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Global Life Expectancy Increases by Six Years

We are living longer but not necessarily better.

Based on data from 190 countries between 1990-2013 life expectancy increased by 6 years to 71.5 years. However, the time spent living in good health did not keep the same pace, increasing only 5.4 years. Japan had the highest healthy life expectancy (HALE) of 73 years and Lesotho had the lowest at 42 years. U.S. men had a HALE of 66 years and women of 69 years.

PositiveTip: Healthy lifestyle choices combined with good healthcare help prevent disability and support healthy years of living.

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A Stroke Impacts Spouse's Health, Too

Strokes have long-term impact on spouse health.

Swedish researchers report caring for a spouse who had a stroke may negatively impact their mental and physical health for years to come. The two most important predictors of the caregiver spouse's quality of life was the extent of the spouse's stroke disability and their own age. Even when stroke survivors impairment was relatively mild the caregivers reported decreased mental health for several years after the event when compared to control spouses.

PositiveTip: Family and community help is essential in long-lasting support for the spouse of a stroke survivor.

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Long Work Hours Associated with Stroke Risk

Adults who put in long work hours face increased risk for stroke.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 600,000 adults free of coronary heart disease, and almost 530,000 free of stroke at baseline. They found those working 55 hours or more week had a 33% increased risk of stroke. Risk for heart disease increased by 13%. This data came from 25 prospective studies followed for 7-8 years.

PositiveTip: Balance the activities and priorities of your life for maximum quality of life.

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Vaping Seems to Lead to Smoking

Vaping increases the risk of teens later becoming smokers by four-fold.

Researchers following a group of high school students found using e-cigarettes significantly predicts future cigarette or other smokable tobacco product use. E-cigarette users were 4.27 times (P>0.001) more likely to use "combustible tobacco products" (cigarettes, tobacco hookah, and cigars) and 2.65 times (P>0.001) more likely to become cigarette smokers than those never using e-cigarettes. Vaping has tripled in U.S. middle and high school students in the last year!

PositiveTip: Inhaling an addictive substance is not good for anyone. Support swift regulation of these dangerous products.

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Good News: U.S. Consuming Less Added Sugar

Knocking out sugar-sweetened beverages makes a difference!

In the past decade, U.S. citizens cut their added sugar intake by almost 25%. Analysis of government data shows per capita consumption dropped from 100 grams per day (25 tsp.) to 77 grams (19 tsp.). That is a big drop and most can be attributed to decreased soda consumption. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends no more than 50 grams (12 tsp.) daily of added sugar.

PositiveTip: Avoid low-nutrient foods like cookies, candy, cake and other "indulgence" foods to reduce added sugars.

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Greater Fat Loss by Cutting Fats

Cutting fat resulted in more body fat loss than cutting carbs.

A small study of body fat loss found cutting dietary fat lead to significantly more loss than cutting carbohydrates. All participants were fed a 5-day energy-balanced diet, then randomized to the two dietary groups for 6 days. Following a washout period, each group was crossed over to the other diet for 6 days. The low fat diet resulted in 89 g/day fat loss vs. 53 g/day in the reduced-carb diet. The investigators noted these differences might diminish over time.

PositiveTip: Cutting fat calories may significantly help in weight loss.

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Hats Off to African Polio Eradication Efforts

Disability and lives are being saved in Africa by polio eradication efforts.

Good news from Africa! The continent has not reported a single case of wild poliovirus in a year. While this is a significant marker, Dr. Hamid Jafari of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative at WHO cautions that the surveillance systems could have missed spot cases. This milestone is the result of close cooperation between governments, community leaders, religious leaders, health workers and many volunteers.

PositiveTip: Immunization campaigns are still essential to reach every child across Africa. 

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Less than Ideal Amounts of Exercise Yields Benefits

Any exercise is better than none!

The current recommendation is that every person should get 150 minutes weekly of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) to reduce the risk of all-cause mortality. Analysis of 122,000 older individuals from 9 cohort studies followed for an average of 10 years found even low-dose MVPA reduced the risk of all-cause mortality by 22% compared to inactivity. Medium-dose and high-dose MVPA further reduced the mortality by 28% and 35%, respectively.

PositiveTip: Any exercise is better than none. Health benefits accrue with any amount of physical activity.

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Is there Benefit to Vitamin D Supplementation?

Neither high nor low dose supplementation increased bone mineral density in a 1 year trial.

Traditionally, low vitamin D levels have been associated with lower bone-mineral density (BMD). However, there is no universal agreement on how to define "low". Researchers studied 230 postmenopausal women 75 years or older who had 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels between 14 and 27 ng/ml. They were free of any diseases that interfere with vitamin D or calcium absorption. Participants were randomized to either a low-dose or high-dose (800 IU daily or 50,000 IU twice monthly) cholecalciferol or a placebo. After 1 year the three groups did not differ significantly in BMD.

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Should You Eat More Chili Peppers?

Regular use of spicy foods appears to be inversely associated with mortality.

A large 7 year observational study in China found all-cause mortality 10% lower among those who ate spicy food 1-2 days each week. Chili pepper was the most commonly used spice. The authors pointed out that the study design could not determine if it was spicy food or some other unknown factor that caused this benefit.

PositiveTip: Before you order up more chili peppers, you should wait for more convincing evidence.