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Allergic conditions linked to lower COVID-19 infection risk

Atopic (triggered by allergens) disease, which includes eczema/dermatitis and hay fever/allergic rhinitis, was independently associated with 23% lower odds of developing the infection than it was in those without atopic disease or asthma.

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People with allergic conditions such as hay fever, rhinitis, and atopic eczema, may have a lower risk of COVID-19 infection, especially if they also have asthma, finds a large, population-based study of UK adults, published online in the respiratory journal Thorax.

And contrary to the findings of recent studies, older age, male sex, and other underlying conditions aren’t linked to a heightened risk of infection, the research indicates.

But Asian ethnicity, obesity, household overcrowding, socialising indoors with other households, and holding down a people-facing role other than in health and social care are all independently associated with a heightened risk of developing COVID-19, the findings show.

A growing body of evidence suggests that at least some risk factors for developing COVID-19 may differ from those which predispose to severe disease and the need for intensive care, say the researchers.

To explore this further and glean what contribution demographic, socioeconomic, lifestyle, diet, medical treatment and underlying conditions might make to the risk of developing COVID-19, the researchers captured detailed information on potential risk factors for the infection among UK adults between May 2020 and February 2021. 

All participants were asked to provide information on their age, household circumstances, job, lifestyle, weight, height, long-standing medical conditions, medication use, vaccination status, diet and supplement intake when they joined the study and then again in subsequent months. 

Out of 16,081 eligible people, 15,227 completed at least one subsequent monthly follow-up questionnaire 30 days or more after joining the study; and 14,348 completed the final questionnaire on or before 5 February 2021. 

The average age of the participants was 59; 70% were women; and 95% identified their ethnic origin as white. 

In all, 446 participants  (almost 3%) had at least one episode of confirmed COVID-19 infection, as determined by swab (PCR or lateral flow) test during the study period, and 32 were admitted to hospital.

The researchers accounted for an array of potentially influential factors: age: sex: length of participation in the study: ethnicity: testing frequency: ethnicity; education; deprivation; household income; housing type; number of people per bedroom; schoolchildren at home; ownership of a pet dog; shielding;  socialising with other households; visits to shops and other indoor public places; travel to work or study; frontline worker status; physical activity; alcohol intake; weight (BMI); asthma; allergies; use of immune suppressant drugs, inhaled corticosteroids,  and bronchodilators; BCG vaccination status;  fruit, vegetable, and salad intake; and use of nutritional supplements.

Certain factors consequently emerged as being independently associated with increased odds of developing COVID-19.

People of Asian/Asian British ethnicity were more than twice as likely to become infected as their white counterparts. 

Similarly, household overcrowding; socialising with other households in the preceding week; number of visits to indoor public places; a people-facing role other than in health and social care; and overweight/obesity were all associated with a heightened risk.

And the greater the number of people sharing a household and the higher the number of visits made to indoor public places, the higher were the odds of becoming infected, the findings showed.

But atopic (triggered by allergens) disease, which includes eczema/dermatitis and hay fever/allergic rhinitis, was independently associated with 23% lower odds of developing the infection than it was in those without atopic disease or asthma.

 And among those who had atopic disease and asthma, the risk was even lower: 38%. This association held true even after factoring in the use of steroid inhalers. 

Taking drugs to dampen down the immune system response (immunosuppressants) was also associated with 53% lower odds of COVID-19 infection, although this may reflect greater shielding from infection by these patients, say the researchers.

But age, sex, other medical conditions, diet and supplement use weren’t associated with infection risk.

This is an observational study, and as such, can’t establish cause. And the researchers acknowledge some limitations to their study.

These include no oversight of swab testing and reliance on the results of routine testing that will usually have been prompted by symptoms, so potentially missing those with symptomless infection. 

Participants also volunteered themselves, so some ethnic minorities, particularly people of black, African and Caribbean ethnicities, were underrepresented in the study.

Nevertheless, the researchers conclude: “This large, population-based prospective study shows that there is limited overlap between risk factors for developing COVID-19 versus those for intensive care unit admission and death, as reported in hospitalised cohorts.”

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Eating too much protein is bad for your arteries, and this amino acid is to blame

Consuming over 22% of dietary calories from protein can lead to increased activation of immune cells that play a role in atherosclerotic plaque formation, driving the disease risk.

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University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers discovered a molecular mechanism by which excessive dietary protein could increase atherosclerosis risk. The findings were published in Nature Metabolism.

The study, which combined small human trials with experiments in mice and cells in a Petri dish, showed that consuming over 22% of dietary calories from protein can lead to increased activation of immune cells that play a role in atherosclerotic plaque formation, driving the disease risk. Furthermore, the scientists showed that one amino acid – leucine – seems to have a disproportionate role in driving the pathological pathways linked to atherosclerosis, or stiff, hardened arteries.

“Our study shows that dialing up your protein intake in pursuit of better metabolic health is not a panacea. You could be doing real damage to your arteries,” said senior and co-corresponding author Babak Razani, M.D., Ph.D., professor of cardiology at Pitt. “Our hope is that this research starts a conversation about ways of modifying diets in a precise manner that can influence body function at a molecular level and dampen disease risks.”

According to a survey of an average American diet over the last decade, Americans generally consume a lot of protein, mostly from animal sources. Further, nearly a quarter of the population receives over 22% of all daily calories from protein alone.

That trend is likely driven by the popular idea that dietary protein is essential to healthy living, says Razani. But his and other groups have shown that overreliance on protein may not be such a good thing for long-term health.

Following their 2020 research, in which Razani’s laboratory first showed that excess dietary protein increases atherosclerosis risk in mice, his next study in collaboration with Bettina Mittendorfer, Ph.D., a metabolism expert at the University of Missouri, Columbia, delved deeper into the potential mechanism and its relevance to the human body.

To arrive at the answer, Razani’s laboratory, led by first-authors Xiangyu Zhang, Ph.D., and Divya Kapoor, M.D., teamed up with Mittendorfer’s group to combine their expertise in cellular biology and metabolism and perform a series of experiments across various models – from cells to mice to humans.

“We have shown in our mechanistic studies that amino acids, which are really the building blocks of the protein, can trigger disease through specific signaling mechanisms and then also alter the metabolism of these cells,” Mittendorfer said. “For instance, small immune cells in the vasculature called macrophages can trigger the development of atherosclerosis.”

Based on initial experiments in healthy human subjects to determine the timeline of immune cell activation following ingestion of protein-enriched meals, the researchers simulated similar conditions in mice and in human macrophages, immune cells that are shown to be particularly sensitive to amino acids derived from protein.

Their work showed that consuming more than 22% of daily dietary calories through protein can negatively affect macrophages that are responsible for clearing out cellular debris, leading to the accumulation of a “graveyard” of those cells inside the vessel walls and worsening of atherosclerotic plaques overtime. Interestingly, the analysis of circulating amino acids showed that leucine – an amino acid enriched in animal-derived foods like beef, eggs and milk – is primarily responsible for abnormal macrophage activation and atherosclerosis risk, suggesting a potential avenue for further research on personalized diet modification, or “precision nutrition.”

Razani is careful to note that many questions remain to be answered, mainly: What happens when a person consumes between 15% of daily calories from protein as recommended by the USDA and 22% of daily calories from protein, and if there is a ‘sweet spot’ for maximizing the benefits of protein – such as muscle gain – while avoiding kick-starting a molecular cascade of damaging events leading to cardiovascular disease.

The findings are particularly relevant in hospital settings, where nutritionists often recommend protein-rich foods for the sickest patients to preserve muscle mass and strength.

“Perhaps blindly increasing protein load is wrong,” Razani said. “Instead, it’s important to look at the diet as a whole and suggest balanced meals that won’t inadvertently exacerbate cardiovascular conditions, especially in people at risk of heart disease and vessel disorders.”

Razani also notes that these findings suggest differences in leucine levels between diets enriched in plant and animal protein might explain the differences in their effect on cardiovascular and metabolic health. “The potential for this type of mechanistic research to inform future dietary guidelines is quite exciting,” he said.

Additional authors of the study are Yu-Sheng Yeh, Ph.D., also from Pitt; Alan Fappi, Ph.D. and Vasavi Shabrish, Ph.D., both of the University of Missouri, Columbia; Se-Jin Jeong, Ph.D., Jeremiah Stitham, M.D., Ph.D., Ismail Sergin, Ph.D., Eman Yousif, M.D., Astrid Rodriguez-Velez, Ph.D., Arick Park, M.D., Ph.D., Joel Schilling, M.D., Ph.D., Marco Sardiello, Ph.D., Abhinav Diwan, M.D., Nathan Stitziel, M.D., Ph.D., Ali Javaheri, M.D., Ph.D., Irfan Lodhi, Ph.D., and Jaehyung Cho, Ph.D., all of Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis; Arif Yurdagul Jr, Ph.D., and Oren Rom, Ph.D., both of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center; and Slava Epelman, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Toronto.

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IRONKIDS Cebu in Lapu-Lapu partners with RLC Residences

This April will be the first event of the partnership as the brand extends their support for the budding young athletes. The aquathlon will see participants from ages 6 to 15 years old complete the race happening at The Reef Island Resort in Mactan.

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The IRONMAN Group Philippines and RLC Residences have announced in 2023 a new partnership—as the residential brand of Robinsons Land Corporation, RLC Residences becomes the title sponsor for IRONKIDS Lapu-Lapu and IRONKIDS Davao for 2024.

This April will be the first event of the partnership as the brand extends their support for the budding young athletes.  The aquathlon will see participants from ages 6 to 15 years old complete the race happening at The Reef Island Resort in Mactan.

RLC Residences Head of Brand Management Mr. Dan Carlo Torres shares his enthusiasm towards the event. “We are very excited to see this partnership unfold. We’ve been very supportive of IRONMAN, especially IRONKIDS because we also believe in the importance of promoting an active and purposeful lifestyle at such a young age and we hope to continuously be part of IRONMAN as we create more vibrant opportunities for our future triathletes,” he added.

“As we aspire to live our best lives, we work to inspire the wider community,” said Ms Princess Galura, Regional Director of the IRONMAN Group Philippines.  “For 10 years, the IRONKIDS has been a part of the Cebuano youth’s stepping stone to either a future in sports, representing the Philippines in international events, as well as planting the seeds of a healthy, sporty lifestyle.  Our partnership with RLC Residences allows us to do so and we are excited to hold the festivities for our youth once again in Lapu-Lapu this April,” she added.

The IRONKIDS event in Lapu-Lapu will feature age group categories for the 6 to 8 years old, 9 to 10 years old, 11 to 12 years old and 13 to 15 years old.  Relay categories are also available for mixed team relay for 6-10 year-olds and 11-15 year-olds. 

Swim and run courses, the transition area and finish line will be at The Reef Island Resort, which is conveniently located in a gated community.  Families who are checked in during race weekend can enjoy amenities of the resort –  including the beach, lap pool and game room.  The resort’s restaurant is operated by Cebu-based top tier chain, Abaca.

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OMRON Healthcare initiates the ‘Heart Reacts Only’ campaign

OMRON Healthcare, a global leader in the field of clinically proven, innovative medical equipment, initiates the ‘Heart Reacts Only’ campaign, encouraging Filipinos to love and take care of their heart with five easy steps.

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The heart is the core of a person’s life. With every beat, the heart pumps blood to the body, carrying oxygen and nutrients to the cells and removing metabolic waste from the body’s tissues. It’s no secret the heart is essential to life. Unfortunately, it is the organ that is often neglected.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVC) continue to be a pressing concern among Filipinos. Ischemic heart diseases were the leading cause of death in the Philippines in 2022, accounting for 114,557 cases or 18.4 percent of total deaths recorded during said report, according to 2023 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).[1] The rising incidence of heart risks in the country was pointed by one study about cardiovascular diseases in the Philippines make heart diseases a public health emergency.[2]

This February, officially proclaimed as Philippine Heart Month, Filipinos are reminded to make their heart’s health a priority not only this month but every day thereafter. OMRON Healthcare, a global leader in the field of clinically proven, innovative medical equipment, initiates the ‘Heart Reacts Only’ campaign, encouraging Filipinos to love and take care of their heart with five easy steps.

Regularly check your blood pressure

A simple habit, but it can save lives. Having regular blood pressure checkups gives you an overview of your heart’s health. Knowing your blood pressure levels provides a clue if you are at risk of having heart diseases.

Recognizing the value of having reliable, accurate and quality blood pressure monitoring tools, OMRON Healthcare offers and recommends the OMRON Complete and the Stroke Risk Calculator.

The OMRON Complete is an upper arm blood pressure monitor that provides a more comprehensive view of your blood pressure and measures your EKG at the same time. Like most digital blood pressure monitors, the Complete shows the systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings and pulse rate. But unlike other monitors, the Complete can connect to your mobile phone, which then lets you access the OMRON app to get more information about your heart’s health such as the pattern of your heartbeat or sinus rhythm. This information can help you track any irregularities in your heartbeat. 

The OMRON Complete uses ECG technology to enable early detection of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a condition that is commonly associated with heart failure and stroke. The Complete is also able to detect other conditions such as tachycardia or a faster heart rate and bradycardia or a slower heart rate.

OMRON’s Stroke Risk Calculator is an online tool that helps users assess their risk of having a stroke in the next five to 10 years. All you need to do is visit the OMRON webpage and tap on the “Calculate Now” button. This will bring you to an assessment form that covers general personal information, daily habits and diet, and any other significant information from your recent checkups.

The Stroke Risk Calculator analyzes your stroke risk based on your answers and immediately shows the results. It will also show you the possible and specific factors that may lead to a stroke. The Stroke Risk Calculator is free and can be easily accessed by anyone.

Hydrate!

Just like you, your heart works extra hard every day. It also needs to feel refreshed to be able to do its job better.

Ever notice that when you’re dehydrated, your heart starts beating faster? That’s because the blood volume throughout your body decreases, which means your heart has to beat faster to “catch up.” This then increases your heart rate and your blood pressure. This can overwork and strain one’s heart.[3]

Drinking enough water daily is a surefire way to support the heart in doing its job. By hydrating properly and regularly, you not only enable your heart to function properly but you contribute to making it healthy. 

Laugh more

It’s true what they say. Laughter is indeed the best medicine. For one, laughter relaxes you and counters stress, which when isn’t managed well can hurt your heart.

Laughing brings a plethora of advantages for your heart. It enables oxygenated blood to circulate around your body, helps your heart work at a steadier pace and lowers blood pressure.[4] It can even decrease artery inflammation and increase good cholesterol.[5] All of these contribute to reducing the risk of heart diseases.

So the next time you see or hear something that splits your sides, go and laugh your heart out! It’s good for you in so many ways.


Do some cardio

Exercise strengthens your muscles, including your heart. Doing some spirited cardio regularly helps improve your heart’s ability to pump blood throughout your body, resulting in improved blood flow and higher oxygen levels.[6]

The American Heart Association advises at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity — or a combination of both — every week.[7] You don’t need to do all 75 or 150 minutes in one go. Spread the workouts throughout the week to remain active. Get off that couch and move around. One option is to do 13 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise or 25 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day for six days and leave one day for rest.

Your workouts don’t necessarily need to be intense all the time, especially if you’re just beginning. If you can’t sneak a full-on workout in your hectic day, try indoor walking or brisk walking around the neighborhood. Other moderate-intensity workouts can be biking, gardening or, to make exercising more fun, dancing! Then push your body further with more vigorous activities like running, jumping rope or cycling.

Some people refuse to exercise because they think it’s too much work or it can feel pressuring. The suggestions above will not only make exercising fun and manageable but may even help you sustain the workouts and eventually make them part of your routine.

Get adequate quality sleep

It’s no secret what sleeping can do. It allows your body to repair and recharge after a long day. But it also plays a major role in keeping your heart healthy.

Achieving quality sleep regularly helps lower your blood pressure. Often, we disregard getting enough quality sleep because we’re too caught up in our daily work or just like to stay up late. Sleep deprivation has long-lasting effects, particularly on your heart. Poor-quality and lack of sleep raises your blood pressure, and it can stay high for a longer period of time. This can increase your risk for a heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes and stroke.

If you’re guilty of bedtime procrastination because you tend to put work first or can’t seem to let go of your phone at night, now’s the time to start fixing your sleep schedule. Doing so will not only give you the rest that you need and deserve but will also keep your heart healthy.

Caring for your heart doesn’t necessarily have to involve big and complicated efforts. In fact, it’s the simple daily habits — like the ones listed above — that can make all the difference. The next time you’re thinking about brushing aside these little steps, think of your heart. It does so much for you, and these small efforts can be your way of saying thank you.

To further promote proactive heart health management this Heart Month, OMRON is teaming up with Southstar Drug and other participating drug stores to offer a discount of less Php250 for every purchase of the HEM-7120. This promo will run from February 15, 2024 to March 31, 2024.

In addition, OMRON is proud to partner with Watsons for its ‘Let’s Talk Wellness,’ a series dedicated to promoting various aspects of health and wellness, including heart health. Tune in and join the conversion to learn more about how you can prioritize your heart health and take proactive steps towards a happier and healthier heart.

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