Monday, January 27, 2014

5 Symptoms That Could Minimize Damage To Stroke

Being the 4th leading cause of death among Americans, stroke affects about 795,000 people each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While the elderly used to be the main victims of stroke, approximately 20 percent of stroke cases now occur in people younger than 55 years old. The average age for stroke has declined from 71 to 59 over the past decade.

People can have a stroke when there is an interruption of blood supply to their brain, usually because blood vessel bursts or as a result of blockage by a clot. This would stop supply of oxygen and nutrients, which can cause damage to the brain tissue.

Two main types of stroke are ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot or thrombus forms that blocks blood flow to part of the brain while hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel on the brain's surface ruptures. About 87 percent of stroke cases are Ischemic stroke.

A stroke is a medical emergency and anyone who is suspected of having one should be rush to hospital immediately so that appropriate treatment can be carried out as soon as possible.

There are 5 sudden symptoms of stroke, as brought out by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, that can save a life, namely sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body; sudden confusion, difficulty talking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing on one side; sudden, severe difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of coordination or balance and sudden and severe headache for no known reason.

If any one of these symptoms is recognized, immediate medical help should be sought, regardless of the victim’s age. Any of the severe symptoms could indicate the start of a stroke. Immediate treatment can possibly improve the victim’s chances of not becoming permanently disabled, developing a heart attack or even dying. However, people should not have to worry too much if any of the symptoms just occur in a mild way that lasts for only a short while.

It is possible to prevent a stroke that is in progress with clot-busting drugs and even reverse the damage. According to a study presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2010, outcome could improve by 30 percent if a stroke patient could take clot-busting drug within 3 hours of onset.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Why Breakfast Should Not Be Skipped?

Breakfast is the first meal and also the most important meal of the day. Studies did unveil that people who skip breakfast might have problems with to concentration, metabolism, weight, and even diabetes.

A study by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health found that men who skip breakfast might face a higher risk of heart attack or deadly heart disease. Their findings were published on July 23, 2013 in the American Heart Disease journal ‘Circulation’.

The researchers assessed in 1992 the eating habits, including breakfast, of 26,902 American men aged between 45 and 82 from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. These men were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

During 16 years of follow-up, 1527 cases of coronary heart disease were diagnosed. After adjustment of demographic, diet, lifestyle, and other coronary heart disease risk factors, it was found that men who skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease, compared with men who did not.

Men who did not eat breakfast were found to be on the younger side and more likely to be smokers, employed full time, unmarried, less physically active and drunk more alcohol. These men also did not make up for the lack of food later.

In the prevailing highly competitive environment, people can easily skip breakfast, as they have to rush to work.

But the findings suggested that skipping breakfast might have a significant impact on their health: it could lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes that might in turn lead to a heart attack over time. 

While 97 percent of men in the study were white and were of European descent, the researchers argued that the results should apply to those of other backgrounds as well. 

Nevertheless, a direct cause and effect relationship between breakfast and health cannot be proven by the study. Though the researchers had taken certain lifestyle factors into account, it could be because of people who take time to have a regular breakfast also tend to have healthier lifestyles.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Can Metabolic Syndrome Be Diagnosed Early?

Metabolic syndrome, which is a disorder of energy utilization and storage, is the name for a group of 5 risk factors that raises one’s risk for many health problems including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The 5 risk factors are abdominal (central) obesity, high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, high triglycerides level, and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level. When a person is diagnosed with at least 3 out of these 5 risk factors, he or she is said to develop metabolic syndrome.

Because of the rise in obesity rates, metabolic syndrome is becoming more common among adults. It is very likely that it might just overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease.

At The Endocrine Society's 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco held on 15-18 June 2013, researchers the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and West Virginia University, Morgantown revealed that they have developed a risk assessment scoring system for diagnosing the metabolic syndrome that might better identify certain adults, especially African Americans, at high risk of developing Type-2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Current diagnostic criteria do not really consider gender and race making some high-risk individuals not meeting the criteria for the metabolic syndrome. For example, African-American men are less likely to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, despite having higher rates of Type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

1 in 5 adult in the United States has metabolic syndrome. If the syndrome could be diagnosed earlier, it can begin preventive treatment sooner before development of Type-2 diabetes and occurrence of a heart attack or stroke. 

The study evaluated data from 6,881 men and women participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2010. The participants aged between 20 and 64 and were African American, white or Hispanic.

Results of their analysis confirmed that sex- and ethnicity-based differences, which they previously found in teenagers, persist into adulthood. Using this information, they then created a racial- and sex-specific scoring system for the severity of metabolic syndrome. Numeric values were assigned to each of the 5 metabolic syndrome components, with each component having a different weight for each sex and racial-ethnic group.

For women, waist circumference had a higher weighting in blacks than in whites, while the HDL cholesterol level for African-American men received a higher weighting than blood pressure, indicating it may be a more obvious sign of worsening metabolic syndrome.

According to researchers, their new linear scoring system strongly correlated with other biological markers of metabolic risk. Meanwhile, they plan to create online automatic calculators that patients can use to determine their risk score for severity of metabolic syndrome. They also hope that other researchers will use the risk score to determine patients' progress with time, such as improvement in metabolic risk after drug treatment.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Body Fat Is Linked To Heart Disease!

Body mass index (BMI) has been used for decades to determine if a person is overweight or obese, which is linked to development of many chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stroke. BMI is calculated by dividing the weight in kilos by the square of height in meters.

People with normal BMI are usually assumed to be healthy though it might not be true. A person with a normal BMI does not necessarily mean that their body’s ability to process fat and sugar is normal. As indicated by some previous research, people with healthy weight might still carry around too much fat.

The latest study by researchers from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in the United States found new evidence that suggested older adults with a healthy weight but high percentage of body fat were at higher risk of heart disease and death.

Data of a total of 1,528 people who were 70 years old on average and had a normal BMI were analyzed. It was found that 1 in 5 men and nearly 1 in 3 women had a body fat percentage above what is considered healthy. Excess body fat has been associated with a higher risk of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

Meanwhile, a total of 902 of the participants were found dead during the following 13 years, including 419 who died of cardiovascular disease. There were, however, no differences in how often people with high and normal body fat levels died of any cause. High body fat was defined as levels above 25 percent for men and above 35 percent among women.

In the study, women with excess body fat had a 57 percent higher chance of dying from heart disease within 11 years of their assessments than women with a healthy amount of body fat. On the other hand, men with excess body fat were at greater risk of heart-related death after the 11-year mark.

Researchers also found participants with highest body fat were most likely to have hypertension and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that will lead to heart disease and diabetes eventually. The findings were published on November 15, 2013 in ‘The American Journal Of Cardiology’. 

Despite of the criticism, BMI has still been used by doctors because it is easy, practical and affordable. There are more high-tech options available for measuring body fat. For instance, a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan that can measure fat levels inside the body. But it costs about US$300, which makes it currently clinically impractical.