Your Friday 5: The week in health

April 14, 2017 Mike Francis

Diet and exercise are on our minds this week, so here are some research findings that may inspire better habits in all of us.

If you eat more fresh fruit, you have a “significantly lower risk of diabetes,” according to researchers who conducted a study of 500,000 Chinese adults. And among those who already are diabetic, eating more fresh fruit lowered the risk of death and major complications. It’s not news that eating fresh fruit is good for you, but the Chinese study apparently was the first to find such clear connections between eating fresh fruit and a lowered risk of diabetes and diabetes-related complications.

Some might condemn restrictions on restaurant food ingredients as a form of governmental overreach, but a new study by a Yale University researcher has found that areas in New York state that restricted the use of trans fats had fewer hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke than those that didn’t. “It is a pretty substantial decline,” said Eric Brandt, M.D., a fellow in cardiovascular medicine at Yale. “Our study highlights the power of public policy to impact the cardiovascular health of a population.” Consumption of trans fats, which are commonly found in chips, crackers, fried and baked foods, is associated with a greater risk of heart disease.

Here’s an easy-to-remember research finding: If you run, you’ll live longer. A new study published in Cardiovascular Disease goes so far as to quantify the gain in longevity. If you run for an hour, they say, you’ll add seven hours to your life. Researchers added that the beneficial effects seem to top out at three years. And, they note, other exercises, like walking and bicycling, also add to your lifespan.

Experts have long known that higher breast density is a strong risk factor for breast cancer. But what contributes to breast density? A study published in Breast Cancer Research looked at environmental factors—specifically, the effect of air pollution in the form of microscopic airborne particles. The study found a connection between exposure to air pollution and denser breast tissue. Researchers believe this helps explain differences in breast density according to geography, with women in urban areas exposed to more airborne particulates. The researchers note that certain hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls found in airborne particulates interfere with the body’s endocrine system, increasing fibroglandular tissue in the breast.

Here’s a study that confirms and measures something you already know by intuition: When you move from a busy urban setting into a green space, such as a large city park, the brain registers excitement and engagement. The study by British researchers focused on older people, measuring their brain activity as they navigated between urban and green spaces. The findings should resonate with architects and planners who work on new development, say the researchers. "In a time of austerity, when greens spaces are possibly under threat due to pressure on council funding, we have demonstrated that these areas are important to people's health,” said Chris Neale of the University of York.

How are your health habits?

Have you changed the way you eat and exercise? Share your experiences and tips in the comments below.

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