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

Caring for a Stroke Victim May Take a Toll on the Spouse

Strokes can be devastating for the stroke victim, but also for the spouse. A new study breaks down the physical and mental toll exacted on the caregiver. Read journalist Tara Haelle’s report, and get my take on the study’s findings in this article from EverydayHealth.com

Source: Strokes Take a Toll – On the Survivor and Their Partner | Everyday Health

Childhood Obesity Affects Heart Function

With childhood obesity tripling over the past 3 decades, pediatricians, cardiologists and others in the medical profession worry about the future impact of an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle that begins so early in life. A new German study gives us good reason to be concerned.

Researchers found that that obese children were more likely to have enlarged heart chambers and less efficient heart function. Not surprisingly, obesity also had detrimental effects on blood lipids and other measures of heart health.

Although the study did not follow the children out into adulthood, in an interview with DailyRx.com’s Sean Kinney, I suggested that “It’s disturbing, although not surprising, that the changes in obese kids’ risk factors and heart structure mirror what we see in obese adults.

“We know from other studies that obese children are very likely to remain obese throughout their lifetimes, greatly increasing their risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney failure.”

To read more, click on the link below to DailyRx.com.

Obesity Changed Shape and Function of Heart | dailyRx.

Working Long Hours May Harm Your Heart

With the job market tight, and competition for good jobs fierce, many workers are finding themselves working longer and harder hours than ever before. This sure doesn’t feel healthy, and it makes it harder to maintain those good habits that can sustain good health. Now Korean researchers have confirmed suspicions that long working hours may raise the risk for heart disease.

The included over 8000 adults with an average age of 45, and found that those who worked 61 to 70 hours per week were 42% more likely to develop heart disease compared to those who worked 31-40 hours weekly. People whose work weeks amounted to 71 to 80 hours were at 63% higher risk, and those who peaked out over 80 hours raised their risk by 94%. Women appeared to be at even higher risk than men.

As I discussed with DailRx.com reported Nancy Maleki, “When most waking hours are taken up by work, it leaves little time for family obligations, and even less for ‘optional’ activities like exercise or preparing healthy meals.

“Relationships may also suffer, which itself can have negative impacts on health. Poor quality sleep may be another consequence. The end result is a higher risk for hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, all of which raise heart attack risk.”

While limiting work hours may not always be an option, it’s important to budget the limited time you have, and not to waste it all watching TV or staring at a computer screen. Choose simple yet healthy foods like pre-made salads and easy-to-cook tilapia instead of opting for fast foods or snack foods. And do your best to nurture your relationships and get a good night ‘s rest.

Working Long Hours May Increase Heart Disease Risk | dailyRx.

15 Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes – For Dummies

When you’re battling hypertension, the solution doesn’t involve just one factor, whether that’s reducing your salt intake or getting on the treadmill. Instead, controlling hypertension and improving your health involves creating a more balanced, healthier lifestyle overall. Check out this list of the top tips and tricks from my new book, The DASH Diet for Dummies, to make lifestyle changes that can help you work toward a healthier heart and life:

15 Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes – For Dummies.



Prevention Really Works! Cardiovascular Disease Rates Falling

A new report from Europe, reviewed this month on DailyRx.com, mirrors similar trends in the US: Deaths from heart disease and stroke have fallen over the past 20 years.

In an interview with DailyRx.com reporter Don Rauf, I compared the findings from the European report to one published this year in the American journal Circulation. “Over the past 10 years, the US has seen a 38 percent drop in hospitalizations for heart attack, a 33 percent drop in stroke, and a nearly 84 percent drop in hospitalizations for unstable heart symptoms.”

How could this be, when fewer people exercise, diabetes rates are higher than ever, and overweight and obesity are now the norm? One reason: there are fewer smokers. Tobacco is a leading contributor to heart disease. Another? Statin drugs, which lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the heart arteries, are now widely prescribed not only for people with heart disease, but also for those who are at high risk. We know that these drugs reduce heart attack and stroke risk by 30% or more. And by preventing these problems in the first place, the likelihood of developing congestive heart failure and serious physical and mental disability is greatly reduced as well.

We doctors are also more apt to treat blood pressure aggressively, thanks to a wider range of options with fewer side effects than in years past. Greater affordability of medications, thanks to generics, can’t hurt, either.

To read more about the European study, and what the researchers have to say about their findings, click on the link to DailyRx.com.

Cardiovascular Disease Rates Declined | dailyRx.

Socioeconomic Status Tied to Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) happens when the arteries to the legs (and sometimes the arms) become narrowed by cholesterol plaque. When the buildup is severe, this can lead to poor circulation, pain with walking, poor healing, and, in the worst cases, amputation. PAD shares the same risk factors that lead to heart disease, including hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and high cholesterol. However, a recent study from Harvard researchers found that even when those factors are taken into account, people of lower socioeconomic status are harder hit by PAD.

In an interview with reported Nancy Maleki, I pointed out that smoking and diabetes are especially important risk factors for PAD. And while “the cost of cigarettes might lead one to believe that poorer people would be less likely to smoke, in fact that is not the case. Smoking is much more prevalent amongst people of lower socioeconomic background. So is diabetes. But even when smoking, diabetes, and other risk factors were controlled for, people who lived in poverty, regardless of race or ethnicity, were still more likely to have PAD.”

“There is no way to know exactly why this is The authors point out that chronic stress is one possible factor. Stress is known to raise blood levels of inflammation, which may be directly harmful to our arteries.”

The study raises more questions than it answers, but suggests that the effects of stress may be wide ranging. Whether you are rich or poor, getting stress under control is an important part of a heart healthy lifestyle.

You can learn more about the study by clicking the link below.

Socioeconomic Status Tied to PAD Risk | dailyRx.

Stroke Prevention: What You Should Know

A stroke is a devastating event which happens when part of the brain is deprived of vital oxygen, causing the death of brain cells. Unless the condition is reversed very quickly, a stroke victim is usually left with some sort of permanent disability. This can range from a minor speech impediment to paralysis and serious impairment of normal thought processes.

Strokes are often caused by the same factors that contribute to heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking, to name the most critical preventable and treatable issues. Another important cause of stroke is a heart rhythm disturbance called atrial fibrillation. In this condition, blood clots may form in the heart and travel to the brain, cutting off blood flow. Less commonly, strokes can be caused by bleeding into the brain.

While the treatment of strokes is advancing, prevention is critical. One test that can help is a carotid ultrasound, or Doppler. This test detects cholesterol buildup in the arteries that feed the brain, allowing doctors to discover and treat blockages in these arteries before a stroke happens. The test won’t detect other causes of stroke, so a normal test doesn’t mean that you are free and clear.  An electrocardiogram or heart monitor can detect heart arrhythmias. And of course routine blood pressure , cholesterol, and blood sugar screening will uncover other treatable conditions.

Simply exercising 30 minutes 5 days per week will reduce your risk of stroke by a life-saving 30 percent. And a heart smart Mediterranean diet can also help to keep your risk low.

To read more about stroke prevention, to find out whether a carotid Doppler might be appropriate for you, and to get my take on carotid testing, check out DailyRx.com’s reporter Don Rauf’s article by clicking the link below.

Stroke Prevention: Who Should Get Screened and When | dailyRx.