Overweight and Obese Adolescents at Higher Risk for Stroke in Early Adulthood

It’s no secret that obesity is beginning earlier in life than ever before. In fact, childhood obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. Fast food, a sedentary lifestyle, and the farming methods and processing that brings our food to the table are all contributing factors. Sadly, the earlier obesity develops, the harder it becomes to achieve a healthy, stable body weight.

Why does this matter? Among a multitude of complications, a heavier body weight in childhood appears to increase the risk for high blood pressure in young adulthood. High blood pressure is major risk factor for stroke, and sadly this devastating and often life-changing condition is on the rise in younger adults. A Swedish study published last year in JAMA Neurology reported that those young men who became overweight or obese around the time of puberty were 80 percent more likely to suffer a stroke compared to young men of normal weight.

The good news is that the risk can be reversed simply by losing weight.The same study found that if a normal weight is achieved by age 20, the risk appears to drop back to normal.

As I discussed with U.S. News and World Report reporter Don Rauf: “Kids are very resilient, and when problems are addressed at an early age, we can often avoid long-term consequences. In adulthood, that is less likely, as it is harder to reverse the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle.

“This study gives strong credence to the argument that we need to fight for healthier meals and more physical activity for our kids, both at home and at school.”

To learn more, check out the link to the article below.


Source: Heavy Teens May Be Setting Themselves Up for a Stroke | Health Care | US News

Electric Fans May Not Be So Cool

With summer upon us, many people are turning on their electrical fans to help keep cool. Sounds simple, but it may surprise you to know that under certain conditions, an electrical fan may actually raise your body temperature, especially if you are a senior citizen.

The body tries to cool itself down by sweating, but older folks tend to sweat less. Since fans help to cool the body by increasing sweat evaporation, a person who sweats very little will not experience much relief. On top of that, fans do generate some heat simply through their mechanical movement, so it is conceivable that they may raise the temperature in a small space. In turn, this can raise the body’s core temperature and increase heart rate.

In an interview with Health Day’s Don Rauf, published on line in U.S. News and World Report, I explained the cardiac consequences by explaining that “elevated core temperatures could put excessive strain on the heart and aggravate conditions such as high blood pressure and angina [chest pain when the heart muscle is not getting enough blood].” Alternatives? “Of course, air conditioning would be the best option,” I suggested, “but short of that, applying wet compresses would likely be helpful, as would hydration with cool beverages, preferably water.”

To read more about the study and its conclusions, check out the article by clicking the link below.

Source: Fans May Not Be Cool Choice for the Elderly | Health Care | US News

Optimism is Powerful Medicine

Optimistic people are easier to be around, and their enthusiasm can be contagious, but did you know that optimism may lower your risk of stroke, cancer, and other serious illnesses? A recent study of 70,000 women from the American Journal of Epidemiology provides strong support for a positive attitude.

The findings are compelling. In this long-running study,  more optimistic women enjoyed a 16% lower risk of death from cancer, 40% lower risk from cardiovascular or respiratory disease, and a 50% lower likelihood of death from infectious diseases over the course of about 8 years. Optimism was measured based on responses to a survey, and other health behaviors and conditions were taken into account in order to limit any mitigating factors.

In a report for Health Day, reporter Don Rauf reviewed the study and got opinions from experts around the country, including me. The important message is that optimism is not a fixed character trait. It can be nurtured and developed. As I told Rauf, “It’s easier to feel optimistic when you feel healthy and energetic. By choosing a healthy lifestyle, you may open yourself up to greater gratitude and create more energy for deeper relationships and professional satisfaction.”

To read more about the study, and to learn strategies to improve your sense of optimism, click on the link below.

Source: Optimism May Propel Women to a Longer Life

Waistline may predict heart disease better than weight

The number on the scale often has the power to make or break our day, but a growing body of medical research finds that when it comes to body size, the most important predictor of heart disease risk is waist circumference. That makes sense in part because some people carry more muscle weight, which can skew the BMI, or body mass index.

The BMI is a measurement derived from height and weight, and is commonly used by doctors and others to determine whether you are of normal weight, overweight, or obese. This works fairly well for the general population, but it fails to identify some higher risk individuals, and may unfairly single out other more muscular types.

BMI is easy to use, and a bit less intrusive to obtain than a  waist measurement, but as a study from Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute discovered, abdominal size was powerfully associated with heart function.

As I explained in an interview with Health Day, “Abdominal fat produces a wide range of inflammatory substances, and is more highly correlated with heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes than other types of fat. We know that heavier people are more likely to have stiffer hearts, which in turn can predispose to heart failure. This study shows us that fat in the abdominal area is especially harmful to heart function.”

To learn more, check out the link to the article below.

Source: Waistline may predict heart disease better than weight – CBS News

Statins May Reduce Heart Risks Linked to Sleep Apnea: Study

Sleep apnea is a condition suffered by millions across the globe. It is characterized by periods of apnea, or failure to breath, as well as loud, roof-shaking snoring. Surprisingly, the individual suffering from sleep apnea may not realize he or she suffers from it, and it is often a spouse or partner who sounds the alarm.

Sleep apnea is not just a nuisance. It can contribute to heart failure, heart attacks, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and many other maladies. And most people with sleep apnea are chronically fatigued.

A recent study from Columbia University found that statin drugs (generally used to treat high cholesterol) might have the potential to improve the chronic inflammation of the blood vessels that is typically linked to sleep apnea. These drugs are known to lower cholesterol as well as to reduce inflammation in the heart arteries.

Much more research is needed before statins can be considered a treatment for sleep apnea, but the possibility is intriguing.

As I told reporter Tara Haelle:

“This is basic science research, not a clinical study. So we don’t know specifically what degree of reduction in heart risk statins might provide for sleep apnea patients without other risk factors. But it does provide a great launching point for new patient-centered studies on the topic.

 And although statins don’t treat sleep apnea, they may help reduce the dangerous consequences sleep apnea can have on the heart.”
To read more, click on the link to the article in US News and World Report.

Source: Statins May Reduce Heart Risks Linked to Sleep Apnea: Study | Health | US News

Your Mammogram: A Window into Heart Health

Mammograms are part of many women’s yearly health check up, yet it turns out that these common tests can also predict your risk for heart disease. Like every other organ of the body, the breasts are supplied by arteries, blood vessels which continuously supply freshly oxygenated blood and nutrients. And like the others arteries in the body, these arteries can become filled with cholesterol plaque, or atherosclerosis.

When your mammogram is read by the radiologist, she may report calcifications within the breast tissue. These may be a warning sign of cancer. Yet calcifications can also show up in the breast arteries, indicating hardening of those arteries due to atherosclerotic plaque. This finding was first reported several years ago, and a new study from Mount Sinai Hospital takes it one step further, by correlating these blood vessel calcifications with the risk for heart disease. In fact, women who have breast arterial calcifications are highly likely to have cholesterol plaque in the heart, making mammograms a valuable tool in identifying women at high risk for heart disease.

To learn more, and to get my take, check out reporter Tara Haelle’s article on Everyday Health.

Source: How Your Mammogram May Predict Your Heart Disease Risk | Everyday Health

Divorce is a Heart Breaker for Women

February may be a month of Valentines and roses, but for many of us, it’s just a painful reminder of a once happy relationship gone bad. Divorce is stressful, painful, and complicated, and it can literally make your heart hurt.

A study published last year in the peer-reviewed medical journal Circulation  found that once-divorced women were 25% more likely to have a heart attack than women who remained married. Even after remarriage, the risk remained higher than average. For men, the risk was higher than average, but only matched the women’s risk after 2 divorces. For women, two divorces meant a 77% higher risk compared to those who had never divorced.

In an interview with reporter Tara Haelle, I suggested that “… likely it is the stress of divorce itself that created an unhealthy setting that promoted the development of heart disease. It’s impossible to know whether the women whose marriages ended in divorce were more likely to have other unhealthy relationships, and thus more sources of stress in their lives. Yet recent research has found strong evidence that women’s hearts react in a much more negative way to stress than those of men.”

Want to know more? Follow the link below to the article on the Forbes website.

Source: Divorce Could Literally (Eventually) Break A Woman’s Heart, Says Study – Forbes

Gender Differences in Younger Heart Attack Survivors

Thanks to greater awareness and high tech interventions, along with treatment of important risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol, heart attack deaths have dropped substantially over the past 15 years. But despite the impressive gains in prevention and treatment, younger women continue to die from heart disease at a higher than expected rate.  The reasons are varied and complex, but a recent Canadian study sheds some light on the subject. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that following a heart attack, only 65% of women age 55 and younger took all the meds considered appropriate for their condition, compared to 75% of men in the same age group.

In an interview with DailyRx reporter Emily Giunta, I pointed out that “women often minimize their symptoms, or convince themselves and others that everything is OK when in fact it is not. As a result, they may be less inclined to fill prescriptions for medication after a heart attack.”

It is also possible that doctors are reluctant to prescribe certain drugs for women due to concerns about possible side effects. For instance, some heart drugs should not be prescribed if a woman is pregnant or likely to become pregnant. That’s an important discussion for a woman of child-bearing age to have with her cardiologist.

In concluding the interview, I told Giunta that “Heart disease kills more women than all causes of cancer combined, including breast cancer, yet it tends to be underplayed in the press and popular media. Women tend to get to the hospital hours later into a heart attack than do men. It’s been shown that part of the reason for this difference is due to the role the spouse plays in recognizing the importance of the symptoms. And since at least 75 percent of heart disease is preventable in the first place, it’s critical that the message gets out loud and clear to women, their families and their physicians.”

For more on this study, click the link below.

Source: Gender Differences in Heart Attack Survivors | RxWiki