losing weight

  1. Fix your apnea, heal your heart

    Ever watch someone with sleep apnea? It's one of the most frightening -- and unforgettable -- things you'll ever see.

    One minute, the sleeper is snoring away. The next, nothing.

    At first, you might be thankful for the quiet -- until you realize the reason for that sudden silence: they're not breathing.

    Someone with apnea can go through dozens of breathless bouts per night and never even realize it -- but in this case, what you don't know can not only hurt you... it can kill you, too.

    Apnea has been linked to everything from sexual dysfunction and metabolic syndrome to diabetes and heart disease -- but now, researchers have confirmed that it's not too late for people already fighting that nightly battle.

    The standard mainstream treatment for apnea is an oxygen mask called CPAP, for continuous positive airway pressure. In a new study, 86 patients with moderate to severe apnea were assigned to either the real CPAP mask or a sham treatment.

    After three months, the volunteers took a one-month break... then switched places for another three months.

    When they got the real CPAP, the volunteers saw drops in blood pressure and cholesterol levels -- including an average dip of nearly 20 points in dangerous triglycerides -- as well as better control of their blood sugar levels.

    More importantly, they also lost weight -- and while most of the patients were battling metabolic syndrome at the start of the study, 13 percent no longer had the condition after the three months of CPAP, according to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

    But does all the credit go to that mask?

    The researchers say they're not sure -- and I'm not either, because while CPAP can help get you through the night, the best way to beat apnea isn't with oxygen -- it's with lifestyle changes.

    And it starts with losing some weight -- like the patients in this study managed to do. Studies have shown that even modest weight loss can end the apnea as well as slash your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

    Lose that weight yourself, and you'll not only look and feel better than you have in years -- you'll sleep better, too.

  2. American women slowed by arthritis

    Want some arthritis relief? Take a load off... and I mean that literally.

    Because according to a new study, losing weight could be one way to battle arthritis.

    When researchers analyzed data from a survey of over 8,000 Americans and Canadians, they found that women in the United States have a higher rate of both arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitations than their neighbors to the north.

    In the U.S., 23.3 percent of U.S. women have arthritis, compared to 19.6 percent of Canadian women. Similarly, 13 percent of American women are forced to cope with the limitations of the disease, versus just 9.2 percent of Canadian women.

    What do Canadians have that we don't? The answer should come as no surprise: The researchers found that the biggest difference between the two groups is that Americans tend to weigh a lot more... and move a lot less.

    Arthritis is just one example of how this type of lifestyle hurting us. After all, carrying around all that extra weight can take a toll on the joints.

    One recent study found that every extra point on the body mass index increases the risk of rapid deterioration of knee cartilage by 11 percent. And that, in turn, leads to osteoarthritis, especially in older women.

    American women on the whole live longer than American men-- but they're not spending those extra years in comfort. Repeated studies have found that women tend to be sicker in those later years, and one study last year found they suffer 2.5 times the rate of disability as men the same age.

    And half of that gender gap comes from obesity and arthritis alone.

    As our friends in Canada have shown, beating arthritis can be as simple as keeping the weight down and the movement up.

    There can also be other contributing factors--such as food allergies or joint damage--but it can be hard to narrow down a more specific cause if you're in bad shape to begin with.

    If you're not facing arthritis yet, count yourself lucky-- and then focus on keeping your weight down and getting a little more exercise to reduce your odds of facing this disease in the years ahead.

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