Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Is Obesity Hard-Wired in The Brain?

The escalating obesity rate has become a tricky issue for many countries. This is because obesity can eventually lead to development of many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and stroke. The expecting cost of dealing with these diseases can be huge, which will become a burden not only on the people but also on the government.

Many health experts have frequently blamed the modern lifestyle of overeating, inappropriate diet and lack of exercise as the cause of overweight and obesity. However, a study by the researchers from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles found that obesity might be hard-wired into the brain from birth so that some people are more prone to overweight than others.

The findings of an animal study, appearing on in the February 2008 issue of Cell Metabolism, showed that obese rats had faulty brain wiring that impaired their response to the hunger-suppressing hormone leptin.

It seemed that appetite and obesity were built into the brain for obesity-prone rats, according to the researchers. The neurodevelopment differences in these animals could be seen as early as the first week. Such results showed that obesity could be wired into the brain from early life.

Leptin, produced by fat tissue, plays a central role in fat metabolism by acting as a signal to the brain about the body's energy status. Though scientists are still not clear about its role in weight regulation, they are aware that the brain calibrates the requirement for food intake partly based on leptin levels.

Learnt from previous research that the brains of obesity-prone rats were insensitive to these leptin signals, the researchers looked for brain abnormalities that could explain this.

In the study, they found defects in the brain circuits that relay leptin signals throughout the hypothalamus. Hypothalamus is the brain’s central switchboard for regulating conditions in the body.

The findings showed that exercising and eating right might improve the rat’s condition, but the propensity to gain weight could not be reversed.

The researchers also pointed out that if the findings are replicated in humans, then those individuals who are genetically predisposed to obesity as a result of their brains’ configuration should carefully pay attention to diet and energy balance.

Meanwhile, they also cautioned that the general belief that weight regulation is all a matter of nutrition or lifestyle choices might not be helpful for people whose biology predisposes them to obesity.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What Can Plavix and Aspirin Do For Heart Disease Patients With AF?

A blood thinner, a common name for an anticoagulant agent, is a drug used to prevent formation of blood clots by hindering coagula. Blood thinner does not really thin the blood; it just prevents the blood from clotting. Doctors usually prescribe blood thinners to heart disease patients who are at risk for heart attack and stroke.

So far, anticoagulants such as warfarin and aspirin have been the only effective therapies in treating heart disease patients suffering from atrial fibrillation (AF). AF is a condition in which the heart's 2 upper chambers, the atria, quiver instead of beating effectively. This will raise the risk of blood clotting or pooling in the chambers that could eventually trigger a heart attack or stroke.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), there are some 2.2 million Americans suffer from AF. These patients often need to be fitted with a pacemaker. Yet many of them cannot be treated with warfarin to stop blood clotting because warfarin increases the risk of an internal hemorrhage by up to 70 percent.

At the annual conference of the American College of Cardiology in Orlando on March 31, 2009, researchers from Ontario's McMaster University revealed that they managed to help AF patients cut the risk of heart attack and stroke by combining Plavix with aspirin.

Plavix is known under the generic name of clopidogrel. It is used to prevent the platelets in blood from coagulating and forming clots.

ACTIVE-A, a clinical trials involving 7,554 patients, aimed to determine whether the addition of clopidogrel to aspirin could reduce major vascular events and stroke in AF patients at an acceptable risk of increased hemorrhage. In the trials, the researchers showed that combination of Plavix and aspirin could help AF patients who are unable to take other blood thinners like warfarin.

The combination of clopidogrel and aspirin reduced major vascular events by 11 percent, including a 28 percent reduction in stroke and a 23 percent reduction in myocardial infarction (also known as heart attack), as found in the study.

It is believed that this is a new treatment for AF for the first time in 20 years.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Why You Should Not Be Too Skinny?

While being overweight or obese is definitely not healthy, people who are skinny are neither preferable. Why?

Because of modern lifestyle, number of people who are overweight or obese is increasing at a fairly fast rate. As we know, overweight or obesity can easily lead to many other diseases including diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol and heart disease. However, it seems that being very skinny is even more dangerous than being overweight or obese.

Japanese researchers from Tohoku University's Graduate School of Medicine recently (June 2009) found that slightly overweight people at the age of 40 could live 6 to 7 years longer than those very skinny people, who have an average life expectancy that is shorter by some 5 years than that of obese people.

The researchers did expect thin people to have shorter life expectancy but were surprised to discover such a large difference.

Working on middle-aged and elderly people, the long-term study involved 50,000 people between the age of 40 and 79 over a period of 12 years in the modern Japanese prefecture of Miyagi. The participants were divided into 4 groups at the age of 40 according to their BMI (body mass index).

BMI is the ratio of a person’s weight in kilos over the square of height in meters. BMI lower than 18.5 is classified as underweight. When BMI is between 18.5 and 25, the person is considered normal. Once the BMI exceeds 25 but lower than 30, the person is slightly overweight and once BMI exceeds 30, the person is considered as obese.

It was thought that thin people having shorter lives because many of them are either sick or smoke. However, the difference remained almost the same, even eliminating these 2 factors.

The researchers argued that skinny people were of shorter lifespan because they are vulnerable to disease such as pneumonia and the fragility of their blood vessels.

Nevertheless, people were not advised to eat as much as they want. Instead, the researchers recommended that thin people should try to gain normal weight but people with normal weight should never be putting on their weight.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Heart Disease Threats Can Cut Lifespan?

Smoking, high cholesterol and hypertension (high blood pressure) are 3 risk factors that can lead to heart disease. This statement can hardly arouse any objection.

In fact, many studies have confirmed that people, who do not smoke, eat healthily, and exercise, can cut their risk of developing heart disease. However, very few of these studies actually tackled and answered the question: ‘to what extend does having these heart disease risk factors shorten life expectancy?’

In order to seek the answer, researchers from the University of Oxford analyzed the data of 19,000 male British civil servants who were examined in the late 1960s when they were between 40 and 69 years old.

They found out that those male smokers with high cholesterol and hypertension die, on average, a decade sooner than those without any of these risk factors for heart disease. The findings were published on September 18, 2009 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The detailed information on medical history, lifestyle and smoking habits were provided by the participants at the outset of the study. Their weight, blood pressure, cholesterol level, blood sugar level and lung function were recorded by the doctors.

In 1997, or 28 years after the initial examination, more than 7,000 of those surviving participants were re-evaluated. It was found that those men who had a triple risk threat at the beginning of the study were 2 to 3 times more likely to have died of heart disease than men who were free from all the 3 risk factors. In other words, their lives were shortened, on average, by a decade.

According to health experts, the percentage of people having fatal stroke or heart attack does decline by about a quarter in many rich countries over the last decade. However, similar downtrend is not seen in many known risk factors for heart disease.

In the United States, the American Heart Association revealed that uncontrolled hypertension has fallen by only 16 percent, high blood cholesterol by 19 percent, and smoking by just over 15 percent since 1999.

Meanwhile, other risk factors of heart disease have remained either constant or even increased. For example, the number of people who exercise does not exceed than that more than 10 years ago. On the other hand, obesity rate have increased tremendously, especially among younger generation.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How Is Coffee Linked to Weight Gain?

Coffee is one of the most favorable beverages for people, especially for those staying in the United States. People not only drink coffee in the morning but also consume it in the afternoon, and even in the night. One good reason quoted by coffee lovers is that coffee can keep them awake for longer hours to help them accomplish their tasks or works.

In recent years, blended coffee beverages have gained popularity. Blended coffee beverage is one that contains milk, sugar, pre-sweetened milk, chocolate powder, etc, in addition to coffee. Latte, cappuccino, flat white, mocha and frappuccino are just a few popular examples, and there are of course many more varieties. These so-called blended coffees can be either served in hot or cold.

However, are people paying attention to the calories of the coffee they drink? A survey conducted on coffee chains by a New York City Health Department found that a black coffee or one served with milk, sugar, or both had an average calorie of 63.

Meanwhile, they also discovered that other varieties of blended coffee, with pre-sweetened milk, ice or pre-mixed, had about 239 calories, which is 12 percent of a 2000-calorie diet. In a particular coffee chain, a large blended coffee could contain as high as about 860 calories.

The findings, which were published in the online journal Preventing Chronic Disease during September 2009, included 3,000 purchases from 115 coffee and restaurant chains in the city. Nevertheless, not all drinks are filled with calories. For instance, a simple black brewed coffee or tea can have as little as 10 calories.

The calorie-loaded coffee beverages could easily cause the coffee drinkers to put on weight! As overweight is a risk factor for many other medical disorders, for example, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), etc, the Health Department in the United States suggests that consumers should order a small size beverage with low fat or skim milk, and without flavorings. This would cut down the calories and reduce the risk of weight gain.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Can Foods Rich in Magnesium Reduce Stroke Risk?

Being the leading cause of heart disease and cancer, cigarette smoking is also strongly linked to stroke.

A study that was published on March 10, 2008 in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that diets rich in magnesium could help smokers reduce their stroke risk. Carried out by researchers from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, the study was aim originally to look at possible lung cancer therapies.

Researchers have not figured out the mechanism behind the finding, but suspected that it might be the magnesium that helps reduce high blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a disorder that can lead to stroke if it is not treated in time.

About 26,556 Finnish male smokers were followed for more than 13 years. The study found that those who consumed an average of 589 milligrams of magnesium each day in their diets had a 15 percent lower risk for cerebral infarction than those who consumed less magnesium. Cerebral infarction is a kind of stroke that occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked.

The effect was found to be stronger for men younger than 60 years old. Meanwhile, the study also showed that the intake of calcium, potassium and sodium was not associated with risk for any type of stroke.

Magnesium can not only lower blood pressure but also influence the cholesterol level or the use of insulin that turns glucose into energy. Any of these 2 mechanisms would affect the risk for cerebral infarction but not hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke is another type of stroke that occurs when the vessel ruptures, causing blood to leak into the brain.

Foods rich in magnesium can be found in whole grains, black beans, broccoli, halibut, oysters, peanuts, rockfish and spinach. However, the researchers are not sure if taking magnesium dietary supplements would also produce the same result.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Couples Sleeping Apart To Prevent Heart Disease and Other Disorders?

Sleep plays an important role in our health. If one could not have a good night sleep, many health hazards might just occur. Evidences have already shown that poor sleep was linked to depression, heart disease, lung disorder, traffic and industrial accidents, as well as divorce. Nevertheless, people do not seem to pay much attention to the quality of their sleep.

Of course, poor sleep can be due to many causes. For instance, family or work pressure, frequent passing of urine during the night, snoring from the partner sharing the same bed, and so on and so forth.

An interesting finding, revealed on September 10, 2009 at the British Science Festival, indicated that couples actually sleep better when they sleep separately. This seems to be opposite to what people generally feel: they tend to sleep better when a partner accompanies them.

In order to compare how well couples slept when they shared a bed versus slept separately, the researchers from the University of Surrey studied the sleep patterns of 40 couples. They found that when couples slept together in the same bed and if one of them moved in his or her sleep, there was a 50 percent chance that their partners on the same bed would badly be disturbed.

They also revealed that even with the evidence they gathered, couples are reluctant to sleep apart. There is only 8 percent of those couples who are in their 40s and 50s are sleeping in separate rooms. Perhaps, the thinking that couples do not sleep in the same bed only when they have problem in their relationship still firmly instilled in the mind of most people.

One sleep specialist, who sleeps separately with his wife, argues that people were never meant to share their beds.


According to his explanation, the concept of modern martial bed only started with the industrial revolution. This is because people were moving to overcrowded towns and cities where living space was scarce. He further pointed out that married couples sleeping apart were rather common before the Victoria era.

So what should the couples sharing the same bed do now?

The advice from the experts is that if couples sleeping together can sleep perfectly well, then they should stick to it, otherwise they should not be afraid to do something different.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Is There a Reduction in Heart Attack Deaths in United States?

When heart attack victims are admitted into hospitals, the doctors therein might have different alternatives to treat their patients. For example, they could use angioplasty to clear out clogged arteries, perform heart bypass surgery, or prescribe medications to lower the cholesterol levels, reduce clotting and regulate heart beat. As such, the success rate of treating these patients could vary widely among various hospitals.

According to a study that was published on August 18, 2009 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there has been a noticeable reduction in heart attack deaths over the period between 1995 and 2006 as a result of clearer United States guidelines on how to treat elderly heart attack patients.

The researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine in Connecticut found a reduction of 3 percent in the number of patients who died within a month of having a heart attack after the introduction of clearer standards on treatments by Medicare.

Medicare is a social insurance program administrated by the United States government to provide health insurance coverage to people who are of 65 years old and above or who meet other special criteria.

In 1990, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association published joint guidelines on which care was suitable and when. 2 years later, Medicare followed the guidelines.

The researchers studied the records of 2.7 million patients discharged from 4,000 hospitals after having heart attack between 1995 and 2006, and found that among Medicare beneficiaries, there was 1 additional patient survive at 30 days for every 33 patients admitted in 2006 compared with 1995.

The 30-day mortality rate decreased from 18.9 percent in 1995 to 16.1 percent in 2006, and in-hospital mortality decreased from 14.6 percent to 10.1 percent,

Meanwhile, they also discovered that a lot less variation in death rates among the hospitals. Such finding might support the argument that healthcare reform efforts should include more standardized guidelines on patients’ care.

The cause of the reduction has yet to be determined with certainty. Nevertheless, the finding of this study might have already reflected one thing: individuals and organizations dedicated to improving health care during the period begin to see some positive and encouraging results.

Back in 1995, 24 percent or more of heart attack patients died within a month after being treated at 39 hospitals.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Is The Number of Young Diabetics Rising in Asia?

Diabetes mellitus, more often referred to as diabetes, is a condition in which the body does not produce enough or properly respond to insulin. Being a hormone produced in the pancreas, insulin has the function of enabling cells to absorb glucose and turning it into energy. When a person has diabetes, the glucose will accumulate in the blood and this will eventually lead to various complications. For instance, diabetes has been identified as a risk factor for heart disease.

There is no doubt that diabetes has turned into a global problem. It is expected that the number of victims will grow from 240 million in 2007 to 380 million in 2025.

In Europe and North America, overweight and obesity have long been thought to lead to Type-2 diabetes. However, a study, published on May 27, 2009 in the Journal of American Medical Association, reported that the number of diabetics is rising in Asia affecting those who are relatively young and less likely to be struggling with obesity, unlike in the West.

Based on the figures from the International Diabetes Federation, more than 60 percent of diabetics will reside in Asia, the fastest growing region in the world. Countries with low- and middle-income will face the hardest hit. The number of diabetics will grow from 40 million to nearly 70 million in India; 39 million to 59 million in China; and 3.8 million to 7.4 million in Bangladesh.

While the trends of diabetes could be influenced from genetic makeup and cultural differences to smoking and degrees of urbanization, the most startling result was still related to body mass and age.

Despite lower obesity rate, the waistlines of Asian population keep expanding as a result of rapid economic development, changing diets and more sedentary lifestyle. Expanding waistline is considered to be harmful to diabetes. This is because fat around the abdomen stores excess energy and releases chemicals that control metabolism and use of insulin.

Although people across Asia generally have lower body mass index (BMI), which is the ratio of weight (kg) divided by the square of height (cm), they can have a similar or even higher chance of developing diabetes, according to the study.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Number of Diabetics Rises In Europe!

According to IDF (International Diabetes Federation), diabetes affects 246 million people worldwide and the figure is expected to rise to some 380 million by 2025.

People should never treat diabetes lightly because it could lead to fatal consequences. Diabetics might have symptoms such as frequent urination, thirst, unexpected weight loss, extreme hunger, and frequent fatigue. If the blood glucose is too high, they can develop comatose.

If the blood sugar level is not controlled effectively, diabetes can lead to blindness, neuropathy (damage to nerves), and even lower-limb amputations. Patients, who also have hypertension (high blood pressure), can have a higher chance of getting kidney failure. Meanwhile, one should not forget that diabetes has been a known risk factor for cardiovascular and heart disease, too.

A study, published on May 28, 2009 in the British Journal ‘The Lancet’, revealed that incidence of Type-1 diabetes in children aged below 5 in Europe is expected to double and those aged below 15 will increase by 70 percent by 2020 over the 2005 levels.

Based on diagnosed cases between 1989 and 203, the researchers warned that the trend will be highest in the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe. The dramatic increase could be attributed to genes as well as the modern lifestyle habits.

In general, there are 2 types of diabetes, namely Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes. Type-1 diabetes generally begins during childhood and early adolescence. The immune system destroys cells in the pancreas that make insulin, and this does cause the glucose level in the blood to rise dangerously. Insulin is the hormone, which breaks down glucose into other forms of energy.

A mix of genetic vulnerability and environmental factors, such as increases in weight and height, less exposure to early infections in childhood and delivery by caesarean, might cause such disorder, according to health experts.

On the other hand, Type-2 diabetes occurs when there is insufficient insulin or cells become insensitive to the insulin that is produced. It is closely linked to chronic obesity, resulting from sedentary lifestyles and the consumption of sugary and fatty foods. The number of Type-2 diabetics is far more than Type-1 diabetics.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

How Can Recession Obesity Affect The American Children?

In 2008, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), reported that nearly 32 percent of American children were overweight and 16 percent were obese.

Meanwhile, between 1980 and 1999, the obesity rate had tripled and this no doubt had created an epidemic. Poor diet that is heavy on fat and sugar with little consumption of fruits and fresh vegetables, and lack of exercise were blamed to be responsible for such phenomenon.

Obese children not only have a higher chance of becoming obese adults but are also at a higher risk of developing heart disease, high cholesterol and Type-2 diabetes.

Now, there is another possible force, which in the opinion of researchers, will help increase the obesity rate. Researchers from Duke University argued that the prevailing economic downturn would probably put American children at risk of ‘recession obesity’.

‘Recession obesity’ is a term for unhealthy side effects of people who lose their jobs and health insurance, then drop their gym memberships, delay medical treatment, and eat cheaper but less healthy meals. As fast food is cheap and filling, its consumption is on the rise during the economic downturn. The researchers fear that parents would substitute for their children fast food, high carbohydrate and high sugar-content food for healthy food. This would surely cause an uptick in the rate of overweight children and adolescents.

After analyzing dozens of indicators, the researchers compiled the 2009 Child Well-Being Index. The index tracks how American children are faring socially, emotionally, in terms of education and health. It aims to assess how American children are faring today, comparing their current situation with the past. They also project what these children might face in the future. This year’s index includes a special report on the impact of the current recession on the American children.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Is Endoscope Really Harmful For Heart-Bypass Patients?

During heart bypass surgery or what is also known as coronary artery bypass surgery, heart surgeons have to remove a blood vessel from the heart disease patient’s chest or leg and attach one end to the aorta and the other end to the coronary artery below the point where it is clogged. By doing so, the blood can then flow through the new vessel to the heart muscle the way it should. Aorta refers to the large artery coming out of the heart.

Data showed that the leg veins of about 70 percent of the bypass patients are being removed by endoscopes. The main reason is that it produces much less scarring and infection to the leg than the traditional method known as ‘open harvesting’, a technique that remove vein by directly cutting along a stretch of the leg.

Endoscopes have widely been used for various procedures and were utilized for vein harvesting for 13 years. Endoscopes are little cameras, which can be inserted, sometimes with surgical instruments, via a small incision in the skin.

Meant to be less invasive and gentler, the endoscopic technique of removing leg veins appeared to damage the veins and lead to heart attack, and in fact, it would cause patients 52 percent more likely to die within 3 years.

The study of 3,000 patients by researchers from Duke University Medical Centre in Durham, North Carolina reported on July 15, 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine that veins removed by the endoscopic technique were significantly more likely to become clogged within a year or so.

Measurements at the end of 12 months and 18 months showed that 47 percent of the patients had at least 1 of their bypass grafts fail, while only 38 percent for those using older method of removing veins. Most patients had 2 or 3 grafts.

At the end of 3 years after the heart surgery, patients whose leg vein was removed using endoscopes had 38 percent higher risk of death or non-fatal heart attack. For death rate alone, the risk was 52 percent higher: 128 of the 1,753 patients with endoscopic technique died, as compared with only 71 died of the 1,247 patients who had open harvesting.

As stipulated in the report, though ‘open harvesting’ is no doubt more invasive and associated with more wound complications, it might be less traumatic to the vein and could result in a better conduit. After listening to the pros and cons of both techniques, most patients still prefer to adopt endoscopic technique, as patients rather choose the short-term benefits over the possible the long-term risks.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Breastfeeding Can Help Women Prevent Heart Disease!

For years, scientists and researchers have known that breastfeeding is important for babies’ health, and now a new study has furnished evidence on the importance for mothers’ health as well.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences reported that postmenopausal women who have breastfed a child have a lower risk of heart attacks, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Their findings were published on April 21, 2009 in the May issue of 'Obstetrics and Gynecology.'

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study was carried out under the United States Federal government's Women's Health Initiative study on chronic disease launched in 2004.

After studying 139,681 postmenopausal women, the researchers found that those participants who breastfed for at least one month had lower blood pressure, better cholesterol and less frequent diabetes. It also appeared that the longer the mothers breastfed, the more apparent cardiovascular benefit.

Women who performed breastfeeding for more than a year had their cardiovascular risk reduced by 10 percent. In fact, the longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them.

According to the researchers, the study also provided another good reason for corporations to implement policies for encouraging women to breastfeed their infants.

High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol level and diabetes are all known risk factors for heart disease, which is also crowned as the leading cause of death for women. As such, it is paramount for women to aware that what they can do to protect themselves.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Is Calorie-burning Fat Just a Myth?

Have you ever heard about “calorie-burning fat”? If not, you may wonder does it really exist or just a science fiction.

In reality, adults do have small blobs of metabolism-regulating “brown fat”, which scientists believe it exist only in babies and children. Such finding was announced in a study conducted by researchers from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

The paper, published on in April 9, 2009’s issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, revealed that the brown fat or so-called good fat differs from white fat that makes up most body fat in such a way that the brown fat is active in burning calories and using energy. They also showed that the brown fat subsisted in adult humans and demonstrated, for the first time, that it is metabolically active.

According to the study, brown fat may have a role in regulating body weight metabolism. Therefore, by stimulating brown fat growth to control weight and improve glucose metabolism, the researchers believe that obesity, Type-2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders could be treated. Meanwhile, higher levels of brown fat might also help protect against obesity linked with aging.

By analyzing a database of 1,972 patients who had nuclear (PET) or X-ray (CT) imaging scans during a 3-year period for a variety of reasons, the researchers discovered that significant brown fat deposits in 7.5 percent of female patients and in over 3 percent of male patients. Most of the brown fat deposits were found in the patients' necks.

In the study, the tissue of 2 patients showing brown fat concentrations in their necks were tested and it was found that the cells had the protein UCP-1, which is unique to brown fat.

The study also found that the amount of brown fat presence depends on a variety of factors like age, glucose levels and, most importantly, level of obesity. For example, younger and thinner patients who had normal blood glucose levels had more brown fat, while brown fat was more active in cold weather as it helps in burning energy to produce heat.

It has been known that obesity, Type-2 diabetes and other disorders associated with obesity or overweight could eventually lead to heart disease. Such new discovery not only helps treat people with obesity but also helps them prevent heart disease.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is There An Easier Way To Test Diabetes?

American Diabetes Association (ADA) reported that nearly 24 million American have diabetes, which can eventually develop heart disease and kidney disease, and cause blindness and force amputations. The majority of the diabetics are of Type-2 that is linked with a lack of exercise and poor diet.

Most doctors use one of two prevailing tests to diagnose diabetes. These are fasting plasma glucose and the oral glucose tolerance test. Both tests are considered clumsy, as they require the patient to prepare either by fasting or by drinking a sugary solution.

On June 5, 2009, researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital announced at a meeting in New Orleans that a simple blood test, known as A1C test, that can indicate average blood sugar levels over the past several weeks has become the best way to diagnose diabetes. The new test, which the American Diabetes Association, International Diabetes Federation and European Association for the Study of Diabetes agree, does not require fasting.

What the new test does is to measure the damage to hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the stuff that makes blood red that is done by consistently high blood sugar levels. A hemoglobin A1C level of 5 percent is considered normal, while a level of 6.5 percent or higher should lead to a diagnosis of diabetes.

The A1C test needs only a small sample of blood. It is considered more convenient and easier for patients as they no longer need to perform a fasting or oral glucose tolerance test.

According to the American Diabetes Association, all adults who are overweight and have additional risk factors such as a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, or abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, should go for screening for diabetes. In fact, even people without any of these risk factors should go for the test beginning at the age of 45.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Why Do People Prefer Wine?

With hot and humid climate in Singapore, people used to have an ice-cold beer in pub, party or in their own home with friends, colleagues, or family members. However, the choice has gradually shifted to wine instead. Just look at the statistical figures. In 2006, Singapore imported some US$136 million worth of wine, which was an increase of US$25 million over 2005.

You may wonder why people give up the relatively cheaper beverage choice? Is it because wine is a trendy choice or is there any other reason behind this?

Numerous studies have pointed out that the beneficial qualities of wine are somehow good for our health. The cardio-protective properties of red wine can help prevent heart disease, while the antioxidants in white wine would improve lung function. Israeli researchers had even developed a way to increase white wine’s antioxidant content to raise its health benefits.

By making use of the health benefits revealed, wine producers are able to boost their sales. Ask yourself, do people really choose wine because it is a healthy alternative, or otherwise? Perhaps, researchers might want to conduct study to find out more on this.

Nevertheless, judging from the huge quantity of red, white or rose wine consumed, are people drinking too much of the alcoholic beverage in such a way that it might just cause more harm than good to the body? Remember this, too much alcohol consumed can only damage the organs especially liver inside the body, as already proven by research in the past.

Because of allergy problem, I cannot consume alcohol, not even a can of beer. After learning the health benefit of wine, I however started consuming wine since early last year. Strangely enough, I no more have the skin allergy, as I did when I drank cognac, whisky or even beer. I cannot figure out the rationale. Maybe the quantity I consume is rather small or my body does not reject wine any more.

Drinking a small glass of wine after dinner with my wife while sitting in front of the television seems creating a very relax and pleasant atmosphere for us. We drink just a small glass once or twice a week. If you ask me if there is any health benefit, frankly I cannot see any yet. Perhaps time will tell.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why Did Obese Individuals Tend To Eat More?

Modern lifestyle and unhealthy diet have made obesity to fast becoming an epidemic that worries many health professionals. This is because obesity will eventually lead to many undesired medical disorders like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and even certain types of cancer.

Meanwhile, it seems that obese individuals tend to take in more food to the contrary that they are supposed to eat less to cut down their weight. Such phenomenon has aroused the curiosity of scientists and prompted them to find out the cause behind that.

Researchers from the University of Texas (UT), the Oregon Research Institute, and the Yale University School of Medicine, Connecticut, jointly found that obese persons may have fewer pleasure receptors in their brains, which require them to feed themselves with more of a rewarding substance like food or drugs so that they could experience the same level of pleasure as other people.

The findings of the study, which is one of the first to positively identify factors that increase people's weight gain risk in the future, were published in the month of October 2008 in the journal Science.

According to the researchers, human brain releases the so-called pleasure chemical dopamine, which is believed to be a reward to the body for consuming life-sustaining nutrition. They suspected weak reward centers in the brain prompt obese people to eat more, and they believed obese people might have fewer dopamine receptors causing them to overeat so as to compensate for this reward deficit.

A technique known as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was used to examine the extent to which pleasure receptors in individuals were activated in response to a taste of chocolate milkshake versus tasteless solution. The participants were then tested for the presence of a genetic variation that was linked to a lower number of the dopamine receptors. Changes in the participants’ BMI (body mass index) were tracked over a one-year period.

The researchers believed the results from the study are key for understanding weight gain and to helping at-risk obese individuals. By identifying changes in behavior or pharmacological options, it is hoped that the reward deficit could be corrected to prevent and treat obesity.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tobacco Can Be Useful, Are You Sure?

Smoking and tobacco have always been linked to unhealthy news. Smokers not only have the higher chance of getting heart disease, lung cancers, and other ailments, the secondhand smoke originated from them could also cause harmful effects to the people around them. Many studies have confirmed the claim.

However, an interesting finding by researchers from the University of Verona have found a healthy use for tobacco after they genetically bled modified plants containing a medicine that could stop Type-1 diabetes.

They published their findings on March 19, 2009 in the journal BMC Biotechnology and indicated out that they had produced tobacco plants containing a potent anti-inflammatory protein known as interleukin-10 (IL-10), which could help patients with insulin-dependent Type-1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.

Agrochemical companies such as Bayer and Syngenta have been searching ways to produce complex protein drugs in plants but the progress has been slow.

The new finding is believed to mark the latest advance in the emerging field of molecular farming that might offer an alternative way of producing biotech drugs and vaccines at a cost cheaper than traditional factory systems do.

The European researchers believe the antibody medicines and vaccines, which are produced in cell cultures inside stainless steel fermenters, could eventually be grown more efficiently in fields. This is because plants are the world's most cost-effective protein producers. They have studied several different plants around the world, but tobacco is their firm favorite.

The researchers’ work has drawn the attention from tobacco giant Philip Morris, which is supporting a conference on plant-based medicine in Verona in June 2009.

Meanwhile, Swedish biotech company Diamyd has already been testing a conventionally produced GAD65 vaccine against diabetes in clinical trials. On the other hand, Protalix plans to submit its drug for regulatory approval in the United States and Israel in the 4th quarter of 2009.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What Is Piggyback Transplant for Heart Disease Patients?

Before knowing what piggyback transplant is, perhaps it is best to understand a term called cardiomyopathy.

Cardiomyopathy is a serious heart disease in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed and does not work as well as it should. In other words, the functions of the heart muscle are deteriorating. It can be caused by viral infection, heart attack, long-term and severe high blood pressure, alcoholism or other reasons that have not been identified yet. It is common in children in the first year of their life.

Simply replacing the ailing heart with a donor’s heart could not solve the problem. This is because the new heart could not adjust fast enough to handle the excess pressure built up in the lungs and it will fail.

One way the heart surgeon can do is to link the existing heart with a donor’s heart. In this so-called piggyback heart transplant, the surgeon inserts the new heart to the right side of the chest and attaches it parallel to the patient’s own heart. The 2 upper chambers on the left side of each heart must be lined up so that they could be merged.

The risks involved in such operations are similar to the traditional heart transplant, which include immune suppression problems and a chance of chronic rejection.

A British girl, who is now 16, is the world’s first heart transplant patient to recover fully after having her donor’s heart removed and functions restored to her original heart.

When she was 2 in 1995, she underwent a piggyback heart transplant and a new heart was inserted in parallel to her own failing heart. In 2006, she contracted cancer because of the immunosuppressant drugs she was taking to avoid organ rejection and the doctor removed the donor’s heart. At that time, her own heart had recovered sufficiently to work on its own. On July 14, 2009, her doctor reported in the Lancet medical journal that the girl has recovered fully from cancer since the surgery and has a normal cardiac function.

The girl’s success story certainly sparks hope for other patients with heart failure. The success indeed highlights the possibility for the patient’s own heart to make a full recovery if it is given adequate support to do so. Nevertheless, the road to recovery can never be an easy one. At one stage, the girl was forced to take 16 different medications to control her illness.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why Should People Walk or Bike to Work?

Exercise forms an integral part in the prevention of heart disease and many other ailments. However, many of the working people are being pressured by heave workload that they can hardly find time to engage in any form of exercises or physical activities.

A large study in United States for health and commuting found that walking or biking to work, even partway, can boost physical fitness but sadly, very few Americans actually do it. In fact, only about 17 percent of workers walked or bicycled any portion of their commute.

According to experts, things like crumbling sidewalks, lack of bike paths and long distances have prevented American commuters from walking or biking to work.

Researchers from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined the tests and questionnaires from 2,364 workers (middle-aged city dwellers) who were part of a larger federally funded study on heart disease risk. These participants, who lived in Chicago; Minneapolis; Birmingham, Alabama; and Oakland, California, were asked in 2005-2006 about their commuting habits in the past 12 months

It was found that those active commuters did better on treadmill tests of fitness, even after accounting for their leisure-time physical activity levels. This indeed suggested that commuter choices do make a difference.

In the study, the male active commuters also had healthier numbers for body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, insulin and blood fats (known as triglycerides). On the other hand, the researchers speculated that women walked or biked shorter distances and they may have done so less vigorously

The researchers acknowledged that the study has a chicken-and-egg problem. People, who are already active, could be the ones who walk or bike to work. In other words, fitness contributes to wanting to walk to work; nevertheless, the reverse might also be true.

Prior research has found that those countries having the highest levels of walking and biking also have the lowest levels of obesity. Nevertheless, little research has done to examine the health of Americans who walk or bike to work. The new study may be the first large US study of health and commuting.

Many cities in United States, workplaces are separated from homes that lengthen commutes. However, cities like Portland, Oregon, that build bike paths have higher rates of cycling. Meanwhile, companies can provide showers, changing areas and secure bike parking to encourage active commuting.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Using Stem Cell To Fix Damaged Heart!

If heart disease patients can make use of their own cells to repair their hearts, then people do not need to wait for donated hearts, which is always in short supply. Meanwhile, they also do not need to rely on dangerous medications to stop their body from rejecting the foreign organs.

This is the goal, which scientists have been striving to achieve. It seems that this dream is going to be realized in the very near future.

On July 20, 2009, a study that was published in the peer review journal Circulation revealed that researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota have managed to reverse some of the damages caused by heart attack using stem cells that were induced from connective tissue cells. The proof-of-concept study on mice is the first attempt to use induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to treat heart disease.

Using the technique of nuclear reprogramming, the researchers believe they could reverse the fate of adult cells and customize on demand cardiovascular regenerative medicine. In fact, the research team genetically reprogrammed fibroblast cells, which contribute to the formation of connective tissues and scars, so that they became stem cells capable of developing into new heart muscle.

They transplanted these cells into mouse with damaged hearts and found that the cells had managed to stop progression of structural damage within 4 weeks. They also found that heart muscle performance that was lost after the heart attack was restored and tissue at the site of the damage was regenerated.

Stem cells do offer great potential for regenerative medicine as they can be coaxed into becoming lab-dish replacements for heart, liver, skin, eye, brain, nerve and other cells destroyed by disease, accident, war or normal wear-and-tear. In the meantime, they also have potential to cure diseases such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and Type-1 diabetes though research was limited because they were obtained from embryos.

In 2007, scientists discovered a way to reprogram adult skin cells into stem cells using embryos and exponentially increased the number of stem cells available for research purposes.

However, the iPS cells have not yet been approved for testing on humans and it will definitely take quite some time before it could be used in treatments.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Can Damage Heart Be Repaired?

It has long been thought that the heart does not have the ability to repair itself. In other words, when cells turn into fully formed adult heart muscle, they will stop dividing, and cannot replace damaged tissue caused by disease or deformity.

For heart attack patients with heart weakness, people with heart failure or heart disease children with congenital heart defects, their damaged heart muscle tissue normally does not regenerate.

However, researchers from the United States have found a way to repair the damage heart. What they discovered is that heart tissue could be re-grown and heart function improved in mice that were injected a growth factor without using stem cells. Such discovery is indeed a potential breakthrough for human cardiac care.

As published in the July 24, 2009 issue of journal Cell, the researchers from the Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School injected a substance known as neuregulin1 (NRG1), which is a protein, into the peritoneal cavity of live mice after a heart attack.

The injection was done once daily for a period of 12 weeks. It was found that heart regeneration was increase and pumping function (ejection fraction, assessed on echocardiograms) was improved when comparing to untreated control group.

NRG1 is one of the 4 proteins in the neuregulin family that acts on the EGFR family of receptors. It is essential for the normal development of the nervous system and the heart.

According to the researchers, this is the first regenerative therapy that may be applicable in a systemic way. In principle, human treatment could eventually be carried out with daily infusions of NRG1 at a clinic over a period of weeks.

Nevertheless, further research is still necessary to ensure such therapy is safe before it could be tested to human patients.

With many studies focusing on stem cells, the new finding does suggest that stem cells are not required and that stimulating differentiated cardiomyocytes to proliferate may just be a viable alternative too.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Can Viagra Really Protect Hearts of People with Muscular Dystrophy?

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is an inherited wasting disease characterized by weakness and progressive degeneration of the muscles, including the heart muscle. Beginning at the age of 2 to 6, the disease will spread from the legs and pelvis to the whole body. Most people with such disease have to use a wheelchair by the age of about 12.

The heart of the affected patients will experience problems at around the age of 10 and this could progress quickly, affecting most victims by the age of 20. Such heart disease is responsible for the death among patients with muscular dystrophy.

Conducted by Canadian researchers from the Montreal Heart Institute, a study involving mice reported on May 12, 2008 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that anti-impotence pills Viagra might protect the heart of people with muscular dystrophy.

Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, was given to mice with an animal version of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The doses of the drug given were comparable to those prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction in men. It improved the heart performance of the mice by cutting the levels of damage to contracting heart muscle cells.

The heart of those mice to which sildenafil were not given did not function as well as normal mice, and they were more susceptible to stress-induced cell death.

According to the researchers, the drug did improve heart performance in the mice by preventing the breakdown of a naturally occurring chemical called cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), which is involved in a number of cellular signaling pathways.

Besides Viagra, Other impotence drugs like vardenafil sold under the brand name Levitra, and tadalafil sold under the name Cialis also affect the chemical cGMP.

Developed as a heart medication, sildenafil is widely prescribed for erectile dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension. No doubt, there is a lot of information on sildenafil that shows it would be relatively safe in adults but the researchers stressed that future human trials are necessary before doctors could prescribe it for heart trouble for those affected patients.

Although the findings indicated Viagra could potentially be used to prevent or delay heart failure in children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the researchers felt it would be premature to give Viagra to people with such disease.

Nevertheless, it is believed that discussions have begun among health experts about possible future studies using the drug in patients with muscular dystrophy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Are There Any Good Fats in Our Body?

Too many fats accumulated in our body are bad for our health. This is because too many fats could lead to overweight or even obesity. More importantly, many medical complications like diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, etc. could be developed because of overweight or obesity.

Scientists have known that fat that buries in the abdomen (known as visceral fat) can raise a person's risk of diabetes and heart disease, but people with fat deposits in the buttocks and hips, are less prone to these disorders.

In finding out why fat located in different parts of the body have different risks of metabolic disease such as diabetes, researchers from the United States have found a surprising result: a type of fat that accumulates around the hips and bottom may actually offer some protection against diabetes.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston announced on May 6, 2008 in the journal Cell Metabolism that subcutaneous fat, or fat that collects under the skin helped improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar.

A series of experiments were conducted on mice where the researchers transplanted subcutaneous fat from donor ice into the bellies and under the skin of mice. Those mice getting subcutaneous fat transplanted into their bellies started to slim down after several weeks, even though no changes in their diet or activity levels was made. Their blood sugar and insulin levels were also improved compared to those mice, which underwent a sham procedure.

This no doubt is an important finding, as it not only states that not all fats are bad but also highlights a special aspect of fat that would require further research.

The researchers are working hard to find the substance produced in subcutaneous fat that offer the benefit. Once these substances are found, they hope to convert them into drugs or use them as guides to help develop drugs.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Should Women Pick Natural Hormone to Avoid Heart Attack?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or in Britain, Hormone therapy (HT), is a system of medical treatment for women with symptoms of menopause. It employs one or more of a group of medications designed to boost artificially hormone levels. The main types of hormones involved are estrogen, progesterone, progestin, and sometimes testosterone.

According to a study, more and more Australian women are running away from HRT and using untested alternatives like herbs and so-called natural hormones to tackle their problems with the menopause. The finding of the study was published in the journal Climacteric in April 2009.

Nevertheless, the researchers who carried out the study warned that such natural alternatives were in fact unproven for safety and efficacy and more importantly, not approved by national health authorities.

953 women of age above 40 were interviewed by the researchers in 2008 to find out what they used for replacing their loss of hormones. Results obtained were compared with the data collected in health surveys carried out in 8 similar studies conducted between 1991 and 2004.

There was a sharp drop in both overall prevalence and length of use of conventional HRT from 2003. According to the researchers, this was due to the announcement in 2002 of a study that appeared to link HRT to a higher risk of breast cancer, heart attack and stroke.

However, they also indicated that though recent studies did endorse the benefits of HRT and revise downwards the possible risks on heart attack etc., women did not seem to go back to HRT.

The study found that 15.8 percent of women above the age of 50 were using HRT in 2004, down from 22 percent in 2000, and uses on HRT further dropped to 11.8 percent in 2008. On the other hand, use of alternative hormonal therapies was rare in 2004 but the number had risen to 4 percent in 2008.

To most health experts, HRT is still the best way to treat menopausal symptoms for most women. It is unfortunately that women who need help for their menopause are turning to some unproven and possibly unsafe alternatives because of scares. Women are therefore urged to contact their doctor before starting any treatments for menopausal symptoms.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Can Medication Errors Be Reduced?

Have you ever heard about or read reports on people ended up tragically because of wrong medications or inappropriate drugs being prescribed? Would this sound an alarm to you?

In the United States, the medication errors could cost as much as US$177 billion a year because of many unnoticed commonplace errors made by the untrained pharmacists. Such errors could ultimately cause adverse health reactions to the patients.

After studying the effect of a program that trained pharmacists to prevent drug-related errors, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggested that pharmacists spending extra time talking to patients with heart disease about the medications and finding medication errors could significantly reduce mistakes. Their findings were published on April 27, 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

There were 800 patients with heart failure or hypertension (high blood pressure) participated in one of the 2 clinical trials.

One group of patients was assigned with pharmacists who had been trained to brief patients on the proper use of their drugs, to monitor them and to communicate with their doctors to spot errors, whereas the pharmacists for the other group of patients were of no special training. 210 medication errors or harmful side effects were found among the patients.

The most common errors included prescribing patients with a medication that should be avoided in elderly patients, drugs for vaginal yeast infections in women taking antibiotics or prescriptions for multiple products containing the painkiller acetaminophen.

When comparing with the control group, patients getting their medications from the trained pharmacists had a 35 percent lower risk of adverse drug reactions and a 37 percent lower risk of medication errors.

According to the researchers, pharmacists trained at finding medication errors and explaining proper use of medications to patients with complex health conditions could save a 50,000-patient practice about US$600,000 in annual charges.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Obesity Cannot Be Blamed for Bad Health?

Obesity or overweight has long been linked to medical disorders like diabetes that could eventually lead to heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, or kidney disease. Evidence also showed that certain types of cancer are associated with weight gain.

The evidence linking obesity to diabetes and cardiovascular disease is very strong and it is known that Type-2 diabetes seldom occurs in people who are not obese or overweight.

Based on the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), a person who has a body mass index (BMI) of above 25 is considered overweight and those with BMI exceeding 30 are obese. BMI is defined as weight in kilos divided by the square of height in meters.

However, not all health experts agree on the arguments mentioned above. Instead, a minority of health experts, who are termed as the obesity contrarians, argue that there is no data proving why being fat would be dangerous. To them, being obese is not as severe a threat as is thought. They felt that the obesity epidemic has been absolutely been exaggerated.

A political science professor even claimed that there is no good causal connection between obesity and bad health. According to his opinion, blaming obesity for diabetes and heart attacks is like blaming lung cancer on bad health rather than on smoking. He explained that since other factors such as diet, exercise or genetic predispositions towards diseases are harder to measure than weight.

Other skeptics also criticize the over-projection on the rise in obesity. For example, the British government warns that nearly half of the Britain’s population will be obese by 2050. The skeptics believe that these projections are not based on good evidence because those who are obese are often lumped together with those who are overweight. To them, people, who are overweight, may be perfectly healthy.

It is true that people, who are thin, can get diabetes, hypertension, stroke and even heart disease while people, who are fat, are apparently healthy. Nevertheless, until health experts could derive sound evidence to prove that obesity is definitely bad for health, there will still be some obesity contrarians out there to advocate otherwise.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Can Calories Reduction Lead to Weight Loss?

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 66 percent of adults in Untied States are overweight and of those, 32 percent are obese.

People are aware of the fact that overweight or obese could increase the chance of developing medical disorders like diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and even heart disease. Scientists also link obesity to certain types of cancer. Recently, several death cases of H1N1 also involved victims who were overweight. As such, overweight or obese people should try their utmost to lose weight.

A study, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that eating heart-healthy, low-calorie foods and exercising is the key to losing weight regardless of levels of carbohydrates, fat or protein. The findings were published on February 27, 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

811 volunteers participated in the NIH study. 38 percent of them were men and 62 percent were women, who aged between 30 and 70, and either overweight or obese. The study examined the diets that have been popular in the United States in recent years.

The so-called "Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies (POUNDS LOST) study found similar weight loss after 6 months and 2 years among participants assigned to 4 diets that were different in the proportions of carbohydrates, fat or protein.

Diets used were low or high in total fat (20 or 40 percent of calories) with average or high protein (15 or 25 percent of calories). Carbohydrate content ranged from 35 to 65 percent of calories. All these diets employed the same calorie reduction goals and were heart-healthy with low in saturated fat and cholesterol while high in dietary fiber.

Participants lost an average 13 pounds (5.9 kilos) at 6 months and maintained a pound (4-kilo) loss at 2 years.

This new research advocated that as long as people follow a heart-healthy, reduced calorie diet, there is more than one nutritional approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. In fact, people who are required to lose weight are provided with flexibility to choose one that they feel most comfortable and most likely to sustain. In other words, the one approach that is most suited to their personal preferences and health needs..

Friday, July 10, 2009

Have People Strived Hard to Lower Their Bad Cholesterol?

When people’s bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is high, they actually have a much higher risk of developing high blood pressure, stroke and even heart disease. As such, it is advisable for them to lower their LDL level.

A recent study by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco showed that over the last decade, the number of patients who have lowered their LDL to the recommended level has nearly doubled in 9 countries, namely Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and the United States.

Published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation on June 22, 2009, the findings revealed that patients in the United States, Brazil, France and South Korea had accepted a combination of medical treatment and lifestyle changes to improve their bad cholesterol.

In the study, close to 10,000 people with an average age of 62 were surveyed. The number of patients, who had successfully reached their target LDL level, was found to rise from 38 percent to 73 percent over the last 10 years.

On the other hand, only 30 percent of the high-risk patients, who have existing coronary artery disease or risk factors such as obesity, diabetes or smoking, had successfully reached their target LDL of 70mg per deciliter or less.

Although there is still some room for improvement, particularly in very high-risk patients, the results did indicate that LDL-lowering therapy has been applied much more successfully than it had been a decade ago.

The target LDL level in the United States depends on how many risk factors are present in the patient.

For patients without coronary artery disease, diabetes, or other cardiovascular risk factors, the ideal LDL is 160 mg/dL or less. People without either coronary artery disease or diabetes but with at least 2 other risk factors should keep their LDL level to less than 130 mg/dL

Patients who have cardiovascular diseases or diabetes should keep their bad cholesterol level no higher than 100 mg/dL, and should try to maintain a level lower than 70 mg/dL if they also have other risk factors.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Can Exercise Alone Prevent Heart Disease for Overweight?

When one is overweight or obese, the risk of developing many health problems also raises. These include diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, heart disease, etc. Some health experts even link certain types of cancer to obesity.

Research shows that fat cells produce chemicals that can speed up hardening of the arteries and increase inflammation thus harming blood vessels. Meanwhile, physical activity can make for healthier blood vessels and reduce the risk of blood clots.

However, researchers from Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that exercise would not reduce the risk of heart disease for those who are overweight or obese unless they slim down too. The findings, which were published on April 28, 2008 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, argued that even high quantities of physical activity are highly impossible to reverse the risk of coronary heart disease in overweight or obese women unless they also lose weight.

Basing on information from a study of nearly 39,000 women that began in 1992, the study traced a number of health issues. In the study, 34 percent of the women were physically activity based on government guidelines, 31 percent were overweight and 18 percent were obese.

The researchers found that 948 women were diagnosed with heart disease. Those active women with normal weight had the lowest risk but those with normal weight and not active at all had a slightly higher risk of developing heart disease. The risk rises for those active women who were either overweight or obese. People with the highest risk of getting heart disease are those who were overweight or obese and physically inactive.

In conclusion, the researchers stressed that it is important to counseling all women to participate in increasing amounts of regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight in order to lower the risk of coronary heart disease.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

How Sleep Duration Affected Blood Pressure?

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults normally need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. However, the sleep duration of many adults is far less than the recommended.

In fact, several studies have reported the negative health consequences of short sleep duration. Studies have shown lack of sleep would raise rates of obesity, depression and high blood pressure in children, and it would increase the risk of falls for older adults. For the middle-aged persons, lack of sleep would increase the risk of infections, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

It is widely believed that high blood pressure, if not treated in time with medications, could cause stroke and eventually lead to partial or total disability. Some serious cases could even result in death. In the meantime, one should not forget that high blood pressure has long been regarded as a known risk factor of heart disease.

A paper published on June 8, 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine by researchers from the University of Chicago revealed that middle-aged adults who sleep too little are more likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure).

The new study is believed to be among the first to directly measure sleep duration for middle-aged adults. The findings showed that a person who misses an average of 1 hour of sleep over a period of 5 years would raise the risk of getting high blood pressure by 37 percent. Meanwhile, the study also suggested that poor sleep might well explain in part why black men have higher blood pressure risks.

In the study, 578 adults with an average age of 40 were examined. The researchers took blood pressure readings and measured sleep duration for each of these adults. It was noted that only 1 percent slept 8 hours or more.

On average, the volunteers slept only 6 hours. For those who slept less, chances they would develop high blood pressure over 5 years would be much higher. The result also showed that every hour of lost sleep raised the risk. Meanwhile, the researchers found that men, and particularly black men, had much shorter sleep duration than white women in the study, who were least likely to develop high blood pressure.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Not-As-Sweet Drinks Might Prevent People From Being Obese or Overweight!

In United States, there are more than two-thirds of the population is either overweight or obese. Being obese or overweight, one is subject to a higher risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), stroke and even certain types of cancer.

With evidence that shows that sugary drinks are an important contributor to the epidemic of obesity and Type-2 diabetes in United States, nutrition experts urged soft drink makers to invent and market a new range of semi-sweet drinks that would help Americans free from reliance on sugary beverages.

A study by Harvard researchers on 90,000 women even found that women who drank more than 2 servings of sugary beverages each day had a nearly 40 percent higher risk of getting heart disease than women who rarely drank such drinks. The findings were published in the April 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

On April 20, 2009, nutrition experts proposed a new category of reduced-calorie beverages containing no more than 1 gram of sugar per ounce. In other words, the proposed drinks contain about 50 calories, which is about 70 percent less sugar found in a typical soft drink. Furthermore, they should not have artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharine.

Among the current available range of drinks, a 20-ounce (590 ml) bottle of soda contains nearly 17 teaspoons (255 ml) of sugar and 250 calories (1.05 kj).

It is hoped that with the new drinks, the present American norm could be shifted back to a lower expectation of sweetness so that people would adjust their palates, especially the younger population. Statistics show that 4 out of 5 children and 2 out of 3 adults drink sugar-sweetened beverages on any average day.

However, such proposal seem not welcome by the food and beverage makers, who blame people seldom or not exercise at all and argue that people should responsibly choose to eat snack foods.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Can Bone Marrow Help Heart Function Better?

Being the leading cause of death around the world, heart disease could be caused by fats that harden and block arteries, and high blood pressure that damages blood vessel. Other risk factors also include high blood cholesterol, overweight, obesity, diabetes, lack of physical activity, smoking, unhealthy diet, etc. Of course, family history of heart disease could be the cause too.

As reported on May 19, 2009 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, some patients with a chronic form of heart disease could feel better with the injection of bone marrow stem cells into their hearts. The infusions helped blood flow, reduced pain and helped patients exercise more.

Bone marrow stem cell therapy is being tested for a range of heart conditions, including for people with blocked arteries that reduce blood supply to the heart.

The study, carried out by Dutch researchers from Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, examined 50 people, with an average age of 64, who had chronic ischemia (blocked arteries). One group received about 8 injections of bone marrow cells while others got a placebo.

After 3 months, those who received the injections showed signs that their hearts pumped better and had improved blood flow, as compared with the others. Meanwhile, they also got greater improvements in the ability to exercise and scored higher on quality-of-life measurements than those men and women taking the placebo.

With the new findings in hand, the researchers would very likely to carry out trials to see whether the bone marrow stem cell therapy would help heart disease patients live longer.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How Does Obesity Relate To Global Warming?

It has been known that overweight or obesity is closely linked to many medical disorders or diseases. For instance, obesity is definitely a risk factor for heart disease. Being overweight or obese, one is also at a higher risk of developing diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and certain types of cancer and so on and so forth.

Interestingly, a study even linked obesity to global warming. How did the scientists arrive at such a deduction?

The researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine believed obesity contributes to global warming too because these people need more fuel to transport them and the type of food they eat. In the paper published in the journal Lancet on May 16, 2008, the researchers worried that food shortages and higher energy prices would result, and the problem will get worse with the increase of the population.

A quick check shows that at least 400 million adults worldwide are obese. According to the projection by World Health Organization (WHO), 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese by 2015.

In the study, the researchers pegged 40 percent of the global population as obese with a body mass index (BMI) of near 30. The researchers found that obese people need 1,680 daily calories to sustain their normal energy and another 1,280 calories to maintain the daily activities. This is 18 percent more than that required by people with normal BMI.

BMI, calculated by dividing the weight (kg) by the square of the height (m), is commonly used to determine whether one is overweight or obese. The normal range falls between 18 and 25. One is considered overweight when the BMI exceeds 25 and obese when BMI exceeds 30.

As thinner people eat less and are more likely to walk instead of relying on cars, a slimmer population would reduce the demand for fuel and for agriculture. One should not forget that 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions stem from agriculture.

Perhaps, the next task for the researchers is to quantify how much a heavier population is contributing to climate change, higher fuel prices and food shortages. Meanwhile, it is important to promote normal distribution of BMI as this would help reduce global demand for, and so the price of, food.