1. Lifestyle can help duck heartbeat problems

    Not many things can put the scare into you quite like atrial fibrillation--I've heard people say it feels like the heart is trying to break right out of the chest.

    Some 3 million Americans live with this condition, which comes with a higher risk of stroke and the constant anxiety of wondering when the next attack may strike.

    But now, a new study finds that more than half of all cases could have been avoided.

    Researchers looked at data on some 14,600 patients with an average age of 54 who took part in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.

    During an average follow-up of 17 years, there were 1,520 cases of A-fib--but the researchers say 57 percent of them were related to one or more of the known risk factors for the condition, including high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and excess weight.

    That means well over half of all A-fib cases may be completely avoidable.

    The one caveat here is that not everyone faces the same odds in the first place-- and your own risk could vary dramatically based on a couple of things well beyond your control: gender and race.

    The researchers say black women with at least one A-fib risk factor had a whopping 94 percent risk of developing the condition. For black men, that risk was 91 percent, according to the study published on the Web site of the journal Circulation.

    White women with at least one risk factor had a 50 percent risk, while for white men it was 38 percent--a number that only sounds small because it's smaller than all the others.

    Of course, some people might get the condition no matter what they do--and if you're facing A-fib, there's no reason to panic.

    Try yoga instead--because another new study finds it can slash the number of episodes and reduce some of the most common symptoms associated with the condition.

    Researchers say three yoga classes a week--along with regular practice at home--can cut the number of irregular heartbeat episodes in half, and significantly reduce the depression and anxiety that often accompanies it.

    Patients in the small study who practiced yoga also enjoyed improvements in physical function, vitality, social function and overall physical and mental health.

    Since other studies have found that yoga can help lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, reduce asthma severity and even fight fibromyalgia, you might want to pick out your mantra today--whether you suffer from A-fib or not.

  2. The old-fashioned way to fitness

    Here's a stunner: Diet and exercise just might be the best way for obese seniors to lose weight and get fit.

    You don't say!

    I know, it sounds a lot like common sense, and it is--but while everyone is looking for a shortcut, a new study finds that nothing works quite as well as eating less and moving more.

    Researchers assigned 93 obese seniors to one of four groups: One group exercised for 90 minutes three times a week, another reduced food intake by 500-700 calories a day, a third group did both and the fourth did nothing at all.

    After a year, the diet-only group lost the most--10 percent of their weight. But the diet-and-exercise group did best: They lost 9 percent of their body weight and enjoyed significant improvements in strength and balance.

    Diet alone improved overall physical function by 12 percent, while exercise alone boosted it by 15 percent--but the two together improved overall physical performance by 21 percent, according to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

    Just don't count on exercise alone to make you thin: The exercise-only group lost no weight at all, and that's actually in line with other studies. Despite what you've heard, you can't sweat away your pounds--that's a myth cooked up to sell gym memberships.

    But that doesn't mean you should sit still, either--because in addition to the great one-two punch of diet and exercise for weight loss and physical function, another new study finds that regular exercise can help keep your heart young and strong.

    In fact, old people who move the most actually have more heart mass than young folks who don't move at all.

    Researchers used MRIs to check on the heart mass of 121 healthy volunteers, including 59 sedentary adults and 62 seniors with exercise habits that ranged from twice a week to daily aerobic workouts.

    They found that sedentary people had shrinking hearts--they lost mass as they aged.

    But the older folks who got moving preserved more heart mass... and those who exercised the most actually had an increase, giving them more mass than sedentary people between the ages of 25 and 34.

    One important note: The study didn't look at people who did the most intense workouts... just those who had the steadiest habits.

    In other words, you don't need to kill yourself to get the benefit--just find something you enjoy, and do it a few times a week.

    It could be as simple as a daily jog through the park or as intense as competitive tennis--the important thing is that it keeps you interested... and keeps you moving.

  3. BP meds linked to obesity

    If you've gained weight since you started taking blood pressure meds, it's not your imagination.
  4. Turning gold into lead

    Now, researchers have found a new way to show what's a stake when bellies get big and knees buckle under the weight: lost years, even if you happen to be using them while you're losing them.
  5. Working moms in obesity blame game

    A new study finds that the children of working mothers weigh ever-so-slightly more than the kids of moms who don't work.
  6. Screen time is disease time

    Researchers surveyed 3,034 children in Singapore from third grade through eighth grade every year from 2007 through 2009, and found that while nearly all of them played games, about 9 percent went much further. They were addicts.
  7. Kids who sleep less, get fatter

    A new study shows what happens when kids stay up too late, too often: They get fat, and some even show the early signs of disease such as diabetes.
  8. Bigger breakfasts aren't better

    A new study flips the cereal bowl right over--because researchers have found that people who eat more at breakfast simply eat more, period.
  9. Obesity linked to fibromyalgia pain

    Obesity has been linked to the chronic pain condition before, and a new study finds even more evidence that extra pounds can bring extra hurt.
  10. Belly fat is bad for your bones

    A new study found that bigger bones aren't stronger bones. In fact, they're actually weaker, and they could even increase your risk of osteoporosis.
  11. Extra pounds are extra deadly

    But just as a little bit of dynamite – or one angry bull – can kill you, so can those few extra pounds, because a new study finds that even slightly overweight people have a higher risk of death.
  12. The secret to successful diet maintenance

    A new study lights the way to post-diet success, and all you need to do is avoid the sugars and other bad carbs that probably led to your weight gain in the first place.
  13. Obesity epidemic hits pets

    Humans aren't the only ones facing an obesity crisis--pet cats and dogs are getting so big that the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says up to 90 million of them are now overweight or obese.
  14. The rising toll of diabetes and obesity

    It's one of the most frightening "coming attractions" I've ever seen: By 2050, up to a third of all U.S. adults will be diabetic. That's triple the current rate of 1 in 10, and--depending on our population growth--could mean more than 100 million diabetics facing long-term health problems and expensive care. It sounds like a disaster movie in the making...
  15. The new national nightmare: arthritis

    New figures from the CDC find that one in five U.S. adults now battle arthritis.
  16. Could a vaccine cure obesity? Fat chance...

    One group of researchers say maybe obesity isn't being caused by all the sugar and starch in our diets after all... but a virus in our bodies.
  17. Garbage by any other name

    In a high-stakes game of switcheroo, the industry responsible for high-fructose corn syrup has asked the FDA for approval to use the name "corn sugar" instead.
  18. Osteoporosis meds, obesity linked to rare cancer rise

    Esophageal cancer is bad news now matter how you look at it, and two new studies show how you could be increasing your own risk of this frightening condition without even realizing it.
  19. Smog makes overweight people sicker

    If you're overweight and suffer from high blood pressure, first look to your waistline... but then look to the skies.
  20. Lose weight, lower your cancer risk

    For women, new research shows that obesity is a risk factor for endometrial cancer, which occurs in the innermost lining of the uterus.

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