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Cat Owners Have 40% Less Chance of Heart Disease!!!

CyberKitten
February 23rd, 2008, 03:00 PM
This is in today's GF& Mail. Excellent article, imho, :thumbs up
The cat's out of the bag: Felines stave off heart disease

PAUL TAYLOR

From Friday's Globe and Mail

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February 22, 2008 at 10:38 AM EST

A new study should have cat owners purring with delight. It suggests they are somehow partly protected from the ravages of heart disease.

"Over a 20-year period, people who never owned a cat faced a 40-per-cent greater risk of death due to heart attack than previous or current cat owners," said the lead researcher, Adnan Qureshi, a professor at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Qureshi, who presented the findings at a medical conference in New Orleans yesterday, is at a loss to explain his study, which involved 4,435 volunteers.

"The best theory we can come up with is that ... cat ownership leads to reduced stress levels which, in turn, lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease" he suggested. On the other hand, it is possible that cats don't directly shield people from heart attacks. Instead, cat owners as a group may share specific personality traits that reduce their chances of suffering from heart disease at an early age.

The study also produced another surprising and perplexing result: Dog owners did not have the same level of protection against heart disease as their cat-owning counterparts.

"When we started the study, we thought we would find it [a lower heart-attack risk] in both groups," Dr. Qureshi confided. After all, taking a dog for a walk should be good for your heart.

He speculated that personality differences between the two types of pet owners might account for the unexpected conclusions.

Or, the results may be related to how long people own their pets. Cats tend to live twice as long as dogs. That could mean cat owners have longer exposure to the potentially positive influences of their feline companions.

Dr. Qureshi, who has a pet cat called Marco, acknowledged the finding must be confirmed by other studies before making any medical recommendations. But he added cat ownership is unlikely to do harm, and just might help.

THE SPICE OF LIFE

Turmeric, the bright yellow spice that gives curry powder its distinctive colour, has been used as a traditional medicine in India and other parts of Asia for thousands of years.

Now, modern science is providing convincing evidence that curcumin, a key ingredient in turmeric, does indeed have healing powers.

A new study involving laboratory mice suggests curcumin can dramatically reduce the chances of developing heart failure, a chronic illness that claims 40,000 Canadian lives a year.

Heart failure usually results from some underlying circulatory problem such as clogged arteries, diabetes or a previous heart attack. The heart must work harder to pump blood through the body. Like an overworked muscle, the heart becomes enlarged and increasingly embedded with scar tissue. Eventually, the overworked organ ceases to function and the patient dies.

Curcumin seems to offer "a potentially safe and easy way to address this health problem," said Peter Liu, a cardiologist at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at the Toronto General Hospital, and lead author of the new study.

When mice with enlarged hearts were fed curcumin, signs of the disease actually reversed. "Curcumin apparently goes right into the cells to work," Dr. Liu said. It turns off those genes involved in the enlargement of the heart, while activating repair genes, he speculated.

"It is very exciting ... but we still need to evaluate this in patients," said Dr. Liu, who is also a scientist with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

This latest research, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, adds to a growing body of medical literature indicating that curcumin has a broad range of biological properties. It is currently being tested as a possible treatment for cancer, Alzheimer's disease and various skin disorders.

SUGAR COATING PAIN

There is an old saying that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. It may also ease the pain of vaccinations - especially in children.

That finding comes from a study of 100 infants undergoing routine childhood vaccinations. Half of them received a squirt of sugar water in their mouths, followed by a pacifier. Within two minutes, they got a needle jab in the leg. The other infants went through the same procedure, but received plain water instead of the sweetened liquid.

The researchers reported less crying, whimpering and restlessness in the babies soothed with sugar water. In fact, tests used to measure pain showed these children experienced 78 per cent less discomfort than those who had to endure the shots with ordinary water, according to the finding published in the journal Pediatrics.

So why does sugar take the sting out of a shot? It apparently can trigger "the release of the body's natural pain-relieving chemicals," noted the study's first author, Linda Hatfield of Pennsylvania State University school of nursing.

Dr. Hatfield said there is good reason to minimize physical pain in early childhood. Previous studies suggest that exposure to repeated or severe pain can have long-lasting effects on the central nervous system and behaviour. What's more, parents are less willing to have their infants vaccinated if they appear to be distressed by the experience.

ptaylor@globeandmail.com