Meditation found to help concentration levels
Meditating for just 10 to 15 minutes a day can boost the brain’s ability to concentrate on the task in hand reveals a recent US study[i]. After taking up mediation five times a week for eight weeks brain scans of a group of students in New York showed mark changes in the brain’s ability to change between the two general states of consciousness.
One is the default mode network when the brain is awake but not focussing (as in daydreaming) while the second is the dorsal attention network when the brain engages in demanding tasks.
The study showed that after meditating the students’ brains had more connections among and within the two networks. This suggests that meditation may affect the fast switching between mind-wandering and concentration and the ability to focus once attention has been engaged.
Drinking red wine may help to reduce blood pressure
Your evening glass of red wine may help to lower blood pressure according to a study[ii] carried out in Germany. A team of researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and Kiel University in Germany found that higher intakes of flavonoid-rich food and drink, for example berries, apples, pears tea and red wine are linked with lower blood pressure. Flavonoids are thought to help the muscles in arteries relax, allowing them to widen which improves blood flow. Don’t overdo the wine though – three glasses a week will do the trick.
Exercise can still be beneficial for heart health in later years
It’s never too late to take up exercise to reap some heart-healthy benefits suggests a recent study[iii] from the University of Berne in Switzerland. The researchers studied the data from more than 30,000 patients with an average age of 62 over seven years with coronary heart disease. They found that compared with participants who were not active, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was 51 per cent lower among those who had always been active and 27 per cent lower among those who were previously inactive but whose activity increased.
At least 150 minutes a week of moderate activity (30 minutes, 5 days a week) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous activity a week, or a combination of both is considered an optimum amount.
Ashwagandha could have a positive effect on long COVID
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is teaming up with All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA) on a trial to see if the Ayuverdic herb ashwagandha can help people with long COVID beat its symptoms[iv]. These can include cognitive dysfunction, poor mental health, extreme fatigue and muscle weakness and are thought to affect between 10 and 20 per cent of Covid survivors. They can last for between one and three months or longer and as yet there is no effective treatment.
Commonly known as ‘Indian winter cherry’, ashwagandha is traditionally used in the Indian ayuverdic system of medicine to boost energy, reduce stress and strengthen the immune system. Recent trials have demonstrated its efficacy in reducing anxiety, stress, improving muscle strength and reducing fatigue symptoms in patients with chronic conditions.
The trial, which is due to last a year, will examine the effects of taking 500mg tablets of ashwagandha twice a day for three months. Around 2,000 participants with long Covid will be recruited from Leicester, Birmingham and London. One thousand will take ashwagandha, while another 1,000 will take a placebo pill. They will be asked to report monthly on their quality of life, their ability to perform everyday tasks, their mental and physical symptoms and use of other supplements, as well as any adverse events.
Dr Sanjay Kinra, Professor in Clinical Epidemiology at LSHTM and Principal Investigator on the study, said: “It’s really exciting to be working on this trial of traditional Indian medicine to see if it can help solve a global public health crisis and improve people’s recovery from COVID-19. Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce symptoms of other conditions that are similar to those of long COVID, so we are hopeful that it will be an effective way to combat the condition.”