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Keeping fit in middle age, the benefits of a cup of cocoa and soap chemical warning

As we all wonder how ever will we cope without daily updates on Team GBs medal haul, keeping fit is once again top of the headlines with news that it is never too late to start exercising. The Daily Mail is one of the many newspapers reporting this morning that for people in their 50s stepping up the amount of regular exercise could cut the chance of a heart attack. A decade-long British Heart Foundation study of 4,000 civil servants found that regularly doing exercise which raises the heart rate – which includes gardening, walking and even DIY - lowers markers of inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease. Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said the study published in circulation showed the importance of exercise on heart health. ‘Donning your gardening gloves, or picking up a paint brush, can still go a long way to help look after your heart health, as exercise can have a big impact on how well your heart ages.'


Then after an active day, what better than a nice cup of cocoa. The Daily Telegraph reports study findings showing that a daily cup of cocoa containing high levels of flavonols could protect against memory decline. The Italian trial in Hypertension, found that compared with those given a cocoa drink with lower levels of flavonols, the high-dose group scored better on several different tests of memory. The participants –all of whom had mild memory problems - also showed improved blood glucose control with the flavonol-rich drink. Study leader Dr Giovambattista Desideri said: ‘The positive effect on cognitive function may be mainly mediated by an improvement in insulin sensitivity. It is yet unclear whether these benefits in cognition are a direct consequence of cocoa flavonols or a secondary effect of general improvements in cardiovascular function.'


And finally the Daily Telegraph has also raised concerns from US researchers over an ingredient contained in some antibacterial handwashes. Not the first time health concerns have been reported with the chemical, now a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found triclosan reduced skeletal and cardiac muscle strength in mice and fish. The researchers concluded while the chemical may be useful in some instances, their findings suggest its use should be reduced. ‘These findings provide strong evidence that the chemical is of concern to both human and environmental health.'