Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Is There A Link Between Hypertension and Memory?

People with a reading of 140/90 and above are said to have hypertension, or commonly known as high blood pressure. The upper reading of 140 is called systolic blood pressure and the bottom reading of 90 is known as diastolic blood pressure.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), about 1 in every 3 adults in the United States has high blood pressure. As there are no symptoms, many people who are hypertensive for years without even knowing it. If high blood pressure is not controlled appropriately, it might eventually lead to other medical complications including kidney failure, heart disease and stroke.

In a paper published by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham on August 25, 2009 in the journal Neurology, high blood pressure was said to affect human’s memory.

The study, funded by National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, found that people as young as 45 years old with high blood pressure are more likely to have memory problems. According to the study, people with high diastolic blood pressure (high readings on the bottom number of the blood pressure reading) were more likely than those with normal readings to have memory and thinking troubles known as cognitive impairment.

Nearly 20,000 people who were 45 years old and above and had never had a stroke or mini-stroke were involved in the largest study to look at the link between high blood pressure and memory problems. There were more than 7 percent had memory troubles and nearly half were taking medication for high blood pressure. People with stroke were excluded because stroke has already been known as a common cause of memory problems.

After adjusting for other factors that can mar thinking like age, diabetes, education, exercise level, high cholesterol and smoking status, it was found that for every 10 points increase in the diastolic blood pressure reading, the chances that a person could have cognitive problems were raised by 7 percent.

The findings might suggest that higher blood pressure might be a risk factor for cognitive impairment, but further studies to understand further the cause-and-effect relationships are still necessary.

Meanwhile, the researchers believed it is possible to prevent cognitive impairment by preventing or treating high blood pressure as early as possible.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Antiphospholipid Syndrome Might Raise Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke!

Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is a medical disorder that causes blood clot in arteries and veins (thrombosis). It is also blamed for causing certain pregnancy-related complications like preterm delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth or severe preeclampsia.

The syndrome, also known as Hughes syndrome after the rheumatologist Dr. Graham R.V. Hughes, is a result of immunity system flaw. It occurs because of the autoimmune production of antibodies against phospholipid, a cell membrane substance.

Dutch researchers from at the University Medical Centre, Utrecht reported on September 28, 2009 in The Lancet Neurology journal that women under 50 having APS are 43 times riskier of getting stroke and 5 times likelier to have heart attack than a general population.

The study is believed to be the first to probe the impact of APS in terms of heart attack and stroke. Data from 1,006 women aged between 18 and 49 was analyzed. These women took part in a different study, known as RATIO, between 1990 and 2001. Among the participants, 175 had had a stroke, 203 had had a heart attack and 628 were healthy women.

Samples of blood were taken from these women to test for antiphospholipid antibodies known as lupus anticoagulant (LA), and a questionnaire about their lifestyle was given for response.

The blood test results indicated that LA was found in 17 percent (30 women) of those who had had a stroke, 3 percent (6 women) of those who had had a heart attack and 0.4 percent (4 women) of those who were healthy.

According to the researchers, the frequency of such disorder is considered low. This can be seen from the fact that only between 1.2 and 3.8 percent of the public has LA while there was a prevalence of only 0.6 percent was found in the study.

However, the researchers warned that these so-called auto-antibodies could account for an inordinate number of hospitalizations, especially when other risk factors like smoking and contraceptive pills are taken into account.

It was found that patients with LA and smoking increased the risk of heart attack by 34 folds and those with LA and oral contraceptives increased the likelihood by 22 folds.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Could Be Fatal For Stroke Patients!

Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person’s breathing can briefly cease or become blocked numerous times during the night. Sleep apnea occurs frequently among patients with stroke, but whether it is an independent risk factor for mortality is still unknown.

In order to understand this relationship better, researchers from Umea University Hospital in Sweden examined long-term survival among 132 stroke patients admitted for in-hospital stroke rehabilitation between 1995 and 1997. All the participated patients underwent overnight sleep apnea recording about 3 weeks after their stroke, and they were followed for an average of 10 years.

Out of the 132 participants, 23 patients (17.4 percent) had obstructive sleep apnea and 28 patients (21.2 percent) had central sleep apnea during Cheyne-Stokes respiration. 2 patients who had both obstructive and central sleep apnea were excluded. A total of 79 patients served as controls.

Researchers found that 116 (88 percent) patients had died at follow-up. This included all patients with obstructive sleep apnea, 96 percent of those with central sleep apnea and 81 percent of patients without either form of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing is blocked by collapsing airway tissues while central sleep apnea is one in which respiration controlled by the brain is interrupted.

The results showed that central sleep apnea was not associated with increased mortality. However, the mortality rates of patients with obstructive sleep apnea were 76 percent higher than those without apnea.

In the paper published on February 11, 2008 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the researchers pointed out that it could be the drop in nighttime levels or oxygen in the bloodstream and an increased risk of cardiac arrest that might account for the increased mortality among stroke patients who have sleep apnea.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is Chocolate Good Or Bad for Your Heart?

Chocolate is one that many of us have difficulty to refuse. Many scientists have studied the possible impacts of the consumption of chocolate on our bodies including heart and arteries. As you might expect, some of these findings might be positive while others were just negative.

For instance, a paper published in the British medical journal Lancet in 2007 pointed out that any health claims about dark chocolate might not be justified. Instead, many of these chocolate products are harmful to the heart and arteries as they are actually abundant in fat and sugar.

Plain chocolate is rich in flavanols or plant chemicals that are thought to protect the heart and lower blood pressure. However, because of its bitter taste, most manufacturers usually remove flavanols during their making of chocolate products. Therefore, even the co-called dark chocolate products can have no flavanols.

On the other hand, researchers from the Yale Center for Perinatal, Pediatric & Environmental Epidemiology, at Yale University reported on April 28, 2008 in the May 2008 issue of Epidemiology that daily consumption of a quality dark chocolate is healthy for pregnant women and protects them from getting into hypertension (high blood pressure).

The study involved 2,291 women and spanned over a period of 4 years (1996 to 2000). The density of theobromine (a chemical in chocolate) in the arterial cord blood extracted from the umbilical cord at delivery was measured. The results shown that there was a 69 percent less chance of developing preeclampsia if pregnant women ate rich, dark chocolate.

Preeclampsia, affecting up to 8 percent of pregnancies, is a major pregnancy complication with cardiovascular manifestations such as hypertension.

The theobromine concentrations in chocolate can vary from 0.15 percent to 0.46 percent. According to the researchers, the darker the chocolate is, the better it is. Those highly processed chocolate can be rich in fat and sugar and low in the amount of theobromine.

Besides theobromine, chocolate also contains other chemicals including magnesium, which lowers hypertension, and flavanoids, which are potent antioxidants.

If you like chocolate very much and at the same time want your heart to be healthy, you should only put those dark and bitter chocolates (less fat and sugar) in your future buying list.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

What Is the Life Expectancy in United States?

Babies born in Japan and Singapore have a life expectancy of 82 years. Babies in France will live to an average of 80.9 while those in Sweden, Italy, Australia and Canada can live beyond 80.

What about the life expectancy in United States? According to a statistics released by CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on August 19, 2009, Americans can live till 77.9 years, which is the highest it has ever been. Both men and women tend to live longer but women still live on average more than 5 years longer than men.

The life expectancy of Americans is no doubt lower than comparable developed countries, as illustrated above. However, it is still higher than that in countries like Tunisia and Guatemala, which have life expectancies of 75 and 70 respectively.

CDC reported that there were 2,423,995 people died in the United States in 2007, which were 2,269 fewer than in 2006. The life expectancy in 2006 was 77.7 indicating there is a continuation of a trend. In fact, the life expectancy has increased 1.4 years from 76.5 years in 1997 to 77.9 in 2007.

It is expected that the newborn baby boys can live till 75 on average and girls can live till 80. CDC also pointed out that for the first time, life expectancy for black males reached 70 years.

Americans who die of heart disease or cancer accounted for 48.5 percent of all deaths in 2007. There was a slight decline in the death rate for influenza and pneumonia, murder and accidents.

Nevertheless, the death rate for the fourth leading cause of death, chronic lower respiratory diseases like emphysema, was found to rise by 1.7 percent. The number of people died of AIDS was estimated to be 11,061. On the other hand, the infant mortality rate remained statistically unchanged at 6.77 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.