Although the link between smoking and lung cancer is well known, most people are unaware that lifestyle choices that raise the risk for heart disease may also increase the likelihood of developing many other forms of cancer. Breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer have all been linked to diet and obesity. Read more about it here:
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Risk factors for heart disease, including diabetes, tobacco, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity can also reduce normal brain function and memory. A recent study from The Netherlands found that the more risk factors an individual has, the more poorly he or she performed on tests of memory, reasoning, and planning. The test subjects ranged in age from 35-82. Those with the greatest number of risk factors performed 50 percent worse on testing compared to those without risk factors.
Diabetes and tobacco use were associated with the greatest amount of harm. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and more than 90% of cases can be prevented with exercise, weight loss, and diet. As I told DailyRx, “we need to get rid of the notion that we can
play catch-up on our health later in life and all will turn out well in the end. This is a loud and clear wake up call to take control of our health and well-being today.”
Only about one third of people adopt even one healthy lifestyle habit after a heart attack or stroke. As I told DailyRx, “While many studies have looked at ways to help motivate people to exercise, eat healthier and quit smoking, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. These changes require effort and time, but the payoff in better health and vitality is huge.”
We doctors are very good at prescribing pills and performing operations and procedures, but it’s up to you to choose a life that celebrates and fosters good health.
As I told dailyRX News, “I think that most people would be shocked to know just how much salt is in their diet. The truth is only about 15 percent of our sodium intake comes from the saltshaker. The rest is hidden in processed snack foods, restaurant meals, pasta sauces, soup, lunch meats, even bread and other baked goods.” Cutting back even a little could help drop your blood pressure and reduce your risk for a stroke.
Potassium also benefits heart health. Although most people don’t get enough, there’s usually no need to take a supplement. Simply eating 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies each day will give your potassium level a healthy boost.
In years past, coffee and tea were thought of as vices. While not quite shameful, and certainly not on par with smoking and heavy drinking, caffeine consumption was something that we doctors were sure would eventually lead to dire consequences. Never mind that coffee, tea, and chocolate have been integral to cultures around the world for millenia. Something that makes you feel so good must surely be bad for you.
The good news is that we were wrong. And when it comes to coffee and tea, we were seriously wrong. In fact, both are potent sources of heart healthy antioxidants. For more about some of the latest research, take a look at the piece I wrote for HealthLine.com Of course, we can’t generalize to other caffeinated products such as sodas and energy drinks. While they may be loaded with caffeine, they have little if any of the antioxidants found in coffee and tea, and are often saturated with sugar.
The latest study on caffeine and health (published in the March 19, 2013 edition of the British Medical Journal) takes a somewhat different tack. Australian researchers investigated the caffeine habits of long-distance truckers and found that those who regularly drank caffeinated beverages had a 63% lower likelihood of crashing compared to those who never used caffeine. The study was not designed to look at cigarette smoking, but heavy smokers did appear to have a higher rate of crashes, despite the stimulant effects of nicotine.
If you’re driving long distances, you’re better off getting plenty of rest and exercise than relying on caffeine to keep you awake. However, it’s reassuring and potentially life saving to know that a coffee buzz is a safe and relatively effective way to help you stay awake and alert.
Fried chicken, ham hocks, pickled eggs, and sweet tea are classic Southern fare. Yet regular consumption of these comfort foods can raise the risk of stroke by a heartbreaking 30 percent. As a medical student in Nashville, TN in the 1980′s, I became well-acquainted with the Southern tradition of “meat and three.” Although the “three” in this equation refers to vegetables, the traditionally conservative South is uncharacteristically liberal when it comes to greens. Fried okra, mashed potatoes, even macaroni and cheese are often considered vegetables on par with collard greens (a much healthier choice) and salad. Daily Rx interviewed me for this article. You can click the link to learn more.
Looking for an easy brunch recipe? This recipe from Whole Foods should make nearly everyone happy. To boost nutrition and flavor, make it with free range eggs. Substitute egg whites for a few of the eggs to keep the cholesterol count lower or, for vegans, try making it with an egg replacement product instead.
As a cardiologist, statins are an important part of my armamentarium in the fight against heart disease. Statins, a class of drug designed to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, include such well known brands as Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin)and Crestor (rosuvastatin). When used appropriately, they can reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular complications by 30 percent or more. However, as with virtually all medications, some people will suffer side effects. The most common side effect is muscle pain, which happens to about 5 percent of those who take the drugs. Much rarer is the complication known as rhabdomyolysis, a life-threatening breakdown of muscle tissue that, if left untreated, can ultimately lead to kidney failure and even death. Rhabdomyolysis happens to roughly 4 out of every 100,000 people treated with statins each year, and is more common with simvastatin and lovastatin. Certain combinations of drugs can also increase the probability of this reaction, so it’s important that all of your doctors, as well as yor pharmacist, know exactly what medication you are taking.
Because the muscle-related side effects of statins are so well known, many people assume that any pain that develops while they are taking the drugs must be related to the statin. In fact, I often receive worried calls from patients concerned that their joint pain could be related to their statin therapy. That’s why I was so interested to read about a new study from the Keele University in the UK, published this month in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, that found a 40% lower likelihood of osteoarthritis (the most common for of arthritis) in people who had taken a relatively high dose of statin for 4 years, compared to similar individuals who took no statins at all.
The link is not so far-fetched as it might seem. There is evidence that high levels of lipids in the blood are connected to increased inflammation of the joints. Statins also are known to have anti-inflammatory effects. And people with cardiovascular disease are more apt to suffer from arthritis.
While no one is recommending statins for arthritis treatment, it’s great to know that these commonly used drugs may in fact have other health benefits.
While heart attacks and strokes are still relatively uncommon in younger women, obesity doubles the risk for women under the age of 45. It’s never too early to start taking care of your one beautiful heart.