0

Tag: stroke

Stroke & Dementia Risk Grows with Intake of Artificial Sweeteners

Diet sodas are gaining negative attention yet again, and for good reason. A recent study found that consuming a daily can of sugar-free soda is associated with higher risks of suffering a stroke or developing dementia. Heavily sugared drinks already had a bad rap for causing a myriad of health issues such as weight gain, liver damage, kidney stones, diabetes, and heart disease. This study has refreshed the concern for disease risk in those that believe diet soda is a suitable replacement.

Researchers found that drinking one diet soda a day is associated with a 2.96 times more likely chance of suffering an ischaemic stroke and a 2.89 times higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s. While it would be irresponsible to imply that artificial sweeteners actually cause stroke or dementia (proving causation is very difficult in health studies) it is important to acknowledge the study’s warning. There is a correlation between artificial sweeteners and the increased risk of dementia and stroke that’s very concerning. It’s certainly an added consideration that keeps me far away from diet sodas.

Artificial sweeteners have also been associated with health concerns besides stroke and dementia. A 2009 study found that people who consumed diet drinks daily had a 67 percent higher risk for type 2 diabetes and a 36 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome.

It has been found that artificial sweeteners can dangerously impact your gut microbiome. One study suggests that artificial sweeteners favor bacteria that pull energy from food and convert it into fat. Meaning, If you are consuming zero calorie sweeteners specifically to cut down on weight gain, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Additionally, studies suggest that fake sugar can induce glucose intolerance, which can be a precursor of increased risk for liver and heart disease.

It has also been shown that artificial sweeteners can have a more potent taste and flood your sugar receptors. Meaning if you are regularly using artificial sweeteners you may find naturally sweet foods less appealing making it more difficult to satisfy your sweet craving. It can also contribute to making bitter foods such as vegetables taste downright disgusting. This can contribute to a vicious cycle of increased sugar intake, which can cause a cascading effect on your overall health.

Share onShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

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.

Share onShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Breastfeeding May Lower Risk of Heart Disease & Stroke

While there is extensive research documenting the benefits of breastfeeding for babies, a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association indicates that the practice may lessen a mother’s risk of heart disease and stroke. Moreover, researchers found that a mother’s risk of cardiovascular disease further decreased with each additional 6 months of breastfeeding. Previous studies have suggested that women who breastfeed may experience short-term reductions in blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight loss, which likely benefit cardiovascular health.

The study, conducted in China, analyzed data from 289,754 Chinese women who were free of cardiovascular disease at the study’s baseline; almost all participants had children. The study required the women to provide information surrounding reproductive history, including whether or not they had breastfed children and the duration of breastfeeding.

The researchers assessed the incidence of heart disease and stroke among the women over an eight year follow-up, ultimately finding that women who had breastfed children were at a 9% lower risk of heart disease and an 8% lower risk of stroke, compared to those who had not breastfed. When looking at the results by breastfeeding duration, results revealed that women who had breastfed children for 2 years or longer were 18 percent less likely to develop heart disease and 17% less likely to have a stroke. For every 6 additional months of breastfeeding, risks of heart disease and stroke were respectively reduced by 4% and 3%.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States; statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately 610,000 people die from heart disease each year, accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths. Likewise, stroke is one of the country’s leading causes of disability: there are more than 795,000 people in the U.S. who have a stroke annually.

Senior author Zhengming Chen of the University of Oxford states that “the findings should encourage more widespread breast-feeding for the benefit of the mother as well as the child.”

Share onShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Obesity Crisis Will Double Number of Stroke Victims

Fueled by the consistently worsening obesity crisis, cases of stroke victims are expected to almost double in the next two decades.

Experts note that the number of new strokes in the United Kingdom alone could jump by 44% by 2035; currently, more than one in four adults qualifies as obese or overweight—compared to one in thirty-five, a statistic from the 70s.

The Stroke Association has noted that poor lifestyles habits put people at a much greater risk of attacks, further commenting that the additional costs of skyrocketing cases could cripple public health service organizations.

While obesity significantly boosts the risk of stroke, some elementary lifestyle changes can be implemented in order to prevent cardiovascular disease: including eating healthier meals, and committing to an exercise routine. Statistics indicate that almost nine in ten strokes are due to long-term conditions like diet, lack of movement, and obesity.

Recent studies have also demonstrated that the risks for stroke also exist for younger people, not solely older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity has more than doubled in younger children and teens throughout the past three decades.

The findings highlight the need to recognize obesity as a risk factor for stroke in younger adults, and take steps to control related conditions like high blood pressure and hypertension.

Share onShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Calling All Cheese Lovers

A large-scale analysis indicates that cheese, and other dairy products, do not lead to an increased risk of death from heart disease or stroke.

A study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology involving scientists at the Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health at the University of Reading, England analyzed 29 studies that collectively represented almost 1 million people and 93,000 instances of death.

Within the studies, the team focused on diet—specifically, whether or not participants consumed large amounts of dairy products—and the rates of CVD, coronary heart disease, and death.

The conclusions and findings showed no correlation or association between a diet high in dairy and risk of heart disease, combining data from 29 prospective cohort studies.

One of the study’s authors, Jing Guo, stated that this latest analysis provides “further evidence that a diet high in dairy foods is not necessarily damaging to health.” The evidence supports previous findings that demonstrate the health benefits of dairy foods in an integrated, well-balanced diet.

Share onShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Air Pollution & Traffic: Environmental Impacts on the Heart

Recent findings that are part of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, an ongoing examination in six U.S. communities of the lifestyle factors that predict development of cardiovascular disease, indicate that traffic-related air pollution may increase heart disease risk by lowering levels of so-called “good” cholesterol.

In a study of 6,654 middle-aged and older adults from diverse ethnic backgrounds, participants living in areas with high air pollution levels tended to have lower high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, levels.Researchers also found men and women responded to air pollutants differently:The HDL was lower at higher pollution exposure for both sexes, but the difference was greater in women.

The link between air pollution and an increase in cardiovascular disease is not new. In 2004, an American HeartAssociation scientific statement concluded exposure to air pollution contributes to cardiovascular illness and death. A 2010 update elaborated on those risks.
But this new study begins the work at understanding the biology behind the link.
It is the first large study to examine associations between air pollution and HDL particle number, said lead author Griffith Bell, Ph.D.,from the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle. The study was published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and VascularBiology.

The pollution-heart disease connection may be explained by a reduction in the number of small, cholesterol-depleted HDL particles, which leaves the average amount of cholesterol in HDL particles higher on aper-particle basis. Recent evidence suggests that the number and functionality of HDL particles may be a better gauge of HDL’s heart-healthy effects than their cholesterol content, Bell said.

HDL is known as “good” cholesterol because it helps remove other forms of cholesterol from the bloodstream. Experts believe HDL acts as a scavenger, carrying LDL – or “bad” – cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and passed from the body.

Researchers found:
–Higher exposure to black carbon, a marker of traffic-related pollution, averaged over a year was significantly associated with a lower level of “good” HDL cholesterol.
–Higher particulate matter exposure over three months was associated with a lower HDL particle number.
–Changes in HDL levels may already appear after brief and medium-length exposures to air pollution.

More and more researchers are examining air pollution and its effects on the heart.
In February, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that exposure to pollution caused mice to experience changes in the normal composition of gut bacteria. The changes, according to their study published in the journal Nature, promoted the circulation of cholesterol in the bloodstream, and that, in turn, promoted the formation of plaque in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis.

Many previous studies on the health effects of air pollution assumed people living in the same city have the same level of air pollution exposure. But this new study used cohort-focused monitoring campaigns looking at time and place to estimate air pollution exposure for each study participant, Bell said.

This study measured HDL particle numbers, so “we were unable to examine whether they changed over time,” Bell said. That means more study is needed. Continuing to track how HDL levels change with extent of exposure to traffic air pollution and investigating how air pollution interferes with HDL’s activity in the body will help confirm and understand the role of HDL.

“Our study helps strengthen the biological plausibility of the link between traffic-related air pollution and cardiovascular disease,” he said. “We’re slowly beginning to understand some of the biology of how that link works.”

Share onShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Pass the Butter!

A new editorial published by a group of cardiologists in the British Journal of Sports Medicine argues that saturated fats, found in foods like butter, cheese, and meats, does not clog arteries and ultimately lead to cardiovascular disease. The doctors report that a Mediterranean-style diet, coupled with minimal stress and daily exercise, should be the primary focus for the prevention of heart disease.

The authors cite systematic reviews and observational studies that show no correlation or association between consumption of saturated fat and increased risk of heart disease. British cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra, of Lister Hospital, argues that even reducing saturated fat intake in people with pre-established heart disease does not minimize the risk of heart attacks. Yet for decades, researchers, doctors, and scientists believed that cutting out saturated fat would lower cardiovascular disease—despite firmly solid evidence.

While some people have transitioned to diets of carbohydrates, these also play a role in the gradual development of cardiovascular disease. Malhotra states that eating too much pasta, bread, and potatoes will rapidly spike blood glucose levels; our bodies respond to carbs by over-producing insulin. When insulin levels are consistently and constantly too high, the hormone is unable to deliver glucose to cells, in order to provide energy. Ultimately, an inflammatory response occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin, which Malhotra and his colleagues believe is the true culprit.

The editorial sheds light upon the critical importance of diet, as a dietary imbalance of nutrients can ultimately damage arteries; the lipid, soft fat plaque that is more prone to rupturing is the ultimate cause of a sudden heart attack. The combination of a healthful diet, regular exercise, and stress reduction is considered to be the optimal way to reduce cardiovascular disease, and most other chronic diseases.

Share onShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Happy Hour: Good for the Heart?

A recent large-scale study indicates that alcohol, in moderation, is healthy for the heart. New research published in the British Medical Journal adds further evidence linking alcohol consumption with lower risks of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. While the new study is consistent with earlier results that have shown potential heart health benefits from occasional drinking, it amplifies the message due to its large sample population.

Drinking about a glass of wine for women per day, and two glasses of wine for men, showed benefits for heart health in a large group of U.K. adults; of the near 2 million subjects, none had cardiovascular disease when the study began. People who did not drink showed increased risk for eight of the heart ailments, ranging from 12% to 56%, compared to those who drank in moderation; the eight conditions included the most common heart events—such as heart attack and stroke. Non-drinkers had a 33% higher risk of unstable angina, a condition in which the heart does not receive sufficient blood flow, and a 56% higher risk of dying unexpectedly from cardiovascular disease—compared to those people who drank a glass or two of alcohol each day.

There are several potential ways that casual drinking might benefit heart health, although none have been directly proven. Alcohol consumption has been linked to increases in ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, and properties in the blood that reduce clotting. It is also possible that moderate drinking helps reduce stress levels.

Yet alcohol does not provide protection against four less common heart problems, including certain types of mild strokes. It is not clear from the current study why alcohol lowers the risk of some heart conditions and not others, but the results should reassure people who drink a few glasses of alcohol each week. Moreover, while casual drinking shows potential benefit, drinking to excess can increase risks for a variety of heart problems.

Share onShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn