Healthy Habits to Live Longer

Middle-aged persons who follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, don't smoke, drink moderate amounts of alcohol, and maintain a healthy weight could live more than a decade longer than those who don't do any of these things, a new study suggests.

The researchers defined the five good health habits as never smoking, body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2, 30 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day, a high-quality diet (top 40%), and moderate alcohol intake (5 to 15 g/day [eg, up to one glass of wine/day for women] and 5 to 30 g/day [eg, up to two glasses of wine/day] for men).

They estimate that life expectancy at age 50 years would be 14 years longer for women (age 93 vs age 79; 95% CI, 11.8 - 16.2 years) and 12.2 years longer for men (age 87.6 vs age 75.5; 95% CI, 10.1 - 14.2  years) if they had all vs none of these five healthy behaviours.

Eat slower to reduce weight gain

When it comes to weight loss, we often hear about the need to speed things up – train faster, train harder, train with more intensity and pace to burn as many calories and as much fat as possible. Well, research actually suggests slowing down may be a beneficial way to lose weight, too, in at least one circumstance: while eating.

Researchers compared nearly 60,000 type 2 diabetics in a study designed to determine whether eating speed was connected to weight (excess weight is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, among other health problems). All participants self-reported themselves as fast, normal speed or slow eaters. Based on these classifications and periodic check-ups during the six-year study period, the researchers discovered that normal-speed eaters were 29 percent more likely to be obese compared to slow eaters. Fast eaters were even more likely to be obese: 42 percent more likely compared to slow eaters.

While the study, published in BMJ Open, does not establish a causal relationship between eating speed and obesity (meaning eating speed did not necessarily cause obesity), the authors emphasize that people who eat faster may end up eating more than slower eaters because the former don't realize they're full until they've overconsumed. It can take up to/about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full.

Long Term Health

We're all searching for answers to the question, "How do I stay healthy for as long as possible?" Researchers keep finding key pieces to the puzzle, especially applicable to anyone who's reached the age of 40 and is looking to maintain their fitness in the coming decades.

The latest: A comprehensive review of research suggests lifting weights and eating more protein are two components to maintaining physical strength with age. This review study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that people who weight trained and consumed more protein increased muscle size and strength: 25 percent more muscle mass and 10 percent more muscle strength compared to subjects who consumed less protein, even though they also weight trained.

How much protein does the trick? According to the research review, approximately 1.6 grams per kilogram body weight on a daily basis – that's about 130 grams of protein for an 81 kg man. What about timing and protein type? The researchers found no difference in muscle size / strength based on whether subjects consumed protein before, during or after a workout, and all types of protein (solid vs. liquid; beef vs. plant, etc.) had a similar impact. It's also important to note that consuming more than the above was not necessarily better; protein consumption beyond 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight did not result in additional muscle size / strength.

New Recommendations for Low Back Pain

I welcome the new recommendations by the Faculty of Pain Medicine of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA), as published on 14 February 2018 by Choosing Wisely Australia. These recommendations address the growing concerns over the prescription of pain medicines and spinal fusion surgery for lower back pain. Recent studies have demonstrated that an overwhelming amount of research reveals most pain medicines had little to no effect compared to placebos in treating lower back pain. GPs are now unlikely to recommend pain medicines in response to changes in major international guidelines for the management of lower back pain. 

The five recommendations by ANZCA are:

1.       Avoid prescribing opioids (particularly long-acting opioids) as first-line or monotherapy for chronic non-cancer pain.

2.       Do not continue opioid prescription for chronic non-cancer pain without ongoing demonstration of functional benefit, periodic attempts at dose reduce and screening for long-term harms.

3.       Avoid prescribing pregabalin and gabapentin for pain which does not fulfil the criteria for neuropathic pain.

4.       Do not prescribe benzodiazepines for low back pain.

5.       Do not refer axial lower lumbar back pain for spinal fusion surgery.

The highly respected American College of Physicians (ACP) low back pain guidelines recommend clinicians and patients should select nonpharmacological approaches for low back pain, several of which are commonly utilised by chiropractors. For example, for acute and subacute low back pain these recommendations include superficial heat, massage and spinal manipulation among other options where pharmacological treatment is not desired. For chronic low back pain, the guidelines recommend a range of nonpharmacological treatments including exercise therapies, rehabilitation and spinal manipulation.

Lay the Foundation for your kids

According to VicHealth our Children’s lifestyles are becoming increasingly sedentary, with 4 out of 5 children (5–17 years) not meeting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Globally, today’s children may be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

By 2025, it is estimated that one in three Australian children will be overweight or obese. It is currently 1 in 4.

Participation in physical activity halves during adolescence as sport participation levels drop suddenly at around age 15.

Physically active children and youth are more socially active, have reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, and perform better at school.

What can you do to encourage more activity in your children? As an active childhood can lay the foundations for an active life and an active life can mean a healthier, longer life.