Sugar-free chewing gum relieves stress

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ISLAMABAD: A simple yet cost effective way to reduce stress or anxiety is chewing sugar-free gum, according to a study. It also showed that chewing gum increases alertness and improves performance while multi-tasking.

Andrew Scholey, professor of behavioural sciences at Swinburne University, said that studies he conducted at Northumbria University showed that chewing gum may be “associated with positive, relaxing social behaviours”.

The controlled, randomised study examined 40 people averaging 22 years while they performed on the defined intensity stressor simulation (DISS), a multi-tasking platform which reliably induces stress and measures performance.

The participants’ levels of anxiety, alertness and stress levels were measured before and after completing the DISS while chewing and not chewing sugarfree gum.

The study found that levels of salivary cortisol (a physiological stress marker) in gum chewers were lower than those of non-gum chewers by 16 percent, according to a Swinburne release.

With an improved state of mind from chewing gum, the mean performance scores over non-gum chewers improved by a significant 67 percent during stressful situations.

Scholey said that the findings suggest that chewing gum may actually help us manage life’s daily stresses and keep us from reacting to situations like road rage or panic from looming deadlines.

The study is scheduled for publication in the Physiology and Behaviour Journal.

Do you know if your blood pressure is high?: Over 50 percent of people with high blood pressure might not be aware of their condition, a new study has found.

Franco Cappuccio of Warwick University Medical School led the team from Britain to participate in a European study examining awareness, treatment and control of high blood pressure, or hypertension, precursor of heart attacks and strokes.

The study examined 1,604 people from south-west London, Limburg in Belgium and Abruzzo in Italy. All of them underwent a medical examination, including blood pressure (BP) check-up and answered a lifestyle and health questionnaire.

The researchers found 24 percent of participants had high BP and 56 percent of those were not aware of their condition. Of those that were aware, less than half had their high BP under control.

Looking at the differences between regions, researchers found the British participants had lower BP overall and better control than the Italians and Belgians, said a Warwick release.

“Our results show that high blood pressure is a looming problem for Europe. Although in the UK the management of high blood pressure is better as compared to some other countries, in part due to the incentives that GPs receive to achieve blood pressure targets,” said Cappuccio.

The research was published in the Journal of Hypertension.

Exercise improves life for heart failure patients: Heart failure patients who regularly exercised felt better than similar patients who did not work out regularly, say Duke University Medical Centre researchers after a new study.

These findings go a long way toward addressing concerns about the value of exercise for the five million patients in the US with heart failure.

“The HF-action study shows that exercise is not only safe for patients, but also helps to improve the quality of their lives, overall,” said Kathryn Flynn, researcher at Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI) and co-author of the study.

HF-action is the largest clinical trial to date examining the value of exercise in the treatment of heart failure. Investigators enrolled 2,331 patients with moderate to severe heart failure at 82 sites throughout the US, Canada and France from 2003 to 2008.

The regimen consisted of three months of supervised aerobic training on a bicycle or treadmill, followed by instruction for continued home-based training, according to a Duke release.

Researchers set the exercise goal at five 40-minute workouts, or 200 minutes of exercise per week. Participants reached about 60 percent of that goal after one year.

Participants had significant heart failure upon entering the study. Ninety-five percent were taking medications for heart failure, such as ACE-inhibitors or beta-blockers, and 40 percent were using mechanical devices to boost their hearts’ ability to pump or to treat irregular beats.

The average age of the patients was 59 while 28 percent were women. Upon enrolment, patients filled out the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire (KCCQ), a 23-item measure shown to be responsive to underlying clinical changes in patients with heart failure. At three months, patients in both groups showed improvement, with patients in the usual care group registering a three-point gain on the KCCQ score and those in the exercise group showing a five-point gain. Previous reports had defined a five-point gain as clinically significant. Researchers also found that a higher percentage of those in the exercise group experienced more robust gains. At three months, 54 percent of those in the exercise group saw a five-point gain in overall KCCQ score, while only 28 percent of those in the usual care group met that goal.

These findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2008.


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