All Those Steps Every Day Could Lead to Longer Life

Denise Mann wrote . . . . . . . . .

Miami publicist Robin Diamond is “step-obsessed.”

She aims for 10,000-plus steps every day using her Apple watch and even bought a treadmill during the COVID-19 quarantine to make sure she reaches her daily goal. The 43-year-old has lost 15 pounds since April 2019 and feels better than ever before.

“Walking saved my sanity and restored my body,” she said.

Now, a new study suggests that all those steps may also add years to her life.

Folks who took about 7,000 steps a day had a 50% to 70% lower risk of dying from all causes during after 11 years of follow-up when compared with people who took fewer steps each day. These findings held for Black and white middle-aged men and women.

And quicker steps weren’t necessarily any better, the study showed. Step intensity, or the number of steps per minute, didn’t influence the risk of dying.

The study, led by Amanda Paluch, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts’ department of kinesiology, appears in the journal JAMA Network Open.

“Step-counting devices can be useful tools for monitoring and promoting activity in the general public and for patient-clinician communication, Paluch said. “Steps per day is a simple, easy-to-monitor metric and getting more steps/day may be a good way to promote health.”

She added, “7,000 steps/day may be a great goal for many individuals who are currently not achieving this amount. We also found in our study that accumulating a greater number of steps/day was associated with an incremental lower risk of mortality until leveling off at approximately 10,000 steps/day.”

Two physicians with no ties to the study looked favorably at the findings.

“This is a very nice study with a great message: “Live longer, walk more,” said Dr. Guy Mintz, Northwell Health’s director of cardiovascular health at the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. “There’s no need to join a gym, no need to purchase equipment, just start walking.”

The research wasn’t designed to say how, or even if, taking more steps reduced the chances of dying.

But “exercise can reduce cardiovascular risk by improving blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, improvement of hyperglycemia [blood sugar] in diabetes, and contributing to weight reduction,” said Mintz.

Dr. Michael Massoomi is a big fan of step counting. He is a clinical assistant professor of medicine within the division of cardiology at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

There is no one-size-fits-all magic number, he said. “Instead of focusing on 10,000 steps per day, as many groups call for, focus on doing more than you did the day before,” he said. “If you get less than 5,000 steps a day, try to increase it to 6,000 in the next few weeks.”

This can mean adding a 20-minute walk into your daily schedule, said Massoomi.

You don’t need anything fancy or expensive to help count steps either, he said. There are many free apps for smartphones that work extremely well.

In an accompanying editorial, Nicole Spartano, a research assistant professor of medicine in endocrinology, diabetes, nutrition, and weight management at Boston University School of Medicine, pointed out that the step counter used in the new study isn’t commercially available.

“It is unclear the extent to which steps measured on these activity monitors compare with steps measured by common consumer devices, including smartwatches, pedometers and smartphone applications,” she wrote.

The new study looked at the risk of dying, but other outcomes matter, such as quality of life and mental health. “I hope to encourage investigators and research funders to focus on these understudied topics that will provide evidence to support a national step guideline,” Spartano wrote.

Source: HealthDay

People Who Have Trouble Sleeping Are at a Higher Risk of Dying – Especially People with Diabetes

In a paper published by the Journal of Sleep Research, researchers reveal how they examined data* from half a million middle-aged UK participants asked if they had trouble falling asleep at night or woke up in the middle of the night.

The report found that people with frequent sleep problems are at a higher risk of dying than those without sleep problems. This grave outcome was more pronounced for people with Type-2 diabetes: during the nine years of the research, the study found that they were 87 per cent more likely to die of any cause than people without diabetes or sleep disturbances.

The study also found that people with diabetes and sleep problems were 12 per cent more likely to die over this period than those who had diabetes but not frequent sleep disturbances.

Malcolm von Schantz, the first author of the study and Professor of Chronobiology from the University of Surrey, said:

“Although we already knew that there is a strong link between poor sleep and poor health, this illustrates the problem starkly.”

“The question asked when the participants enrolled does not necessarily distinguish between insomnia and other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea. Still, from a practical point of view it doesn’t matter. Doctors should take sleep problems as seriously as other risk factors and work with their patients on reducing and mitigating their overall risk.”

Professor Kristen Knutson of Northwestern University, the senior co-author of the study, said:

“Diabetes alone was associated with a 67 per cent increased risk of mortality. However, the mortality for participants with diabetes combined with frequent sleep problems was increased to 87 per cent. In order words, it is particularly important for doctors treating people with diabetes to also investigate sleep disorders and consider treatments where appropriate.”

Source: University of Surrey

Study: People with a High Omega-3 Index Less Likely to Die Prematurely

A new research paper examining the relationship between the Omega-3 Index and risk for death from any and all causes has been published in Nature Communications. It showed that those people with higher omega-3 EPA and DHA blood levels (i.e., Omega-3 Index) lived longer than those with lower levels. In other words, those people who died with relatively low omega-3 levels died prematurely, i.e., all else being equal, they might have lived longer had their levels been higher.

Numerous studies have investigated the link between omega-3s and diseases affecting the heart, brain, eyes and joints, but few studies have examined their possible effects on lifespan.

In Japan, omega-3 intakes and blood levels are higher than most other countries in the world AND they happen to live longer than most. Coincidence? Possibly, or maybe a high Omega-3 Index is part of the explanation.

Studies reporting estimated dietary fish or omega-3 intake have reported benefits on risk for death from all causes, but “diet record” studies carry little weight because of the imprecision in getting at true EPA and DHA intakes. Studies using biomarkers – i.e., blood levels – of omega-3 are much more believable because the “exposure” variable is objective.

This new paper is from the FORCE – Fatty Acids & Outcomes Research – Consortium. FORCE is comprised of researchers around the world that have gathered data on blood fatty acid levels in large groups of study subjects (or cohorts) and have followed those individuals over many years to determine what diseases they develop. These data are then pooled to get a clearer picture of these relationships than a single cohort can provide. The current study focused on omega-3 levels and the risk for death during the follow-up period, and it is the largest study yet to do so.

Specifically, this report is a prospective analysis of pooled data from 17 separate cohorts from around the world, including 42,466 people followed for 16 years on average during which time 15,720 people died. When FORCE researchers examined the risk for death from any cause, the people who had the highest EPA+DHA levels (i.e., at the 90th percentile) had a statistically significant, 13% lower risk for death than people with EPA+DHA levels in the 10th percentile. When they looked at three major causes of death – cardiovascular disease, cancer and all other causes combined – they found statistically significant risk reductions (again comparing the 90th vs 10th percentile) of 15%, 11%, and 13%, respectively.

The range between the 10th and 90th percentile for EPA+DHA was (in terms of red blood cell membrane omega-3 levels, i.e., the Omega-3 Index) about 3.5% to 7.6%. From other research, an optimal Omega-3 Index is 8% or higher.

In the new paper, the authors noted that these findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may beneficially affect overall health and thus slow the aging process, and that they are not just good for heart disease.

“Since all of these analyses were statistically adjusted for multiple personal and medical factors (i.e., age, sex, weight, smoking, diabetes, blood pressure, etc., plus blood omega-6 fatty acid levels), we believe that these are the strongest data published to date supporting the view that over the long-term, having higher blood omega-3 levels can help maintain better overall health,” said Dr. Bill Harris, Founder of the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI), and lead author on this paper.

Dr. Harris co-developed the Omega-3 Index 17 years ago as an objective measure of the body’s omega-3 status. Measuring omega-3s in red blood cell membranes offers an accurate picture of one’s overall omega-3 intake during the last four to six months. To date, the Omega-3 Index has been featured in more than 200 research studies.

“This comprehensive look at observational studies of circulating omega-3 fatty acids indicates that the long chain omega-3s EPA, DPA, and DHA, usually obtained from seafood, are strongly associated with all-cause mortality, while levels of the plant omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are less so,” said Tom Brenna, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, Human Nutrition, and Chemistry, Dell Medical School of the University of Texas at Austin.

Source: EurekAlert!

Pregnant Women with COVID-19 Face High Mortality Rate

Women and their babies in the study were also at risk for preterm birth, preeclampsia and admission to the ICU.
In a worldwide study of 2,100 pregnant women, those who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy were 20 times more likely to die than those who did not contract the virus.

UW Medicine and University of Oxford doctors led this first-of-its-kind study, published today in JAMA Pediatrics. The investigation involved more than 100 researchers and pregnant women from 43 maternity hospitals in 18 low-, middle- and high-income nations; 220 of the women received care in the United States, 40 at UW Medicine. The research was conducted between April and August of 2020.

The study is unique because each woman affected by COVID-19 was compared with two uninfected pregnant women who gave birth during the same span in the same hospital.

Aside from an increased risk of death, women and their newborns were also more likely to experience preterm birth, preeclampsia and admission to the ICU and/or intubation. Of the mothers who tested positive for the disease, 11.5% of their babies also tested positive, the study found.

Although other studies have looked at COVID-19’s effects on pregnant women, this is among the first study to have a concurrent control group with which to compare outcomes, said Dr. Michael Gravett, one of the study’s lead authors.

“The No. 1 takeaway from the research is that pregnant women are no more likely to get COVID-19, but if they get it, they are more likely to become very ill and more likely to require ICU care, ventilation, or experience preterm birth and preeclampsia,” he said. Gravett is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Co-investigator Dr. Lavone Simmons is a UW acting assistant professor of OB-GYN.

One caveat, Gravett noted, was that women whose COVID-19 was asymptomatic or mild were not found to be at increased risk for ICU care, preterm birth or preeclampsia. About 40% of the women in this study were asymptomatic. Pregnant women who were obese or had hypertension or diabetes were at the greatest risk for severe disease, the findings showed.

Babies of the women infected with COVID-19 were more likely to be born preterm; but their infections were usually mild, the study found. Breastfeeding seemed not to be related to transmitting the disease. Delivery by Caesarean section, however, might be associated with an increased risk of having an infected newborn, the study found.

Gravett suggested that these and parallel research findings compelled U.S. states’ decisions to open vaccine eligibility to pregnant women – who were initially considered a population at low risk for severe COVID-19.

“I would highly recommend that all pregnant women receive the COVID-19 vaccines,” based on this research, he said.

Source: University of Washington

Nightly Sleep of Five Hours or Less May Increase Risk of Dementia, Death Among Older Adults

Sleep and health are inextricably connected. New research from investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital explores the connection between sleep disturbances and deficiencies among older adults and risk of dementia and death, finding that risk of dementia was double among participants who reported getting less than five hours of sleep compared to those who reported 7-8 hours of sleep per night. The team also found associations between sleep disturbance and sleep deficiency with overall risk of death. Results are published in Aging.

“Our findings illuminate a connection between sleep deficiency and risk of dementia and confirm the importance of efforts to help older individuals obtain sufficient sleep each night,” said lead author, Rebecca Robbins, PhD, of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders.

To investigate the connection between quality and quantity of sleep and risk of dementia and death, Robbins and colleagues used nationally representative data collected from older adults participating in the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS). NHATS is a longitudinal study of Medicare beneficiaries 65 years and older. Survey data from NHATS participants has been collected annually since 2011.

A sample of 2,610 participants answered sleep questionnaires in 2013 and 2014. The researchers examined participants’ answers about several characteristics of sleep disturbance and deficiency, including alertness, nap frequency, how long it took participants to fall asleep, sleep quality (good/very good, fair, very poor/poor), sleep duration and snoring. They also collected information (from health care proxies as needed) about patient outcomes such as dementia and death from any cause for up to five years after the survey.

Overall, they found a strong relationship between several sleep disturbance and deficiency variables and incident dementia over time. Routinely taking 30 minutes or longer to fall asleep was associated with a 45 percent greater risk for incident dementia. Routinely experiencing a difficulty in maintaining alertness, routinely napping, reporting poor sleep quality, and sleeping five or fewer hours per night was also associated with increased risk of death.

“This prospective study reveals that sleep deficiency at baseline, when the average age of participants was 76 years old, was associated with double the risk of incident dementia and all-cause mortality over the next 4 to 5 years,” said senior author, Charles Czeisler, MD, PhD, FRCP, FAPS, chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. “These data add to the evidence that sleep is important for brain health and highlight the need for further research on the efficacy of improving sleep and treating sleep disorders on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and mortality.”

The authors call for further study of the causal relationship between sleep and dementia and death, as insights may lead to a new lens through which to view sleep among older adults.

“Our study demonstrates that very short sleep durations and poor-quality sleep in the elderly increase the risk of developing dementia and earlier death. There should be increased focus on obtaining healthy sleep in older adults,” said second author Stuart Quan, MD, of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders.

Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital