Monday October 22, 2018

Urban lifestyle: The culprit behind high cholesterol levels among young adults

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By Nithin Sridhar

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A latest study conducted by Raman Puri, chairman of Lipid Association of India, has revealed that at least 23% of youths in Delhi who are below the age of 19-years have high cholesterol levels.

During the study, samples from 2,508 boys and girls were taken and analyzed. The study also revealed that females are more prone to cholesterol risks than males.

Ram Puri has been quoted as saying: “High prevalence of atherogenic lipid profile (reason behind heart attack and stroke), low HDL levels (good cholesterol) and high body mass index has been noted in the youth population in Delhi and its adjoining areas.”

The study has again shed light on dangers of cholesterol and associated unhealthy lifestyle.

What is cholesterol and how does it affect people?

Cholesterol is basically a fat substance that is produced in liver and released into bloodstream. It can also enter the bloodstream through the food one eats. Cholesterol plays a vital role in maintaining structural integrity and fluidity of cell membranes.

There are three types of cholesterol: High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol, Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and Triglycerides. The LDL causes cholesterol buildup and blockages in the arteries, whereas HDL relieves such blockages by expelling the extra cholesterol from the arteries. Therefore, LDL is bad for heart as it can cause chest pain, heart attack, kidney problems, strokes etc. whereas HDL is good as it prevents heart problems and lowers the risk of getting heart attacks.

Triglycerides are another kind of fats that are harmful to heart if present in high levels. They are most often found in people who are either alcoholics or have diabetes.

The total cholesterol level in the bloodstream should be maintained below 200 mg/dL and anything beyond 240 mg/dL is considered high and harmful. The LDL specifically must be below 100 mg/dL and anything higher than 160 mg/dl is considered very risky.

The HDL levels of good cholesterol should be at least 60 mg/dL and anything lower than 40 mg/dL is considered risky. Triglycerides are considered risky if their levels are beyond 200 mg/dL.

Cholesterol and Urban Lifestyle

The three major factors that give rise to high cholesterol are diet, body-weight and physical activity. The diet should be limited to low-fat foods. Foods containing high levels of fats like meat and full fat dairy products will give increased cholesterol level. Additionally, the junk foods and oily foods also contribute to obesity and increased cholesterol levels.

The urban lifestyle is such that people are too busy in their lives to spend time in taking care of their body. In an over populated city like Delhi, there is a dearth of parks and grounds where children can play and adults can go for a walk. Moreover, students are too busy watching TV or are occupied with their studies or are using computers, so they rarely go out.

Hence, the very lifestyle that is being followed in metros and other urban areas is the main culprit behind increased cholesterol levels in young people. The fast foods, the road-side foods, smoking and alcohol, excessive meat consumption, daily routine that includes school, homework, TV and internet with very less physical outdoor activities are all contributing towards increasing health issues among young adults.

Reducing cholesterol level

Instead of going for medical interventions to reduce cholesterol levels, one to should work on the three issues of diet, body-weight, and physical activity. People should eat foods which contain low levels of fat and more amounts of proteins, fiber, and other vitamins.

People should also reduce intake of meat and dairy products and must avoid fast-foods. Smoking and alcohol intake must be reduced and if possible, totally avoided. Physical workout in the form of walking, jogging, exercises or yoga must be practiced for at least 30 minutes daily.

These simple actions that regulate food and physical activity will go a long way in keeping cholesterol levels within permissible limits and improving the general health of the people.

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Immunotherapy Drugs Show Significant Improvement Against Breast Cancer: Study

Side effects need a close look, both doctors said. Nearly all study participants had typical chemo side effects such as nausea or low blood cell counts.

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Breast Cancer
This undated fluorescence-colored microscope image made available by the National Institutes of Health in September 2016 shows a culture of human breast cancer cells. For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown promise against breast cancer in a large study that combined it with chemotherapy to treat an aggressive form of the disease. VOA

For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown promise against breast cancer in a large study that combined it with chemotherapy to treat an aggressive form of the disease. But the benefit for most women was small, raising questions about whether the treatment is worth its high cost and side effects.

Results were discussed Saturday at a cancer conference in Munich and published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Drugs called checkpoint inhibitors have transformed treatment of many types of cancer by removing a chemical brake that keeps the immune system from killing tumor cells. Their discovery recently earned scientists a Nobel Prize. Until now, though, they haven’t proved valuable against breast cancer.

Breast Cancer
Weight loss may lower breast cancer risk for post-menopausal women. Pixabay

In the study

The new study tested one from Roche called Tecentriq plus chemo versus chemo alone in 902 women with advanced triple-negative breast cancer. About 15 percent of cases are this type, their growth is not fueled by the hormones estrogen or progesterone, or the gene that Herceptin targets, making them hard to treat.

Women in the study who received Tecentriq plus chemo went two months longer on average without their cancer worsening compared with those on chemo alone, a modest benefit. The combo did not significantly improve survival in an early look before long-term follow-up is complete.

Failed protein test

Previous studies found that immunotherapies work best in patients with high levels of a protein that the drugs target, and the plan for the breast cancer study called for analyzing how women fared according to that factor if Tecentriq improved survival overall.

breast cancer
FILE – A patient receives chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer at the Antoine-Lacassagne Cancer Center in Nice, July 26, 2012. VOA

The drug failed that test, but researchers still looked at protein-level results and saw encouraging signs. Women with high levels who received the combo treatment lived roughly 25 months on average versus about 15 months for women given chemo alone.

That’s a big difference, but it will take more time to see if there’s a reliable way to predict benefit, said Dr. Jennifer Litton of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She had no role in running the study but enrolled some patients in it and oversees 14 others testing immunotherapies.

“We’re really hopeful that we can identify a group of women who can get a much bigger and longer response,” she said.

Another breast cancer specialist with no role in the study, Dr. Michael Hassett at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said he felt “cautious excitement” that immunotherapy may prove helpful for certain breast cancer patients.

Breast Cancer
Breast cancer cell, Wikimedia Commons

Side effects and cost

Side effects need a close look, both doctors said. Nearly all study participants had typical chemo side effects such as nausea or low blood cell counts, but serious ones were more common with the combo treatment and twice as many women on it stopped treatment for that reason.

Three of the six deaths from side effects in the combo group were blamed on the treatment itself; only one of three such deaths in the chemo group was.

Also Read: New DNA Tool To Predict People’s Height And Risk For Cancer

Cost is another concern. Tecentriq is $12,500 a month. The chemo in this study was Celgene’s Abraxane, which costs about $3,000 per dose plus doctor fees for the IV treatments. Older chemo drugs cost less but require patients to use a steroid to prevent allergic reactions that might interfere with the immunotherapy. Abraxane was chosen because it avoids the need for a steroid, said one study leader, Dr. Sylvia Adams of NYU Langone Health.

The study was sponsored by Roche and many study leaders consult or work for the company or own stock in it. (VOA)