1. Shift work can harm the heart

    Night work is bad for the heart

    Only vampires function better at night. The rest of us simply can't keep up -- and anyone who works the night shift regularly will tell you the toll it takes on the body.

    As a doctor, I've been there myself -- and I've felt the changes in my own body.

    That's why shift work in general and night shifts in particular have been linked to any number of health risks time and again. And now, a major study finds that it can take an especially steep toll on the heart.

    Overall, people who work at night have a 41 percent higher risk of serious vascular events such as heart attack or stroke than people who work normal hours, according to the study in BMJ.

    But even if you don't work at night, you might not be in the clear -- because any form of irregular hours, including rotating shifts, evening shifts, irregular hours and mixed shifts, increases those same risks by nearly a quarter.

    It's not just because working the night often leads to unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as fast food and vending machines. Those certainly play a role, but the researchers behind the new study adjusted for those tendencies and still found that increased risk.

    That means the real reason is in the body itself.

    The human body was not designed to function at night and sleep in the day. It's designed to use the sun and darkness as cues for the production and release of certain hormones.

    That's why shift work throws the body off rhythm -- and when your hormone production loses its rhythm, your body gets the blues.

    Along with the heart problems revealed by the new study, night shifts and shift work have also been linked to obesity, diabetes, ulcers, mood disorders, and memory problems, just to name a few of the risks. And it's been linked to cancer so often that the World Health Organization even labels shift work as a "probable carcinogen."

    There's no easy answer here. Obviously, work days if you can -- but I realize that's not always a choice. If you're working nights and have no other option, be sure to take extra care of your body.

    And never stop trying to get that day job… unless you really ARE a vampire.

  2. Light exercise can improve stroke & heart attack recovery

    Fighting back after heart attack and stroke

    If you're recovering from a heart attack or stroke, don't take it lying down. Get up and get moving as soon as you can. It's critical for your physical recovery, of course, but it's also positively essential to your mental health -- especially if you're fighting your way back from a heart attack.

    Many heart patients face depression after an attack, and it's often so bad that doctors prescribe antidepressants such as SSRIs to fight it off.

    But those meds are a bad idea in the best of times, and after a heart attack -- when patients are already taking more pills than they can count -- those drugs can make a bad situation worse.

    Exercise, on the other hand, is a proven mood-booster that studies have shown can be as effective as SSRIs at fighting off depression. And now, a new study shows that's even true among heart attack patients.

    Researchers assigned 2,322 heart failure patients to either regular aerobic exercise or "usual care," which included advice to get exercise but no actual structured exercise program.

    You know how that works, right? Most people hear the advice but never actually engage in the exercise (this isn't just true for heart patients, by the way).

    Over the course of a year, the exercisers did consistently better on a 63-point depression test than those who didn't exercise. With an average difference of one point, it wasn't a huge improvement -- but it held throughout the study.

    In addition, many of these patients weren't all that depressed to begin with. Among those who were more seriously depressed, however, the benefit was even bigger. All told, the researchers say exercise worked about as well as antidepressant drugs -- minus the actual drugs and their side effects.

    And for the icing on the cake, those who did the exercise program were 15 percent less likely to die or return to the hospital for heart failure during the study period.

    Exercise doesn't have to be intense and you certainly don't need to work yourself to the brink of another heart attack. In this case, they used a treadmill or bike for 30 minutes three times a week.

    Other, even gentler, forms of exercise can also have a benefit. Yoga, for example, can help ease depression and boost heart health.

    And if you or someone you love is recovering from a stroke, you might want to work on your "lotus" pose, because another new study finds the gentle stretches of yoga can help restore balance.

    I don't mean the esoteric concept of balance that yoga lovers often talk about, but actual balance -- the physical coordination that many people lose after a stroke.

    In the new study, stroke survivors who tried eight weeks of yoga had better balance, were less afraid of falling, were more independent and even reported better quality of life and improved mindset over those who didn't get stretched out.

    Some of those changes might sound minor, but they led to major real-world improvements -- like stroke survivors in the yoga group who would want to walk through a store instead of ride in a scooter, or get out and visit friends instead of stay at home.

    You don't have to be a heart patient or stroke survivor to benefit from exercise. Regular movement -- even simple, gentle stretches and not necessarily yoga -- can help lower blood pressure, ease pain, boost the mood, reduce anxiety, and more.

    Exercise can even help prevent that heart attack or stroke from happening in the first place -- and that's the biggest benefit of all.

  3. New attacks on chiropractic care

    In the latest attack on chiropractic, researchers claim a neck adjustment can lead to a stroke -- but the risk is incredibly low. Find out what you need to know.
  4. Brushing your teeth can keep cancer away

    A clean mouth can keep the rest of your body healthy -- and filthy one can ruin it. Now, a new study shows how poor oral hygiene can lead to cancer.
  5. Low magnesium levels can boost your heart risk

    Low levels of the essential mineral magnesium can double your risk of death by heart disease -- and you probably have low levels.
  6. Flavonoid rutin can prevent blood clots

    Rutin, a common flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables, can help prevent the blood clots that can lead to heart attacks or stroke.
  7. Actos risks highlighted in lawsuit over diabetes drug

    A new lawsuit accuses the makers of Actos of hiding data on the diabetes drug's heart and cancer risks, giving diabetics a new reason to turn to natural help.
  8. A wake-up call for bad sleep habits

    Judging by myself and my patients -- not to mention the bags under the eyes of many of the people I meet each day -- I'd say the biggest problem when it comes to sleep is that we don't get nearly enough of it.
  9. Diet soda in new health scare

    Let's face it: There's nothing "diet" about diet soda. It won't make you healthier and it won't even help you to lose weight -- and that's been proven.
  10. Speed and strength now can predict health risks later

    You probably don't spend much time at all thinking about how fast you walk or how strong your grip is. But maybe you should -- because a new study shows how these basic tests could help predict serious health problems years down the road.
  11. Hidden risks of heart scans

    Diagnostic heart scans such as CT angiograms can lead to cancer, kidney damage, false positives and overtreatment -- and they don't even improve outcomes in healthy patients.
  12. Get some sun to slash your stroke risk

    I can think of about a million reasons to get outside and bask in the sunlight every day -- but if you're looking for one of your own, how about this: It can slash your risk of a stroke.
  13. A stroke while you sleep

    The only thing scarier than a stroke is having one and not even knowing it. It's the so-called "silent" stroke -- given the name because it comes and goes with no symptoms.
  14. An up-close look at apnea

    If just the thought of losing your breath as you sleep is frightening, you should see what it looks like when it really happens.
  15. New blood thinner boosts heart risk

    Blood thinners are supposed to reduce the risk of the blood clots that can lead to a heart attack or stroke -- but a new drug that's intended to slash the risk of stroke can actually increase the odds of a heart attack.
  16. New push to drug people with normal BP levels

    "Prehypertension" is a name that sounds like it was invented to scare patients -- and it's definitely succeeded. No one wants to be "pre" any disease -- so while the guidelines don't call for treating prehypertension with meds, many docs do so anyway... and their scared patients play right along.
  17. Choline on your mind

    Some nutrients, like vitamin D, always seem to be making headlines -- while others, you just never hear about. Take choline, for example.
  18. BP guidelines could be deadly

    Docs get so hung up on matching the numbers on patients' charts to mainstream guidelines that they often forget these things are written on paper -- not set in stone. But in addition to being meaningless, many of those targets are actually dangerous -- and quite possibly deadly.
  19. A clean mouth for a healthy heart

    It's no secret that people with clean teeth and healthy gums have a lower risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, and two new studies again confirm the link.
  20. Happy people live longer

    It's the attitude adjustment that could save your life: A new study finds that happy people live longer -- which means a smile might turn out to be the cheapest, safest, and easiest longevity-booster on the planet.

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