Health and wellness

Doing the housework, walking to work can stave off death, study shows

The more physically active you are the lower your chance of dying, study shows, and just 30 minutes a day can be enough; meanwhile, WHO calls antibiotic drug resistance ‘global health emergency’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 12:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 12:48pm

One in 12 global deaths over a five-year period can be prevented through 30 minutes of physical activity – which can include housecleaning or walking to work – five days a week, researchers said on Friday.

“Being highly active [for 750 minutes a week] is associated with an even greater reduction,” according to a study published in The Lancet medical journal.

The study, which tracked 130,000 people in 17 countries, “confirms on a global scale that physical activity is associated with a lower risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease”. the authors said.

This was irrespective of which country the study participants came from, the type of activity, or whether it was undertaken for leisure or as part of daily transport or housework.

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The World Health Organisation recommends at least 150 minutes of “moderate-intensity”, or 75 minutes of “vigorous-intensity” aerobic physical activity per week.

According to the study authors, almost a quarter of the world’s population do not meet this requirement.

The Department of Health’s Behavioural Risk Factor Survey in April, 2016, showed just 44 per cent of Hong Kong adults aged 18 to 64 years met the WHO requirements in the week before they were surveyed – 51 per cent of men and 37 per cent of women.

The new study showed that “walking for as little as 30 minutes most days of the week has a substantial benefit”, said the study’s lead author, Scott Lear of the Simon Fraser University in Canada.

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The study included participants aged 35 to 70 from urban and rural areas in rich and poor countries. They were followed over nearly seven years.

The researchers noted how many suffered heart attacks, stroke or heart failure, among other diseases, and compared these figures to the individuals’ physical activity levels.

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“Of the 106,970 people who met the activity guidelines, 3.8 per cent developed cardiovascular disease, compared to 5.1 per cent of people who did not,” said the authors.

“Risk of mortality was also higher for people who did not meet the recommended amount of activity – 6.4 per cent compared to 4.2 per cent for people who met guidelines.”

Physical activity done as a means of transport, as part of one’s job, or as housework, were the most common forms, the team found.

“Overall, the more activity a person did the lower their risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease.”

Drug-resistant infections are a ‘global health emergency’, WHO says

Resistance to antibiotic drugs is a “global health emergency” that threatens the progress made by modern medicine, the head of the UN’s health agency warned this week.

A report by the World Health Organisation found there is a lack of new treatments being developed to combat antibiotic-resistant infections, such as tuberculosis which kills around 250,000 people each year.

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“There is an urgent need for more investment in research and development for antibiotic-resistant infections including tuberculosis, otherwise we will be forced back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The report also identified 12 classes of deadly bacteria, such as those that cause pneumonia or urinary tract infections, which are increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics and urgently in need of new treatments.

While resistance to antibiotics is inevitable over time, it has been accelerated by the misuse of drugs, the WHO said.

When the most common antibiotics fail to work, more expensive types are prescribed, resulting in longer illness and treatment, often in hospital.

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Cases are increasingly reported in which no existing drug works.

“Pharmaceutical companies and researchers must urgently focus on new antibiotics against certain types of extremely serious infections that can kill patients in a matter of days because we have no line of defence,” said Dr Suzanne Hill, the director of the agency’s department of essential medicines.

The WHO study found that new drugs in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing medicines and are only short-term solutions.

Out of 51 new drugs under development, the agency classifies only eight as adding any value to current treatments.

There are also very few oral treatments in the works, which are essential for treating infections outside hospitals.

Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland and the United Kingdom and the Wellcome Trust have pledged more than 56 million (US$67 million) to help counter antimicrobial resistance. But Dr Mario Raviglione, the head of the WHO’s global TB initiative, said more than US$800 million each year is needed to fund research into drug-resistant TB alone.

Hong Kong doctors asked to report antibiotics use amid global superbug crisis

The WHO warned, however, that new treatments alone would not be sufficient and stressed the importance of responsible use of antibiotics in people and animals.

In Hong Kong, private doctors will be asked to report the use of antibiotics as part of a cross-departmental, five-year government Strategy and Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance to tackle overprescription and the proliferation of superbugs.

Under the plan, announced in July, in two years, farmers will be banned from giving antibiotics to animals bred for food unless they are prescribed by vets.