Is Walking as Good as Running?

People who do equivalent amounts of running and walking have the same degree of benefit in terms of blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease.

Background: According to CDC classification, running is a “vigorous” exercise, because runners usually end up sweaty and short of breath. They burn about eight times more energy than they would sitting on the couch. Meanwhile walking is “moderate” exercise that involves 3.8 times more energy than sitting.

 

The Study: When the 33,000 participants in the National Runners’ Health Study were compared to the 15,000 participants in the National Walkers’ Health Study, the runners appeared to have much better heart health than the walkers. Their risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes was reduced by 38, 36, and 71 percent, respectively, regardless of how much running they reported doing. So running is not only sweatier, it’s also healthier, right?

Researchers took the data from the walkers’ and runners’ health study, and controlled for how much energy the exercisers were expending. By looking at it this way, they were attempting to compare the inherent benefits of each form of exercise. The participants, who ranged in age from 18 to 80, all reported their height, weight, diet, and the miles per week they spent walking or running. They were followed for about 6 years, during which time the researchers tracked all health problems.

Results:Regardless of whether exercise was vigorous (running) or not (walking), as long as participants used the same amount of energy, they saw more or less equivalent health benefits. Runners saw a reduced risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and coronary artery disease by 4.2, 4.3, 12.1, and 4.5 percent, respectively. The walkers’ risk reduction for each condition was 7.2, 7, 12.3, and 9.3 percent — amounts that didn’t differ significantly from the runners’ results. The more energy walkers and runners used, the more their cardiovascular health improved.

What Does This Mean? The key to improved cardiovascular health, according to this study, is calorie expenditure, regardless of how it’s expended. Runners aren’t healthier by virtue of being runners — they’re just more efficient in their exercising. If you prefer walking, you can be just as well off, health-wise. “Assuming a slow jogging speed of a 12 minute mile, compared to a walking speed of 17 minute miles, you would need to walk about 50 percent further to expend the same energy as running,” lead author Paul Williams explains. In terms of time, “you would need to walk for about twice as long.”

 

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter. Of course, the disclaimer: Do not begin an exercise program without input from an appropriate medical professional. Many can simply start with a brisk walk for 30 minutes daily, 5 days per week. Have a wonderful day!

References:

  1. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/study-walking-can-be-as-good-as-running/274738/?utm_source=atlfb
  2. Walking Versus Running for Hypertension, Cholesterol, and Diabetes Mellitus Risk Reduction” is published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.

Sunshine: Can It Reduce Your Blood Pressure?

sun

What You Need to Know: Research carried out at the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh shows that sunlight alters levels of the small messenger molecule, nitric oxide (NO) in the skin and blood, reducing blood pressure.

Martin Feelisch, Professor of Experimental Medicine and Integrative Biology at the University of Southampton (England), comments: “NO along with its breakdown products, known to be abundant in skin, is involved in the regulation of blood pressure. When exposed to sunlight, small amounts of NO are transferred from the skin to the circulation, lowering blood vessel tone; as blood pressure drops, so does the risk of heart attack and stroke.”

While limiting sunlight exposure is important to prevent skin cancer, the authors of the study, including Dr Richard Weller of the University of Edinburgh, suggest that minimising exposure may be disadvantageous by increasing the risk of prevalent conditions related to cardiovascular disease.

Background: Cardiovascular disease, often associated with high blood pressure, accounts for 30 per cent of deaths globally each year. Blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are known to vary according to season and latitude, with higher levels observed in winter and in countries further from the equator, where ultraviolet radiation from the sun is lower.

The Study: During the study, the skin of 24 healthy individuals was exposed to ultraviolet (UVA) light from tanning lamps for two sessions of 20 minutes each. In one session, the volunteers were exposed to both the UVA rays and the heat of the lamps. In another, the UV rays were blocked so that only the heat of the lamps affected the skin.

The results suggest that UVA exposure dilates blood vessels, significantly lowers blood pressure, and alters NO metabolite levels in the circulation, without changing vitamin D levels. Further experiments indicate that pre-formed stores of NO in the upper skin layers are involved in mediating these effects. The data are consistent with the seasonal variation of blood pressure and cardiovascular risk at temperate latitudes.

Professor Feelisch adds: “These results are significant to the ongoing debate about potential health benefits of sunlight and the role of Vitamin D in this process. It may be an opportune time to reassess the risks and benefits of sunlight for human health and to take a fresh look at current public health advice. Avoiding excess sunlight exposure is critical to prevent skin cancer, but not being exposed to it at all, out of fear or as a result of a certain lifestyle, could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Perhaps with the exception of bone health, the effects of oral vitamin D supplementation have been disappointing.

“We believe that NO from the skin is an important, so far overlooked contributor to cardiovascular health. In future studies we intend to test whether the effects hold true in a more chronic setting and identify new nutritional strategies targeted at maximizing the skin’s ability to store NO and deliver it to the circulation more efficiently.”

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: University of Southampton (2014, January 17). Here comes the sun to lower your blood pressure.ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 17, 2014, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2014/01/140117090139.htm

A Bit of Sun May Prolong Your Life (and why you should go to Hawaii, or Bora Bora, or Nice…)

sun

What You Need to Know: Exposing skin to sunlight may help to reduce blood pressure, cut the risk of heart attack and stroke – and even prolong life, a study suggests. Researchers have shown that when our skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, a compound is released in our blood vessels that helps lower blood pressure. The findings suggest that exposure to sunlight improves health overall, because the benefits of reducing blood pressure far outweigh the risk of developing skin cancer. The study has been carried out by the University of Edinburgh.

Heart disease and stroke linked to high blood pressure are estimated to lead to around 80 times more deaths than those from skin cancer, in the UK. Production of this pressure-reducing compound – called nitric oxide – is separate from the body’s manufacture of vitamin D, which rises after exposure to sunshine. Until now it had been thought to solely explain the sun’s benefit to human health, the scientists add.

The Study: Researchers studied the blood pressure of 24 volunteers who sat beneath tanning lamps for two sessions of 20 minutes each. In one session, the volunteers were exposed to both the UV rays and the heat of the lamps. In the other, the UV rays were blocked so that only the heat of the lamps affected the skin.

Results: The results showed that blood pressure dropped significantly for one hour following exposure to UV rays, but not after the heat-only sessions. Scientists say that this shows that it is the sun’s UV rays that lead to health benefits. The volunteers’ vitamin D levels remained unaffected in both sessions.

Dr Richard Weller, Senior Lecturer in Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer. The work we have done provides a mechanism that might account for this, and also explains why dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for lack of sunlight.

“We now plan to look at the relative risks of heart disease and skin cancer in people who have received different amounts of sun exposure. If this confirms that sunlight reduces the death rate from all causes, we will need to reconsider our advice on sun exposure.”

My Take: This study represents proof of principle that it may not be simply vitamin D that provides health benefits; there is more to sun exposure than that. Potentially good news, but of course, everything in moderation. We don’t want to see more skin cancers, including the potentially life-threatening melanoma.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: University of Edinburgh (2013, May 7). Sunshine could benefit health and prolong life, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 21, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2013/05/130507195807.htm

Maximize Your Memory: The Latest Research

English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzhei...
PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer’s disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many patients with cancer have mild impairments in mental functioning. Forgetting where the keys are is not uncommon among those who recently completed chemotherapy, for example. Others amongst you have never been treated for cancer, but would like to hear about the latest research to keep your brain sharp. And thus, today we focus on memory maximizers.

TIPS

Control your blood pressure to reduce your chances of Alzheimer’s dementia: New research suggests that keeping your BP within health limits can significantly reduce the risk of dementia, especially if you have a risk factor for Alzheimer’s known as apolipoprotein E4 allele (APOE4). Aim for a systolic (the top number) BP or 119 or less, and a diastolic (the bottom number) BP of 79 or less. You can pursue these strategies:

1. Monitor your blood pressure regularly and seek treatment for high BP;

2. Maintain healthy levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol (lower than 130) and HDL cholesterol (keep this good cholesterol over 40 for men and 50 for women);

3. Seek treatment for cardiovascular disease, including atrial fibrillation;

4. Exercise regularly, aiming for 30 minutes, 5x per week;

5. Quit smoking and (if you drink) use alcohol in moderation;

6. Maintain a healthy weight [go online and calculate your Body Mass Index using height and weight: Aim for 20-25];

7. Eat a nutritious, low calorie diet with plenty of fresh fruits and potassium-rich vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat fairy products, and fish;

8. Restrict your salt intake to 1,500 to 2,000 mg of sodium per day;

9. Review your medications with a valued health provider, avoiding those that raise blood pressure, including over-the-counter medications such as some cold and allergy remedies;

10. Lear relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation to lower your stress levels;

11. Get adequate sleep (at lease 6-7 hours/day).

BONUS POINTS: Challenge your mind and body.Mental and physical exercise can help to keep your brain sharp. Try computer work, educational DVDs, a new language, aerobic activity, stretching, or toning. No matter what mental or physical activity you do, you may improve your cognitive functioning! I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you. 

Reference: Mind, Mood & Memory (vol 9, no. 6, June 2013)