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Unhealthy “Health Fads”

A new paper recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology outlines several trendy ‘health fads’ that—in reality—are actually detrimental to a solidly nutritious diet.

While juicing has long been touted as a popular method to detoxify the body and lose weight, studies now demonstrate that while juicing may improve absorption of some plant nutrients, it leaves out a considerable amount of the fiber found in whole fruits and vegetables. Moreover, people who drink large quantities of juice tend to drink more concentrated calories, without feeling full and satiated afterwards. Research indicates that drinking calories is not as fulfilling as chewing them.

Another trend that has emerged as a global ‘dietary craze’ is coconut oil—yet it is naturally loaded with unhealthy, saturated fats. Additionally, the widespread gluten-free diet ultimately yields little positive health benefit for people not afflicted with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Using olive and vegetable oils in cooking is both more prudent and nutritious, as they contain healthy unsaturated fats.

The aforementioned conclusions are part of a newly released review of the latest scientific evidence concerning food and nutrition, initially conducted to shed light on the latest diet fads. The review’s lead author Dr. Andrew Freeman, co-chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Lifestyle and Nutrition Work Group, has articulated that there is a widespread confusion in terms of nutrition. The review of medical evidence related to overall healthy eating patterns and specific popular dietary fads in the country further reveals that high-dose antioxidant dietary supplements do not produce any more benefits than simply eating foods rich in antioxidants.

Eating a well-balanced diet generally does not require additional vitamin supplementation, and whole grains are ultimately healthier for people than gluten-free alternatives, which are often higher in processed carbohydrates. Researchers conclude that the best route to health is a predominantly plant-based diet that concentrates on whole unprocessed foods, with fruits and vegetables that are “antioxidant-rich nutrient powerhouses.”

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Take Care of your Ticker – American Heart Month

Knowing the Signs of Heart Disease:

Heart disease is the primary killer of both men and women in the United States. Statistics indicate that every 80 seconds, a woman dies from either cardiovascular disease, or a stroke—yet the American Heart Association reports that 80% of all heart-related maladies can be prevented by the implementation of healthy lifestyle changes and education.

In light of American Heart Month, it is timely and prudent to understand the context and background of heart dis
ease, coupled with the risks—and ways to prevent it. Heart disease occurs when there is a negative change in the heart’s structure or function, ofteninvolving blood vessels that are narrow or blocked. Examples include stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia, high bloodpressure, and coronary artery disease.

While there are certain risk factors linked to heart disease that are uncontrollable—like age, gender, race, and hereditary genetics—several modifiable lifestyle choices can influent heart health. Primary risks include smoking, which can increase the risk of heart attack by 70%, and poor diet and nutrition. The latter increases the likelihood of high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, both of which contribute to heart disease. Stress and lack of exercise also exacerbate the risk of blood clots, high blood pressure, and stroke. Physical activity strongly correlates to healthy blood flow, which improves overall heart health.

Several symptoms of poor heart health include fatigue, congestion or coughing, chest pain and pressure, leg or ankle swelling, and pain in the jaw and limbs. Successfully managing heart health entails staying aware of these warning signs, and engaging in an active, healthy lifestyle to promote overall wellness.

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Special Feature – February Women’s Health Month

The Reality of Women and Cardiometabolic Disease

Perception has typically been that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a man’s disease, but the reality is that CVD is, and has been, the leading cause of death in women. In 2013, according to US statistics, CVD accounted for more than 398,000 female deaths.1 Every 90 seconds in the United States, a woman suffers a myocardial infarction.2

Men tend to develop CVD earlier than women, but women develop CVD more rapidly after menopause due to hormonal changes, leading to the development of hypertension, changes in lipid concentrations, and central adiposity. Diabetes is also a more significant risk factor for CVD in women than men.3 Other factors that increase the odds of developing CVD include excessive alcohol use, family history of CVD, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking. Hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and smoking in particular are key risk factors for the development of CVD and about half of American women (49%) have at least one of these three risk factors.2

However, women often remain unaware of their risk and differences have been observed in treatment and outcomes between men and women with cardiometabolic diseases. Preventive therapies are recommended less often to women. Women are more likely to be diagnosed and treated for hypertension, but are less likely to reach treatment goals.4 High-risk women, including those with diabetes, are less likely to be on lipid-lowering agents and reach an LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) level of less than 100 mg/dL. Women with diabetes are also less likely to reach an HbA1c less than 7%.

 

Read more

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Hard on the Heart: Disease of Depression

Hard on Disease of Depression-02While medical experts have long known of the correlation between psychological and physical health, mental illness was not considered a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease—until a recent series of research confirmed that depression may serve as one of the most significant causes of heart problems.

Approximately 350 million people suffer from depression globally, according to data from the World Health Organization. According to new research, the risk of fatal heart disease in men due to depression is almost the same as the risk from elevated cholesterol levels, obesity, and smoking.  The findings further pointed to a greater need for heart health screenings among patients with depression, in addition to mental health checks for patients with cardiovascular disease.

The causality is twofold, as patients with pre-existing heart disease conditions are more likely to become depressed due to their poor health and otherwise healthy people diagnosed with depression are likewise significantly more apt to develop heart disease, compared to the general population. Viewed across the population, depression accounts for roughly 15% of cardiovascular deaths—comparable to the other known risk factors.

A professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Ahmed Tawakol, has conducted extensive research surrounding the connection between stress and heart health, stating that only over the past few decades “has mounting evidence suggested that stress and depression may be more than simple markers of heart disease; they might be important causes.”

While it remains unclear exactly how depression impacts heart health, it is likely that stress hormones play a critical role. Yet leading a healthy lifestyle—including diet, physical activity, managing stress, being smoke-free—is known to be effective in preventing and treating both depression and heart conditions.

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The Debate About the Risks of Saturated Fats Goes On… and On

A recent longitudinal, cohort study consisting of more than 100,000 men and women (taken from data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study) who were followed for over 20 years showed that replacing 1% of energy consumed in the form of saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats, whole-grain carbohydrates or plant proteins, led to a 5 to 8% decreased risk of coronary heart disease. Results of the study also showed an association between increased intake of individual saturated fats and an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Read more

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Top-Line Results Show Alirocumab Reduces Frequency and Need for Apheresis in Patients with Heterozygous FH

Top-line results from the phase 3 ODYSSEY ESCAPE trial, which evaluated 62 patients with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH) who required chronic, weekly, or biweekly apheresis therapy, have shown that the PCSK9 inhibitor alirocumab reduced the frequency of apheresis by 75% compared with placebo, and eliminated the need for apheresis for 63% of patients in the study.

Alirocumab has been approved since July 2015 in the United States as an adjunct to diet and maximally tolerated statin therapy for the treatment of HeFH or clinical atherosclerotic CVD when additional lowering of LDL cholesterol is required.

Read more on the study here. Detailed data will be presented at future medical conferences.

For perspective from expert faculty on the management of high-risk patients in the PCSK9 era, plan to attend the Best of the CMHC Regional Conference Series taking place in Atlanta, GA on May 7 and in Chicago, IL on June 18, as well as the 11th Annual CMHC in Boston, MA October 5- 8, 2016.

Reference:
Medscape. ODYSSEY ESCAPE top-line results: alirocumab reduces HFH-related apheresis therapy.

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