Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Waistlines Are Expanding In American Adults!

Body mass index (BMI), which is the ratio of weight in kilos to the square of height in meters, has usually been used in studies on obesity. In reality, BMI might not be an accurate measurement of abdominal obesity, which is defined as a waist circumference greater than 40.2 inches in men and greater than 34.6 inches in women.

People with abdominal obesity tend to have fat settled around their waistlines. Belly fat not only makes these people look apple-shaped but also put them at a higher risk of getting heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke and other obesity-related diseases. Hence, some researchers argued that waist circumference should be a better measure of abdominal obesity.

A recent study published September 17, 2014 in ‘Journal of the American Medical Association’ warned that American adult waistlines are still expanding despite stabilized BMI. Researchers at the Center for Disease and Control (CDC) found that the bellies have increased an inch to almost 39 inches over the last decade.

The researchers assessed weight of 32,816 people older than 20 (average age was 45) from 1999 until 2011-2012, using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data. Based on their waist circumference, 54 percent of Americans were abdominally obese in 2012, up from 46 percent 13 years earlier.

Waist circumference was found to rise from 37.6 inches in 1999-2000 to 38.8 inches in 2011-2012. Overall women’s waists increased by 1.5 inches to an average of 37.8 inches while men’s waist increased by about 0.8 inch. African-American waists increased by 1.6 inches to 39 inches, while Mexican-Americans saw an increase of 1.8 inches to 39.6 inches. 

It is not clear why waistlines are still increasing but BMI has not changed much. CDC researchers cited sleep deprivation, certain medications and lack of exercise as possible causes. The increase might also be related to pesticides, the plastics additive BPA and other chemicals that mimic hormones that can affect weight.

Ageing population might also contribute to the trend, according to experts not involved in the study. As baby boomers age, the natural decrease in muscle mass and slower metabolism can create more body fat. Given the size of the baby boomer generation, these aging changes will certainly impact statistics.

While all the reasons cited are purely speculative and unproven, it seems that reducing waistline is inevitable. Weight loss is probably the main strategy to cut the waist size. People are advised to have at least 5 or 6 hours of sleep nightly and to have at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week to help prevent weight gain.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Heart Disease Prevention - Eating More Salt Is Acceptable?

New research suggested that healthy people could eat about twice the amount of salt that is currently recommended. An international study covering 102,216 persons in 18 countries suggested that while there is a relationship between salt intake and high blood pressure, if people do not already have high blood pressure and are not over 60 or eating too much salt, salt would not have much impact on their blood pressure. Click the following link to read more:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Would Weight-Loss Surgery Cut Diabetes Risk?

Also once known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes, Type-2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes that accounts for about 90 percent of diabetes cases. The risk of getting Type-2 diabetes is higher for people who are overweight and obese. 

For people with Type-2 diabetes, their pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin well enough. As a result, their body is unable to regulate blood sugar levels, which can put them at risk of blindness, amputations and nerve damage. Moreover, people with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

Besides adopting a healthy lifestyle, diabetics can go for weight-loss surgery with doctor’s recommendation. According to a study by researchers from King's College London, weight-loss surgery could dramatically lower the odds of developing Type-2 diabetes. The paper was published online November 2, 2014 issue of ‘The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology’.

After examining the electronic health records of more than 4,000 people in Britain, the researchers found that the risk of diabetes is about 80 percent lower in those who reduced their body weight by one of the 3 surgical procedures, namely laparoscopic adjustable banding, sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass.

In the study, the researchers identified 2,167 obese adults without diabetes who have had 1 of the 3 surgical procedures for weight loss from 2002 onwards and compared with 2,167 others who had not had surgery or other obesity treatments (control group).

During the follow-up period of up to 7 years, only 38 new cases of diabetes among participants who had weight-loss surgery were found, comparing with 177 in the control group, showing a reduction of 80 percent.

The results seemed promising and moving closer to confirm the positive effect of weight-loss surgery, but more studies are still required to gather more evidence in order to convince endocrinologists about the nature of this effect.

Weight-loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery, is employed as the last resort to treat people who are dangerously obese with an excessive amount of body fat. Doctors will only recommend this kind of surgery to people when other treatments fail to work.

In general, weight-loss surgery can be divided into 3 categories: restrictive procedure, malabsorptive technique and combination operations.

Restrictive procedures make the stomach smaller to limit the amount of food intake, while malabsorptive techniques reduce the amount of intestine that comes in contact with food so that the body will absorb fewer calories. Combination operation is a combination of both restriction and malabsorption.

Gastric band (restrictive procedure) and gastric bypass (malabsorptive technique) are the 2 most common types of weight-loss surgery. In gastric band, a band is used to reduce the size of the stomach so that a smaller amount of food is needed to let someone feel full. For gastric bypass, the digestive system is re-routed past most of the stomach so that less food is digested and makes someone feel full.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Heart Disease Prevention - Can Brain Be Trained To Like Healthy Foods?

It has long been thought that once the brain changed, it could be permanent. But a recent study showed that it might be possible to actually alter how the brain reacts to high-calorie and low-calorie foods by changing one’s eating behaviors. The participants in the study could just do away the habit of indulging junk foods after 6 months of healthy eating. Click the following link to find out more.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How Much Fruit And Vegetables To Prevent Heart Disease?

Being the leading cause of death in the United States and around the world, heart disease is responsible for more than 1 in every 4 deaths in the United States, as indicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fruit and vegetables have a protective effect against disease as they contained antioxidants that repair damage to cells. Hence, they play an important role in preventing heart disease, stroke and many other diseases. While the average intake of fruit and vegetables in the various countries was 5 servings a day, the amount of servings that one should consume each day is often and still a tropic of controversy.

A study published in 2011 argued that 8 servings of fruit and vegetables might be required to reduce the risk of dying from heart disease. One serving counted as 80 grams that include, say, a small banana, a medium apple, or a small carrot.

Researchers at the University of Oxford in England, who looked at the data on more than 300,000 people across 8 countries in Europe, reported that people who ate at least 8 servings of fruit and vegetables a day had a 22 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who ate only 3 servings a day. Each additional serving in fruits and vegetables was linked to a 4 percent lower risk of death. They, however, stressed that they could not confirm whether the link between fruit and vegetables and heart disease is causal.

In April 2014, researchers from the University College London (UCL) studies 65,226 men and women and argued that eating 7 or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day is healthier than the minimum 5 currently recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and would cut their risk of dying from cancer and heart disease. Risk of death by any cause over the period of study (2001-2008) was lowered by 42 percent for 7 or more servings of fruit and vegetables (up to 10 servings a day).

Recently, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health reported on July 29, 2014 in thebmj.com that people need only to eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day after reviewing 16 studies involving more than 830,000 people. Every serving of fruit consumed a day could lower the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease by 5 percent, and every vegetable serving consumed a day could cut the risk by 4 percent. The standard serving was defined as 77 grams for vegetables and 80 grams for fruit. 

The average risk of death from all causes was cut by about 5 percent for each additional daily serving of fruit and vegetables compared with eating none. But once a person ate 5 servings, eating more did not lower the risk any more. 

Nevertheless, people should not forget that besides healthy eating, they should also adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors like not smoking, not having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol and overweight.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Heart Disease Prevention - Role Of Inflammation In Causing Heart Disease

Inflammation has been placed an equally important role as cholesterol. Inflammation is an essential part of the body’s healing system because without it, injuries would fester and simple infections could be deadly. Its aim is to defend the body against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders, to remove debris, and to help repair damaged tissue. Click the following link to find out more:

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Prevent Heart Attack In 5 Steps!

A heart attack occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart cannot get sufficient oxygen. Most heart attacks happen because of coronary heart disease (CHD).

CHD is a condition in which plaque builds up inside of the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. The plaque can eventually rupture and a blood clot is formed on the plaque’s surface. The clot, if large enough, could completely block the blood flow through a coronary artery. This would cause the portion of heart muscle fed by the artery starts to die, and healthy tissue is replaced with scar tissue.

Fortunately, heart attack is preventable. A new study by researchers in Sweden revealed that men who take just 5 steps could actually lower their odds of a heart attack by four-fifths, though only 1 percent of men do so on their own. A total of 20,721 healthy men aged between 45 and 79 were followed for 11 years. Their findings were published September 22, 2014 in the ‘Journal of the American College of Cardiology’.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart attack risk can be evaluated at home by looking at lifestyle choices that are under one’s control. These include smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, diet, Type-2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol and in some cases high blood pressure.

In order to determine a man’s risk and how it fluctuates depending on certain factors, the researchers identified a certain 5-step combination as the key to reduce heart attack risk by up to 86 percent. The 5 steps are: do not smoke, have regular exercise, watch waistline, limit alcohol consumption and adopt healthy diet.

The study indicated that men who did not smoke lowered their risk by 36 percent, and men who walked or cycled for at least 40 minutes a day and did other exercise at least a hour per week had a 3 percent lower risk. Those who had a waist circumference below 37 inches had a 12 percent lower risk, and those who drank no more than about 2 drinks a day had a 11 percent lower risk. For those who ate a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains and fish, their risk was 18 percent lower. 

But sadly to note, only 1 percent of the population belonged to the low-risk group that adopted this set of healthy lifestyle practices on their own. Lowering heart attack risk by following healthy lifestyle is not surprising. It is the drastic degree of magnitude dropped that surprised the researchers.

Since changing from high-risk to low-risk behaviors could actually have great impact on cardiovascular health, it is best for people to start adopting healthy lifestyle choices early in their life.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Heart Disease Prevention - What Is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a heart disease of abnormal heart muscle. Heart muscle of a patient with cardiomyopathy becomes enlarged, thick or rigid. Some patients might have their muscle tissue in the heart being replaced with scar tissue, though this is very rare. Read more at:

Heart Disease Prevention - What Is Cardiomyopathy?

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Danger Of Non-Adherence To Anti-Hypertensive Drug!

People with hypertension (high blood pressure) are at a higher risk of getting chronic diseases including heart disease, kidney failure and stroke if their conditions are not properly managed. In order to bring their blood pressure to the acceptable levels, they should adopt healthy diet and have regular exercise, as well as take prescribed anti-hypertensive medications from their doctors.

A paper, which was published online July 18, 2013 in the ‘European Heart Journal’ by researchers from the Population Research Unit at the University of Helsinki, Finland together with scientists from Finland and University College London, United Kingdom, reported that people who have high blood pressure and do not take their anti-hypertensive drug treatments when they should, have a higher risk of suffering a stroke and dying from it compared to those who take their medication correctly. 

The study used records of 73,527 hypertensive patients taken from Finnish national registers between 1 January 1995 and 31 December 2007. These participants aged 30 years or older and had no prior condition of stroke or cardiovascular disease.

It was found that patients who did not adhere to their medications had a nearly 4-fold increased risk of dying from stroke in the second year after first being prescribed drugs to control their blood pressure, and a 3-fold increased risk in the 10th year, compared with adherent patients. In the year that the non-adherent patients died from a stroke, they had a 5.7-fold higher risk than the adherent patients. 

Patients who did not take their medication correctly were also more likely to be admitted to hospital after a stroke. Their risk of hospitalization was 2.7-fold higher in the second year after being prescribed anti-hypertensive drugs compared to adherent patients, and nearly 1.7-fold higher in the 10th year. In the year in which they were admitted to hospital with a stroke, their risk was nearly 2-fold higher than the adherent patients. 

These findings suggested poor adherence to antihypertensive therapy could substantially raise near- and long-term risk of stroke among patients who had high blood pressure. Non-adherent hypertensive patients could have a greater risk even 10 years before they suffer a stroke.

While the study had the size (large number of participants) as strength, it had possible limitations, too. The researchers might not know whether the patients actually took their drugs, even though they had collected their prescriptions. Moreover, the records used in the study did not have other information such as body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption and resting blood pressure.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Heart Disease Prevention - Can Chocolate Pill Prevent Heart Disease?

To find out more, a pill has been made to contain the nutrients in dark chocolate and it is used in a large study that intends to examine if there are health benefits from chocolate's ingredients minus the sugar and fat. This will probably be the first large study that looks at cocoa flavanols that have been found by previous smaller studies to improve blood pressure, cholesterol, use of insulin, and other heart related factors.