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Month: July 2017

Stopping Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Could be Deadly

A new study confirms that stopping a cholesterol-lowering drug can be critically dangerous. Researchers found that people who stopped taking statins, after reporting a side effect, were 13% more likely to die, or have a hear attack or stroke over the next four years.


Statins work by inhibiting the liver’s ability to produce cholesterol, while simultaneously helping the organ remove existing fats in the blood. These drugs are ‘almost universally prescribed’ to people with cardiovascular disease; moreover, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends the drugs to people ages 40-75, who have no history of heart disease, if they have one or more risk factors.

While there is extensive literature and clinical studies surrounding the efficacy of statins, a quarter to a half of patients stop taking the drugs within six months to a year, according to Dr. Alexander Turchin of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. In order to determine whether people who continue taking statins fare better than those who do not, researchers analyzed data from two Boston hospitals between 2000 and 2011.

During that period, over 200,000 adults were prescribed and treated with statins; almost 45,000 of those people reported a side effect that they thought might be from the medication: generally muscle or stomach aches. The researchers focused on 28,266 people from those 45,000 with possible side effects: most of them, 19,989 individuals, continued to take the statins.

Approximately four years after the side effects were reported, 3,677 patients had died, or suffered a heart attack or stroke. Overall, researchers found that people who stopped taking statins were 13 percent more likely to die or have a heart attack, or stroke. According to Dr. Robert Rosenson, a professor of cardiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, these new findings further confirm and expand on previous studies that demonstrated the benefits of continuing to take statins.

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Ozone Exposure Tied to Higher Cardiovascular Risk

Research findings recently published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, conducted by researchers from Duke University with colleagues from several educational institutions in China, indicate that exposure to high and harmful ozone levels can increase blood pressure: a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Senior author Junfeng Zhang, a professor in global and environmental health at Duke University, stated: “We know that ozone can damage the respiratory system, reduce lung function, and cause asthma attacks.” While exposure to ozone has been correlated with reductions in lung function, this new study of adults in China reveals that it is also strongly correlated with increased risks of heart attack and stroke. The study monitored 89 health adults in China from December 2014 to January 2015, measuring indoor and outdoor ozone levels, in addition to other pollutants. Other measured markers included levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, stiffness in arteries, blood clotting, blood pressure, and lung function.

After analyzing the data, the researchers confirmed that ozone exposure was “linked to markers of blood platelet activation and raised blood pressure;” the former is a high risk factor for blood clotting. The ozone exposure levels during the study were lower than levels that have been associated with impaired lung function: “The main basic for the current air quality standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Professor Zhang has said that in 2015, a third of the entire U.S. population (approximately 108 million people) lived in geographic regions in which ozone levels were higher than the set EPA standard. Moreover, as global ozone levels will increase due to climate change and the increasing warmth of the atmosphere, there will likely be an increased trend in these findings.

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Link Between Childhood Cardiovascular Risk Factors & Future Lower Cognition

A recent study published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology includes data that indicates an association between the presence of cardiovascular risk factors in adolescence, and a lower cognition later in life–“regardless of the exposure experienced during adulthood.”


The data investigated a sample of 3,596 individuals from childhood to adulthood, including follow-up cognitive testing, in addition to measurements of cardiovascular risk factors like cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body mass index, exposure to smoking, etc.

The study was able to specifically pinpoint the worsening of midlife cognitive performance among those individuals with high blood pressure and cholesterol in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. The data further demonstrated that smoking in adolescence and young adulthood is linked to a decrease in cognition: specifically, memory and learning.

Study participants between the ages of 6 and 24 who had all risk factors within the recommended levels performed better on cognitive testing than their counterparts who exceeded all risk factors guidelines at least twice; the difference corresponded to the effect of 6 years of aging. Researchers further found that those participants with the highest blood pressure had a difference in cognitive age of 8.4 years, compared to those with the lowest blood pressure.

Suvi Rovio, PhD, lead author of the study and a senior scientist at the Research Centre of Applied and Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku in Finland, stated: “These findings support the need for active monitoring and treatment strategies against cardiovascular risk factors from childhood…this shouldn’t just be a matter of cognitive deficits prevention, but one of primordial prevention.”

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The Benefits of a Vegan Diet

While there are a multitude of promises available regarding specific diets that will help individuals lose weight and/or mitigate cardiovascular risks factors, clinical research indicates that within a few weeks of eating a whole-food, plant-based diet, many people will have improved insulin sensitivity and lowered levels of cholesterol.


Dr. Thomas M. Campbell, Medical Director of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and clinical director of the University of Rochester Program for Nutrition Medicine, also refers to the high probability of improved bowel movements, enhanced sleep hygiene and increased energy, and improved skin quality.

Extensive scientific literature and research demonstrates that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat are linked to a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease. Meat and fish have saturated fat, while a vegan diet is devoid of any cholesterol, and low in terms of saturated fat. When people begin to eat a plant-based diet, therefore, their cholesterol levels decline; and ultimately, their risk of cardiovascular disease decreases. This all happens within a few weeks, as blood vessel walls become healthier due to the increase of nitric oxide in arterial walls, which reduces the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Moreover, without heavy saturated fats from animal products, blood is less viscous and begins to pump more easily at lower pressures.

The American Diabetes association confirms that among individuals with type 2 diabetes, those who eat a vegan diet have considerably improved glycemic control, in addition to lessened cardiovascular risk factors. The diet can even reverse the disease altogether, in some patients. According to Dr. Michael Klaper, an internationally-recognized authority on the link between diet and health, “A person with uncontrolled diabetes, on insulin, can see demonstrable improvements in medication usage and efficacy in 24 hours.” Conversely, another study also published by the American Diabetes Association indicates that those who eat high amounts of animal protein are 22 percent more likely to develop diabetes.

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Biomarkers Could Predict Best Diets

A new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has indicated two biomarkers that can predict the efficacy of certain diets for weight loss: specifically, for people with prediabetes or diabetes.

Through an analysis of over 1,200 adults, researchers discovered that a person’s fasting blood glucose levels, fasting insulin levels, or both, could pinpoint which diets would most likely lead to weight loss. These biomarkers were particularly effective in determining which diets were best for people with pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Each year, millions of us go on diets in an attempt to lose weight, but not all of us succeed. A new study has uncovered two biomarkers that could predict how effective certain diets will be for weight loss, particularly for people with prediabetes or diabetes.

Statistics from the American Diabetes Association indicate that approximately 29.1 million people in the Untied States have diabetes; estimates show that around 75 million people have pre-diabetes, yet almost 90% remain unaware. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the condition: the body is unable to effectively use the hormone insulin, which causes high blood glucose levels. For people with prediabetes, blood glucose levels remain higher than normal—yet not high enough to lead to a diagnosis of diabetes.

The researchers in the study believe that a person’s fasting blood glucose and insulin levels could be utilized to help identify the most effective diet for weight loss, after analyzing the data of three dietary clinical trials: the Diet, Obesity, and Genes trial, the OPUS Supermarket intervention (SHOPUS), and the Nutrient-gene interactions in human obesity (NUGENOB) trial. The subjects were all overweight; the researchers evaluated and assessed their fasting blood glucose levels, and fasting insulin levels, in order to determine whether the levels were associated with weight loss in response to certain diets.

These results symbolize a kind of breakthrough in personalized nutrition: among adults with prediabetes, the team found that a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits was the most effective for weight loss. For example, in the SHOPUS trial, adults with prediabetes who followed a diet high in the aforementioned foods lost more weight than those who followed a controlled diet. For people with type 2 diabetes, the researchers found that a diet rich in plant-based, “healthy” fats, and low in carbohydrates, was most effective for weight loss.

The team reported that adding participants’ fasting insulin levels to the analysis further strengthened the identified correlations between diet and weight loss, confirming the hypothesis that fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin levels may be biomarkers for weight loss.

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CMHC Announces Partnership with Association of Black Cardiologists

CMHC is excited to announce a partnership with Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating disparities in cardiovascular disease and treatment among minorities.

Founded in 1974, ABC’s current public and private partnerships impact communities across the nation, spurred by the belief that “good health is the cornerstone of progress.” The organization’s primary mission is to create accessible and affordable healthcare for all populations, ultimately lowering the growing rates of cardiovascular disease.

The partnership allows both CMHC and ABC to increase awareness surrounding the prevention, diagnosis, and management of cardiometabolic risk.

As the largest multidisciplinary conference solely focused on the management of cardiometabolic risk, coupled with the prevention of cardiovascular and metabolic disease, CMHC’s 12th Annual Cardiometabolic Health Congress—taking place from October 4-7 in Boston—offers today’s healthcare practitioners and professionals an opportunity to learn clinical practices and protocols that can immediately be implemented and integrated. With ABC, the 3 ½ day event will further focus on disparities in healthcare, and pragmatic approaches to redefine the practice of medicine.

For more information about the event and to access the full agenda, visit https://www.cardiometabolichealth.org/2017/boston-12th-annual.html.

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Artificial Intelligence in Precision Cardiovascular Medicine

The rapidly growing field of Artificial Intelligence (AI)—a field of computer science that seeks to perform and directly mimic tasks that generally require human intelligence—has developed a series of techniques that have been applied in cardiovascular medicine. Designed to enhance patient care, improve cost-effectiveness, and reduce readmission and mortality rates, these machine-learning techniques have been increasingly used for cardiovascular disease diagnosis and prediction.

Researchers believe that AI, in the near future, will ultimately result in ‘a paradigm shift toward precision cardiovascular medicine,’ as its applications in clinical care have tremendous potential in facilitating improvements in care: including machine learning, deep learning, and cognitive computing. The term ‘big data’ connotes extraordinarily large sets of data, which cannot be neither analyzed nor interpreted through traditional methods of data-processing. This type of data includes statistics from mobile phone apps, wearable devices, social media, and ‘omic’ data (i.e. genomics and proteomics), in addition to data from standardized electronic health records.

Clinical care in cardiovascular medicine currently faces several challenges, most of which relate to high costs in prevention and treatment, low cost-effectiveness and inadequacy in patient care, and overutilization. Moreover, because cardiovascular diseases are inherently complex—due to the multiple genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors that cause them—deep learning in AI, through the use of big data, can be used in pattern recognition to heterogeneous syndromes and image recognition in CV imaging; deep learning also uses multiple layers and transformations through several algorithms.

The concept of deep-learning, a new machine-learning technique that plays a critical role in areas including image recognition, has been applied through ideas and inventions including Facebook’s facial recognition system, speech-recognition, self-driving cars, mobile apps, machine vision camera software, IBM Watson, and robots. Because AI can effectively ‘classify new genotypes or phenotypes of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction,’ AI can greatly improve the accuracy of cardiac imaging methods.

Moreover, using big data can automatically generate new hypotheses, allowing physicians to make improved clinical decisions and diagnoses. The role of AI applications, such as machine learning, deep learning, and cognitive computing, can enable precision cardiovascular medicine, and move beyond traditional statistical tools—which will improve the estimated CVD risk scores to automate prediction.

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