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

Cholesterol Meds Lower Stroke Risk in Seniors

It’s clear that cholesterol medication can reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke in those at greatest risk. Yet when it comes to the more senior population, research has been lacking.  In many studies of the drugs, the average age of participants is in the mid-60’s, but a recent French study chose to evaluate a much older population.

In this 9 year observational study of nearly 7500 relatively healthy men and women, the average starting age was 74. At the onset of the study, none had been diagnosed with heart attacks or strokes. Over an average of 9 years the researchers found that those who were prescribed drugs to lower cholesterol and triglycerides had a 30 percent lower likelihood of developing stroke. The risk reduction held, even when factors such as age, body size, baseline cholesterol, and blood pressure were taken into account.

Cholesterol drugs aren’t for everyone, but it’s good to know that when they are needed, the benefits appear to be substantial even for seniors.

To read more about the study, and to get my take on the findings, see reporter Beth Greenwood’s article at DailyRx.com

 

Source: Cholesterol Rx and Stroke: The Effects on Older Patients | dailyRx

 

 

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

More Great Reasons to Love Chocolate

Chocolate lovers may be pleased to learn that a little daily indulgence may reduce heart disease and stroke risk.

Results showed that over about a 12-year period:

  • 14 percent of the non-chocolate eaters had coronary heart disease compared to 10 percent of those eating the most chocolate.
  • 5 percent of non-chocolate eaters had strokes, but only 3 percent of the top chocolate eaters did.

Interestingly, the benefits extended to people who snacked on milk chocolate, not just the dark chocolate which we typically consider healthier.

I commented on the study in an interview with reported Tara Haelle. “Don’t feel guilty about indulging your chocolate habit, but take fat, calories, and other not-so-healthy ingredients like excess sugar into account. And remember that there is no ‘magic bullet’ to prevent heart disease and stroke. Make a chocolate indulgence part of your heart-smart diet and healthy way of life.”

Read more here: Does a Chocolate a Day Keep Heart Disease Away? | Everyday Health

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.

New Guidelines to Prevent Stroke in Women

Did you know that more women suffer from strokes than men? Strokes, sometimes known as “brain attacks” can be devastating, often resulting in paralysis, weakness, memory loss, or dementia. While the usual risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and smoking apply to both genders, there are some conditions that are especially risky for women.

Migraine with aura (as opposed to regular migraines) is one such risk factor. So is pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. And women who smoke and take birth control pills greatly raise their risk for stroke.

In an interview with DailyRx.com reporter Sheryl Wood, I commented that “these are important and long-overdue guidelines that highlight some of the risk factors unique to women.” To read more about the guidelines and their implications, click on the link below.

 

New Guidelines to Prevent Stroke in Women | dailyRx.

The Link Between Weight and Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, a disordered rhythm of the upper heart chambers, or atria, is a major cause of stroke. In atrial fibrillation, the atria quiver, rather than contract. This may allow blood clots to develop inside the heart. When these clots break loose, they can travel to the brain, resulting in a stroke. Treatment of atrial fibrillation typically includes blood thinners to prevent this potentially catastrophic complication.

Obesity raises the risk for atrial fibrillation by a number of different mechanisms. As I explained to EverydayHealth.com writer Kristen Stewart, hypertension, or high blood pressure is a common contributor to atrial fibrillation. While hypertension affects people of all shapes and sizes, people who are overweight or obese are more likely to be hypertensive.  “High blood pressure adds extra strain to the heart and can cause enlargement of the atria, or upper heart chambers. Consequently, the electrical patterns of the heart, which begin in the atria, can become stretched out and disordered, causing atrial fibrillation.”

The article goes on to note that “Sleep apnea, another condition that’s more common in people who are overweight or obese, creates abrupt elevations in blood pressure and the pressure inside the chest. This can also stretch or enlarge the atria, increasing the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

“In addition, carrying around extra body fat may also result in inflammatory substances that can affect the heart’s normal function.”

Learn more about how body weight can affect your risk for atrial fibrillation at EverydayHealth.com:  The Link Between Weight and Atrial Fibrillation – Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke Prevention – Everyday Health.

Testosterone Therapy May Be Risky for the Heart

Testosterone, sometimes called the “male hormone”, has been aggressively marketed to men as a treatment to improve virility, energy, and strength, among other things, yet research into the effects of testosterone on heart health has been lacking. Now a study from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas reports that the therapy may have unintended consequences, raising the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

As I told DailyRx.com reporter Katti Gray, “Testosterone is often prescribed for men with erectile dysfunction (ED). In fact, ED is often an early indicator of cardiovascular disease. Just like the heart and brain, the blood vessels supplying the penis can be constricted by cholesterol buildup.

“While many men turn to pharmaceuticals and supplements for ED, treating risk factors for heart disease (including high blood pressure, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and high cholesterol) may also improve ED. There is even good evidence that the Mediterranean diet can improve ED, although it may take several months.

In my interview, I cautioned that this new study “provides important information for men who are considering testosterone therapy … Diagnosing testosterone deficiency can be tricky, since levels typically vary throughout the day, yet prescriptions for hormone therapy have soared. Now that we have strong evidence that the therapy can raise heart attack and stroke risk, it is critical that doctors and their patients discuss these issues carefully — and consider other options — before choosing testosterone treatment.”

To learn more about the study and its implication, follow the link to the article on DailyRX.com

Men’s Hormone Therapy May Be Risky for the Heart | dailyRx.

Can B Vitamins Prevent Strokes?

The use of supplements is increasingly controversial. Some, such as high dose folic acid, may actually promote the growth of cancer cells, while others, such as selenium, may raise the risk of other diseases such as diabetes when taken to excess.

A new analysis of 14 studies of B vitamins suggests that B-vitamin supplements might lower the risk for stroke. However, the effect appears to be fairly small, and some of the the studies showed no benefit at all. As I discussed with DailyRx.com reporter Katti Gray, “Although when the combined studies are taken as a whole there does appear to be a small benefit, it’s hard to draw strong conclusions about supplements. It’s always best to get our nutrition from food, rather than from a pill. In nature, foods rich in B vitamins, such as fish, green leafy vegetables, and dairy products, also are full of important antioxidants and other nutrients that support brain and heart health.”

You can read more about the study by following the link to the article.

 

Supplementing Attempts to Avoid Stroke | dailyRx.