Exercise boosts survival after heart attack



Exercising after a heart attack may help stave off death for longer, Swedish researchers said Thursday.

A study which followed 22,000 heart attack survivors aged 18-74, found that those who boosted their exercise levels after being discharged from hospital, halved their risk of dying within the first four years.

“It is well known that physically active people are less likely to have a heart attack and more likely to live longer,” said Orjan Ekblom of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences. “However, we did not know the impact of exercise on people after a heart attack.”

Ekblom led the research presented at a European Society of Cardiology congress in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The team collected data on heart attack patients in Sweden, and their physical activity levels as reported six to 10 weeks or 12 months after the event.

Researchers documented how many exercise sessions of at least 30 minutes the survivers took part in - with zero to one weekly sessions categorised as “inactive”, and two to seven sessions as “active”. “All types of activities could be included, typically with an intensity corresponding to a brisk walk or more intense,” Ekblom told AFP.

Almost 1,100 of the group of 22,227 died in the four years of the study.

The team also measured whether the patients became less or more active over time, or maintained a constant level of activity.

Making provision for other factors such as the patients’ age, gender, smoking habits and health, the team then looked at trends.

“Compared to patients who were constantly inactive, the risk of death was 37 percent, 51 percent, and 59 percent lower in patients in the categories of reduced activity, increased activity, or constantly active, respectively,” said a press statement.

“Reduced activity” referred to patients who exercised initially after their heart attack, but then stopped.

“Exercising twice or more a week should be automatically advocated for heart attack patients,” said Ekblom.

The study yielded no data linking strenuous exercise with heart attack risk, he added.



Put the toolbox away - new robot assembles IKEA chairs




Sick of struggling with incomprehensible instructions and a baffling array of planks and screws? Help is at hand in the form of a new robot that can assemble an IKEA chair in minutes. The robot, developed by scientists at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, can put together the wooden IKEA chair in just eight minutes and 55 seconds - a swift timing that may give even DIY enthusiasts a run for their money. The device, consisting of two mechanical arms with grippers, starts the process by taking photos of the parts spread on the floor with a 3D camera, which is supposed to mimic the cluttered environment after flat-pack furniture is unboxed. Each arm has a similar range of motions to that of a human, while sensors mounted on the wrists monitor how much force is being exerted by mechanical fingers as it picks up tiny parts to expertly put the chair together. “For a robot, putting together an IKEA chair with such precision is more complex than it looks,” said team leader Pham Quang Cuong, an assistant professor at the university. “The job of assembly... has to be broken down into different steps, such as identifying where the different chair parts are, the force required to grip the parts, and making sure the robotic arms move without colliding into each other.”

The team is now looking into further developing the robot so it can learn to construct furniture by copying humans, reading an instruction manual or even just viewing a finished product.

They are also working with the automotive and aircraft manufacturing industry where the robot could be used for such tasks as drilling holes in aircraft.

But those looking for help in assembling more household items from Swedish furniture giant IKEA may be disappointed - for now the unnamed robot can only construct a humble chair.





UK to ban sale of plastic straws to tackle marine waste




Britain on Thursday announced plans to ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England, as part of a push to tackle global marine pollution. Prime Minister Theresa May said her government will launch a consultation on banning the single-use items later this year, ahead of legislation on the issue. The move follows the 2015 introduction of a small charge for carrier bags in most shops, a ban on plastic microbeads and last month’s announcement of plans for consumers to pay a deposit on plastic bottles. “The UK government is a world leader on this issue, and the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban,” May said in a statement. “Today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds.” She added that Britain is “rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastics” by making it central to the agenda at a summit of the group London is hosting this week. “Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it,” May said.

The government will commit £61.4 million (70 million euros, $87 million) for global research and to improve waste management in developing countries, she added.

A recent study found 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away in Britain every year, according to the government.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said this posed “a particular threat to marine wildlife” and the situation was “a worldwide emergency”.

“We are going to ban these plastic items,” he told the BBC.

The proposed ban is part of a 25-year plan to eliminate avoidable plastic waste, which may include tax incentives.




At 96, Mexican woman fulfills dream: Going to high school




Guadalupe Palacios stands out in her high school class in Mexico, and it is not just because of her gray hair, her deeply creased skin or her 96 years. Palacios, who is seeking to live out her dream of finishing high school by her 100th birthday, is also the most enthusiastic student in the classroom. “I feel ready to give it my all. Today is a marvelous day,” she said Monday on her first day of high school in the southern state of Chiapas, wearing the school uniform of a white polo shirt with a black skirt and her own personal touch: a pink sweater. “Dona Lupita,” as she is affectionately known, was welcomed with applause from her fellow students at High School Number 2 in the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state capital. She diligently took notes in her chemistry and mathematics classes and even strutted her stuff in a dance class. Palacios grew up in poverty in an indigenous village and spent her childhood helping her family farm corn and beans instead of going to school. As an adult, she went to work selling chickens at market, married twice and had six children. Along the way, she picked up arithmetic, but never learned to read and write.

When she turned 92, she said, she decided it was time, and enrolled in a literacy program.

“Now I can write letters to my boyfriends,” she said with a laugh.

But she did not stop there: In 2015, she enrolled in a primary school program for adult learners.

In less than four years, she completed both primary and middle school.

But there was no adult learning program for high school - so she decided to enroll in a regular public school, with classmates eight decades younger.

Already, she is looking beyond high school: She would like to be a kindergarten teacher someday.