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

Pesticides and Other Pollutants May Heighten Heart Risks

DDT and other pesticides may have serious effects on the endocrine, or hormonal system, and since they accumulate in fatty tissues, obese women may be at higher risk. Other sources of these endocrine disrupters include common plastics and auto exhaust. Once these chemicals get lodged in the body, they can be very hard to flush out, and consequently may impact our health in a wide variety of ways, raising the risks for heart disease, generalized inflammation, and diabetes, among others.

A Portuguese study recently assessed the presence of these chemicals in the bodies of 121 obese women, and reported alarmingly high levels.

As I told DailyRx reporter Don Rauf, “The study should … remind us that our own health is inextricably linked to the health of the Earth, and that by protecting our planet, we are also protecting ourselves, those we love, and all of our fellow creatures.”

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

 

 

 

Source: How Pesticides May Heighten Heart Risks | dailyRx News

Improved Fitness Reverses Atrial Fibrillation Heart Symptoms | Everyday Health

Atrial fibrillation is a common but serious heart arrhythmia, affecting 2.7 million people in the United States. This irregular heart rhythm substantially raises your risk for stroke and may also contribute to congestive heart failure. Blood thinners and other medications are commonly required to keep the problem under control.

Atrial fibrillation is more prevalent in older folks, but obesity is a major risk factor. Hypertension, coronary artery disease, lung disease, heart valve disease, and sleep apnea can also contribute. Although it cannot always be prevented, a recent study found that people who improved their fitness and lost weight also cut their risk of atrial fibrillation symptoms in half.

As I told Everyday Health reporter Tara Haelle, “What’s really striking about this study is the fact that achieving a measurably higher level of fitness had a really huge impact on whether or not someone would be free of atrial fibrillation and not require drugs or procedures to treat the condition, whether or not they lost weight.”

To learn more, click on the link below.

Source: Improved Fitness Reverses Atrial Fibrillation Heart Symptoms | Everyday Health

High Altitude, Low Obesity?

There’s magic, and good health, in fresh mountain air. A recent study of US Military service members conducted by Air Force Captain Jameson Voss, MD and colleagues, found that the likelihood of service members transitioning from simply overweight to frankly obese was 41 percent lower when they were assigned to a high altitude post.

As I told Huffington Post reporter Morgan Jones:

“Having lived in New Mexico, and done some of my training there, I know that a high altitude lifestyle tends to be one that celebrates an active outdoor lifestyle. People who live at altitude often have easier access to hiking and biking trails than city or suburban dwellers. And while winter may be a time to huddle indoors in the ‘burbs, for those at altitude, it often means more exciting winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. The lifestyle often extends to a fresher and cleaner diet, and fewer unhealthy habits.”

But it appears to be more than simply a healthy mountain lifestyle. “As the authors point out, the lower oxygen levels at altitude may in fact have a direct effect upon appetite and metabolism, above and beyond any impact on lifestyle.”

You can read more about this fascinating study at HuffingtonPost.com:

High Altitude, Low Obesity?.

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.

Prosperity Raises Diabetes Risk

Diabetes is more prevalent in the South than in any other part of the country, with the African American community especially hard hit. A recent report from Ohio State University examined the connection between rising rates of prosperity and diabetes risk. The study found that as incomes rose, so did the risk for diabetes, especially amongst African Americans. This is not the first time economic success has been tied to diabetes risk. In fact, a similar study from Cuba published in the British Medical Journal this April found that during a time of economic crisis, the average Cuban lost about 12 pounds and the incidence of diabetes plummeted. Once the crisis was over, the weight was rapidly regained and the prevalence of diabetes increased by 116%.

As I discussed with DailyRx columnist Don Rauf, “Many Southerners, especially those living in poverty, traditionally worked in jobs requiring physical labor. They burned hundreds more calories per day and had less time and money to spend on meals and snacks. Furthermore, fast food was not widely available in the rural South until the past couple of decades. Beans, rice, and greens were cheap and plentiful and made up a greater part of the daily diet. Although pork and fried foods have always been part of a Southern diet, portions were smaller when money was tighter. Now, with greater prosperity, more people are working indoors in sedentary jobs and going out for lunch instead of bringing their own food from home.”

Although it may become more widespread as people become more prosperous, diabetes itself can cause serious economic hardship. It raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, amputation, and dementia. Ironically, this means that those with new-found prosperity may be at higher risk to cycle back into poverty.

To read more about this study, follow the link to DailyRx.com:

Climbing Incomes May Raise Diabetes Rate | dailyRx.

Obesity in Young Adulthood Accelerates Heart Disease Risk

A study from the Kaiser Research Foundation and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports that the arteries of young adults who gain weight over the course of 25 years are more likely to be calcified than those who maintain a healthy body weight. And the longer someone is overweight, the more likely they are to have abnormal heart arteries.

Coronary artery calcification is important because it is a marker for cholesterol buildup. As cholesterol takes hold in the arteries, it becomes hardened, or calcified.  We are able to detect this calcified cholesterol through a quick CT scan that uses no dye, and requires only about 2 mammograms of radiation. Although we are detecting calcification, we are really looking at arterial cholesterol with this test.

This study and many others make it clear that obesity is not simply a cosmetic issue. As I told DailyRx.com, “Obesity is associated with many unhealthy lifestyle choices, including a diet anchored by fast food and processed food and a sedentary lifestyle. It raises the risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, which are major contributors to heart disease.”  Obesity itself also increases inflammation in the body, which can be directly harmful to the heart arteries.

Read more about the implications of this important study be following the link below:

Hard-Hearted News About Belly Fat | dailyRx.

High Blood Pressure on the Rise in Children

A recent report from Harvard Medical School and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has uncovered yet another disturbing trend in the health of children and adolescents. According to the researchers, the incidence of high blood pressure has risen 27% in children and adolescents,  compared to data from 13 years ago. In an interview with DailyRx.com, I stated that “this should serve as a major wake-up call to parents, schools, food manufacturers, and restaurants.High blood pressure is a major contributor to strokes, heart failure, heart attacks, and kidney failure, problems that we are are already seeing in much younger adults than ever before.”

Many young people are not screened for high blood pressure, and those who are are often not treated effectively. Since high blood pressure itself rarely causes symptoms, many kids and young adults are likely to go untreated until damage to the heart, brain, or kidneys has already occurred. As a cardiologist who cares for many young adults, I know that this is not just a theoretical concern. I see these patients every day.

Not surprisingly, the study also found progressive increases in weight and waist sizes over the same period of time. The fact that we continue to see such an increase despite greater public awareness of the obesity epidemic suggests that the problem is not being taken seriously, especially by parents who themselves may be making unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices.In my interview with DailyRx.com, I emphasized the fact that “the solution –a healthy diet, regular exercise, and weight management– is not that complicated, but it’s critical that parents take their roles as nurturers and providers seriously enough to make a real difference. And it’s also imperative that our schools do not continue to enable a lifestyle that is counterproductive to good health.”

 

The Pressure is Rising for Kids | dailyRx.