cancer cells on the cellular level. This new type of treatment would target and destroy cancer cells and leave healthy cells unharmed. It would provide a gentler alternative to the more invasive cancer treatments currently used.

Chemotherapy and radiation are the most common forms of cancer treatment today. Each of these treatments is effective at killing cancerous cells, but unfortunately harms and destroys healthy cells at the same time. This results in many side effects, some of which are debilitating. In addition, the efficacy of these treatments is limited in cases where cancer has spread from the primary tumor site to other parts of the body.

In response to these issues with current cancer treatments, the researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute have been working towards finding a treatment that specifically targets malignant cells. The scientists have attempted to deceive cancer cells into absorbing a cytotoxin that ultimately destroys them, while leaving healthy cells unaffected.

Physicist Murillo Longo Martins, a post-doc in X-Ray and Neutron Science at the Niels Bohr Institute, hypothesized that there must be a way to create a microscopic vehicle that could move through the bloodstream and carry the cytotoxin directly to the cancer cells. This vehicle would then incite the cell to allow the cytotoxin in, which would ultimately lead to the destruction of the cell by the cytotoxin.

Martins used tiny magnetic beads to act as the vehicle. After the beads were injected into the bloodstream, a magnet was placed at the site of the tumor. The tiny beads, attracted by the pull of the magnet, traveled towards the tumor.

Once the vehicle was created, the researchers moved on to creating the load that the vehicle would carry. They encased the cytotoxin surrounding the magnetic beads in a ring-shaped sac, essentially creating a cytotoxic parcel.

Now that they had the vehicle and the parcel, the next step was to figure out how to get the cell to accept the parcel. Every cell has a protective membrane that guards against harmful substances and allows helpful substances to enter through receptors, or doorways. Each of these helpful substances must have a key that fits a specific doorway in the cell membrane. The researchers needed to figure out a helpful substance that would provide the key to allow the vehicle and its cytotoxic load to enter the cancer cell.

“I thought, why do breast cancer, lung cancer and ovarian cancer so often spread to the bones? Bones are composed of minerals like calcium phosphates. Do cancer cells need these substances to grow? Can these substances be used as doorways to the cell? I decided to investigate this,” explained Martins in a news release from the Niels Bohr Institute. He ultimately decided to coat the cytotoxic parcel with calcium phosphate.

The researchers conducted experiments using breast, lung and colon cancer cells, as well as healthy cells. The results were just what Martins had imagined.

“We could see that the nanoparticles with the cytotoxin were absorbed by the cancer cells. This caused the metabolism of the cancer cells to change and the cells showed signs that they were about to die. The healthy cells, meanwhile, do not show any evidences of absorbing the packages with the cytotoxin. This suggests that the method can be used to send cytotoxin around the body with reduced toxicity and could therefore be potentially safer for healthy cells,” explains Heloisa Bordallo, Associate Professor in X-Ray and Neutron Science at the Niels Bohr Institute.

Findings from the study were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

 

Article sources:

News release, Niels Bohr Institute – University of Copenhagen