HEALTH news in brief

Why men should exercise for 20 minutes a day to live longer

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 August, 2015, 12:54am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 August, 2015, 12:54am

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Walking or biking for 20 minutes a day - no more, no less - has the greatest impact on lowering heart failure risk in men, according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure. Researchers followed 33,012 men with an average age of 60 from the Cohort of Swedish Men from 1998 until 2012 - or first event of heart failure - to determine if physical activity was associated with heart failure risk. Overall, men who had the lowest and highest levels of physical activity had a higher risk of heart failure: 47 per cent and 51 per cent respectively, than men with a median level. When analysing the different types of physical activity, walking or bicycling for 20 minutes per day was associated with a 21 per cent lower risk of heart failure, the largest risk reduction. But recent active behaviour may play a more important role than past physical activity: men who were active at 30 years old but were inactive at the time of study enrolment did not have a decreased risk of heart failure.

Music during surgery reduces pain and anxiety

Listening to music before, during and after surgery reduces people's pain, anxiety and need for painkillers, finds a study in The Lancet. Led by Queen Mary University of London, the study team analysed 73 randomised controlled trials involving nearly 7,000 patients, to look at the impact of music on post-operative recovery, compared with standard care or other non-medical interventions such as massage. They confirmed the link between music in the operating theatre and a significant reduction in post-operative pain and anxiety, and the need for post-operative pain relief medication. Researchers analysed data on adult patients undergoing a variety of surgical procedures to any part of the body (excluding the central nervous system, head and neck because of potential hearing impairment). Choice of music, timing and duration varied in all the studies, and these factors made little difference to the outcome. Music was effective even when patients were under general anaesthetic. The team are following up this research with a pilot scheme of introducing music into operative settings at The Royal London Hospital, starting with women having caesarean sections and hysteroscopy.

How urban grime can help boost the ozone layer

Natural sunlight triggers the release of smog-forming nitrogen oxide compounds from the grime that typically coats buildings, statues and other outdoor surfaces in urban areas, say University of Toronto scientists. "In our work, we are showing that there is the potential for significant recycling of nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere from grime, which could give rise to greater ozone creation," says researcher James Donaldson. Urban grime, according to Donaldson, is a mixture of thousands of chemical compounds spewed into the air by cars, factories and many other sources. Among these compounds are nitrogen oxides. Previous studies suggest that light can chemically convert nitrogen compounds into active forms that can return to the atmosphere. Based on a six-week field study in Leipzig, Germany, the researchers found that grime in shaded areas contained 10 per cent more nitrates than grime exposed to natural sunlight, which was consistent with their laboratory findings.