Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another Cause For Children Obesity!

Childhood obesity is a serious issue as obese children are at a much higher risk of developing many chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke and even certain types of cancer later in their life.

Sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet have been crowned as the main culprits responsible for childhood obesity. However, researchers from Temple University had recently found a new cause.

In a paper published in the ‘Journal of Pediatrics’, they reported that toddlers who still drank from bottles at age of 2 were 33 percent more likely than other children to be obese at the age of 5.

Of the 6,750 children studied, 1 in 5 was still using a bottle at the age of 24 months, either at night or all the time. For those who were long-term bottle users, roughly 1 in 5 was obese at the age of 5, comparing to about 1 in 6 that has been weaned earlier.

After looking into other factors that could affect a child's risk of obesity, including mother's weight, family income and education, and if the child had ever been breastfed, the researchers found that prolonged bottle-feeding by itself could induce a 33 percent increase in children's risk of obesity.

According to researchers, the bottle might be providing a source of comfort, rather than meeting nutritional needs. Nevertheless, the extra calories could be substantial. For instance, for an average 2-ear-old girl, an 8-ounce bottle of whole milk fed at bedtime would provide 12 percent of her calorie needs for the day.

Though the findings could not conclude long-term bottle-feeding is directly responsible for the increased risk of obesity, they did suggest that weaning babies around 12 month old could help prevent weight gain.

In fact, pediatricians already advise parents to wean their children when they are about 12 to 14 months old, or even earlier. This is mainly because extended bottle-feeding, especially overnight, is believed to boost the risk of cavities and might contribute to iron deficiency.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It Is Food Choice That Make You Fat!

What you eat is what you get! Unhealthy eating can cause people to develop chronic diseases including Type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke.

Many people believe eating less and exercise more can achieve good health! But in reality, this seems to be too simplistic because researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that slight changes in eating habits, like eating an extra serving of potato chips or fries each day, could raise a person’s weight over the years.

After examining data on diet and lifestyle of 3 large studies including more than 120,000 nurses and health professionals from around the United States over a period of 20 years, the researchers argued that overall food choice appears to have the strongest link to how much a person gains weight.

While the United Nations praising potato as a good source of Vitamin-C, several B Vitamins and Minerals, including iron, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, the researchers reported on June 22, 2011 in the ‘New England Journal of Medicine’ that people who ate an extra serving of French fries every day gained an average of 1.5 kilos over a 4-year period. Those who consumed on an extra serving of potato chips daily gained an average of 770 grams every 4 years, and an extra serving of potatoes prepared in any non-chip form was found to contribute to an average weight gain of 590 grams over 4 years.

Similar results were seen in people who consumed extra sugary drinks (0.45 kilos) and unprocessed meat (0.43 kilos) and processed meat (0.42 kilos).

On the other hand, people ate more of certain foods like yoghurt, vegetables, fruits and whole grains, did not gain weight. Over the period of 4 year, people who ate an extra serving of vegetables each day lose 0.1 kilos. Similar results were discovered in people who ate extra serving of yoghurt (0.37 kilos), fruit (0.21 kilos) and nuts (0.26 kilos).

In conclusion, the study found that quality of food is more important than quantity to prevent long-term weight gain, and that small lifestyle changes did make the difference between staying slim and becoming overweight.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Be Happy To Lower Heart Disease Risk!

Are you happy with your life? If your answer is yes, then probably you will be at a lower risk of getting heart disease.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston found that people who were most content with their lives had 13 percent lower risk of heart disease. Their findings were published online on July 4, 2011 in the ‘European Heart Journal’.

According to them, participants' level of satisfaction with their job, family, sex life and with themselves was linked to their risk of coronary heart disease. The higher the satisfaction, the greater the risk reduction.

About 8,000 British government workers were asked about 7 specific areas of participants' everyday lives, including love relationships, leisure activities, standard of living, job, family, sex and one's self. They rated their satisfaction level in each area on a scale of 1 (very dissatisfied) to 7 (very satisfied).

The participants’ health records for coronary related death, non-fatal heart attack and angina, or chest pain were tracked over the next 6 years. It seemed that satisfaction with one’s job, family, sex and self were most paramount for heart disease prevention, after taking into account of other heart disease risk factors including hypertension (high blood pressure) and body mass index (BMI).

Health experts have long regarded depression and anxiety as risk factors for heart disease, but there has not been much evidence found that supported benefits of a positive psychological state like feeling content with one’s life.

The new findings suggested effort to encourage positive psychological states could be as relevant as to lessen negative psychological states for those who are at high risk of heart disease.

Nevertheless, being happy alone might not be enough to keep heart disease away as there are many other risk factors that can cause people to develop heart disease. The basic rules remain: a healthy diet and regular physical activities are still a must for people who wish to be heart healthy.

Monday, December 05, 2011

How Did Movies Affect Teen Smoking?

Smoking is undoubtedly a unwanted habit that should not be encouraged because it can cause smokers as well as people around them (through secondhand smoke) suffer chronic diseases including lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary) and erectile dysfunction. It can lead to birth defects, too.

Teens smoke for a number of reasons. Pressure among the peers and smoking habit of parents or relatives tend to influence the teens to follow suit. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, indicated that smoking among teens is somehow related to movies with tobacco.

According to their findings that were published on July 14, 2011 in the ‘Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report’, number of movies in the United States in which an actor smoked fell sharply between 2005 and 2010.

55 percent of movies that had huge box office grossing in the United States in 2010 did not have smoking scenes, compared with a third of films that scored huge box office success in 2005.

During the same 6-year period, the number of tobacco incidents in top-grossing movies fell by 56 percent, though there were still some 2,000 scenes where an actor used tobacco either openly, on screen, or implicitly, off-screen. In fact, the percentages of 2010 top-grossing movies with no tobacco incidents were the highest observed in 2 decades.

In 2010, a study released by CDC found that the percentage of middle school students in the United States who smoked fell from 11 percent to 5 percent between 2000 and 2009 and those who experimented with smoking fell from nearly 30 percent to 15 percent.

Meanwhile, use of other tobacco products like cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco was also down among middle school boys aged between 11 and 14. The smoking among high school students was also down though less sharply.

17 percent of high school students smoked cigarettes in 2009, comparing to 28 percent in 2000, while 3 in 10 high school students tried smoking 2 years ago, comparing to nearly 4 in 10 in 2000.

The drop in onscreen smoking might have contributed to the decline in smoking among middle school and high school students.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why Should Junk Food Advertisements Be Banned?

Children obesity has been a headache for not only developed but also many developing nations. Overweight or obese children will have a higher risk of developing chronic diseases like hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, Type-2 diabetes and stroke later in their life.

Inadequate physical activity and unhealthy diet are the 2 main reasons identified by health experts that cause the childhood obesity. Children tend to watch long hours of television and eat a lot of junk foods.

In a paper published in June 2011 in the journal ‘Pediatrics’, researchers from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom reported that television advertisements for junk food really make children hunger for those treats, especially if they watch a lot of television.

A DVD featuring commercials for fast food and junk food seemed to stimulate the appetites for sweet and high fat fare for children aged between 6 and 13 years old.

The children involved in the study had a greater desire for sweet and fatty foods after viewing the junk-food advertisements compared to days when they watched advertisements for toys. This was especially true for those children who watched a lot of television (defined in the study as over 21 hours a week).

While children wanted more high carbohydrate, high fat foods after watching junk food advertisements, the effects of the advertisements were modest. The researchers argued that in real life, a lot of other factors like parents’ willingness to buy those junk foods could affect the choice of food for the children.

Exposure to television food commercials would enhance high television viewers' preferences for branded foods and increased reported preferences for all food items (branded and unbranded) relative to the low television viewers, according to the researchers.

Children nowadays watch television not only at home but also on their computers as well as mobile phones, which can add up to a lot of hours. There is no doubt that parents should limit the television time of their children, but of course with some help. This is because parents alone cannot counter the food companies who spend huge amount (about $2 billion) every year on fun and irresistible advertisements aiming at kids.

Perhaps it is time for legislation and any relevant authorities to step in!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How Is Waistline Linked To Stroke?

Cerebrovascular disease is a group of brain dysfunctions related to disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain, with hypertension (high blood pressure) being the most important cause. Results of cerebrovascular disease can include a stroke, or occasionally a hemorrhagic stroke.

In Taiwan, cerebrovascular disease ranked third in the 10 leading causes of death, showing stroke could be the immense threat for the health of Taiwanese.

Scientists have found the link between waistline and heart disease. But how about stroke, does it also has some connection with the waistline?

According to a study conducted by the Millennium Health Foundation (MHF) in Taiwan, a one-centimeter increase in waistline raises the likelihood of getting a minor stroke by 2 percent.

Minor stroke, also known as transient ischemic attack (TIA), is a condition showing stroke-like symptoms that generally last for just a few minutes and do not cause any lasting impairment. TIA is, however, a warning sign of possible serious and disabling strokes. Research showed that about one in 20 people who have a TIA will have a major stroke within a few days and one in 10 will have one within 3 months.

From the data collected and released in 2010 by MHF, among 40 percent of the people whose waistlines exceeded the standard range, 70 percent of men and 60 percent of women, had abnormal blood pressure that could possibly lead to stroke. Such result showed the existence of a strong positive correlation between waistline and possibility of getting a minor stroke.

When people enter middle age, they will have their waistline increased by around 10 cm on average, the increase in probability of suffering a minor stroke will therefore amount to 20 percent. Once a person suffers a minor stroke, the chances that he or she would get a severe stroke afterwards is 10 times that of a person without a prior minor stroke.

In order to prevent stroke, MHF suggests people should limit their waistlines to a maximum of 90 cm for males and 80 cm for females.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Another Way To Control Weight

Overweight and obesity are big headache for health experts around the world as these 2 conditions will likely raise a person’s risk of getting diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension (high blood pressure), and eventually lead to heart disease or stroke. The medical cost involved can be a heavy burden for the governments.

In order to control body weight, one should watch the amount of food he or she eats. Numerous studies have looked at how the portion size can affect on the amount people eat. A new study, conducted by researchers from University of Utah, Salt Lake City, examined at how the bite size will influence the quantities ingested.

In their paper published in July 2011 in the ‘Journal of Consumer Research’, they argued that bigger bites lead to eating less, but only in restaurant settings.

The study was carried out in a popular Italian restaurant in the South-Western United States. 2 sizes of forks were used to manipulate bite sizes: a larger fork that held 20 percent more food than the fork usually used in the restaurant, and a smaller fork that held 20 percent less than the usual one. It was found that diners who used large forks ate less than those who used small forks.

Tables were furnished with either large fork or small fork over 2 lunches and 2 dinners in the restaurant. Servers, including one of the study's researchers, took customers' orders, and weighed the full plate of food that they had ordered before serving it to them.

Each plate was attached with a small sticky note written with details including weight and other information. At the end of the meal, every plate was brought back to the kitchen and weighed again. The results showed that diners who used the bigger fork ate less food than those who used the smaller fork.

Such theory, however, only worked in a restaurant setting. In another study conducted in the laboratory using also Italian food, researchers found that people who used big forks actually eat more. Hence, the study concluded that there are different motivations when people eat in a restaurant or a laboratory.

If you wish to control the amount you eat, perhaps you should ask for or simply bring along a big fork the next time you visit an Italian restaurant!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Can Olive Oil Prevent Stroke?

Olive oil is known to benefit heart disease patients.

Some clinical trials have found that Mediterranean diet, with olive oil as key ingredient, helps control some risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and elevated levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Besides olive oil, Mediterranean diet also includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and moderate amounts of red wine. High olive oil intake is also linked to a lower risk of heart attack, and a longer lifespan among heart attack patients.

Recently, researchers from the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Bordeaux, France even suggested that older people who ate olive oil have a lower risk of stroke than those who did not. Their paper was published on June 15, 2011 in ‘Neurology’, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

They followed 7,625 French people who aged 65 and above from 3 cities (Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier) for a period of 5 years. The participants were divided into groups according to their use of olive oil, ranging from people who did not use it at all to those who used it in dressing, cooking and on bread (classified as ‘intensive’).

During the period of study, there were 148 strokes. Those intensive users suffered stroke at a rate of 0.3 percent per year, comparing with just over 0.5 percent among non-users and 0.4 percent among moderate users.

After adjusting for factors like body weight, physical activity and overall diet, the risk of stroke for ‘intensive’ olive oil users were found to have 41 percent lower than that of those who never ate olive oil.

Based on the findings, it seemed that a new set of dietary recommendation should be issued to prevent stroke in people who are 65 and above. Olive oil can be an inexpensive and easy way to help older people prevent from getting stroke.

People should choose olive oil and other unsaturated fats over saturated fats that are found largely in meats and dairy and trans fats that were found in some processed foods such as crackers, cookies and chips.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Would Meditation Help Heart Disease Patients?

Any practice in which the practitioner trains his or her minds or self-induces a mode of consciousness can be called meditation. As it is generally an inwardly oriented, personal practice, people can usually practice it by themselves. While meditation has been practiced since thousands of years ago for various reasons, it is now commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction.

Since 1960s, meditation has been the subject of scientific research. There were more than 1,000 published studies that linked various methods of meditation to changes in bodily processes including metabolism, blood pressure, and brain activation.

Meanwhile, popularity of meditation has grown steadily. A 2007 study by the United States government found that about 9.4 percent of adults (over 20 million) had practiced meditation within the past 12 years, up from 7.6 percent (more than 15 million people) in 2002.

In a paper published on June 27, 2011 in the ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’, researchers from the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa reported that meditation would cut the rate of death, heart attack and stroke by half.

The 9-year study on the effects of meditation of heart disease patients was funded by the National Institute of Health, and the stress-reducing technique used is Transcendental Meditation.

Trial was conducted at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in collaboration with Schneider’s Institute. The study tracked 201 African American men and women, with an average age of 59. These participants had narrowing of arteries in their hearts. While staying on the prescribed medications, they were randomly assigned to either a meditation group or a control group that was given conventional health education classes.

A comparison of results from the 2 groups showed that those who practiced Transcendental Meditation had the risk of death, nonfatal heart attack and stroke decreased by 47 percent. Significant drops in blood pressure, stress and anger found among people in the meditation group might help explain the results.

Researchers felt that more studies should be carried out to confirm the results. They also pointed out that meditation should not be a substitute for drug therapy for heart disease patients.

The study, nevertheless, highlights a hope that health conditions of heart disease patients could be improve if these patients are taught how to effectively reduce psychosocial stress.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Is Chest Pain A Definite Sign for Heart Attack?

When someone is having a serious pain in the chest, the first thing that comes to our mind is: is he or she having a heart attack (or myocardial infarction)?

Serious pain in the chest seems to be an obvious sign of a heart attack. Researchers from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, however, did not appear to agree.

In their paper published in August 2011 in the ‘Annals of Emergency Medicine’, they pointed out that a high degree of pain does not indicate that someone entering the emergency room with chest pains is having a heart attack.

After examining and following for 30 days more than 3,000 patients who arrived at the UPenn hospital emergency department complaining of chest pain, the researchers found that most severe chest pain was not a good predictor for identifying patients who were having heart attack or who were more prone to having one over the next month. Meanwhile, they also stressed that a patient who does not have severe chest pain does not mean that he or she is not having a heart attack.

The results of their study showed that pain that lasted more than an hour was not a useful sign of heart attack versus other conditions, and the pain of a heart attack also does not always settle in the chest area but might be in the chest, arm, jaw back or abdomen.

According to the researchers, failure to diagnose acute myocardial infarction accounted for 30 percent of malpractice claims paid out, with 2 to 5 percent of patients who were having heart attack being inappropriately discharged from emergency departments.

Though pain severity was not a good predictor, it could correctly identify people who had such symptom and arrived at the emergency department in an ambulance. This might be due to the fact that people tend to ignore chest pain until it is serious enough to call for emergency services.

While the cause of chest pain might or might not be a heart attack, people who have such experience should not ignore it because something serious must have emerged.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Heart Disease Can Be Caused By Childhood Hardship!

While a number of risk factors including diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), overweight, smoking and high alcohol intake can lead to heart disease, childhood hardship can well be one of them.

Researchers from New Zealand's University of Otago revealed in the paper they published in August 2011 in ‘Archives of General Psychiatry’ that children who are abused, lose a parent or suffer other hardships might be at a higher risk of getting heart disease later in their life.

Among more than 18,000 adults in 10 countries, the researchers found that those who said they had faced childhood adversities such as abuse, death of a parent, or a parent’s alcohol or drug abuse had a higher chance of getting heart disease, arthritis, asthma, diabetes and other conditions. Similar pattern was seen among people who said they had suffered from depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions before the age of 21.

Though the findings did not prove that serious stresses in childhood would directly cause poor physical health later on, there were a few reasons behind the link between the two.

According to researchers, early adverse experiences could affect people’s behavior and lifestyle. Some people might just adopt smoking, drinking or over-eating as a way of dealing with the stresses. Likewise, young people with depression or other mental disorders might use smoking or drinking as a way to self-medicate. It is possible that severe childhood stress might have more direct biological effects.

Meanwhile, participants reported at least 3 childhood adversities had a higher risk of all 6 physical health problems that were assessed in the study. They had twice the risk of heart disease, compared with men and women with no adversities.

Similar results were seen among adults who said they had mental health conditions, especially depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or panic disorders, before the age of 21. Their risks of heart disease, asthma, arthritis and chronic back pain or headaches were between 43 percent and 66 percent higher than risks in adults with no early mental health disorders. Current psychological status, however, did not appear to account for the link.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Why People Have Hypertension?

Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, could lead to hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis) and development of heart failure. That is why it has long been regarded as a major risk factor for heart disease. According to World Health Organization (WHO), around a billion people worldwide, including more than 200 million Chinese, suffer from hypertension.

When the cause of hypertension can be identified, the condition is called secondary hypertension. Kidney disease is the highest risk factor for this type of hypertension. For majority of the hypertensive patients, the causes are not known, though several factors including smoking, high salt intake, stress, sedentary lifestyle, overweight or obese, high alcohol consumption, aging and genetics are believed to play an important role. This kind of hypertension is known as essential hypertension.

Recently, researchers from Beijing Chaoyang Hospital’s Cardiology Center identified a common virus known as human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) that could be responsible for causing hypertension. HCMV infects most adults but is repressed by the body’s immune system and rarely causes any symptoms. Their findings, which linked HCMV to essential hypertension, were published in August 2011 in the medical journal ‘Circulation’.

Such findings might present a new strategy for preventing and treating cardiovascular disease. However, the researchers pointed out that their research was still in its early stage and more tests with a wider scope of patients should be carried out. Once conclusive evidence of the relationship is obtained, better medical vaccines and remedies for hypertension could then be made available to treat millions of patients around the world.

Another recent study conducted by the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans found that hypertension plays a part in 2.3 million cardiovascular deaths in China each year. Among these victims, 1.3 million were premature deaths. This means that victims died before the age of 72 in men and 75 in women, the average lifespan in China in 2005.

Friday, September 02, 2011

What Is the Link Between Westernization and Heart Disease?

As a result of ‘Westernization’, the number of South Koreans with multiple risk factors for heart disease and diabetes has steadily increased. Westernization is the conversation to or adoption of western cultures including technology, politics, economics, lifestyle, diet, language and values.

A study published online on April 19, 2011 in the journal ‘Diabetes Care’ reported that one-third of Korean adults have risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease. Since the late-1990s, Korea has become more westernized. Researchers from Gil Medical Center in Incheon intended to look at Korea's changing rate of metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors for Type-2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Based on a periodic government health study on Korean adults aged 20 and above, the researchers found that 25 percent of Korean adults had metabolic syndrome in 1998. But by 2007, the figure had risen beyond 31 percent, which was closed to the rate of 34 percent seen in the United States at that time.

Such hike was seen amid a period of fast economic growth in Korea, together with the adoption of the less-than-healthy lifestyle often accompanying with it. Korean are eating more ‘Western’ food, watching more TV and having less exercise than a decade ago.

This is not the first study to link Westernization to health problems in Asian countries undergoing rapid economic growth. A recent study in urban Indian also found steadily increasing rate of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes among young adults who were followed for 7 years. The researchers who conducted the study accused declining levels of physical activity and high smoking rate as the culprits for causing such health problems.

Meanwhile, several other recent studies in South and Southeastern Asia have also highlighted heart disease and diabetes as growing problems. A World Bank study on India and other South Asian countries had warned that people in the region get their first heart attack at the age of 53, which is 6 years earlier than people anywhere else.

To prevent from ending up with such health problems, people must change their lifestyle. For instance, they should perform regular exercise and adopt a healthy diet with low sodium (salt), carbohydrates and fat.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Are The Causes of Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a medical condition in which a pregnant woman, who has previously had normal blood pressure, develops hypertension (high blood pressure) and has significantly high amount of protein in her urine. If this condition is not treated, it could lead to serious and even fatal complications for both the mother and the baby.

When one has preeclampsia, the only cure is delivery of baby. However, if this woman were diagnosed with the condition too early in the pregnancy, she and her doctor would face a dilemma. The baby needs more time to mature but the mother needs to have delivery to avoid serious complications to her and her baby.

Even if the mother and the baby survive, the mother could later have a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Meanwhile, the baby is often born prematurely and can suffer complications later in life.

Researchers from Britain's Cambridge and Nottingham Universities announced that they have discovered a mechanism that raises blood pressure in preeclampsia and argued that their work might help the search for new drugs for hypertension. They also believed that they had deciphered the first step in the main process that controls blood pressure: release of a hormone known as angiotensin, from its source protein, angiotensinogen. Their findings were published in the journal ‘Nature’ in October 2010.

Drugs currently used to treat high blood pressure include ACE inhibitors that block the production of angiotensin or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB), which prevents angiotensin from taking effect in the body once it is released. These drugs work well for standard hypertension but the pregnant women could not take these drugs because they are potentially dangerous to the developing baby.

The study, primarily focused on preeclampsia, also opened new leads for future research into the causes of hypertension in general. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hypertension itself is the biggest risk factor for causes of death worldwide. Hypertension is also a risk factor for heart disease.

The cost of treating pregnant women with preeclampsia is estimated to be $45 billion a year in the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. An estimated 75,000 women in developing countries die of it each year.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do You Want Your Heart Disease Risk Doubled?

While cigarette smoking can induce numerous medical disorders to smokers themselves, people who are exposed to smokers’ tobacco smoke are also at a high risk of getting similar medical disorders. One of the disorders is heart disease, one of the leading killers in the world.

Researchers from the University College London reported that people who are around smokers and breathe in a lot of smoke are twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who are exposed to lower levels of secondhand smoke. Their study, which covered more than 13,000 people in England and Scotland, was published on June 29, 2010 in the ‘Journal of the American College of Cardiology’.

A saliva test was used to measure the amount of secondhand smoke people have been exposed to and the participants were followed for an average of 8 years, keeping track of who developed heart disease and who died.

It was found that 32 out of about 1,500 people who had never smoked but were exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke died of heart disease. In comparison, only 15 out of about 1,000 people who never smoked but with low exposure. Their analysis, which was restricted to never-smokers only, showed that high secondhand smoke exposure was linked to more than a 2-fold increased risk of dying from heart disease.

High level of exposure, according to the definition set by the researchers, would be equivalent to living with a smoker and exposed to secondhand smoke almost every day.

This is definitely not the first study to reveal such association. In a 10-year study published in 1997 in the journal ‘Circulation’, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health reported that women who never smoked but regularly exposed to other peoples’ smoking in home or work had their risk of heart disease almost doubled.

More than 32,000 healthy women who never lighted up a cigarette were tracked. These women, aged between 36 and 61 when the study began, suffered 152 heart attacks, 25 of them fatal.

In order to prevent heart disease, smokers are urged to give up this unhealthy and selfish habit for the sake of their loved ones. Meanwhile, people staying with smokers should strive to help them quit smoking so as to lower the risk of heart disease for all in the house.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chocolate Might Help You Lower Your Cholesterol!

Who does not like chocolate? People, especially ladies, tend to eat more chocolate when they were in bad mood. But many reports had linked eating chocolate to weight gain that might lead to many medical disorders including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

In a paper published on May 26, 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College in Beijing argued that eating chocolate could help reduce the cholesterol levels. Their theory, however, only applied to people already had risk factors for heart disease and who consumed in modest amounts.

After analyzing 8 trials involving 215 people, they found that eating cocoa would reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol by about 6 mg/dL and cut the total cholesterol by the same amount. Further analysis showed that only people who ate small amounts of cocoa (an amount containing 260 milligrams of polyphenols or less) had their cholesterol levels lowered, and no effect was shown in people who ate more.

Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds found in fruits, vegetables, chocolate and red wine. A 1.25-ounce bar of milk chocolate contains about 300 milligrams of polyphenols.

While healthy people did not benefit from consuming cocoa, people with heart disease risk factors like diabetes had their LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol level reduced by around 8 mg/dL each.

However, researchers suggested more rigorous randomized trials with longer follow-up should be carried out in future research so as to resolve the uncertainty about the clinical effectiveness.

In fact, several studies suggesting that chocolate might be good for the health had been conducted before. A study on 19,300 people, which was released in March 2010, suggested that people who consumed the most chocolate had lower blood pressure and were less likely to suffer stroke or heart attach over the next 10 years.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Is Video Game Really Bad For Children?

Video game, together with other screen-based entertainments like TV and DVD watching, as well as leisure time computer use, has long been accused as one of the culprits that cause children obesity.

Does this mean that children should be totally banned from playing video games? Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine might have a different perspective, as they believed video games could be used to encourage kids to eat healthier foods.

Their study, which was conducted in the United States, found that children who played certain video games increased the amount of fruit and vegetables they ate each day by around one serving. In the United States, nearly one in five 6- to 19-year-olds is obese. The findings were published on December 7, 2010 in the ‘American Journal of Preventive Medicine’.

The 2 video games used in the study were "Escape from Diab” and “Nanoswarm" designed by Archimage to change diet and physical activity behaviors to reduce the risk of becoming obese and diabetic. Archimage is a Houston-based visual arts studio using its experience in computer-based architecture to specialize in serious video game development for the medial research community.

“Escape from Diab” and “Nanoswarm” were designed as epic video game adventures that are comparable to commercial quality video games. A broad diversity of behavior change procedures was incorporated into the games, which can really motivate players to substantially improve diet behaviors.

Obese children are more likely to grow up to be obese adults, to suffer from many chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke and fatty liver disease, and to die prematurely of any cause, as shown by numerous studies.

The finding is definitely a useful step towards fighting childhood obesity because increasing intake of fruit and vegetables could reduce the risk of obesity.

But, researchers also pointed out that while there was increased intake of health foods, children still failed to consume the minimum daily amount of fruit and vegetables recommended by doctors. What worrying them most is that children did not get enough physical exercise. According to health professionals, children should eat 5 servings a day of fruit or vegetables and get an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise.

Though serious video games hold promise, the researchers still felt that their effectiveness and mechanisms of change among youth need to be more thoroughly investigated.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Eat Less Fructose To Prevent Hypertension!

Dessert is usually a sweet course of dish served at the end of a meal. It includes cake, cookie, gelatin, pastry, ice cream, pie, and candy. Dessert is not only liked by children but also favored by many adults especially females.

Besides dessert, many of our daily diet can also be laden with excessive sugar. For instance, sugary or soda drinks are popular among teenagers and many young adults. Most of these sweetened drinks contained the popular high-fructose corn syrup (sometimes called corn sugar). Fructose can be found naturally in fruit and table sugar and that is why it is also called fruit sugar.

Well, lovers of sugary drinks and sugar-laden foods should pay attention to results of a study conducted by scientists from the United States, who reported that consuming a lot of foods and drinks sweetened with fructose might significantly increase the risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure).

The study was published on July 1, 2010 in the ‘Journal of the American Society of Nephrology’ by researchers from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. They found increased rates of borderline high blood pressure for people who consumed at least 74 grams of fructose a day (about 4 bottles of soda).

American Heart Association (AHA) also warned that having too much sugar of any kind can cause people gain weight and this could in turn lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

While scientists have yet to find out the exact reason why fructose would raise blood pressure, some experts suspected that fructose has the potential to reduce production of nitric oxide within the blood vessels.

Nitric oxide, which is known to relax the vessel, is supposed to lower blood pressure. But fructose reduces the production of nitric oxide and makes it difficult for the vessels to relax and dilate.

Meanwhile, fructose also raises uric acid in the blood that could raise blood pressure. Fructose can signal the kidneys to 'hold onto' more salt, and that can contribute to high blood pressure.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Avoid Processed Meat To Prevent Heart Disease!

Bacon, sausage, hot dog and some other processed meat have already become an integrated part of many meat lovers’ diets. But many are probably not aware that eating too much of these would raise their chances of developing diabetes and heart disease.

In a paper published on May 17, 2010 in the journal ‘Circulation’, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health reported that eating unprocessed beef, pork or lamb did not seem to raise risks of heart attack and diabetes. Therefore, salt and chemical preservatives are the real culprits responsible for these 2 health disorders.

Many past studies examining the relationship between eating meat and cardiovascular disease and diabetes had found mixed results, and few had looked at the differences in risk between processed and unprocessed red meat.

To get evidence of a link between eating processed and unprocessed red meat and the risk of diabetes and heart disease, a systemic review of nearly 1,600 studies from around the world were carried out.

Processed meat was defined in the study as any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or with the addition of chemical preservatives. Good examples of processed meat included bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs or processed deli or luncheon meats. On the other hand, unprocessed red meat included beef, lamb or pork but not poultry.

The findings showed that on average, every 50 grams serving of processed meat a day (equivalent to 1 or 2 slices of deli meats or 1 hot dog) was associated with a 19 percent higher risk of developing diabetes and 42 percent higher risk of heart disease. Meanwhile, they found no higher risk of diabetes or heart disease in people eating only unprocessed red meats.

Hence, they urged people to eat less (1 serving or less per week) processed meats such as bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs and processed deli meats in order to lower the risk of diabetes and heart attack.

As expected, the American Meat Institute objected to the findings quoting that it was only one study that was different from other studies and the United States Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Hence, there is no reason for dietary changes unless further studies could justify so.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What Would Heart Disease Cost United States 20 Years Later?

Most people are aware that heart disease is a chronic disease and the cost of treating it can never be cheap. When the condition of a heart disease patient is serious enough that it cannot no longer be treated by medication alone, he or she might need to undergo heart by-pass surgery or even heart transplant. Though advancement of technology has reduced the medical cost substantially, the amount of money that patients need to pay is still considered huge for most people.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in most developed countries including United States, where one in 3 people has some form of heart disease. Every year, 17 percent of the cost of medical care, which is about US$273 billion, is meant for heart disease.

A study published on January 24, 2011 in ‘Circulation’, a journal of the American Heart Association (AHA) estimated that the cost of treating heart disease in United States are expected to triple to US$818 billion per year by 2030.

Based on the current disease rates, an expert panel of AHA expanded the cost according to projections from United States census data about approaching shifts in the population. The researchers also assumed that there would be no new discoveries made between now and 2030 to stop the tide of heart disease.

As revealed by the panel, 36.9 percent of Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart failure or stroke presently. The number of people affected would increase to 116 million or 40.5 percent. Patients with stroke and heart failure are expected to increase the most by about 25 percent.

Most heart disease, according to AHA, is preventable if people can stick to healthy diet and adequate exercises. Unfortunately, many people do not seem to follow such advice. Meanwhile many heart disease patients do not take their medications as directed or drugs are not optimally prescribed to them. All these can further raise the cost of treatment.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Women Benefit More In Certain Heart Disease Treatment!

Heart failure is a condition in which heart is unable to pump blood at an adequate rate or in adequate volume. In serious cases, heart failure patients could lose their life with cessation of heartbeat.

There are numerous reasons why one might develop heart failure, which can be sudden or happen gradually over a periods of time. Some common causes are heart attack, high blood pressure, defective valves in the heart, cardiomyopathies (diseases of the heart muscle), too much alcohol, and congenital conditions that one is born with.

Besides taking right mix of medications, heart failure patients could have their condition reversed if the heart valve is repaired or fast heart rhythm is controlled. In some cases, certain devices are used to help the heart beat and contract properly. For example, cardiac resynchronization therapy with defibrillator (CRT-D), which is a form of therapy for congestive heart failure caused by dilated cardiomyopathy, have been found to have remarkable benefits on appropriately selected patients with heart failure.

CRT-D can help guard against sudden death from irregular heart rhythm by using a specialized pacemaker to re-coordinate the action of the right and left ventricles in patients with heart failure. It can also help strengthen pumping action in patients with heart damage.

Researchers from the University of Rochester pointed out in their findings that CRT-D works twice as well in women. Their study, which was published on February 7, 2011 in the ‘Journal of the American College of Cardiology’, found that when using CRT-D, there was a 70 percent reduction in heart failure in women compared a 35 percent drop in men.

This is probably the first time in history of heart disease research that has credited a certain type of treatment that is more effective in women than in men. In the past cardiac studies, men and women generally received similar benefit from preventive medical therapy.

According to researchers, CRT-D works better in women because women tend to suffer from a different type of heart disease than men. The male participants in the study were more likely to have coronary heart disease while the female participants were more likely to suffer from non-ischemic heart disease.

Coronary artery disease, which is also known as ischemic heart disease, is a condition in which narrowed vessels restrict blood flow to the heart. Non-ischemic heart disease, on the other hand, is one that involves more generalized scarring of heart tissue.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How To Help Women Quit Smoking?

Smoking is definitely not a good habit for health. Smokers are at a higher risk of getting not only lung cancer but also other diseases including heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). More importantly, smokers can pose health risk to people around them through secondhand smoke.

While smokers are aware of the risk they face, many of them especially females are reluctant to quit because they afraid they could gain weight after they stop smoking. In fact, most smokers who quit smoking will eventually gain 5 to 15 pounds.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reported that a combination of specialized counseling and the anti-smoking drug Zyban might boost, at least for a while, chances of quitting smoking for female smokers.

Zyban is a prescription drug used to help smokers give up their habit. It comes in a pill form, and it does not contain nicotine. Hence, it is not a nicotine replacement therapy product. Zyban is the trade name of the drug called “bupropion” and it was approved in 1997 as a stop smoking aid.

The findings, appeared on March 22, 2010 in the ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’, showed that over a period of 6 months of treatment, women who received the combo therapy were more successful at quitting than those who received weight counseling only, and more successful than those who received standard smoking-cessation counseling plus Zyban.

Over the period of 6 months, 34 percent of women in the group that received weight counseling and Zyban consistently abstained, comparing to 21 percent of women who received standard counseling and Zyban, 11 percent of those who received weight counseling and placebo (inactive pills) and 10 percent of those who had standard counseling and placebo.

However, the positive effect faded after treatment ended. At the 1-year mark, 24 percent of women in the group that received weight counseling and Zyban had still remained abstinent, as compared with those in the group that received standard therapy/Zyban. Yet, researchers still insisted that cognitive behavioral therapy, which was developed by them, aimed at smokers' weight-gain issues could give certain women an extra push to quit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Higher Risk of Hip Fracture for Asian Diabetics!

A diabetic is one whose blood sugar is high either because the body does not produce enough insulin or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. Diabetes can damage one’s eyes, kidneys and nerves. It can also lead to heart disease, stroke and even limb amputation.

In Asia, researchers from National University of Singapore (NUS) have also found that there is a link between diabetes and osteoporosis, which is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time. The data obtained in the study showed that Asians with diabetes experience an increased risk of osteoporotic hip fracture, just like the diabetics in the West.

This is the first Asian study on the correlation between diabetes and osteoporosis, and its findings, which were published in May 2010 in ‘Diabetes Care’, a journal by the American Diabetes Association, were identical to the combined results of 11 previous studies done in the West.

Using the Singapore Chinese Health Study, a cohort study of more than 63,000 Chinese aged between 45 and 74 years, researchers examined the link between the 2 conditions. Established between 1993 and 1998, the study followed the participants for 12 years. Interviews were used to get the diabetes status and the number of hip fractures was identified through a nationwide hospital discharge database.

There was significantly more women had hip fractures: out of about 1,200 cases of hip fracture, there were 871 women, compared to 342 men. Meanwhile, the risk of hip fracture among people with diabetes was found to be twice that among those without diabetes.

While the participants were all Chinese, the researchers confirmed that the link so found could also exist across different populations with varying lifestyle or genetic make-up. In other words, the results in the study will apply to Malays and Indians too.

It is hoped that the findings could alarm the public so that doctors who manage diabetes and diabetic patients themselves will test for osteoporosis early to cut down the risk of hip fracture.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Let Garlic Help You Lower Hypertension!

While garlic is widely used as a seasoning or condiment, it has also been used as a remedy for infections, digestive disorders and fungal infections. In fact, traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine practitioners have been using garlic to prevent high blood pressure for centuries. Meanwhile, many past studies also linked it to prevention of cancer and heart disease, and reduction of blood sugar.

A 12-week trial involving 50 patients that was conducted by Australian researchers from University of Adelaide reported that people with hypertension (high blood pressure) who took 4 capsules a day of a aged garlic extract had their systolic blood pressure reduced by around 10 mmHg, as compared with those who were given a placebo. The findings were published in October 2010 in the scientific journal ‘Maturitas’.

A placebo is a sham or simulated medical intervention that is commonly used in medical research. It is given as control treatments and can be inert tablets, sham surgery and other procedures based on false information.

However, the researchers pointed out that garlic, if it is taken in any other way, for instance, raw, fresh or in powdered form, does not have the same effect. When fresh garlic is cooked, its ingredient that is responsible for lowering blood pressure simply disappeared.

Though this was not the first study to examine the beneficial property of garlic, it was the first study to assess the impact of aged garlic extract that was evaluated as an additional treatment to other high blood pressure drugs, as claimed by the researchers.

Hypertension is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, peripheral vascular disease and many other medical conditions. Globally, about 1 billion people have hypertension, which also affects about 1 in 3 adults in the United States. If hypertensive patients can have their blood pressure normalized, the risk of getting heart disease and stroke could be reduced.

Nevertheless, as garlic has blood-thinning effect and might interact with many drugs, it is advisable for patients to seek advice from qualified health practitioners or doctors before taking any garlic supplements.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Heart Failure Could Be Predicted By New Blood Test

Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, is a condition in which the heart is unable to supply sufficient blood flow to meet the need of the body. It is a common and potentially deadly condition. It affects about 6 to 10 percent of people aged 65 and above.

A number of tests that are commonly used by doctors to diagnose heart failure include ECG (Electrocardiogram), heart CT scan (computerized tomography), MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) of the heart and cardiac stress tests. Routine blood test could help identify heart failure too.

Researchers from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the University of Texas, Dallas in the United States declared on November 15, 2010 in the ‘Journal of the American Medical Association’ (JAMA) that they have developed a new blood test to predict the risk of heart failure in older adults who do not have symptoms of heart disease.

The new test is a supposed to be more advance than that is currently used in emergency rooms to identify whether patients having chest pain is getting a heart attack or otherwise. Such findings might help assess the risk of death for older people aged above 65 who appear in good health. This group of people, which sees 80 percent of new congestive heart failure cases, is particularly difficult to gauge.

5,613 participants, who were all 65 years or older and free of heart failure at the outset, were involved in an ongoing study of cardiovascular health. The blood samples of 4,221 participants were studied and stored for up to 18 years. The marker was detected in two-thirds of the participants.

What the test does is to measure the level of troponin T that is a marker for the biological process of cell death leading to heart failure. The higher the level of troponin, the higher the risk that individual would have symptoms of heart failure or death from cardiovascular disease over the next 10 to 15 years.

While the meaning of these elevated levels was still unknown, the new test could detect troponin levels that are 10 times lower than the existing tests. The new test, however, is not commercially available in the United States yet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Fish Should Be On Your Diet List?

Fish, like salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna, that high in omega-3 fatty acid is good for the heart because omega-3 fatty acid could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Perhaps this is why American Heart Association (AHA) advice people to eat at least 2 servings of fish a week.

Despite concerns on the impact of increased exposure to mercury in fish, Swedish researchers from Umea University in Sweden argued in their paper published in November 2010 in ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’ that the benefits of consuming fish still outweigh the harmful effects of mercury. However, they also advised people to avoid eating fish high in mercury, which include perch, shark, swordfish and halibut.

More than 900 Swedish men and women took part in a study that required them to answer questionnaires about the amount of fish in their diet. Their mercury and selenium levels in red blood cells were analyzed.

While the mercury levels were generally low for Scandinavians, participants who had higher mercury level in their red blood did not have a higher risk of cardiac problems. It is possible that the protective nutrients in fish offset any harmful effect of mercury at these low levels of mercury, as explained by the researchers.

Meanwhile, the researchers admitted that relying on the participants’ memories on the amount of fish consumed could have drawbacks as this could have an impact on the results obtained. They also highlighted one finding from their study: participants who had elevated traces of selenium in their red blood cells appeared to have higher risk of sudden cardiac death.

Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential to good health but only small amounts are needed. It appears to act as an antioxidant that can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Nevertheless, previous findings on effect of selenium on heart were mixed. Several studies suggested risk of heart disease and stroke might be reduced by about 40 percent by an added 100 mg per day of dietary selenium. On the other hand, a study by researchers from University of Warwick found that total cholesterol levels increased by 8 percent with an increase of 10 percent in LDL (so called bad cholesterol) in participants having more than 1.2 mol/L of selenium in their blood, leading to increase in risk of cardiovascular disease.

As such, the Swedish researchers felt that the health effect of selenium should further be probed.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weight Loss Could Help Ward Off Diabetes!

Insulin resistance sometimes combined with absolute insulin deficiency cause Type-2 diabetes to develop. Insulin resistance is a condition in which cells cannot use insulin properly. Type-1 and gestational diabetes are the other two main types of diabetes.

Of the many risk factors identified for Type-2 diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits are somewhat associated with weight gain. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, family history and genetics, and increased age can also raise the likelihood of getting Type-2 diabetes.

A study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that Type-2 diabetes could possibly be reversed if obese diabetics go for a weight-loss surgery. Their findings published on August 16, 2010 in the medical journal, ‘Archives of Surgery’ indicated that 75 percent of obese diabetics who had undergone weight-loss surgery (bariatric surgery) could actually stop taking diabetes medications within 6 months of their operation.

Researchers carried out one of the few studies examining how surgery can affect health cost in Type-2 diabetics by analyzing insurance claims data from 2,235 patients who underwent bariatric surgery during a 4-year period.

The results showed that among the diabetic patients who had bariatric surgery, only one quarter were still taking diabetes drugs 6 months later. In fact, the number kept falling: 12 months after the surgery, less than 20 percent of patients were taking medications and 24 months after surgery, only 15 percent were still been prescribed with medications.

It has long been known that diabetes and obesity can rarely be reversed once they are developed. This is definitely good news for obese Type-2 diabetics since the need for chronic medications can be eliminated and the overall medical cost could be reduced too. More importantly, this can greatly reduce the risk of developing heart considering the fact that diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease.

Nevertheless, it seems that bariatric surgery would be the only solution that most of the obese diabetics can opt for in order to substantially reverse both obesity and Type-2 diabetes, at least for the time being until experts can find a successful non-surgical methods.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

If You Quit Smoking, Others Will Just Follow!

Smoking is not a desirable habit since it will not only put smokers but also place non-smokers through second smoke at higher risk of getting many diseases including cancer, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and stroke. That is why many countries around the world including China have banned smoking in the public areas.

The influence among the social network could, however, also help smokers give up smoking immediately.

According to a paper published in the May 22, 2008 edition of the ‘New England Journal of Medicine’, if a person quit smoking, then this person’s spouse, best friends, colleagues and even the surrounding people who are not known very well to this person will just follow suit.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School analyzed relationships among some 12,000 people over 3 decades and found that a steady decrease in smoking over that period occurred in clusters. So if there is a change in the zeitgeist of this social network, the whole group of people who are connected but who might not know each other all quit together.

Zeitgeist means the spirit of the times or the spirit of the age. It is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual within a specific group, along with the general ambiance, morals, socio-cultural direction, and mood associated with an era.

Researchers reconstructed the social networks of 12,067 individuals during a period between 1971 and 2003, recording major life changes such as marriage, death and divorce.

All the study participants also listed contact information for close friends, work colleagues and neighbors. Interestingly, many of those friends and colleagues had also joined the study. This enabled the researchers to observe a total of 53,228 families, social or professional relationships. Their findings showed that people quit smoking in clusters.

Over the 30-year period, the average size of each particular cluster of smokers within the entire network remains about the same but there are fewer and fewer of these clusters left as time goes on.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Is There A Link Between Migraine and Stroke?

Migraine is a fairly common type of headache, which might occur with symptoms like nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light. For many victims of migraine, a shocking pain is felt only on one side of their heads.

There is no cure for migraine but medications could help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine. With the appropriate drugs together with self-help remedies and lifestyle changes, migraine can greatly be relieved.

Nevertheless, people with migraine should be more careful because they will face additional medical disorders, based on the findings published in 2010 in the ‘American Journal of Medicine’.

After analyzing the results of 21 International studies previously conducted between 1975 and 2007 involving more than 622,000 adults with and without migraine, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore found that people with migraine are about twice as likely as people without migraine to develop ischemic stroke (a common stroke that is caused by blood clot in the brain). Most of the studies also took into account factors that might link migraine to stroke risk. These factors include age, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking habits and weight.

It is unclear whether the migraine itself would directly lead to stroke for some people, but one thing is sure: pain does involve constriction, and then swelling, of brain blood vessels. So researchers suspect that people with migraine might have dysfunction in the blood vessels throughout the body that might explain the higher risk of stroke and heart attack.

While researchers believe that a common process is likely to contribute to both migraine and stroke risk, they are not sure whether treating and preventing migraine could reduce the people’s risk of cardiovascular events (include heart disease and stroke). As such, suffers of migraine are warned to pay great attention in controlling any modifiable risk factors, such as high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes, for stroke.

Meanwhile, researchers also clarified that while migraine are associated with a higher risk of stroke, the absolute risk remains fairly low to any one person.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Why You Should Take It Easy?

Many management experts believe personality plays an important role in career advancement. For one to excel, he or she has to be confrontational, especially competitive and even aggressive. However, if you belong to this class of people, perhaps, you should take it easy from now onwards.

This is because a study by researchers from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) found that these types of people are at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Their findings were published on August 16, 2010 in ‘Hypertension’, Journal Of The American Heart Association (AHA).

5,614 residents, aged between 14 and 94 (on average 42), of 4 villages in the Italian Mediterranean island of Sardinia were examined. 58 percent of the residents were female.

The participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire that was a modified version of the NEO, a popular five-factor personality assessment questionnaire. People who marked themselves as aggressive on the questionnaire were at a higher risk to suffer from thickening of the neck arteries than those who were marked as affable or accommodating.

3 years later, those who scored higher on antagonism, especially those who were manipulative and expressed anger quickly, continued to have thickening of their artery walls. And for people who were the most antagonistic, the chance that they would get thicker arteries were about 40 percent higher.

Ultrasound technology (non-invasive ultrasonography) was utilized to measure arterial wall thickening, which is a sign of ageing that could predict future cardiovascular disease. It is known as intima-mediat thickness (IMT), a predictor for heart attack and stroke. The measurements taken in the study were on participants’ IMTs of the carotid artery, which supplies most of the blood to the brain, were measured.

According to the researchers, people who had high score on antagonism tend to be distrustful, skeptical and at the extreme arrogant, cynical, express anger quickly, manipulative, and self-centered, while people who are agreeable tend to be trusting, straightforward and care for others.

The new finding undoubtedly supports the fact that negative psychological factors do have a great impact on a person’s health as much as lifestyle and smoking.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vitamin-B Therapy Benefit Diabetics?

Studies have shown that high doses of Vitamin-B do aid heart disease prevention. Meanwhile, many researchers also believed Vitamin-B therapy using folic acid, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 could reduce diabetic kidney damage because Vitamin-B can help lower blood levels of homocysteine.

Homocysteine is an amino acid that induces clotting in the blood and damages the lining of arteries. It is also a strong risk factor for stroke and heart attack. Diabetics are known to have higher homocysteine levels, on average, than people without diabetes.

But, the findings of researchers from the University of Western Ontario and the Robarts Research Institute in London, Ontario seem to be quite different.

In their paper published in the April 28 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), they reported that patients with diabetic nephropathy might suffer rapid deterioration of their kidneys, if they were treated by high doses of Vitamin-B. They also pointed out that diabetics in addition to kidney function loss were affected by higher rates of heart attack and stroke than those who took a placebo.

Diabetic nephropathy is kidney disease or damage that is caused by a complication of diabetes. It affects the network of tiny blood vessels in the glomerulus, a structure in the kidney made of capillary blood vessels to filter blood.

To see whether Vitamin-B therapy would slow down the progression of diabetic nephropathy and prevent vascular events, the researchers conducted a clinical research in 238 patients with Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes. The placebo-controlled trial was conducted at 5 university medical centers in Canada between May 2001 and July 2007.

Patients were divided into 2 groups: one group received single tablet of Vitamin-B with folic acid (2.5 mg/d), Vitamin B6 (25 mg/d) and Vitamin B12 (1 mg/d) while the other group were prescribed with matching placebo.

After following the patients for an average period of 31.9 months, researchers found that those with Vitamin-B therapy had a faster reduction rate of kidney function, as compared with those who were on placebo treatment. In addition, those patients with diabetic nephropathy additionally had a higher rate of heart attack and stroke than patients who received placebo.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why You Should Not Avoid Chocolate?

Chocolate is a raw or processed food produced from cocoa beans (also known as cacao beans or simply cacao or cocoa), and it is something that is liked by many people especially children.

Studies conducted earlier had shown cocoa-based products might lower blood pressure or improve blood flow. Scientists had also found that chocolate could reduce the rate of death linked to heart disease in healthy older men and post-menopausal women.

In a paper appeared in the September 2009’s issue of the ‘Journal of Internal Medicine’, researchers from of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston demonstrated that eating chocolate can help reduce the rate of mortality of heart attack.

According to them, it is the antioxidants in cocoa that are providing the life-saving benefit. Antioxidants have been known to protect against free radicals, which could damage cells when they accumulate in the body over time. Free radicals are believed to be partly responsible for heart disease, cancer and ageing process.

1,169 non-diabetic men and women, aged between 45 and 70 years old and situated in Stockholm during the early 1990, were tracked from the time they were hospitalized with their first-ever heart attack. Before leaving the hospital, all the men and women were asked on what they ate over the previous year, including quantity of chocolate they consumed regularly.

3 months after discharge, the participants underwent a health examination, and after that, they were monitored for 8 years. The rate of fatal heart attack was found to be correlated inversely with the amount of chocolate consumed.

Those heart attack survivors who ate chocolate 2 or more times a week, their risk of dying from heart disease could be reduced by about 3 fold, compared with those never touch chocolate. Smaller quantities of consumption would offer less protection, but are still better than none.

The results, even after taking into account of other factors like alcohol consumption, obesity and smoking that might affect the outcome, held true for men and women and across all the age groups.

Undoubtedly, the new findings would support the growing evidence that chocolate is a rich source of beneficial bioactive compounds.

But does this mean that people should start eating a lot of chocolate, especially those cocoa-rich sweets?

Frankly, this is not advisable! Sugar rich products would contribute to overweight, which can also bring along many serious medical disorders. So the best is to consume chocolate in small quantities, and if possible, eat unsweetened chocolate!